Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Theothuggism

Wonderful as Andrew Sullivan's coverage of Iran has been, I am uneasy about his repeated use of the headline 'This is What Fascism Looks Like' over videos of atrocities. Surely, it's also what communism looks like or any number of oppressive ideologies. In fact, it's occasionally what Britain and America look like. Or, in jaundiced mode, I could say it's what human life looks like. Finding reasons to kill each other is one of our species' most distinctive characteristics. I suppose we could stuff this whole killing each other thing into a file labelled 'Fascism', but that limits our ability to say anything about Germany, Italy and Japan in the thirties and forties. Perhaps we just need a word to describe the Iranian regime. Theothuggism works for me.

19 comments:

  1. Andrew's commentary usually has an overwrought tendency. So much so with the US election campaign and his seeming desire to have Obama's babies, that I have stopped reading him.

    We long ago ceased to be able to hold the line against the misuse of the word Fascist. Hell, I've been in a pub where the landlord was accused of being a fascist for not selling Oven Roasted Peanuts.

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  2. Does not roll of the tongue does it, or fit neatly into headlines, or indeed capture the imagination with an instant image of hatred?

    I agree its over used and thus devalued, but its quite a useful word non the less.

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  3. I don't know, communism might look like fascism but does fascism look like communism. does the word define the thing or the thing define the word? do we need more words to define different things or more words within each definition? Any way, I can't say that word without feeling I have a speech impediment.

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  4. I wonder what the Iranians themselves call their government and its members. This will likely provide the most telling description. For example, Nazi VIPs came to be known to ordinary Germans as "golden pheasants" (according to Anthony Beevor). I'd guess that Putin in his bare-chested phase is the closest we've come to a retread of the classic Fascist in the past decade - vain, preening worship of power and violence.

    "Gangsters" is enough to describe the current Iranian lot for me. They are no different from South American cartels or the Sicilian Mafia, exception that religion happens to be their business rather than drugs, money or protection.

    Oh well, that's half the world insulted and it's barely lunchtime.

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  5. Pardon the momentary lapthe into thillineth ... but I think I thaw a theothug ... I did, I did!

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  6. Andrew Sullivan's "coverage"? You mean his aggregating of info. posted online without reference to the original source nor any contextualization?

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  7. Andrew Sullivan- overwrought and overrated. But regardless, I'm always a bit wary of slapping terms referring to western concepts and ideas on alien cultures. I have the same problem when Nick Cohen uses 'right wing' in reference to the likes of Yusuf al Qaradawi etc. The whole right/left thing is making less and less sense over here, let alone while referring to very different cultures. Still, thuggery transcends cultures and does a not bad job. Violent repression likewise. Tyranny. Etc etc.

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  8. The secular communist regimes you have in mind, the USSR, Fidel's Cuba, were instances of communist fascism. Hitlers was a racial fascism, the Iranian regime's is a theocratic fascism, the difference is merely in the ideological justification for brutal military oppression. Brittan and America? Democratic capitalist fascism; a virulent spectral kind of violence that lurks behind many of the others.

    It is not the character of our species to kill, that is a b.s. "just so" account by evolutionary psychologist.

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  9. In The U.S. we need look no further than Seattle or Miami for examples of of the state unleashing its thugs on dissenting voices. I was a bystander working in Seattle when I witnessed the Seattle police riot. Theocracy or kleptocracy; I'd argue that fascism is an apt description.

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  10. Andrew has a tendency to get caught up in the moment, but he has been a great source to find information on what is happening in Iran.

    And not selling peanuts in a pub is fascism in its highest form (actually they should be free, so it's two levels of fascism, rolled into one)!!!

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  11. Since we're nitpicking about terminology that's necessarily vague in the first place, I'd like to point out that communism as theorized does not resemble facism in the slightest. The totalitarian transition period that "communist" governments always seem to remain in does fit, on the other hand.

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  12. To Recusant and Anonymous....it interests me that the language you use to disparage Andrew Sullivan is feminizing (e.g. "Wants to have Obama's babies") and as well as being the type of language ususally aimed at women ("overwrought"). While this may not be where you are coming from, I hear this language as both homophobic and sexist. It makes me take your remarks much less seriously, because it seems that your reaction to Andrew in part reflects discomfort with his sexual identity.

    Anonymous -- with regard to your remark disparaging Andrew Sullivan's "aggregating informaton without context" -- can you point us all to a better source? To me his aggregating of information, and including links to people who disagree with him -- like the link that got me here -- seems pretty valuable. Who else is doing as much?

    IMHO, Jeffrey Liechtenstein's (sorry if I mangled the spelling) comment regarding fascism is right on.

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  13. Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?

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  14. ...or perhaps it's just entirely descriptive of Sullivan's m.o.

    It's a nice fantasy indeed that humans are not prone to killing and murder. That notion hardly appeared with the advent of evolutionary psychology.

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  15. Melissa - I don't know about Recusant or Anon, but I'm gay and I find nothing feminizing about the term "overwrought." Unlike Bryan, I have found Sullivan's prose overwrought for years and described it as such on more than one occasion. I also consider Sullivan a generally unreliable purveyor of fact. His failure to identify his sources is well known. He may appear to be doing good things in this instance but, based on his extensive prior record, I wouldn't be surprised to learn of selective editing of the "facts," dubious sources and intentional inaccuracies.

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  16. I like "Clerical fascism" which was originally coined to describe reactionary Catholicism of Franco's Spain. The left clerical fascism has a long and distinguished history on the left, but I am not sure that is enough to recommend it to you.

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  17. I agree about the overuse of 'fascism'. What's wrong with 'theocracy' in this case? This is, after all, what theocracies look like. Or you could just go with 'this is what religion when it isn't chained down by secularism looks like', but I doubt that would be popular round here.

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  18. Melissa

    'Overwrought' is feminising? If you say so, but it's a new one on me. Granted, describing Andrew as 'wanting to have Obama's babies' would literally only be possible for a woman, but it generally stands for a blind worship of an individual of either sex by an individual of either sex.

    As for it being evidence of any discomfort regarding his - or my - sexual identity, when are you going to ask me when I stopped beating my wife?

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  19. I must object in the strongest terms to your misuse of the term 'thug'. The Thugees were a much-maligned and misunderstood religious group (or was it ethnic minority, I forget) whose good name has repeatedly been the subject of ignorant (and maybe racist) slurs. My friend Theo is a bit pissed off too.

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