Crude and tasteless

In September of last year, Pat Buchanan, founder of the weekly magazine The American Conservative, published an article on its pages entitled “Fascists Under the Bed.” In that piece, Buchanan attacked President Bush for his assertion that we are “at war with Islamic fascism.” As a prelude, Buchanan made a general critique of the reckless way analogies to fascism have been deployed in American politics. Buchanan:

Orwell said when someone calls Smith a fascist, what he means is, “I hate Smith.” By calling Smith a fascist, you force Smith to deny he’s a sympathizer of Hitler and Mussolini…. Since the 1930s, “fascist” has been a term of hate and abuse used by the Left against the Right, as in the Harry Truman campaign. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. claimed to see in the Goldwater campaign “dangerous signs of Hitlerism.” Twin the words, “Reagan, fascism” in Google and 1,800,000 references pop up.

The loose use of the fascist analogy, claimed Buchanan, was a trademark of the far left, so that those who identified the enemy as “Islamofascism” simply betrayed their intellectual origins:

Unsurprisingly, it is neoconservatives, whose roots are in the Trotskyist-Social Democratic Left, who are promoting use of the term. Their goal is to have Bush stuff al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran into an “Islamofascist” kill box, then let SAC do the rest. The term represents the same lazy, shallow thinking that got us into Iraq, where Americans were persuaded that by dumping over Saddam, we were avenging 9/11.

Having read Buchanan’s denunciation of fascist-name-calling as a far-left and neo-con rhetorical device—on the pages of The American Conservative—I almost fell over when I saw the cover of the current issue of The American Conservative:

A few bloggers have commented that Giuliani is cast here as a Mussolini figure. No he isn’t. He’s being portrayed as a Nazi. It’s not just the armband, it’s the pose and the fine details of dress, all of which refer back to this iconic image, from the poster for the 1933 Nazi film, S.A.-Mann Brand (“Storm-Trooper Brand”):

So you get the picture. Pat Buchanan gets himself into a righteous lather if you dare to compare Osama bin Laden to a fascist. But on the cover of the very magazine where he does that, it’s perfectly legitimate to compare Rudy Giuliani to a Nazi. The cover of The American Conservative seems to have been concocted by someone steeped in the tradition of… well, the Trotskyite-Social Democratic Left. But here’s another irony: the cover article it illustrates, criticizing Giuliani’s foreign policy vision, is by Michael Desch, who’s well-known for his belief that the civilian leaders of this country exercise too much control over the professional military.

Is this bizarre convergence of far left and far right either American or conservative? I don’t know, but I do know that its graphic rhetoric is crude and tasteless.