I wonder how much money the Bush Administration spent on inventing the term Islamofascist. It entered our language some time in 2006 and people who buy into the president’s form of intellectual vacancy use it frequently. The complete lack of philosophic, historical or linguistic consistency in the design of this word simply boggles the mind of any thinking individual and everyone should question its use as it exists for the soul purpose of deriding people of a particular faith without resorting to ugly terms like camel jockey, sand nigger or towel head.
Let’s deconstruct the term Islamofascist. The first half, Islamo, obviously takes a new spin on the words, Islam and Islamic. Islamist, also a word invented in the past few years, did not catch on so, I would guess that the administration hired a corporate branding firm and, through focus groups learned that “Islamo” prior to a word people believe to be a synonym for “bad” would work.
The second part of the word demonstrates the intellectual vacancy on a grander scale. While, in my opinion, fascism is a bad form of government and a discredited political philosophy, it is a poor term to describe what theocrats are, in fact, Fascism is a word for a very specific political philosophy which bases its foundation on the triumph of human will. Islamic fundamentalists, like Christian fundamentalists and sincere believers of many religious faiths, believe in the triumph of God’s will. Fascists, like the Nazi party in the first half of the twentieth century, shunned God’s will in favor of human will and believed that humans alone could control the destiny of both the species and the world. Fascists strongly accept evolutionary science and, under Hitler, took human evolution so seriously that they chose to exterminate people who did not meet their ideal racial profile. Islamic fundamentalists, like Osama Ben Laden, share the belief with Christian fundamentalists that humans were created in God’s image by God himself and that God, the intelligent designer, planned human development because that is what is written in the Bible and the Koran and both books, according to the subscribers to one of these fundamentalist beliefs, are infallible in the eyes of its readers.
Thus, the Bush people, trying to avoid associating Islamic fundamentalists with Christian fundamentalists chose to find a new word to describe an Islamic flavor of tyranny. They didn’t want to use the word theocracy as Israel and other allies are such and many of the president’s followers believe in ending the separation of church and state in the United States and wish our nation to become a Christian theocracy. So, they chose to call a philosophy which is undoubtedly not fascist, fascism as words like “dictator,” “tyrant,” or good old “thug,” didn’t quite sound right. Thus, Hitler and Mussolini were not Cathlofascists but, rather, plain old fascists who, while nasty buggers, did not accept any form of theocracy.
William Safire, perhaps my all time favorite conservative writer, retired from the New York Times a year or two ago. Every Sunday, from my junior high days until well into adulthood, I eagerly looked forward to and enjoyed reading his “On Language” column in the Times Magazine. I wonder what such a brilliant social critic, with whom I rarely shared a political stance and tremendous observer of our language, would have to say about the word Islamofascist. I doubt Bill Safire reads Blind Confidential but, if any of our readers know how to reach him, please send him this article and ask him to provide a comment on this peculiar combination of syllables.
Growing up (remember, I am and have always been a nerd and, even more strongly, I am a word nerd), I enjoyed the great debates between the good friends but political foes, William F. Buckley, a great conservative from Yale, and John Kenneth Galbraith, the Brilliant Harvard liberal. Galbraith died last year but I wonder what Buckley, a man I typically disagreed with politically but always held in high intellectual regard, would say about a term as ridiculous as Islamofascist.
Today, we have come to accept lots of new words. Some, like cyberspace, blog and webcast have grown organically out of new technology. Others, however, come from corporate branding experts. As far as I know, the first company name specifically chosen for the way it would sound to the American ear and carry no meaning in any known language was Kodak. Eastman decided that his photography business should have a new name that did not derive from anything else. When Philippe Kahn named Borland he chose the word because, “it sounds American.”
Pharmaceutical companies tend to use non-words more liberally than most industries and have brought new words into our language like Prozac, Xanax, Wellbutrin and others. While many people think Viagra was an invented non-word, it is not, in Sanskrit, Viagra means Tiger. Which would mean that, if one were to try to sell a Macintosh into a Sanskrit speaking community, its operating system would need to be called Viagra, it certainly seems to give my buddy Gabe an erection and, if it lasts more than four hours, I recommend immediate medical attention.
