No, this isn’t an apologia for Nazis, far from it. It’s a plea to reserve “fascist” for situations which actually warrant the term.
There may (may the gods forbid!) come a time when we need to label a government fascist and be taken seriously. So please, don’t devalue it by calling every little disruption of personal choice “fascist”. It’s a very poor media strategy.
This post was triggered by Sydney Indymedia. Slogan: “Don’t hate the media, be the media.” On Thursday they wrote about the NSW Ombudsmanâ€™s Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001. Interesting stuff, especially the high false positive rate.
“No drugs were located in almost three-quarters of searches,” says the Ombudsman. So over two years, roughly 7,500 people were searched â€” usually in public â€” and names taken when no crime was committed.
That concerns me. When nine police and an expensive-to-train “sniffer” dog cruise King Street, Newtown, as they did yesterday, the vast majority of their time is being wasted. Most of the people turning out pockets and receiving the tut-tut glares of passers-by are innocent citizens going about their business. The meme that the streets are rife with drug dealers is reinforced â€” falsely.
I don’t blame those nine police. They don’t choose their assignments, and I suspect most of them would rather be chasing down crims. Or having a burger in the patrol car, depending on their adrenalin-junkie level.
Sydney Indymedia had to “stick it to the man”, though, and illustrated their report with a completely unrelated, vicious-looking police dog. Somehow they missed the point that the target of their anger should be the politicians who implement hypocritical laws against (some) drugs, not the hard-working boys and girls in blue.
But then that’d run counter to their image of the police as representatives of the fascist police state.
Sydney Indymedia throws around the f-word fairly freely, as well as “police state“. Earlier in the year â€” and I wish I could find the reference! â€” they actually said that protesters being moved away from the doors of Parliament House, Canberra, “just goes to show the kind of police state we’re living in.”
Sure. Whatever you say.
However this week’s Pinochet Medal for an Inappropriate Reference to Fascism comes from Dan Russell, debriefing users of a design tool at the end of a project.
She told me that my software, my baby, the thing Iâ€™d been working on for the past 2 years was â€œthe most white male fascist tool Iâ€™ve ever had the misfortune to use.”
And what did she mean by this?
Our design tool “forced the user to do things in a particular order”… she did things in a different way, and the tool was forcing her to go along a different path.
Get a grip. That’s about as fascist as a ticket inspector asking you to take your feet off the train seats.
If you’re critical of policing strategies, or of the path Australia is taking under the Howard government, then by all means criticise. But if you start by calling everything fascist, then it’s easy for your opponents to dismiss your arguments as hyperbole â€” and you lose.