A month ago, a member of the British Army named Lee Rigsby was brutally murdered on Wellington Street, Woolwich by a pair of religiously-motivated madmen. It was only through the efforts of a few extremely brave members of the public that the body count was not any higher. Rigsby was, by all accounts, an extremely nice bloke who did not at all deserve the senseless fate that was delivered to him.
The murder of a soldier at the hands of Islamic militants has had the effect one might have expected.
Namely, a shitstorm has erupted.
On one side we have the Anti-Islamists, represented in its extremes by groups like the English Defence League or parties like the British National Party. They are calling for an end to what they perceive to be the spread of Islam throughout society, and they aren't afraid of using violence to achieve this end. The opposition to this standpoint (let's call them the Anti-Anti-Islamists, because it looks and sounds hilarious) claim that the situation is being massively over-exaggerated and that it is unfair to judge an entire group by its extremes. These guys are represented by groups like Hope Not Hate, and in its extremes by Unite Against Fascism.
Now, I'm going to do my best to remain as on-the-fence on this topic as possible with this post, because it isn't my intention to discuss the relative merits of either side and their arguments. I'm writing this because I take quite a big issue with the language both sides use. And by language, I mean one specific term.
Because seriously, guys, you all need to stop bandying around the word 'fascism'.
Fascism is a term for a very specific form of ultra-right political nationalism, emphasising strong leader figures and the “mass mobilisation of the national community” (cheers Wikipedia). It's a form of rule that rose to prominence in the 20th Century, with countries like Italy being taken over by fascist parties during this time and with small fringe groups like the British Union of Fascists existing in countries like the UK. The most notorious example, of course, is Germany's Nazi state that existed between 1933 and 1945: when people talk of fascism, its this state and all the negative connotations that come with it that springs to mind.
Fascism isn't a buzzword. Fascism isn't all radical-right political theory. Fascism isn't everyone who doesn't think exactly the fucking same as you. It's a proper political term that represents a specific ideology but these days is instead being misused by every man and his dog, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum.
So let's single out each side in turn and explain to them why they should stop misusing this word.
Dear 'Unite Against Fascism'. You're not opposing fascists, unless Nick Griffin has recently developed an obsession with corporatism whilst I wasn't looking. The days when there were openly-fascist groups and parties operating in the UK have long since ended; even the National Front has since shifted its focus to a brand of ultra-nationalism. Far-right movements? Yes, those you are opposing, but the use of fascism in your very name indicates a complete lack of understanding towards the thing you say you're opposing, which makes you guys look more than a little silly.
Dear Anti-Islamists. There's no such fucking thing as 'left-wing fascism'. That's a paradox that ranks up there with “a very dry rainforest”. If you were to start talking about 'left-wing extremism', then you might well find yourself onto something, because such a thing most certainly exists and I'm sure some of you guys have been the victim of it at times. But tacking 'fascism' on the end of something to try and make a point not only suggests you have absolutely no idea what the hell you're talking about, it just seems childish and unnecessary.
Which bring us to my central point. In debates like the one currently raging about Islamophobia and the Islamisation of Britain, fascism is no longer being used to make a legitimate point. It's being used to stifle discussion, to shut down communication. “Oh, you hold an opposing view-point to me? Well, you're a fucking Nazi, mate” is essentially what people are doing when they bandy the term about.
This discussion's important. It needs to happen, and we need a decent consensus on how to answer it. So tactics such as everyone calling everyone else a fascist is doing nothing but increasing the rhetorical nonsense and ensuring that we take even longer to come up with an answer.
So seriously, guys. Cut that shit out.