Did Google Redefine Fascism?

7:06 AM Justin Bread 0 Comments

Currently, there's a debate raging about Google's definition of Fascism, and notably that it does not conform with other online dictionaries which exclude the phrase "right-wing" entirely. So far, much of the controversy is directed towards Google, but Bing's search results provides the exact same definition.


Bing's search results cite Oxford Dictionaries as its source for the definition, while Google does not cite any source. But searching Oxford's dictionary shows two definitions that are nearly identical except for the exclusion of the phrase "right-wing."

Oxford English Dictionary definition:
An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
Oxford Living Dictionary definition:
An authoritarian and nationalistic system of government and social organization.
Oxford English Dictionary matches both Google and Bing's definition, so it's reasonable to say that Google's source is also the Oxford English Dictionary. Another thing to note is that the OED definition that includes "right-wing" can be found in its print dictionaries from the 1990's. So Google, hasn't changed its definition. But why does the Oxford Living Dictionary exclude "right-wing" from its definition?

The reason is that Oxford is providing two definitions for two nationalities. Oxford English Dictionary is for British English, while Oxford Living Dictionary is for American English. This is not uncommon for British dictionary companies. Cambridge's online dictionary provides the option to switch between the English and British definition. Like Oxford, Cambridge has nearly identical definitions of Fascism, but the American definition includes the phrase "state control of social and economic life."

Cambridge British definition:
a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed
Cambridge America definition:
a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control of social and economic life, and extreme pride in country and race, with no expression of political disagreement allowed
MacMillian provides only one definition for Fascism, but includes the phrase "right-wing" in reference to its political system.

MacMillian definition:
a very right-wing political system in which the government is very powerful and controls the society and the economy completely, not allowing any opposition. Fascism was practised in Italy and Germany in the 1930s and 40s.
Compare that to two American definitions provided by American Heritage and Dictionary.com which exclude "right-wing."

American Heritage definition:
A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
Dictionary.com definition:
a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism. 
The reason some dictionaries drop "right-wing" while others include it is because of the differing political history between Europe and America. The founding of the United States was based on the violent rejection of a monarchist system in favor of a liberal, democratic, republican system. Meanwhile, monarchism in Europe continued to exist well into the 1900's.

In the Traditional Political Spectrum, monarchism is on the far-right, while revolutionists and progressives were on the left. In the 1700's and 1800's, liberalism (individual liberty, natural rights) developed in opposition to the monarchist system. The American Revolution was a prime example of this. Monarchism in America was entirely purged early on and so its entire political foundation is in its liberal ideals of individual liberty, natural rights, and minimal government interference. In the American political lexicon of today, "right-wing" doesn't mean "monarchism," but instead means "individual liberty."

This also applies to the term "liberalism." In Europe, Liberalism is largely associated with individual liberty and natural rights, but in the United States the term has evolved into a broad term for the American left-wing, which advocates egalitarian democracy and social welfare. European Liberalism is basically the American right-wing, while American Liberalism is closer to European Social Democrats. Britannica defines Liberalism as:
a political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others; but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty.
Cambridge's American Dictionary defines Liberalism as:
tending to emphasize the need to make new laws when necessary because of changing conditions and to depend on the government to provide social services:
Clearly, these are two contradictory definitions, but they only make sense if you take note that one applies to Europe's historical development, and one applies to American development.

Apply this back to Fascism. Not only did Mussolini emphatically reject classical liberalism and lassaiz-faire capitalism, but also embraced monarchism and absolutism. Mussolini/Gentile discuss this quite a bit in The Doctrine of Fascism:
Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people. . . . We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the "right", a Fascist century. If the 19th century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the "collective" century, and therefore the century of the State. . . . If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.
Not only does Mussolini define himself as right-wing, but he indisputably lays out the fact that he is opposed to individual liberty and supports an authoritarian State. By European standards, Mussolini was definitely right-wing, but this does not really register on the American political spectrum. Both the American right and the American left have a political foundation in liberalism. And although Socialism, Marxism and Fascism have made numerous attempts at building a foundation in America, none of them were successful. So neither the American right nor the American left broke away from Liberalism. It's hard to define either of them as Fascist.

When American dictionaries drop "right-wing" from their definition, it is due to the fact that an Authoritarian system of government cannot be compared to a Liberal government in any sense because they are contradictory ideologies. But this contradiction doesn't apply to British dictionaries because right-wing Monarchist/Absolutist systems don't contradict the Authoritarian nature of Fascism.

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