Using a corporate branding strategy to invent a new word that means, “our current enemy” is a bold faced attempt to repackage and resell a war that grows increasingly unpopular. It kind of feels like “New Coke” but in a more, let’s find a way to make the loss of human life, American, Iraqi, Lebanese , Islamic, Christian, Jew, black, white, brown, elder, adult and child more palatable to the American consumer. Sadly, the steady deterioration of education in the United States, the sad decrease in our national vocabulary skills and the general lack of understanding of history and the meaning of a political philosophy like fascism allows the president and his cronies to invent a nonsense word that, if taken literally, means the opposite of Islamic Fundamentalist.
I suppose they tested other words which, sadly, Americans think are synonyms for “bad” but, in fact, have far broader definitions and learned they didn’t work well with the focus groups. I’d assume IslamaTyrant, Moslotator, MosloNasty and IslamoBadGuys didn’t fly. Clearly, we couldn’t equate Osama and his gang of theocratic Islamic terrorist thugs with communism as that might confuse the public as regards the good communist friends of ours in China and our evil communist enemies in Cuba. Wal-Mart grows its organic canned beans in China so we can make our vegetarian chili at a bargain so how bad can the Chinese communist autocracy be?
Of course, we couldn’t use the term, “socialist” which, although it carries a bad connotation, most Americans have trouble distinguishing it from communism and the Bush people would have to explain the difference between our nice socialist friends in Norway, Sweden and Denmark and the mean socialist bad guys like Hugo Chavez and Bernie Sanders. Of course, even if Senor Chavez calls us the great evil of North America (using language more sophisticated than that of President Bush but, oddly reminiscent of a recent State of the Union address where our president referred to an axis of evil) he would need to explain why the United States accepted his gift of one million barrels of oil to help sure up our national reserves after Katrina. The administration would also need to explain to the poor people in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Illinois why he is associating Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who sells discount heating oil to low income Americans, why he is just like Osama Ben Laden.
It must be hard trying to come up with appropriate words to describe our enemies. I wouldn’t want the job of “head word inventor” for the GOP. I would likely have come up with something boring like Islamic Theocrats and have angered our friends in Israel.
Other presidents have added new words and phrases to our vocabulary. If I remember correctly, it was President Hoover, the only engineer to become president and, as head of the Army Corp of Engineers reached national fame by arriving in New Orleans less than 8 hours after the rain stopped to start the rescue operation in a nasty flood, who coined the word “normalcy” when said that “America needs to return to normalcy…” President Eisenhower, one of a few genius caliber presidents, warned us of, “the military industrial complex,” then strong supporters of Vice President Elect President Johnson and the primary recipients of Bush the younger’s wild spending. In fact, last night on Hanedy, G. Gordon Liddy, used the term, “military industrial complex” in a short rant about the failure of the Republican Congress and President to stop spending like, “a drunken sailor on a Saturday night.” I really miss those whacko liberal Nixon people having power.
Thus, I conclude, that Islamofascist is a stupid word designed by clever people to fool an undereducated and gullible public. I think I’ll play with my new Sanskrit Macintosh and write with a bigger grin later.
I know that Sanskrit is a dead language and that there are no Sanskrit speaking colonies nor is there a Sanskrit edition of the Macintosh Viagra OS.
I had expected to get some hate mail about the “Termination of Contract” piece I wrote earlier this week. Instead, I received a single anonymously posted comment from a whack job that associated my satirical bit about intelligent design and the many really nasty behaviors humans demonstrate with the thought that I was speaking out against diversity. If one reads Blind Confidential and its frequent celebration of diversity with any regularity, they will realize that this comment is entirely baseless.
As regards the intelligent design versus evolution debate, I obviously subscribe to the generally accepted scientific principles of the evolution side of the discussion. At the same time, I have some very good friends who accept the intelligent design argument. These are smart people for whom I have a very high level of respect. We have our philosophic disagreements but we also find a huge amount of common ground in our personal friendships.