Tools for Your Internet Fights

I've seen a trend of abusing vocabulary as my friends move farther and forward into the false dichotomy of left vs right American politics.  In an attempt to illustrate how nonsensical and obviously wrong the other side of a given debate may be we resort to language which paints the stance to be Pure Evil™.

This failure to even honor the actual meaning of words has lead my newsfeed to become some kind of absurdist parody of debate.

Because I love my friends on the right and on the left, I thought it might be handy to include the true meanings of a few words in a hope that we can learn to use them in their appropriate contexts.

  1. Fascism.  A favorite of my friends on the left to describe the Bush/Cheney term and the attitudes of conservative religious people.  Lately, the right has picked this one up to describe multiculturalism or tolerance.  Fascism is actual a radial from of authoritarianism where individual rights and identity are subverted and replaced by a formal system of nationalistic indoctrination.  The most famous fascist regime of all time was the Nazis in World War 2.  There is no popular movement in America today which represents a fascist ideology.
  2. Marxism.  I can't throw a rock without hitting someone who says Barack Obama is a Marxist.  Marxism is the worldview espoused by Karl Marx.  It posits that capitalism causes an inevitable tension between those who control the means to produce things and those who do the actual work or producing.  Marxism states the only way to balance an economy and social system is a Proletariat Revolution.  Lenin and Stalin were Marxist, and history plainly documents the bloody rise of these men.  If Obama were a Marxist, we wouldn't be near the end of his first term without tanks rolling down the streets of America.
  3. Nazism.  Both sides lay equal claim to this one.  Nazism of course was the form of fascism practiced by Hitler's Third Reich.  War and genocide were the primary characteristics of their rule, and there is no equivalent in American political leadership.  I believe we insult our WW2 generation by tossing this term around.  People all over the world gave their lives to defeat the Nazis.
  4. Socialism. Man, I can't tell you how often I hear that Democrats are socialists.  They're not.  Most democrats in America are liberal capitalists.  Although socialism is a very broad term, it's defining characteristic is the reduction or elimination of private property rights.  Don't confuse this one with a Social Democracy either.  There are certainly American Democrats who would like to see America move more toward a Social Democracy with things like a single-payer healthcare system or increased regulations regarding employee rights.  Barack Obama may be a Social Democrat (although the evidence of that is not even clear), but he is certainly not a socialist.

I am in absolutely no way expressing my opinion on what type of government is best.  I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  My only goal with this post is to slightly elevate the debate by encouraging people to understand the terms they use.