Glenn Beck likes to get people to say the word "fascist" when they're talking about the Obama administration. Yesterday it was Thomas Sowell's turn.
Beck: So let me start with that question: Are we still a capitalist country?
Sowell: Oh, heavens, partially. We're not a socialist country, because the socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. But the fascists believe that the government should have private ownership, and the politicians should tell the people how to run their businesses. So that's the route we seem to be going.
Beck: So, what route is that? What route is that again?
Sowell: That the private people still own the businesses, but the politicians tell them what to do.
Beck: Right, but isn't that, uh ... Trying to remember, that's uh ...
Sowell: That's fascism.
Beck: Yeah, I was gonna say, I knew it was a bad one!
Ding! He just loves that word. Too bad he has no fricking idea what it really means.
Anyone who talks about fascism primarily as an economic system has no idea what the hell they're talking about. Fascism was also a social/political/cultural phenomenon, focused on a fetish about national honor and blood and soil and the instinctive will to power. It openly sneered at economists and economic analyses of history (which is, after all, what Marxism essentially was) and derided them as puling parasites. It only manifested any kind of economics after it had obtained power, and even then its economics were a mixed grab bag of responses to varying economic conditions. As Stanley Payne put it in Fascism: Comparison and Definition, "no fascist movement ever completed the elaboration of an economic system." For more on this, go read Payne, Robert O. Paxton, Roger Griffin, Walter Laqueur, Klaus Theweleit ... any of the many serious scholars of fascism who will confirm all of that above.)
Moreover, here's what we actually saw from fascism as an economic force once it attained power: It primarily set out to destroy the labor movement by outlawing unions, forcing workers to submit to state control, while propping up private captains of industry in order to build up a war machine. It also set about to attack international banking systems while freeing national banks.
Now, that's nothing like what Beck and Sowell want to describe as " fascist system. Now, a system whereby "the private people still own the businesses, but the politicians tell them what to do"? Hell, that's just classic "mixed capitalism," which has been around since at least the days of FDR.
You know, I got a certain amount of criticism when I decided to tackle Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism in a serious fashion. People wanted to know why I should even give it the time of day, instead of dismissing it out of hand as the profoundly unserious book it is.
Well, this is why: Because right-wingers will take that little Newspeak ball and run with it as far as they can.
It's now part of the right-wing conventional wisdom that President Obama is a "fascist." Isn't that special?