The aggressive new campaign by the administration
of President George W. Bush to depict U.S. 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 neoconservative 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 U.S. 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 programs or segments aired by Fox News compared with 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
Similarly, the Washington Times used the words "appease" or
"appeasement" – a derogatory reference to efforts by British
Prime Minister 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, compared to six in the Post
and only three in the New York Times.
Israel-centered neoconservatives and other hawks have long tried to depict
foreign challenges to U.S. power as replays of the 1930s in order to rally public
opinion behind foreign interventions and high defense budgets and against domestic
During the Cold War, they attacked domestic critics of the Vietnam War and
later the Ronald Reagan administration's "contra war" against Nicaragua
– and even Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon – as "isolationists"
and "appeasers" who failed to understand that their opposition effectively
served the interests of an "evil" Soviet Union whose ambitions for
world conquest were every bit as threatening and real as that of the Axis powers
in World War II.
Known as "the Good War," that conflict remains irresistible as a
point of comparison for hawks caught up in more recent conflicts – from
the first Gulf War when former President H.W. Bush compared Iraq's Saddam Hussein
to Hitler; to the Balkan wars when neoconservatives and liberal interventionists
alike described Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in similar terms; to the younger
Bush's "global war on terrorism" (GWOT), which he and his supporters
have repeatedly tried to depict as the latest in a series of existential struggles
against "evil" and "totalitarians" that began with World
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 program – 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.
As noted by Associated Press (AP) this week, "fascism" or "Islamic
fascism," a phrase used by Bush himself two weeks ago and used to encompass
everything from Sunni insurgents, al-Qaeda and Hamas to Shi'ite Hezbollah and Iran
to secular Syria, has become the "new buzzword" for Republicans.
In a controversial speech Tuesday, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld was even
more direct, declaring 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 "believ(ing) 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 neoconservative and right-wing
media over the last year, according to the Nexis survey. Significantly, it did
not include the Wall Street Journal whose editorial pages have been dominated
by neoconservative opinion, particularly analogies between the rise of fascism
and the challenges faced by the U.S. in the Middle East, since 9/11.
Thus, the Washington Times published 95 articles and columns that featured
the words "fascism" or "fascist" and "Iraq" over
the past year, twice as many as appeared in the New York Times during
the same period. More than half of the Washington Times' articles were
published in just the past three months – three times as many as appeared
in the New York Times.
Similarly, the National Review led all magazines and journals with 66
such references over the past year, followed by 48 in The American Spectator,
and 14 by The Weekly Standard. Together, those three publications accounted
for more than half of all articles with those words published by the more than
three dozen U.S. periodicals catalogued by Nexis since last September.
The results were similar for "appease" or "appeasement"
and "Iraq." Led by the Review, the same three journals accounted
for more than half the articles (175) that included those words in some three
dozen U.S. Magazines over the past year. As for newspapers, the Washington
Times led the list with 46 articles, 50 percent more than the New York
Times which also had fewer articles than its crosstown neoconservative rival,
the much-smaller New York Sun.
Searching on Nexis for articles and columns that included "Iran"
and "fascist" or "fascism," IPS found that the Sun
and the Times topped the newspaper list by a substantial margin, as did
the Review, the Spectator, and the Standard among the magazines
and journals. Nearly one-third of all such references over the past year were
published in August, according to the survey.
Nexis, which also surveys the Canadian press, found that newspapers owned by
CanWest Global Communications, a group that owns the country's Global Television
Network, as well as the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, and
the Montreal Gazette and several other regional newspapers, were also
among the most consistent propagators of the "fascism" paradigm and
ranked far ahead of other Canadian outlets in the frequency with which they
used key words, such as "appeasement" and "fascist" in connection
with Iraq and Iran.
The group is run by members of the Asper family whose foreign policy views
have been linked to prominent hardline neoconservatives here and the right-wing
Likud Party in Israel.
(Inter Press Service)