Language is a beautiful thing. Some people might suggest it is what makes humans different from one another. Though other animals have found ways to communicate with each other, it has manifested through media and art and literature.
Yet as much as it’s a way of getting thoughts and conveying images, it can also be a weapon in many ways. Journalism finds stories and reports them to the world, sometimes with an ideological tint. Insults carry their weight in spears which can pierce even the strongest of defenses. And of course, literature reflects the societal issues of the day while suggesting ideas of their own.
To do so, one must utilize words, each with their own meaning.
In English class, I’ve learned two different definitions on words: the “dictionary” definition, and the “connotation” associated with the word. When a word is defined in the dictionary, it diverges in what contexts people use them in.
Two notable words I’ve observed used, overused, and even misused in the last two years are “fascism” and “socialism”. While they’ve had their uses in history, their meanings have become muddled to the point.
Recently, I’ve read some comments on the internet on how liberals are equated to fascism, partially because the latter have objected to certain views. It does make up one part of the ideology—restrictions on a free print media, if not propaganda. However, to use it to criticize one’s positions, it’s more than that.
In one of my International Studies classes, fascism is defined as a popular movement led by a charismatic leader and attached to a political party. It is based on persistent nationalism, corporatism, militarism, anti-democratic ideals, an ethnic or religious minority which is scapegoated, the total submission of the individual to the state’s ambitions, and anti-socialism. The professor would also take the case-study in Japan during World War II as an example, and ultimately concluded it was not fascism due to the lack of a charismatic leader or scapegoating.
Naturally, this definition will shift today due to the lack of expansionist ambitions in what we consider to be modern “fascism”.
However, what’s clear is that fascism stands in direct opposition to socialism. The latter advocates for public sharing of the means of production within the economy. This falls into the belief that for everybody to benefit, the people have to take control of their resources. On the other hand, “The economic programs of the great majority of fascist movements were extremely conservative, favouring the wealthy far more than the middle class and the working class”, according to Britannica.
Therefore, while some right-wing populist movements today incorporate social safety nets to protect their working classes, fascism ≠ socialism.
Based on how I defined certain terms, how could you recognize the legitimacy of an insult? Or an article? Or even someone you agree with?
First, I would suggest pulling up a dictionary and finding out what they mean in its strictest form. If it is ambiguous, then I would find how this idea was used in a historical context, and how it emerged over time. While history cannot fully predict everything, it can provide evidence for or against your case for using it in a comment.
Words are a fantastic way to express thoughts and trends, but to maximize the effectiveness of such, one must go into the depths of its history to find if its useful today. Otherwise, it loses its meaning to what the internet commenters say, and won’t allow us to fully fight any form of “ism” if it appears again.
More on fascism: