Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Sep 05 2006

Mussolini is long gone—so what's all this new talk about Fascism?

It's been reported that Benito Mussolini's grandson wants an inquest in order to find out who actually killed his grandfather. Graphic photos record Mussolini (and several others) having been killed and their bodies dangling, upside-down, at a gas station.

Mussolini may be gone, but his fascist regime and his strange alliance with Adolph Hitler have kept him very much alive as a world history topic. The very word "Fascism" still evokes high emotions, as was recently evidenced when the word was used in separate settings by both U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Most of the words that evoke the most intense emotions in us all are words that have been used in some type of prior incident that also incited emotion. Think of "liberty", "freedom", and "justice", all of which have fairly good associations and have been used in stories throughout our American history. They probably give most of us some strong patriotic feelings. But now thicken the mix with "war", "poverty" and "oppression". Did you feel that little negative tug that began in the mid-section of your torso? Try these on for size; "terrorist", "torture", "bigotry". Throw in "treason", "murder", and "genocide". It's enough to make even a well-centered person head for some antacid. And the more specific the terms become, the more dangerous they begin to sound.

There's a reason why terms like "witch hunt", "McCarthyism" and others like them get a rise out of people. We associate these terms with actual events in the past that threatened individuals and destroyed lives. When we hear them we're on guard against a returning threat. We may not be afraid of Mussolini because he's dead. We can't help but cringe at the idea of his fascist controls being applied to new groups of people and producing new atrocities. The use of the word is very effective as an attention-getting device, particularly when used in combination with other groups of people now living. The word that was a threat to our ancestors leaps into our own lives and calls for adrenalin and defenses against those who might be a threat to us.

My concern is that the overuse of the term desensitizes people to real Fascism that could creep into society while we're all busy patting each other on the back for having overcome what somebody else manages to convince us is Fascism.

posted at: 14:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

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