Reclaiming Fascism: perspective please, people!

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 Ombudsman’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 — usually in public — 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 — 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 — and I wish I could find the reference! — 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 I’d been working on for the past 2 years was “the most white male fascist tool I’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.

Let’s actually remind ourselves what fascism is about. Let’s read the Wikipedia entry on fascism. Let’s look at some photographs of Belsen.

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 — and you lose.

10 Replies to “Reclaiming Fascism: perspective please, people!”

  1. Could it be that mentioning Fascism is the new Godwin’s Law?

    Actually, given that Godwin’s Law only states that the probability of mentioning the Nazis tends toward 1 over time, I don’t think it’s a good analogy — these people are jumping the shark pre-emptively by mentioning Fascism immediately; perhaps it should be considered a Corrollary to Godwin’s law — no, let’s call it Stilgherrian’s law…

  2. @Zhasper: Try saying “Stilgherrian’s Corollary” three times quickly! 😉

    Godwin’s Law is worth reading about, because he really just makes the same point as I do. Perhaps if we’re doing a corollary it could be:

    The less informed the political debate, the sooner Godwin’s Law takes effect.

  3. Thanks for writing down my thoughts after reading Dan Russell’s blog 🙂
    You should just not deal with some catchwords too mindlessly.

  4. Remember the party scene in ‘The Young Ones’, where a very young Jennifer Saunders mutters ‘Fascist!’ at a ho-ho-hoing Father Christmas?

  5. @Richard: I don’t remember that scene from The Young Ones, but I do remember Rik Mayall’s character screaming “fascist” at virtually everyone and everything. I decided not to mention The Young Ones in the original post because it might be too old a reference for some of our younger readers. 😉

    However I do seem to recall Jennifer Saunders also muttering “fascist” from the couch in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous — perhaps the DVD-equipped Snarky Platypus can confirm that?

    @Rico: Thanks for the comment.

  6. the point of the drug-sniffer dogs IS the false positives – it gives them an excuse (“probably cause”) to search anyone they like. all they have to do is “interpret” the dog’s behaviour as indicating that their target may have drugs on them.

    to avoid claims of prejudice or biased profiling, they set up the dog as an impartial expert and ignore the fact that in the end it boils down to subjective interpretation of the dog’s behaviour. it wasnt the cop who picked out the long-haired freak, it was the dog. honest.

  7. OOh good point. Then why don’t they use these at airports to help them profile?

    Answer: Because they WANT to hassle people indiscriminately, it helps the anti-government globalist agenda!

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