Monday, May 10, 2010


I read a review the other day of The Flight of the Intellectuals, a book I must admit I’m not all that piqued to read. It’s basically an attack on intellectuals who support Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan. I’m out of my depth on this subject but I relished the excerpt quoting the author, Paul Berman, contrasting the words “fascist” and “totalitarian.”

. . . ”Finally, Mr. Berman believes in straight talk and insists we use words like fascist to describe some Islamic ideas rather than totalitarian. Why? ‘It is because totalitarian, being abstract, is odorless. Fascist is pungent. To hear the emphatic f-sound and those double different s’s is to flare your nostrils.’”

Try it at home.


ArtSparker said...

While I appreciate the commentary on the texture of the word, I am less than taken with Berman's reasons for its usage. It's inaccurate, for one thing - fascist refers to a very specific ideology. Also, being more deeply unpleasant about those whose beliefs one finds abhorrent- or whatever - does nothing to promote understanding. Mind you, I am not remotely politically correct. But Berman seems to be taking pleasure in certainty (in his own beliefs) which is what leads to extremisms of all kinds. See under Yeats, "The worst are filled with passionate intensity".

Kass said...

I like political philosophy described in terms of odor. Brilliant.

BJeronimo said...

From the excerpt it sounds more farcicle like Pale Fire than a real political analysis. I wonder what could be interpretted by a lisp?

SarahJane said...

Polemic is all about certainty and conviction. I haven't read the book, nor do I know anything of Ramadan, but as far as I understand the author is teed off that people who leave Islam and criticize it are in turn criticized and "out of touch." I don't know. If it were Scientology, some of us might have less patience.

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