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.