Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Neocons," "very liberal Communists," and other scare-words

As Patrick Porter correctly points out, "neocon" (or "neoconservative") is expanding into an all-purpose term of abuse without much concrete content, historical specificity, or political substance. (The degree of seriousness or plausibility involved is often not that different from Ann Coulter's use of "faggot" as a political insult.)

This increasingly promiscuous use of the increasingly elastic scare-word "neocon" reminds one of the equally promiscuous way many right-wingers used to call anyone they didn't like a "communist" (or at least, in the old 1950s lingo, a "comsymp"). Once, of course, there actually were real Communists (just as there have been real neo-conservatives), which allowed for spreading around some guilt-by-conflation. Now that the international Communist movement has pretty much disappeared, along with the former Evil Empire, the word "liberal" often serves a similar function in some right-wing circles ...

... though that's not entirely new, either. Back in 1973 Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon's Attorney-General John Mitchell, said that her husband often warned against the threat posed by the "very liberal Communists" (the worst kind) who were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

Stalinists, for their part, used to call anyone they didn't like either a "Trotskyite" or a "fascist"--and sometimes both. Well, history moves on. Nowadays, people who want to abuse other people by calling them "neocons" sometimes accuse them of being "Trotskyites" (or ex-Trotskyites), too.

(Historically, comrades, the correct term is "Trotskyist." "Trotskyite" was a derogatory slur, with conspiratorial overtones, used only by Stalinists and their fellow-traveling dupes--more or less the way Republicans in the US like to talk about the "Democrat Party" instead of the "Democratic Party.")

As for the word "fascist" ... let's not even get started on that one. Even kindergarten kids can use that one now (and a lot of adults who toss it around haven't gone much beyond the kindergarten level in their grasp of what it means).

Yours for a higher level of political abuse,
Jeff Weintraub