26 October 2007

HItchens vs. Eskow

The latest article in Slate, where Hitchens weighs in on the side of those who use the term "Islamofascism", and a response by R. J. Eskow in The Huffington Post generated some waves in the blogosphere. Which is a bit strange, seeing as we are arguing only about a term.

To preempt some unwelcome criticism - I could see the "Islamo-" prefix as an easily replaceable one, to use a few examples, by "Judeo-", "Christiano-", "Hindo-" etc. The term is not applied to all followers of a given religion, trying to identify only a specific segment. I wouldn't try to add an adjective like "small" to the word "segment" - it is a matter for statisticians.

Eskow starts with a sentence that is clearly false:

Fascism is a state-based phenomenon.
Fascism is defined as "A political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)". So, as a theory it is not state-based - no more than fundamentalist Islam or any other fundamentalist religious sect - before it takes over a state.
Fascism, by commonly accepted definition, incorporates extreme statism, nationalism, and corporatism.
Isn't Caliphate, the apple of Islamofascists' eye, a state? Isn't dhimmitude just another version of nationalism/racism? Isn't the rigid religious hierarchy an inspiration for many a corporation ?

Most of the rest of this piece is dedicated to refutation of Hitchens' logic, which logic follows the simple, but effective rule of "if it walks like a duck...". And the way this line of logic is refuted goes (mostly like this): yes, here Hitch is right, by by itself this point is not a proof. Of course, Hitch did not even try to use any single point by itself, but the learned critic ignores this in his zeal to prove Hitch wrong.

But the most intriguing part of the Eskow's piece is the absence of his own definition for the term "Islamofascism".
But ignoring the established definition of a word in order to coin an inflammatory neologism?
I suspect that by "established definition" he means that of the term "fascism", while "Islamofascism" is a relatively new one and is in the process of being defined as we speak. And I have not seen Hitchens trying to modify the definition of fascism.
Misusing terms for propaganda purposes does violence to reason and to informed debate...
I could agree with this sentiment - but which term was misused here?

To colleague Elder.