President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.We here at Phronesisaical have talked about fascism too (and also guest-posting at Majikthise here) but not because our high-powered media consulting, strategy, and marketing team suggested we might get 100 more hits on the blog per day with the new fascism brand. I encourage you to follow the links.
Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.
And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism." (Full story)
White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.
Fascism is a very tricky political position to tack down, one in which it is not even always clear if it is a phenomenon of the left or of the right. It has thus become nearly synonymous with something as vague as "political evil." The Bush administration - this is a Rove imprint - is clearly attracted to ambiguous and ambivalent language because it gives them political leeway to cover their tracks by insisting that the public misunderstood them. It is seeking to give the term "fascism" concreteness on the administration's own terms where they can be specific given unforeseen political contingencies as well as their own interests, but can back off and talk in terms of generalities when in political trouble. Call them on it before it becomes entrenched in the Bush(et al)Speak.