Right-wing press sets up ‘fascism’ frame

The aggressive new campaign by the administration of President George W Bush to depict US foes in the Middle East as “fascists” and its domestic critics as “appeasers” owes a great deal to steadily intensifying efforts by the right wing press over the past several months to draw the same comparison.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News Network and The Weekly Standard, as well as the Washington Times, which is controlled by the Rev Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, and the neo-conservative New York Sun, have consistently and with increasing frequency framed the challenges faced by Washington in the region in the context of the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1930s, according to a search of the Nexis database by IPS.

All of those outlets, as well as two other right-wing US magazines — The National Review and The American Spectator — far outpaced their commercial rivals in the frequency of their use of key words and names, such as “appeasement,” “fascism”, and “Hitler”, particularly with respect to Iran and its controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Nexis, for example, cited 56 uses of “Islamofascist” or “Islamofascism” in separate programmes or segments aired by Fox News compared to 24 by CNN over the past year. Even more striking, the same terms were used in 115 different articles or columns in the Washington Times, compared with only eight in the Washington Post over the same period, according to a breakdown by Nexis.

Similarly, the Washington Times used the words “appease” or “appeasement” — a derogatory reference to efforts by British PM Neville Chamberlain to avoid war with Nazi Germany before the latter’s invasion of Poland — in 25 different articles or columns that dealt with alleged threats posed by Ahmadinejad. Neo-conservatives have long tried to depict foreign challenges to US power as replays of the 1930s in order to rally public opinion behind foreign interventions and high defence budgets and against domestic critics. During the Cold War, they attacked domestic critics of the Vietnam War and later the Ronald Reagan administration’s “contra war” against Nicaragua as “isolationists” and “appeasers”.

Given the growing public disillusionment not only with the Iraq war, but with Bush’s handling of the larger GWOT as well — not to mention the imminence of the mid-term Congressional elections in November and the growing tensions with Ahmadinejad’s Iran over its nuclear programme — it is hardly surprising that both the administration and its hawkish supporters are trying harder than ever to identify their current struggles, including last month’s conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, specifically with the war against “fascism” more than 60 years ago.

In a controversial speech last Tuesday, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld warned that Washington faced a “new type of fascism” and, in an explicit reference to the failure of Western countries to confront Hitler in the 1930s, assailing critics for neglecting “history’s lessons” by “believing that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased.” But Rumsfeld’s remarks, which drew bitter retorts from leading Democrats, followed a well-worn path trod with increasing intensity by the neo-conservative and right-wing media over the last year, according to the Nexis survey. — IPS