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As a colloquial term of abuse for the way someone is behaving, “fascist” is still widely used to describe actions seen as excessively authoritarian, reminiscent of a police state, or wantonly destructive. Thus Inspector Morse in the British TV detective series set in Oxford can declare in the famous quadrangle of the Bodleian Library, “What we are looking for here is the sort of person that slashes pictures, takes a hammer to Michelangelo’s statues, and a flamethrower to books; someone who hates art and ideas so much that he wants to destroy them: a fascist.” Even within academia, “fascism” was until the 1990s widely associated with extreme forms of militaristic and nationalistic dictatorship without any real ideology or ideals, but its precise meaning remained elusive ...

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