“Islamofascists” and “Putin-Hitler” reverberate through our public discourse, reflecting anger and emotion, rather than calm and acumen. As such, these seemingly helpful tags actually impede our understanding of both adversaries and, hence, prevent us from elaborating a successful strategy against each, including mobilizing popular support for the endeavor.
He who gets to name names, wins. The old saw makes for a good zinger but lacks precision. It should perhaps be: he who labels a phenomenon fast and popularizes it persistently and repetitiously dominates the discourse. Hence, we suffer of the ever enduring poison of the Komintern’s Willi Műnzenberg who cast the Civil War in Spain as a conflict between “fascism” and “democracy.” Never mind that the former included Stalinists, Trotskyites, and anarchists whose revolutionary fury rendered anything smacking of democracy null and void. By pitting the putative “democrats” against alleged “fascists” maestro Műnzenberg supplied the West’s cackling liberal and leftist glitterati with an ultra-reductionist vision of Spain, where anyone rooting, as, for example, Evelyn Waugh was, for the conservative forces of law and order and against a Red revolution was instantaneously accused of worshiping Hitler, and thus ostracized and, more often than not, traumatized. This was deviously mischievous for it rendered any thoughtful analysis of the Spanish carnage utterly impossible. Hence, the West remained impotent in the face of the Hitler and Stalin aggression. And it missed another important lesson for the future. Műnzenberg built on a legacy of opprobrium attached to the generic concept “fascism.” Initially, the Communists considered Italian fascists as socially friendly, if confused revolutionaries. After Benito Mussolini’s black shirts crushed the Reds, Moscow changed its mind and unleashed an Exorcist-like stream of bile inundating anyone who opposed Stalin. Therefore not only the national socialists of Hitler became “fascists,” but so did the followers of Trotsky and anyone in between, including, for example, Christian nationalists. Labels tend to stick. Simplistic labels stick indefinitely.