David Peterson responds to Chip Berlet

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 7 12:55:41 MST 2001

Dear Chip Berlet et al.:

As Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates
(http://www.publiceye.org/main.htm ) points out in a recent series of
comments with regard to Edward Herman's thoughts on so-called "Islamic
fascism" (or "clerical fascism," to use Berlet's term of choice), the
Taliban, Osama bin Laden, the U.S. war over Afghanistan, and the like, the
term 'fascism' is often subjected to abuse by commentators. Indeed, Berlet
himself writes elsewhere, we must use the terms of political discourse
"with caution," 'fascism' being among them. (As a case in point, I should
call to the readers' attention, however, Berlet's frequent use of the terms
'Enlightenment' and 'modernity'. Whereas the former refers to a specific
period of European history, with real and discernible historical contexts,
characters, and products; the latter, on the other hand, is one of the
least referential, most vacuous, and self-flattering terms in the lexicon.
What are the better examples of modernity: the Declaration of the Rights of
Man, the separation of church and state, Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter
and the amazing human rights declarations of the past century--or class
structure, the G-7 and the Third World, World War II, so-called
"globalization," and the U.S. military machine now blowing the "clerical
fascists" of Afghanistan to smithereens?)

Now, while I agree with Berlet on his point about the need to avoid sloppy
thinking (and who wouldn't?), I should also add that the term 'apologist'
is also frequently the subject of abuse. I only mention this because Berlet
wrote recently that he finds it "sad for the left that [Edward] Herman has
become an apologist for ethnic fascists in order to criticize US
imperialism" ("Sloppy Logic/Slurpy Argument Alert #666"-and given the
fundamentalists running loose in this country, I'd use those digits with
caution), the phrase 'ethnic fascists' here presumably referring to what
Berlet elsewhere calls "clerical fascism" (i.e., the Taliban and Al Qaeda)
and "Serbian Orthodox fascism," or Serb nationalism, in short.

This accusation is utterly unfounded, simply not true, and Berlet ought to
retract it.

As Berlet should know perfectly well, just because a person looks at
expansionary American power (And what else does Berlet think Operation
Allied Force and Operation Enduring Freedom were really all about?) or the
origins of the wars over the breakup of Yugoslavia from different
perspectives than the American political establishment's, with its openly
declared, open-ended "war against terrorism," and its cockamamie notions of
"Greater Serb Aggression" and "paradise lost/loathsome leaders" (the latter
being Lenard Cohen's phrase--and, sorry, Mr. Berlet, but Michael Sells's
work on this topic is pretty bad), does not make one an "apologist for
ethnic fascists," i.e., the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ethnic Serb nationalists, or
the Nazis, for that matter. (It's worth noting that the American political
establishment's manichean version of these events has been and continues to
be spun by Christopher Hitchens of all people, who once wrote with regard
to the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, "This is a war between all those who
favor ethnic and religious partition and all those who oppose it" (The
Nation, Oct. 23, 1995), and who now even more notoriously writes that "If
we mean even half of what we say about defending what is of value in
civilisation, then we have to assume the burden ourselves....But those who
take on the Taliban today, and who will be working in the dark to grapple
with those who escape justice to try and spread infection and death, will
also be on the front line for culture and humanity" (The Mirror (London),
Oct. 4, 2001).-Didn't The Three Stooges once play doctors working in a
hospital "for duty and humanity"?)

So, to repeat myself in no uncertain terms: For Chip Berlet to accuse
Edward Herman of being an "apologist for ethnic fascists" is a patent
falsehood. Berlet ought to retract it.

Sincerely Yours, David Peterson

Louis Proyect
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