The Woman Who Cried “Fascist!”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally happened: Someone’s went and called chick flicks fascist. Hallmark Christmas movies, to be exact. This little gem sprang from the keyboard of a Ms. Amanda Marcotte, who I’d never heard of until now, and appeared in Salon, which, unfortunately I have. Even used to drop by there from time to time, sort of like I occasionally listen to Radio Moscow during the Cold War. In other words, even if I knew nothing about fascism or Hallmark movies, I wouldn’t have been impressed. What’s next? Fascist letters of the alphabet? Probably. Those who bandy the term “fascist” don’t seem to know what it is. Maybe there should have been a Schoolhouse Rock about it.

Fascism, as any other philosophy of government, might be hard to nail down, but there are some general things that set it apart. If you want to piss off a fascist and a communist at the same time, point out that both are closer kin than they think. Mussolini would have had none of that, nor would Stalin. Doesn’t make it any less true. While we tend to think of governments and liberty in linear terms, with fascism on one end and socialism on the other, they are really more like forks of the same branch. True, a wide fork, but still a fork.

This is clearly seen in the view of fascism and socialism toward the individual. In fascism, all is the State. Here’s what Mussolini said about it:

“Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived in their relation to the State.”

Compare this to Marx’s view:

“Man’s nature is not abstract; a characteristic of a certain individual. Actually it is the totally of all the social relations.”

You can practically substitute fascism’s “State” with communism and socialism’s “collective;” both take a dim view of the individual. Thus it’s not unusual that those that lean toward socialism belittle the role of the individual while lauding the role of society. It’s ironic, then, that those who gravitate toward socialism call everyone else “fascists,” when history has shown that socialists are every bit as repressive. Once you know a little bit about fascism and socialism, it’s no surprise to learn that neither give a fig for personal liberty. To a fascist or a socialist, that’s not a bug; that’s a feature.

This is also precisely where fascism and socialism begins to fork. In communism and socialism, the collective is one group, and often there are efforts to drive this idea home. In fascism, the State is made up of many, otherwise irreconcilable, groups, bound together by an external force. Know how fascism got its name? It’s from the fasces, an old symbol of Roman authority, which consists of a bundle of sticks with a taller one with an ax in the middle. You can find the same symbol in the US House of Representatives. The difference is that while the U.S. uses E Pluribus Unium, out of many, one, to refer to the separate states forming a single nation out of their own free will, while fascism’s view is that each group will serve the State, whether they want to or not.

This leads to further differences in how fascism and socialism functions. One is in business. Fascism has no problem with private ownership of business, as long as it serves the State. Socialism holds that all is owned by the collective, and thus, by extension, the government. That’s why socialism and communism are very big on government owned businesses, while fascism is very big on government control. At the end of the day, both means that government has absolute control over all businesses.

Beyond that, they are mostly the same, especially when it comes to liberty. If your ideal is that which governs best governs least, neither fascism nor socialism fit the bill.

What does this have to do with Hallmark Christmas movies? Not a blessed thing. No, wait a minute: Hallmark Christmas movies center on romance, on two individuals falling in love and finding happiness of their own free will. These movies tend to follow the conviction of honoring personal liberty despite what is demanded or expected by others. That’s pretty anti-fascist and anti-socialist when you think about it.

Which is the point. Hallmark Christmas movies, like a lot of things called fascist these days, isn’t. Ms. Marcotte wrote a screed about why she calls them that, but all it says is she doesn’t like Hallmark Christmas movies. The way the word “fascism” is bandied about today, it’s clear that most who use it have absolutely no idea what it means.