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January 18, 2007

Discovering Chris Hedges in Granada
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Have you ever agreed with Michael Ledeen before? I bet you haven't. That's why I was just as surprised as anyone that I actually agreed with one of his Corner posts:

I see that Chris Hedges, the long-time NY Times journalist, has come out with a book entitled American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, in which he in essence says that the likes of Falwell and Robertson are Christian fascists...I wonder if all those people who hammered Bush and Santorum for talking about Islamic fascism will similarly excoriate Hedges for unfairly branding an entire religion (that would be Christianity in this case) with a scarlet "f".

I was someone who did "hammer" Bush and Santorum for their incredibly inane usage of the term "Islamic fascist," and so yes, I think Hedges is similarly wrong to use the term "Christian fascists." In fact, I think the we should declare a moratorium on using the word "fascist," which has become just another way of saying "I don't like you." In a perhaps amusing aside on the topic of Chris Hedges, I was in Granada two weeks ago (Granada, if you recall, was once the heart of Muslim Spain. Apparently, Bin Laden wants it back). I visited the city's only operating mosque and was sifting through their book collection right by the entrance. There were a bunch of books and pamphlets about the usual topics - the Prophet Muhammad, Zakat, heaven, God, how to become a better Muslim, etc. And then there was Chris Hedges' War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning Img_2152(click on photo). It was one of the most bizarre things I've seen, heard, or read, since, well, Michael Ledeen declared Rumseld "the best Defense Secretary the U.S. has ever had."

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Comments

Shadi, I can't figure out what points your are trying to make in this post, since it contains no actual arguments, just allusions. All I can tell is that Chris Hedges has somehow made it onto your shit list (along with that other devil, Brent Scowcroft, I suppose).

I have also criticized the description of Bin Ladenism and other kinds of Salafist Islamist views as "Islamofascist". When I have done so, I have tried to describe those views, such as I understand them, and point out the ways in which they differ from fascism.

And I am perfectly prepared to believe that Hedges is wrong in characterizing the views of Robertson and Falwell as a kind of fascism. But presumably he has some reason for making these claims. So perhaps you could descibre the political ideologies and agendas of Robertson and Falwell, and show where they differ from fascism, and where hedges goes wrong.

I agree that people are extremely careless in their use of the word "fascist". But I don't see why there should be a moratorium on the word. Surely there have been, and are, some real fascists, and we should continue to describe them as such.

And the point of your anecdote about the mosque in Granada completely escapes me.

Like Dan Kervick, I too am wondering what point you were trying to make with the Granada anecdote. Are you trying to suggest that people who are interested in becoming better Muslims and such would not want to read Chris Hedges' War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning? Have you read the book? If you have, you surely can understand why anyone wishing to open their mind would be interested in Hedges' excellent first book. Say what you want about his latest book (I have not read it, so I have nothing to add to that discussion), but please, if you wish to criticize his earlier book, come right out and do it. Don't be so ambiguous and cowardly.

And speaking of Hedges, does anyone know if there is anything to the rumor that he has made a deal to start blogging for bigfatamerica.com?

I hope I'm not being too elementary here, Shadi, but Hedges did not title his book "War is a Foce that Gives Us Meaning" because he thinks that war is a force that gives us meaning. Sheesh.

Wow, it seems people had trouble understanding my post. First of all, this was not an anti-Hedges hit job. All I said was that I disagreed with his choice of the term "Christian fascist." As for the anecdote about Granada, I think Dan and Bill are digging for something that isn't there.

Bill, for examples, says: "Are you trying to suggest that people who are interested in becoming better Muslims and such would not want to read Chris Hedges' War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning?" I reread my post and I honestly have no idea how/why Bill thinks that this is what I meant. His logic eludes me here. What was the point of the anecdote then? Well, all the books in the display were by Muslim scholars or sheikhs and then there was, just sitting there seemingly out of place, was Chris Hedges. It seemed incredibly random to me, and I found it amusing. There was no larger point being made, except perhaps an implicit one about the power of globalization.

