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Op-Ed

Words, words, words

March 25, 2022

Weighty words are tossed about these days like confetti, with no understanding of what they mean or where they come from. Among them are gestapo, gazpacho, liberal, conservative, populist and fascist. Let’s start with fascist.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Polonius: What do you read, my Lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.

As editorialists are bound to do, by habit or word count, I consulted my Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 edition: 4,116 pages, 16 lbs.) and found no listing for fascist.

What? In the O.E.D.? Say it ain’t so!

It ain’t. I found the word in the Supplement, on page 3,962. “Fascist: One of a body of Italian nationalists, which was organized in March 1919 to oppose Bolshevism in Italy, and, as the partito nazionale fascista, under the leadership of Signor Mussolini assumed control of the Italian government in October 1922; transf. applied to similar organizations in other countries.”

(For the record: Signor Mussolini? Really? In 1971?)

So, as editorialists are wont to do, by habit or deadline, I went to the O.E.D. online, where I found: “fascism. n. 1. an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. 2 (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.”

I don’t know about you, but I am hesitant to challenge the authority of the Oxford English Dictionary (20 volumes, with 291,500 entries in 21,730 pages). So let’s assume that the O.E.D., as usual, is correct. But let me add that fascists tend to be racist, and prejudiced against all sorts of people for all kinds of reasons.

These days, if, god forbid, I were a pundit for Fox News (in general use: Faux News), I would ejaculate (“1. To dart or shoot forth; to throw out suddenly and swiftly, eject … 2. To utter suddenly (a short prayer), now in wider sense; any brief expression of emotion)” — as I was saying — were I a right-wing pundit (“1. one versed in Sanskrit”) I would ejaculate: “Fake news! The Oxford English Dictionary is selling fake news! We all know the chief dangers to the world come from Communism, in all its forms!” (On this more soon.)

Although, were I (subjunctive mood: assuming against reality) a pundit for Faux News, I surely would not mention the Oxford English Dictionary at all (“elitist left-wing professors who speak in foreign tongues!”), but would just ejaculate (“suddenly and swiftly … any brief expression of emotion”) that it’s so unfair to call elite right-wing jillionaires such as Tucker Carlson, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Josh Hawley, Donnie Schrumpf, et al. fascists, but not use the word to describe Vladimir Putin.

Fair point.

After all, Putin is a fascist. He’s certainly not a communist.

Faux News question: So, you’re telling us, Bob, that Putin is a right-wing fascist, not a left-wing Marxist dictator.

Bob: That’s correct.

(For the record: Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracula (1431-1477), was a bad man. Can we agree on that? Vlad II (Vladimir Putin, 1952-??) also is a bad man, and a fascist: tossing around the word “Nazis” at Jews: How tasteless can a man get?

So with all Vlad II’s blather about Ukraine being under the iron grip of a neo-Nazi Jewish president (vide: non sequitur), why have newspapers and other media around the world refrained from calling Putin a fascist? Isn’t he doing what Hitler did?

Fascism of the Left used to be called Communism while I was growing up, during the Cold War. But Stalin and his spawn were not Communists: they were Fascists.

So too, despite the horror Americans are supposed to feel at the word “communist,” Putin and Xi Jinping are not Communists: They are fascists.

So too, despite the modern Republican Party’s bogus horror at anything supposedly “liberal” (such as teaching U.S. history in public schools) the danger to our republic today, at home as well as from overseas, comes not from communists or liberals — it comes from fascists: “extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.”

And racist? Consider the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee dialing for dollars this week, trying but failing to crucify Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Well, white guys and gals: No one could say that you didn’t give it the old college try.

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