Both the foolish and the manipulative are quick to thrust the words “socialism” and “communism” at those who disagree with them, usually with no regard for what these terms actually mean. This resource attempts to improve the heat to light ratio by providing some overlysimple definitions of terms we hear misused every day.
Ok, now for a bit of opinion (I tried to keep it out above as much as possible):
When people accuse Obama of being “socialist” by wanting to have healthcare or education for all, they’re not entirely incorrect. The problem with their statement is not that these concepts aren’t socialist, it’s 1) that they don’t know what socialist means, and 2) the complainers usually support a whole host of similar services, such as public schools, a public police and fire presence, etc. If they reject socialism they should reject it in all cases, not in just the ones they’ve been told to dislike by their favorite form of confirmation bias media.
The dimmest of those attacking the current administration are those who are accusing the liberals of being fascists. Their error is remarkable because they are likely to belong to the Tea Party movement, which can easily be seen as the strongest force for fascism in the world today. They would prefer that people look and act like them, they want the world to fear our military power, and they exhibit extremely violent rhetoric/behavior towards those they think are causing harm to the country. Finally, they unify behind a spiritual center, which in this case is Christianity. This is fascism. The irony is thick when they use this term (which they don’t know the meaning of) as a label for liberals.
A working understanding of the meaning of words like these is not a matter of pedantry, it’s a prerequisite to having any sort of useful discussion.
1 Please understand that this is meant to be extremely short for the purposes of getting one started on these subjects. This is not meant to be confused with a polisci degree or even many hours of reading on the topic.2 Challenge people when they use terms that they don’t understand. Either demand that they use the proper definitions of terms, or agree to forego their use altogether. Instead of saying, “Do you take the socialist view on healthcare?”, say instead, “Do you think a good education is a right that society should provide?”