I wasn’t able to get three Extradimensional Cephalopod Comments of the Day up yesterday as I said I was trying to do. Sorry. This is the intended #2: EC’s excellent outline of how to have a rational discussion with someone who is gratuitously calling people and groups he or she disagrees with “fascists.”
I strongly suspect that most people one would have this conversation with are too far over the metaphorical moon to respond in an encouraging manner, but the theory is sound, and as many have said in many ways, you never know unless you try.
Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod‘s Comment of the Day on the post, “Keep Talking And Tweeting, Sam: Eventually Almost Everybody Will Figure Out That You’re Ridiculous…Won’t They?”
As one of the tiny percentage of competent philosophers on this planet, I recommend that we start asking people to explain what fascism means to them–after putting them in a calm frame of mind, that is. It’s part of the deconstruction method: 1) make them comfortable; 2) make them think; 3) make them choose. In this case, we don’t have to make them choose. We can just gather information.
Step 1: Make them comfortable.
“I know why I reject fascism, and I know how I would recognize a fascist according to my understanding of the word.” (First make sure this is true; step 1 of the reconciliation method is to understand one’s own values.)
“However, sometimes people use the word ‘fascist’ in ways that confuse me. Although I may not like a person who is described as fascist, sometimes the use of the word to describe them differs from my understanding of what fascism is. There might be something I’m missing.”
Step 2: Make them think.
“Based on your understanding, what is it that a fascist person does that makes them fascist? Perhaps most importantly, what sorts of problems are you concerned that a fascist person would cause? For example, would they build popular support by rallying people against a common enemy who could very well be just an unpopular cultural group used as a scapegoat? Would they seize power and control and unilaterally implement policies that hurt people? Because those things definitely worry me, and I want to prevent them from happening. Could any of those problems also be caused by non-fascists?”
You can wait for the answer to each question before asking the next one; no need to overwhelm people with questions. There’s no need to make them choose at this point. This is just an example of how you might hold a conversation with someone by making them feel safe. It will help you complete step 2 of the reconciliation method: understand the other person’s values.
Once you understand the values in play, you can move to…
Step 3: Frame the situation constructively.
You can figure out things to do that oppose fascism even if the two of you don’t agree on which politicians are fascist.
The neat thing about ideologies is that you can counteract their spread without having to even talk about who you think embodies them in modern politics. A policy doesn’t become a good idea or a bad idea based on who proposes it. (Who implements it is a different story, but that’s not necessarily an ideological problem.)
And when you make people think about the functional definitions of ideologies, and how to recognize them, instead of arguing over who represents what, we will take one step closer to a world where people don’t tweet about whether the color of the lighting behind a politician means they’re the next Hitler.
(“I mean, how does anyone even know what color Hitler’s backlights were? All those pictures and film clips were in black and white!” the philosopher wrote facetiously.)