Surprise, surprise, David Horowtiz is pissing off the left again—this time with a Islamofascism Awareness Week, which will be observed by way of a series of talks, film screenings, and other events at college campuses. The backlash from groups like Campus Progress has mostly centered on objections to the term “Islamofascism,” which they argue tends to be used in ways that blur distinctions between terrorists or theocrats and Muslims in general.
I don’t much care for the term myself. Partly, that’s because it both conflates various distinct trends within Islam itself—lumping together Al Qaeda and Iran’s theocracy would be a pretty gross analytic mistake—and obscures the fairly crucial differences between these and historical fascism. One could, with about as much justification, refer to Mao Tse Tung as a “Sinofascist,” but it’s doubtful that this would be especially illuminating. Christopher Hitchens’ strained defense of the term in Slate actually ends up highlighting just how inapt it is. The attempt to read a racialist component into Islamist ideology is conspicuously weak, and when his attention turns to what is probably fascism’s defining characteristic—commitment to a reified, totalizing nation state as a unifying force—you get the sense that even Hitchens doesn’t really buy his own argument:
As to the nation-state, al-Qaida’s demand is that countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia be dissolved into one great revived caliphate, but doesn’t this have points of resemblance with the mad scheme of a “Greater Germany” or with Mussolini’s fantasy of a revived Roman empire?
Well… no, not really. Not, at any rate, in any of the ways relevant to distinguishing fascism from totalitarianism or imperialism more broadly. To be honest, though, my dislike is at least as much an aesthetic response: “Islamofascist” sounds like a 50’s B-movie heavy, or something a gang of eight year olds would come up with for their game of pretend war.
It seems to me, though, that the question that’s not getting asked here is: What exactly is the point of all this “consciousness raising” supposed to be? To establish that terrorists are bad? One major function seems to be to spotlight conservatives’ newfound concern with the oppression of women, but it’s not clear that the students are being called to actually do anything about the situation beyond affirming that Muslim societies sure do seem awfully backward.
No, as with most Horowitz stunts, it seems that the backlash, rather than the event itself, is the real point. Recall, for example, Horowitz’s attempt a few years back to get college papers to run an ad presenting ten arguments against reparations for slavery. It’s a brilliant little piece of work, proceeding gradually from relatively reasonable arguments, then moving through some more dubious ones to some deliberately inflammatory and offensive ones, such as the suggestion that the push for reparations reflects ingratitude by African Americans to the nation that “gave them their freedom.” Now, of course, reparations are an utter non-issue, and the purpose of running the ad was not to persuade anyone, as though there were a snowball’s chance in hell of reparations actually being paid, but to use the ensuing controversy to paint campus leftists as censors.
A quick glance at the “Islamofascism Awareness” site leaves little doubt that the goal is the same here. The news items running down the right-hand side of the page are all about the “campus showdowns” the events are expected to cause, or how the left is “up in arms” about them. Horowitz could have given the event a less inflammatory name, of course, but that might have denied him the opportunity to hold up critics as evidence that lefties and academics are soft on terrorism. Horowtiz’s MO is crystal clear by this point, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why the left, like Charlie Brown running to kick that football yet again, keeps playing into his hand.