Fascist? "You keep using that word…"

Fascist? "You keep using that word…" February 15, 2008

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
— The Princess Bride

Keith Olbermann is increasingly reminding me of Vizzini the Sicilian
in The Princess Bride, who declares every event he does not foresee as “inconceivable.”

In Olbermann’s case, he seems to be misusing (or misunderstanding) the meaning of the word “fascist.”

Shall we help him out with it?

It’s an easy one, sir. Last week, you apologized “without limit” (your words) to Mrs Clinton for one of your co-workers using the phrase “pimped out” in a manner insulting to the former First Family. You offered this seriously respectful apology because the Clintons made a fuss and Mrs. Clinton suggested she would no longer grace your network with her presence, and – oh boy – heaven help you all if she made it back into the White House.

I assume, anyway, that that was the reason for your very emphatic apology, since – when you yourself used the “pimping” analogy yourself about President Bush and General Petraeus – no apology was later offered by you, or your network, and it must be said, no apology was requested or thought necessary, possibly because your target respects your right to free speech.

That example is not perhaps so convincing to you; I will offer a second: Last night you called the President of the United States not only a “terrorist” and a “liar,” but a “fascist.” You said:

If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You’re a fascist! Get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it!

A strong word to fling about. How daring and brave you are to direct it at President Bush – who is known for silencing dissent and demanding apologies for any imagined slight. You saw how he silenced Tim Robbins when that clever fellow wrote an essay and a play about the “chill wind” that blew against free speech in America, didn’t you? You must have noticed how your co-worker who recently called President Bush a “monkey” was made to grovel and endure a suspension from work, did you not?

Oh, wait…those things didn’t actually happen, you say? None of those dissenting viewpoints or insults resulted in arrest, imprisonment, silencing, firing…nothing?

But…but…President Bush is a terrorist and a fascist! Didn’t you see how he had all the Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan devotees dragged away from his ranch a few years ago? Don’t you remember those guys who celebrated the film imagining Bush’s assassination, or that other guy who wrote the novel where they imagine killing President Bush, didn’t they disappear or you know…never work again?

No? Oh. My bad.

You also said:

We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety. We will call it what it is: terrorism. We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government. We will name them. And we will not fear George W. Bush. Nor will we fear because George W. Bush wants us to fear.

How admirably brave of you! You must have really felt like you would be dragged off stage and “disappeared” after speaking “truth to power” like that!

After all – someone says something about the Clintons that they don’t like – for instance, Elizabeth Edwards says she is more joyful than Hillary Clinton, or Chris Matthews suggests Mrs. Clinton has benefited from her husband’s infidelities- and they are swiftly made to see the error of their ways, and to apologize and grovel. (Captain Ed says Matthews may soon be apologizing again, too.)

And if someone makes a movie the Clintons don’t like, why, they try to get the film shelved unseen.

You and your co-workers, on the other hand, routinely spit out words like “idiot,” “pimp,” “murderer,” “chimp,” “terrorist” and “fascist” toward the guy who has kept you safe for 7 years, knowing full well that the bastard Bush and has never in any way threatened your (or your colleagues) freedom of speech or livelihood, and has never demanded from you the apologies you so regularly offer to others. You say what you want without fear of reprisal from this president. There may be angry viewers or sponsors who demand apologies, but not President Bush. And yet he’s the one you like to call a “fascist.”


You keep using that word, fascist; I do not think it means what you think it means.

Related: The fascist is… whoever is trying to shut you up, shut you down, dis-employ you, silence you, cripple you or marginalize you for the crime of daring to fall out of step with the party and the conventional wisdom. Beware of them.

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