Authoritarians, Not Fascists

Daniel Larison complains Obama’s critics have no sense for important distinctions in their zeal to criticize:

When Orwell used the phrase “objectively fascist” during WWII to criticize pacifists, he at least had the advantage of talking about a situation in which there were actual fascists involved. Roger Simon, on the other hand, is complaining about Obama’s differing responses to the Iranian election and the Honduran coup/deposition and uses the differing responses to conclude that Obama is somehow “objectively fascist.” The abuse of the term fascist in a lot of the commentary on Iran has been extensive and annoying, but now it’s really getting out of hand. Let’s be clear about one thing: no matter what your view of events in Iran and Honduras and Obama’s responses to them may be, fascism has nothing to do with any of these things. Authoritarian regimes and ideologies today are not fascist. Authoritarian states using their coercive apparatus to repress dissidents do not thereby become fascist–they remain merely authoritarian. One would think that this is bad enough, but we in the West apparently need to misuse the word fascist to convey how upset we are. Chavismo and its derivatives are unattractive left-populist and socialist movements centered around authoritarian demagogues, but they are not therefore fascist movements. Even if it were true that Obama’s response to the Honduras coup is “objectively Chavista,” it would have nothing to do with fascism. As badly as I think he has handled the Honduras matter, I don’t think that he is “objectively Chavista,” either, but then I have little time for arguments that immediately resort to this sort of vilification and use of demon-words to smear a target.

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