Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brand strategy

So much of American consciousness is dominated by advertising and marketing that it is no surprise that the serious business of regime change, war and democracy promotion in the middle east has to be branded exactly right. First, we had the GWOT (global war on terror). Since that wasn't really catching on, a rebranding was ordered. Unimaginative Pentagon types came up with G-SAVE (global struggle against violent extremism). This time around, with the civil war raging in Iraq, poll numbers stubbornly stuck in the 30s and with elections looming, it is time to roll out a new brand. What better way to revive the flagging fortunes of the glorious struggle (and, incidentally, the poll numbers) than to sneak in a new term ?

The occasion for the launch was the discovery of the alleged plot in the UK to blow up airliners traveling to the US. From now on, the believers will faithfully replace "terrorists" with "Islamic fascists" and claim that the US/Western Civilization/the world is locked in a bitter struggle with the totalitarian ideology of Islamic fascism.

The term has been used, mostly in its variant form of Islamofascism, by the clash-of-civilization brigade for a few years. It is freely employed to describe the supposed ideology of a motley crew which includes the Taliban, Al Qaeda , Hamas, Hezbollah and any other member of the axis-of-the-generally-disagreeable.

Being an advocate of truth in advertising, I feel compelled to protest the inaccuracy of the description. Fascism, my trusted Oxford English Reference Dictionary tells me, means

1. the principles and organization of the extreme right-wing nationalist movement, prevailing in Italy under Mussolini (1922-43).
2. any similar nationalist and authoritarian movement.

A further note adds:

.... Although there is no coherent body of political doctrine associated with Fascism, it tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group over others .....

The Taliban were clearly medieval, misogynistic and puritanical brutes. Al Qaeda phrases its ideology in terms of injustices wreaked upon the Muslim ummah. Hamas and Hezbollah cast themselves as resistance movements. Hezbollah is a Shia organization while the other three are Sunni. The Taliban are Pushtuns who speak a different language than the other three groups. In other words, they are all quite different from each other.

What they have in common is that they are Islamic. It can probably be said that they endorse fundamentalist interpretations of religion and society, though Hezbollah and Hamas are not emphasizing that very much. It is also likely that many of them believe in the inevitability of the restoration of a universal caliphate, just as many fundamentalist Christians believe in the rapture.

I don't see fascism in evidence here. The crucial ingredients of aggressive nationalism and assumptions of racial/ethnic superirority are missing.

Maybe a slightly more descriptive term for the common features of these groups is Islamic fundamentalism. However, that still ignores the political contexts in which these movements flourish. Of course, nuanced understanding is no match for snappy slogans. And then, fundamentalism as the evil of our times is so retro, having had its day during the Reagan era.

Onwards, then, in the glorious struggle with the Islamic fascists who hate our freedoms.


Anonymous RMR said...

Wonderful to read your postings, Pods. My belated browsing means I have had to read through all your posts at one go - leaving me with a lot of thought strings that will have to remain loose ends for now.

As for the fascism epithet hurled by this administration at one and all, I can only paraphrase Keith Olberman when he was responding to Donald Rumsfeld:

In Cheney and Rumsfeld, this country does face a new type of fascism, indeed.


9/03/2006 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"postings".....gee rmr!
And it is spelt Olbermann you twit.

9/03/2006 11:05 PM  

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