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A Terrorist By Any Other Name...

By Wil Forbis

A couple years ago, the big tactic in ad hominin attacks was to accuse your opponent of being a "Nazi." All the cool kids were doing it. For instance, Rush Limbaugh, a man often maligned for supporting draconian laws was accused of being a "Nazi gasbag*". Limbaugh in turn often railed against feminists as "Femi-Nazis." Other attacks went further when pundits from all sides of the political spectrum made dubious allegations that political celebrities such as Noam Chomsky or George Bush actually were Nazis, or at least hung out with them. Thanks to Hogan's Heroes, Schindler's List and that pesky old Holocaust, Nazis were about the worst thing a person could be. (Sadly, The only credible charges of Nazi complicity were made against Barney the Dinosaur.)

Personally, I thought those rhetorical accusations of Nazi-hood were bullshit from day one. I didn't always agree with Limbaugh, but he certainly never advocated the extermination of an entire race of people. Feminists never tried to occupy France. (Thank God, or else everyone there would've had a beard!) Bush's parents and Chomsky's cohorts may have had some vague connections with Nazis, but so has anyone who ever bought a VW Bug. If anything, these sorts of irresponsible attacks only went to showcase how much we had forgotten about real Nazis, men of such uncompromising evil the human mind can never fully grasp their atrocities. If one takes the time to really study the Nazi horror they'll come to find that any comparisons between the relative sedate politicos and ideologues of our time with these German fascists are ridiculous and absurd.

Unfortunately, it's happening again.

This time we've got a new enemy in out midst, the even harder to define "terrorist." It was bad enough when Americans were seeing terrorist on every plane or at the base of every bridge. But now we're starting to see terrorists where there clearly aren't. And the most credible way to the defame people or ideas you oppose is to link them to "terrorists" or "terrorism" or just plain ol' "terror." (Though it's clearly terror of the Osammy variety as opposed to, say, Freddy Krueger.) For example, Salon recently published an article about how Republicans were "terrorizing" the environmental movement. (In reality they were trying to get the eco-movement to denounce environmental terrorism, though they were doing so with their usually ineffective ham-fistedness.) Another Salon article, titled "Bush's Jihad Against Human Rights" not only incorrectly insinuated Bush's (admittedly questionable) security measures to be terrorism, it also misused the term jihad. My hometown paper, the Sacramento News and Review has a piece entitled "Terror Corp." detailing how corporations are using the economic downturn (caused partly by the WTC attacks) to push for an economic stimulus package through Congress that works in their favor.

The point here is not that we shouldn't question the persons and acts that are being cutely connected with terror and terrorism. In times such as these we should be even more studious in our examination of the laws the government tries to inflict on us. But let's get real folks - not a single one of the instances above is anything remotely close to terrorism. Have Republicans declared a Holy Jihad against the Environment movement? (Now I'm misusing the term, but you get my drift.) Are GOP interns flying airplanes into the headquarters of Greenpeace? Are giant corporations releasing bio-weapons into the air in a plea for tax breaks? These acts might be contemptible, but they are not terrible!

You might say, "Lighten up, Wil. Of all people, you should have a flexible attitude towards the bastardization of the words in our modern lexicon." But that's precisely my point. Was anyone fooled by my assertion that Harry Potter should endorse cocaine? Did anyone think I was earnest in my lament that that Marky Mark couldn't get the "credit he deserves" for attacking a Vietnamese man? Who really thought I felt MTV soap opera stars should appear naked? (Well, actually, I was kind of set on that one.) No one takes me seriously and I make my hyperbole painfully clear. Can the same be said of the headlines above? And shouldn't the weight of the subject matter make people think twice about such lax usage of words that ultimately describe heinous, inhumane (but sadly human) acts? Keep, in mind, there are still genuine instances of terror occurring within our borders. The real Anthrax attacks are worrisome, as is the underreported fact that American abortion clinics have been receiving numerous Anthrax threats for some time. Future attacks by terrorist networks are still very real, if not unavoidable. We're not out of the woods yet.

However, by haphazardly tossing the label "terrorists" around, it only makes it more difficult to separate the real threats from the fake. The planes hit the buildings, thousands of people died and now everyone wants to grab a little piece of the pie by linking their enemies to the same kind of evil that produced Hitler and Osama. But, pardon my pun, that just doesn't fly. Most of the debates in our country are over relatively mundane things. Someone might oppose welfare but it doesn't make them a mass murderer. A person may oppose the WTO but it doesn't make them an fundamentalist assassin. People in America are better off than 90% of the people elsewhere in the world, we have more rights than we know what to do with, and terrorist attacks are still extremely rare. Don't we owe the rest of the world, including places like Belfast, Palestine, Israel and Turkey, a degree of respect by not turning our molehills into their mountains?

* The best instance of this being a Doonsebury cartoon where Mike Doonsebury denies that there are any Rush Limbaugh jokes in existence. In response his wife recounts the following:

Q: What's the difference between the Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenburgh?
A" One's a nazi gasbag and the other is just a dirigible.



Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email -

Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.

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