I can almost hear the shrill, histrionic shrieks of rage emanating from the St Andrean summer diaspora, which is probably already collectively foaming at the mouth at the mere title of this article, let alone its content. How could I, in this day and age, dare to use such a horrible and offensive term as the F word? Have we not, enlightened and educated students that we are, left such vile, destructive, and intolerant ideas in the past? And do I not know better than to presume to identify with such a self-evidently evil ideology? I mean, for goodness sake, it’s 2019!
Well, the answer is that I know all this; it’s other people that don’t. I know that Fascist régimes, individuals, and organisations are (or were) totalitarian beyond our wildest dystopia, monstrously amoral, and truly terrifying examples of the evil that human beings are capable of committing. Other students, however, seem perfectly happy to debase, dilute, and devalue the term to such an extent that the word ‘fascism’ has no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. (And before I’m castigated by ill-informed, bourgeois students, George Orwell wrote that, not me.)
Not that Orwell would be happy to see his thoughts on the matter vindicated by contemporary political discussion, as nowadays anything that has the audacity to be somewhat objectionable is now lazily smeared with the F word. Brexit? Sponsored and advocated by ghastly fascists, of course. Donald Trump? Adolf Hitler anew, don’t you know! TERFs? Mussolini didn’t think trans-women were women either, you backwards troglodyte. Oh, and don’t even get me started on those Waffen-SS officers that patrol the Israel-Palestine border.
We’ve therefore entered into the rather ridiculous situation where reasonable and mainstream ideas are regularly slandered as fascistic without consequence. Unfortunately, then, this automatically makes me, as well as most of the country, card-carrying, flag-waving, goose-stepping fascists. I mean, why not? I don’t spend every waking hour planning for Trump’s impeachment, I think TERFs probably have a point, and I’d rather not see Israel and its Jewish population obliterated by, in the words of Hamas’ covenant, “Islam, just as Islam obliterated others before it.” So, err, viva il Duce, I guess.
Not that I’m particularly bothered about being labelled in such a way. I’ve been called worse, truer things, and I voted for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017, so my crypto-fascism has never really been much of a secret. (I’m joking, Mi5, I promise.) No, what I’m really worried about is the fact that, just as Orwell wrote in 1946, people (especially trendy, woke students) have become so trigger-happy with the F word that they’ve successfully managed to drain all meaning out of what ought to be a grave and serious term.
‘Fascism’ and ‘fascist’ are now such common parlance that it’s almost impossible to take accusations of being either with any seriousness. And so, quelle surprise, people don’t. What results are genuine, dangerous individuals and organisations that could (and should) be described as such are gifted a shroud of obscurity, making them harder to stamp out of civilised society. When, for example, well-meaning and misguided students denigrate mainstream parties and policies as ‘fascistic’, they’re diluting the word so much that, much like the boy who cried wolf, we’re in real danger of not being able to snuff out the real thing if it ever returns with any force.
And with this potent dilution comes a similar debasement of the true sufferings of those affected by Fascism’s tyranny. That is to say that I don’t think it’s appropriate, helpful, or indeed respectful to compare the implications of, for example, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to being forced to vote at gunpoint, political persecution, mass summary executions, and the complete abolition of free speech and liberty. It just doesn’t seem right, but I’ll let you decide if Messrs Trump and Farage really are in the same league as those who fought to rid Europe of its ostensible untermensch and create racially pure ethnostates. (Hint: they’re really, really not.)
However, until people manage to suss this out for themselves, myself and millions like me are just going to have to suffer being called a ‘fascist’. This isn’t a massive problem for me, though, as I know that I’m not. But I would nevertheless advise my fellow students to think twice before deploying the F word, and urge them to consider whether they’re actually describing something that monstrous or serious, or whether they’ve simply encountered something they don’t like or agree with. Misusing the word ‘fascism’ inhibits political discussion, and is ultimately deeply improper and disrespectful. Think twice before you use it.