None Dare Call it Fascism

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey found himself engulfed in controversy for remarks he made about Obamacare:

Back in 2009, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal labeling President Obama’s Affordable Care Act a form of “socialism.” Today on NPR’s Morning Edition he changed his mind. Mackey now thinks Obamacare is “fascism.”

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” Mackey told NPR. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

That’s an f-word that you just don’t use in polite conversation, so Mackey backtracked slightly.

On CNN this morning, host Carol Costello confronted Whole Foods CEO John Mackey over his recent comments that ObamaCare was tantamount to “fascism” because “the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it.”

“You initially labeled the Health Care Act a form of socialism, and then on NPR you called ObamaCare ‘fascism.’ Why did you decide to change the terminology?” Costello asked at the outset.

Echoing his statement yesterday that he regrets using the word “fascism,” Mackey explained, “That was a bad choice of words, but traditionally socialism means that the means of production are run by the government and in fascism the means of production are still owned by private individuals but they’re controlled by the government. And what’s happening. Our health care system is moving away from free enterprise capitalism towards greater governmental control. That was a poor choice of words due to the baggage and associations that go along with it. So now I’m just calling it ‘government-controlled health care.’”

An unsatisfied Costello then challenged Mackey, saying, “You realize when you say ‘fascism,’ it brings up Nazi Germany and all sorts of things. And we really want that kind language out of our public forum at the moment, don’t we?”

“Apparently you can’t use that word in America any longer, it’s taboo,” Mackey fired back.

I find this all rather amazing. For the past four years leftists – and a fair number of conservatives, as well – have decried any use of the word socialist to describe the Obama administration. You see Obama wasn’t really a socialist, and anyone who dared use that term to describe Obama was a crazy kook who needed to be shunned from society. So Mackey attempted to use more accurate terminology in describing Obamacare, only to discover that it has become verboten. Well, it’s only verboten when applied to politicians on the left. Ed Driscoll quotes from Jonah Goldberg’s G-File (available via email only):

None of this surprises me. But it’s still quite amazing. The simple fact is that fascism is a uniquely radioactive political term and the Left has an exclusive license to use it. Liberals are allowed to be as glib and cavalier as they want about the use of the word. But if conservatives use it — entirely accurately — it is an outrage and a sign of ignorance. Yes, technically, it would have been more accurate, and certainly less controversial, if Mackey had said Obamacare is corporatist — the economic structure of fascism — but very few people know what “corporatist” means. 

And so you have this carve out for liberals. They get to use the word fascist — incorrectly — all of the time. But if a conservative (or in this case a libertarian) uses it accurately, and not particularly pejoratively either, it’s offensive or stupid.

This is why Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, was such a delightful and enlightening read. Fascism is such a loaded word that it has become almost impossible to talk seriously about it. The left has done a masterful job of twisting the word around and have managed to turn fascism into some kind of right-wing ideology in the minds of most Americans. Anyone with more than a cursory understanding of political thought would understand why that is completely laughable, but sadly most people do not possess even a cursory understanding of political thought. So either the term is applied – mistakenly and inappropriately – to conservatives, or else anyone who uses it to describe – fairly accurately – the policies of the Obama administration is to be mocked and ridiculed.

Mackey may have been right, but that’s of no use to him now. Clearly both “socialist” and “fascist” are completely off the table when it comes to discussions of President Obama and his signature policy achievement. Well then, we’ll just have to stick with “counterproductive,” “wrongheaded,” “bankruptcy-inducing,” and other adjectives.

12 Responses to None Dare Call it Fascism

  • quote:
    An unsatisfied Costello then challenged Mackey, saying, “You realize when you say ‘fascism,’ it brings up Nazi Germany and all sorts of things…..”

    No, Ms. Costello, it is the “socialism” that you adore so well. Is that not the “Z” in Nazi?

  • “Well then, we’ll just have to stick with “counterproductive,” “wrongheaded,” “bankruptcy-inducing,” and other adjectives.”

    Cloud cuckoo land comes to mind.

  • I dare accuse mindless American voters of treason.

  • my objection to the use of fascism against liberalism isn’t that it’s over-the-top rhetoric — in any case we’ve always had that in political discourse. my objection is that regardless of what technical points people can make about fascist policies w/r/t the government’s relationship with the economy, it’s fundamentally about a strictly defined nationalism, and i don’t view that as relevant to leftist ideology. not that you can’t find certain leftists in history who had a very culturally particular view of their country (and really there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just that fascism makes it the overarching principle & turns it against others) but that idea itself isn’t really left-wing in nature.

    in any case the argument’s kinda meaningless. Obamacare’s fascist, but a single-payer plan would be socialist? does it really matter much either way. plenty of countries have universal healthcare programs that i’m sure can be critiqued without involving either term.

  • I like the way liberals twist and change the meaning of words to something totally different that suits their purpose (much like the word liberal itself) and then refuse to acknowledge that someone might use the dictionary definition of a word, that is precisely what it meant for two hundred years, before they arbitrarily changed it.

  • How about « dirigiste » ?

  • The point is that Obama wants to control everything: how much money someone makes, what happens to that money, how long someone should live, indeed, whether or not someone should live. Why is that not fascism or Nazism?

  • It is indeed fascism. This is the game where the left trys to maintain control over how words are used and who gets to use them. If a conservative says the equivalent of “the king has no clothes” then they get to listen to a lame rebuttal.

    At present, most of the media is liberal and playing on the same side. When conservatives start dropping subscriptions to papers, cable-tv, and magazines it will begin to change. When you start supporting conservative media outlets, the change will expand for the better.

  • I have been watching a movie about Karol on EWTN – John Paul II when he dealt with the Nazi Fascists and then immediately with the Soviet communists.
    Distinguishing the various falsehoods is pale compared to discerning truth – we have to be dogged in that pursuit of communicating truth – no matter how they change the meaning of words.

  • I remember Carol Costello when her broadcasting career began. Ms. Costello worked for WAKR TV in Akron, Ohio, broadcasting local news. WAKR was the only TV station to broadcast the high school football and basketball scores in neighboring Portage County – the Cleveland TV stations could never be bothered with our neck of the woods.

    Later she did TV news in Columbus and Baltimore.

    What a shame she turned into a leftist mouthpiece.

  • I have been explaining this to people, and they want to keep calling it socialism. I just explain its National Socialism.

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