The propaganda of our times

By Paul R. Dunn

10/17/06 "
Information Clearing House" -- -- In October and November of 2005 and in May, June and August of 2006, the President of the United States used the term, "Islamic Fascism" in major speeches to define the creed of America's enemies. The pejorative term has been used by many propagandists on the far right to equate modern Islam with the sordid pasts of Italy and Germany under Hitler and Mussolini. It is a simplistic propaganda term used by writers Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Schwartz and others who conveniently portray a unity of belief and purpose within the ranks of our diverse enemies where none exists. It is the current mantra of the neo-conservatives who pushed for the Iraq war. Its promoters seek to establish a moral equivalency between World War II democracies on the one side and Fascist evil on the other. They want the U.S. position in Iraq to be seen as opposing the modern day evil of Islamic Fascism. The use of the phrase fosters Islamophobia, and is designed to denigrate much of the Islamic world.

Sir Ian Hamilton wrote: "Propaganda as inverted patriotism draws nourishment from the sins of the enemy. If there are no sins, invent them!" Joseph Goebbels claimed: "Propaganda has only one object: to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers this aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad."

General George C. Marshall believed American boys going overseas needed an honest definition of the "ism" they were fighting against. He issued Army Orientation Fact Sheet No. 64, which read, "Fascism: is government by the few, and for the few." Webster's definition of Fascism is far more precise: "A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing aggressive nationalism and often racism."

Mussolini coined the term Fascism. He was a journalist and a war-wounded political activist who believed Italy had been shabbily treated by its allies after World War I. During a period of intense domestic political strife, Mussolini and his band of black shirts were granted power by the king. They'd promised national unity and discipline. The symbol he chose for his political party was the ancient Roman fasces, a bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade projecting. It had been borne before Roman magistrates as an emblem of official power in the time of Caesar. He reigned from 1922 until 1943.

Benito Mussolini's philosophy was "All for the state, nothing outside the state; nothing against the state." He believed that "Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial and fruitful inequality of mankind." The common street slogan for Italian Fascists was "Order, hierarchy, discipline."

Fascism was adopted in Germany by Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired Mussolini. Hitler's National Socialist German Workers’ Party gained power in 1933 by exploiting dissatisfaction with the punitive terms of Versailles, the Great Depression's economic malaise, fear of communism and latent anti-Semitism. His trademark was the swastika and his aim, the suppression of all opposition through a dictatorship over all cultural, economic and political activities of the German people. The Nazi credos: supremacy of Hitler as Fuehrer, virulent anti-Semitism, the natural supremacy of the German people and world domination. The Nazi slogan: "Hitler over Germany. Germany over the world."

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger announced in an open letter to the students of Freiburg, (November of 1933): "Doctrines and 'ideas' shall no longer govern your existence. The Fuehrer himself, and only he, is the current and future reality of Germany, and his word is your law." Hitler vowed, "Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything about it. It is more even than a religion. It is the will to create mankind anew." George Seldes analyzing matters in 1934 concluded, "In Soviet Russia the state owns industry; in Germany and Italy, on the contrary, industry owns the state." Playwright George Bernard Shaw called Fascism, "Capitalist Dictatorship."

The Spanish Fascists, who assumed power in 1939 under dictator Francisco "El Caudillo" Franco, adopted the absurd slogan, "Long Live Death. Down with intelligence." Generalissimo Franco, who was only able to win the bloody Spanish Civil War with massive German and Italian military aid, remained neutral during World War II. Serving as regent from 1947 to 1975, he planned for a peaceful transition of government after his death. He designated Prince Juan Carlos to be constitutional monarch. Oppressive Fascism in Spain ultimately gave way to a moderate liberal democracy, which would have been anathema to the far rightist Franco.

Are America's enemies in any way like the Fascists of the twentieth century? Do they promote the idea of industrial concentration, world domination and dictatorship? Do they have a single leader whose writings and speeches inspire them to action? Do they share common goals? Bin Laden, with a price on his head and hiding in a cave, is hardly such a leader. He is considered the enemy of all moderate Muslim leaders. History will fail to find valid parallels between Fascism, Fascist governments and the disparate forces opposing the U.S. in Iraq and around the world. Enver Masud has written, "As for 'Islamo-Fascism', Islam does not meet the definition of Fascism -- when the community of Muslims (the Ummah) had a central authority (the Caliphate) it was neither totalitarian nor Fascist." He argues that only a tiny minority of zealots within Islam are calling for a "return to a Caliphate". Eric S. Margolis, in "The Big Lie About Islamic Fascism", debunks the term. He argues "Fascism demands a succession of wars, foreign conquests, and national threats to keep the nation in a state of fear, anxiety and patriotic hypertension." None are elements of the modern disorganized Muslim world.

The trouble with catchy propaganda phrases like "Axis of Evil" and "Islamic Fascism" is that they have to be able to stand the test of time. "One Nation Under God" and "A government of the people, by the people and for the people" have stood up well and served to unite Americans of all parties and faiths. Does anyone know of a slogan the so-called Islamic Fascists are promoting? The White House has lumped under the Islamic Fascist umbrella such totally diverse elements as Al-Qaeda, the Iranian government, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah, yet none label or consider themselves Fascist. And more to the point, their followers do not profess a Fascist agenda. Critics of the use of the term point out that to a Muslim, the term is both offensive and historically without merit or accuracy. Muslims universally perceive Allah as their true leader, not some self-professed worldly Fascist. There are no members of the Aryan Nation or Skin Heads, who idolize Hitler, to be found within their ranks. Even during World War II, few prominent Arab leaders announced sympathy for Hitler and his racist ideology, even though many were strongly anti-colonial Britain.

The fiercest fighting in Iraq now involves Muslim-on-Muslim terror as Sunnis and Shiites wage what more and more see as a sectarian civil war for power (and oil revenues) to fill the vacuum caused by the removal from power of Saddam Hussein by the United States. The concept of suicide bombing, looting, assassination and armed insurrection by citizens against the ruling state authority is the very antithesis of the historic meaning of Fascism.

The fact that the highly fractured Arab and Muslim worlds are significantly anti-American was not caused by a call for Islamic Fascism. It flows from the U.S. invasion of an Arab state, Iraq, stationing non-Muslim troops within the Islamic Holy Land of Saudi Arabia and blind support for Israel against indigenous Palestinians. Anti-U.S. sentiment was further heightened when the U.S. supplied and then resupplied arms, bombs and aircraft to Israel for its massive retaliatory war against the mostly Muslim citizens of Lebanon, none of whom were professed Fascists.

J.B. Priestly in the Root Is Fear wrote: "Almost all propaganda is designed to create fear. Heads of governments and their officials know that a frightened people are easier to govern, will forfeit rights it would otherwise defend, are less likely to demand a better life, and will agree to millions and millions being spent on 'defense'." Between now and Election Day we'll see Karl Rove's minions flaunt the Islamic Fascist line repeatedly and unabashedly to garner votes. It may be good politics but it is lousy history.

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