Colloquial "fascism"

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OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 5, 2006

Colloquial "fascism"

by Darrin McMahonI'm inclined to agree with David Bell, Ted Widmer, and David Greenberg about the use of the term "Islamo-Fascism." But I did hear a listener-comment on NPR today that might give us professors pause. The comment was a response to a very careful consideration of the term "fascism" by the noted historian of the French variety, Robert Paxton. Not surprisingly, Paxton concluded that the current use of the term by the Bush administration was inappropriate. But the commentator made the point that most people don't think like academics, that they use the term "fascist" colloquially to refer to anyone with intolerant views who is ready to use violence to enforce them, and that most people who aren't academics get that. I'm reminded of the way some of my left-leaning friends occasionally talk about politicians (mostly Republicans) they don't like. I cringe at the fascist label and seldom share their sentiments. But I do know what they mean.

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