SqueakyRat's last comment totally escapes me. I have no idea what he/she means by this comment. Everyone knows that Hedges has been a persistent and vocal critic of the Iraq war.

I'll agree that at least initially, the use of the term "fascist" throws me off. The moderate in me still recoils from such strong terms in political debate. But sometimes a spade is a spade. The parallels between modern conservatism (or perhaps "Bush" conservatism) and fascism are eery and considerable, and thus worth commenting on. This certainly includes Christian fundamentalist conservatism, one of the animating forces of modern conservatism. The term "Islamic fascism" is absurd because the only thing people who use it mean by it is that Islamic fundamentalists want to control our lives. However, comparisons between conservatism and fascism in modern American politics are considerably more informative. I think the title of Hedges book is a little too shrill for me, but he's hardly the first to make some legitimate comparision between tenets of fascism and modern conservatism.

And Ledeen is just wrong. Hedges is not branding an entire religion as "fascist." He specifically means the Christian right. I think the problem many had with the term "Islamic fascism" is not that it tarred Islam, but that it was just an inaccurate talking point. I could be wrong about that though.

I, too, think Hedges is over-the-top in flinging the f-word about. But it should be noted that he's the son of a Presbyterian minister and a Harvard Divinity grad; it's unclear whether he still embraces tha faith, but to this liberal Presbyterian his rhetoric sounds more like the internal fighting going on within American Protestantism than an attack on Christianity itself.

but to this liberal Presbyterian his rhetoric sounds more like the internal fighting going on within American Protestantism than an attack on Christianity itself.

Indeed. His previous book, for example, was about the Ten Commandments, and a vigorous defense of their continuing relevance. Hedges doesn't fling "fascism" around. He uses it for to describe a specific sub-movement withing the Christian right.

One problem with people throwing around the word fascist is that the meaning of the word gets lost in favor of the common usage. Fascism is actually a one party dictatorship operating an oppressive police state with very strong nationalistic and militaristic policies. Throw in a little private property (under centralized state economic control) and a lot of racism and you've got a fascist.

North Korea is a brutal one party dictatorship with most of the above characteristics with the only real difference being economics. Same for the PRC.

In fact most police states look rather similar. If the implication of the use of fascist in the book is meant to convey that the Christian right would impose it's views by force under a brutal police state then fine but that's a heavy burden of proof.

If it's fascist to impose one views of morality on others than we all fascist. Laws are simply the moral expression of a society. If one views someone as being a fascist for among other beliefs believing abortion is murder then it's difficult to see how the other side would have any trouble in labeling the murderers as fascists. In such a polarized political world where both sides call the other fascist not a whole lot is going to get done.

The major fascist power in world history played the central role in starting the largest war in human history and engaged in genocide against those who it disagreed with. Genocide to jews, gypsies, communists, political opponents, and eventually millions more it did not get to during the war it lost.

To label someone a fascist is to envoke this connotation.

Islamic Fascism is real. All one has to do is read what Bin Laden and all those who support him say. To compare this to the Christian right is on many levels obscene.
Those guys scare me on a political level but I see no evidence that they want to kill me.

Shadi, have you followed the Christian Patriot movement in this country (also known as Christian Identity)? It's a few steps to the right of Falwell and Robertson, but not that many steps. And it is, inarguably, fascist.

Lane Brody has the general idea about fascism. Technically the central thing that separates fascism from other authoritarian governments is that the fascist allows private *ownership* of "means of production" but insists on government *control*.

But the way the word is generally used, Fascists are anybody who runs an authoritarian government who isn't communist. Or anybody who wants an authoritarian government and doesn't want the state to work for the benefit of the public.

The meaning of the word has already been lost. You might as well call islamists fascists, what it means at this point is "I don't like them and they aren't communists.". Similarly we can use the word for authoritarian christians even if they have no stand on control of the means of production beyond that all important people must be christians.

"I don't like them and they aren't communist" is a pretty wide net.

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