Truth in Labeling

The NeoimperialistsOne of my conservative readers (well, occasional readers — whenever he feels like getting angry) has taken issue with my use of the term “neofascists.” Specifically, in reference to the group that prefers to refer to itself as neo-Reaganites (a term coined by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in their article, “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy”), but will accept the label neoconservatives. In other words, the adherents of the worldview promulgated by the Project for the New American Century.

The popular press has jumped on the “neoconservative” bandwagon, perhaps figuring that on the one hand, the group won’t scream about it, but on the other, it’s not their first choice. I suppose they believe that makes it a reasonable compromise, and it fits right in with the “politically correct” edict that groups must be allowed to name themselves. (Yes, you read that right — I’m slamming the so-called “liberal media.” Make a note of the date and time.) Sounds noble, until you see the glut of corporate or extremist special-interest groups with deliberately misleading names like “Citizens for Better Medicare” (a.k.a., the pharmaceutical industry), “Citizens Against Tax Abuse and Government Waste” (a.k.a. the tobacco industry), and “The American Center for Law and Justice” (a.k.a., Pat Robertson).

But, of course, neither name bears any relation to reality. If we are to take the literal defitinition of “neo-” we don’t really get off the ground. There’s nothing remotely “new” about the group’s philosophy; though at least when paired with “Reaganite” it implies a resurgence of Reagan’s Cold War foreign policy worldview — “Evil Empire,” and all that. If we take the political connotation into account, there’s a leftist slant that is nowhere in evidence (save perhaps among some of the movement’s original proponents, such as Kristol’s father, Irving, who once described them as liberals “mugged by reality”). Trying to associate themselves with Reagan strikes me as such a transparent attempt to invoke the deity of Republican politics as to be laughable. And while the (current) proponents of the philosophy are ensconced firmly in the camp of the Republican party, their position is anything but “conservative,” which necessarily implies a less activist stance.

Sure, the whole lot is usually grouped under the blanket heading “hawks,” but with the functional opposite to that term being “doves,” the label falls short — one needn’t consider oneself a pacifist to oppose them. I was all in favor of military action against the Taliban. And frankly, I could have been convinced that an invasion of Iraq was a good idea had the proposal been presented on its merits. But not on the basis of the flagrant lies Bush and his “designated liars” (most egregiously Dick Cheney, but eventually trickling down to the previously admirable Colin Powell) perpetuated. (And, of course, they’re still lying, as demonstrated by this video in which Rumsfeld is actually caught in a lie. Whoops!)

I’ll admit that I personally chose “neofascist” with an eye toward exaggeration for satirical effect, but in at least one respect — the group’s stated aim of using America’s military might to impose its vision of government on the world at large — I’ve found the appellation particularly apt. (Of course, they also claim to want America to act as a leader in the international community. Bush, of course, has proven himself to be anything but, unless someone out there’s found a definition of “leader” that means “somebody whom nobody will follow.”) However, as it does smack of extremist rhetoric, I’m open to considering an alternative. I tried brainstorming a few options (playing on the overriding theme of unwavering, self-righteous zealotry), but nothing really felt quite right; most of my ideas ended up being simple labels for the rabidly extreme right wing, which — in this case — isn’t altogether accurate. And then I discovered that William Kristol himself may have suggested the best option: American imperialists. The “American” part is fairly obvious, so in the interests of simplicity, I think I’ll drop it. And while I’m loath to fall into the “self-labeling” trap, the group’s two most common labels do include the “neo-” prefix; it may be wildly inaccurate, but it might help make sure folks understand to whom I’m referring. And so, we’re left with... the neoimperialists.

Kind of has a nice ring to it. Appropriate overtones of world domination, of reviving the empires of old... I’m not going to go back and edit previous posts, but I think I will start using this name going forward. Unless someone can come up with a better — and accurate — alternative?


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