Today I received an email from a John Weeks in Texas:
"Sir: Thank you for your lecture series/book. It is the most humorous garbage I have read in many years. Monty Python could not have done better! I didn't know it was possible for someone to twist history so much to make their neo-fascist beliefs seem logical. The material on the Soviet Union and Islam are priceless. What a hoot!
Thank you, John Weeks, Texas, USA"
I emailed back and asked his permission to post his email on my blog, and he replied:
"Sir: You may post this on your blog under one condition: you must refer to me as one of those ignorant Americans who have caused all the world's problems.
Take care, John Weeks"
So let us note that I dutifully made the required reference but that it was John Weeks who said it and not me.
The email raises a few interesting questions. It is not often that I am called a neo-fascist. The usual understanding of neo-fascism is that it is a political movement and associated ideology that developed after the end of World War II, revives significant elements of fascism and expresses admiration for fascist governments of the past. I don't think that I have to go into great detail to make the case that nowhere in my material do I express admiration for Hitler, Mussolini or any other fascist leader. So the epithet neo-fascist cannot be applied to me.
It appears that John Weeks was careless in his use of words. Maybe he meant to use fascist and give it a bit more emphasis? After all, the word fascist is used and misused in many different contexts – there are ecofascists, vegefascists, fashion fascists, animal rights fascists and many more. Used in that way the word becomes utterly meaningless, as George Orwell already observed in 1944:
"It would seem that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox hunting, bullfighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else." (George Orwell: What is Fascism? Tribune, 1944.)
It would seem that people who use the word fascist without much thought use it as a derogatory term and nothing else. This has become more and more fashionable lately, a trend that I find disturbing. As a German with a good education I am aware of the history of my country of birth and citizenship, and it always stings me when someone uses a word associated with the greatest atrocity of world history for such trivia as fashion.
So, John Weeks, call me an ignoramus, an ideologue, a witless moron, or whatever takes your fancy, but don't call me a fascist or neo-fascist.
John Weeks clearly does not like what I say about science and society in the Soviet Union and under Islam. It is difficult to say much about this without knowing what he finds objectionable. He may find it interesting to learn that some of the staunchest pillars of capitalism are turning towards Islamic practice. As Jeremy Harding reports in the London Review of Books, financial institutions based on the tenets of Islam have been barely affected by the debt crisis that triggered the Great Financial Crisis. Such esteemed institutions of capitalism as London's Lloyds TSB and HSBC and the German Deutsche Bank are now offering Sharia-compliant banking products to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. (Jeremy Harding: The money that prays. London Review of Books vol. 31 no. 8, pp. 6-10.) Maybe Islam is not such a hoot after all.