Santorum Opposes Religious Extremism!

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In a stunning development, embattled Christian extremist and foe of the Establishment Clause, Senator Rick Santorum has come out publicly against religious extremism! What’s this? Has he managed to jump-start his brain so that more than the usual two neurons are firing? (“Yup! Old Rick is firing on all eight brain cells today!”)

Hardly. As I’ve said before, fundies are the most irony-impaired people on Earth. Ricky has been spending time of late railing about the evils of Islamic extremism! Oh, Rick, Rick, Rick! Dost thou not own a mirror?

Santorum spoke to the National Press Club in July. I agree with Santorum’s assertion that Islamic fundamentalism is one of the greatest threats facing the United States today. It’s just very funny to hear somebody like him talk about how bad religious extremism and theocracy are.

Santorum’s Mistake

Santorum also made a tactical error, and it generated a lot of controversy from both liberals and conservatives. Santorum said we should stop calling our current situation a “war on terror”, because terror is a tactic not an enemy (This idea is not original with Santorum.). He said we should call it what it is: a war on Islamic fascism.

His assertion is mostly correct. It would be more accurate to say “Islamic fundamentalism”. Fascism requires state control. It is certainly true that in many Islamic countries, mosque and state have merged into one fanatical entity. However, al Qaeda and numerous other terrorist organizations are stateless, but no less dangerous (more-so, because they’re harder to find and fight).

Fundamentalism is the enemy here. It breeds extremism, intolerance, hatred, and violence. If left unchecked, it will result in theocratic fascism in every nation that doesn’t actively try to stamp it out.

Santorum’s mistake was using the phrase “Islamic fascism”. Yes, that’s more accurate than “terror”, but it’s a loaded phrase. The Muslims will only hear that Santorum is calling for a war against Islam. It’s like shortly after September 11, when Bush called for a “crusade” against terror. That’s a nasty word to the Muslims. They’re still pissed off about the original Crusades. That was over 700 years ago! Get over it already! (The Islamic fundamentalists’ perpetual anger over the Crusades is more understandable when you realize that these people want to return the world to the 13th century. In that frame of mind, the Crusades were literally yesterday!)

The Right-Wing Reaction

Santorum was justifiably vilified by the Left for using that phrase. Don’t give the wacko element of the Muslim world any more reasons to hate us. What’s interesting is the reaction from the Right.

As is typical of the right-wing media, they distort the issue, misquote their foes, and throw around a lot of their favorite buzzwords about the Left. A very good and amusing example was an op-ed piece just published by a Philadelphia newspaper, the Evening Bulletin. It’s titled “Islamic Fascism: A Fair Assessment?”, and it was written by Leo Knepper. Let’s look at a few fun quotes.

At a National Press Club event Sen. Rick Santorum highlighted the threat posed to America and Democracy by Islamic fascism. Immediately the Political Correctness police and the Head-in-the-Sand Apologists railed against the Senator for daring to use “fascism” to describe a segment of the Islamic world’s fanatical dedication to the construction of a modern theocratic regime.

Don’t you love the way he paints everybody who expressed any concern as a “Head-in-the-Sand Apologist”? Well, at least we know from the start that this guy isn’t capable of detailed analysis of a complex situation. He had to call up Home Depot and ask if they had any broader brushes.

In the Spring 2003 edition of Free Inquiry Magazine, Dr. Lawrence Britt compiled a list of 14 defining characteristics of fascism (“Fascism Anyone?”). It should be noted that The Council for Secular Humanism publishes Free Inquiry Magazine, not an organization one would associate with modern American Conservatism. Dr. Britt, a political scientist compiled this list of qualitative characteristics after studying notable fascist regimes (e.g. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc.).

Wow. This guy actually reads something other than the crawl at the bottom of the Fox News screen. But here’s where it gets funny. Let’s look at how this guy interprets the article.

The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism, reported by Dr. Britt:

  • Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  • Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
  • Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
  • Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  • Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  • Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  • Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  • Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  • Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  • Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  • Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
  • Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  • Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  • Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times, elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Again, this list of 14 items was originally published in the humanist magazine Free Inquiry. Mr. Knepper is merely reproducing it here to support his argument, which is:

Clearly and to the consternation of the American Left and Apologists, the term Islamic fascism is accurate and warranted as a description of the new “evil empire” the world confronts.

I can’t speak for others, and I haven’t read many of the articles this clown is railing against, but I have no quarrel with the assessment. I just think it isn’t the sort of phrase we want to be throwing around right before we send diplomats to the Arab world to try to get cooperation in our “war on terror”. You think the Arabs won’t read between the lines and slam the door in our face?

Here’s the funny/sad part. Almost every item in that list applies to the United States! Admittedly, it’s all a matter of degree, but this country is exhibiting most of those traits to a large extent. Mr. Knepper is right to be worried, but he needs to put the telescope down. The other enemy is about to swallow him whole.

He ends the article with the perfect synopsis of right-wing irony impairment:

Perhaps those speaking loudest in opposition to Sen. Santorum’s characterization of the enemy we face would do well in examining the history of fascism. An open-minded review of the facts would reveal startling parallels to fascist regimes for those who have eyes willing to see it. [emphasis added]

One Response to “Santorum Opposes Religious Extremism!”

  1. Brian Says:

    I was with you even before I finished the list. Yeah, that’s us, pretty much. I can only hope that in….oh, let’s see, about 65 hours we can truly start to act like a grown up civilization.

    You are right to say that each of those points are true to varying degrees. The fact that they even apply at all is perhaps the most damning indictment of these last eight years of pure hell. Goodbye, George, and good fucking riddance.