Sunday, December 23, 2007

Book Selection of the Month: "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Golderg (plus war and globalism)

liberal-fascism.JPG Book Selection of the Month: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg

Happy Kwanzaa — or should I say fascist Kwanzaa? At least, you may come away from this book worrying that all ethnic-solidarity political movements (like the one that concocted Kwanzaa in fairly recent times) smack of the fascist desire to overcome the complexity and confusion of modernity through “solidarity,” whether individualism is to be suppressed in the name of the race, the state, or a revolutionary class.

While readers might disagree about how much of our politically-correct era smacks of fascism, they will not be able to dismiss the much clearer and more explicit ties between the Progressives of a century ago and fascism. As Goldberg documents — in detail that will likely prove excruciatingly embarrassing for many who (like Hillary Clinton) style themselves Progressives today — Woodrow Wilson, Mussolini, and later FDR and Hitler constituted a veritable (and vocal) mutual admiration society (as did fascists and their close kin the Communists until their Non-Aggression Pact fell apart). However, once fascism became associated with the Holocaust, the left scrambled to paint fascism as a right-wing phenomenon and deny that the left itself had ever been entwined with fascism.

Yet it was under Woodrow Wilson — a racist and imperialist precisely because he was a Progressive who wanted to remake and reform the world, eliminating poverty, alcoholism, and low-IQ humans — that war fever and “patriotic” censorship were at their peak in the twentieth-century U.S. Under Wilson, not only were antiwar publications shut down but you could be arrested for discussing the president’s errors in your own home, or for insulting designated “patriotic” organizations, such as the Red Cross.

As Goldberg puts it (with only the subtlest hint of the frat-guy humor we thought we knew him for on, here subordinated to serious scholarship that will surprise his friends and foes alike), the Progressives, such as William James, were always searching for “the moral equivalent of war,” to eliminate individualism in the purifying fire of collective purpose — and sometimes that “moral equivalent of war” turned out, in fact, to be war.

Like Mussolini, who said Wilson was plainly instituting the American version of fascism, American leaders in the early to mid-twentieth century felt that a powerful central state was the logical analogue of faster, more efficient, more modern methods in other areas of life: mass-market radio, automated assembly lines, modernist architecture, eugenics (eugenics being more a left-Progressive push than a right-wing one and often explicitly opposed to traditional, bourgeois, “unplanned” marriage and romantic norms). If you want to “get things done,” to act without the bourgeois restraints of property rights, individual freedom, and tradition, you need the strong hand of the state to refashion society, with the ultimate shape of the good society presumably being obvious to all, save perhaps those low-IQ types who would be eliminated through eugenics. Everything would work out just fine.

Or at least intellectuals from New Republic to H.G. Wells — and even Cole Porter — thought we’d be shown how to make things fine, by great leaders like Mussolini (and other socialists, since Mussolini always thought of himself as one and arose from socialism). I always thought H.G. Wells’s stories smacked of his arrogant Fabian Society-style socialism, but even when he depicted things like a human race that suddenly gains super-intelligence and thus (naturally) decides to hold massive book burnings to destroy now-obsolete works of bourgeois art, I never thought Wells was consciously fascist — just naively socialist. Thanks to Goldberg, I now know that Wells and others took inspiration interchangeably from both socialism and fascism — and why not? Both (closely related) movements were efforts to end the fragmentation caused by capitalism, individual freedom, and industrial modernity, drawing everyone together into a single, tribe-like collective. If socialism and fascism seem like “opposites” now, it’s only because we’ve allowed the left to claim for decades that they are.

But if we drop the partisan allegiances and look with fresh eyes at, say, FDR interning tens of thousands based on their race or denouncing as “traitors” any businesses that failed to display his Blue Eagle symbol and follow his industrial-planning orders, how vast are the differences between Italian, Russian, German, and American collectivism, really, at their philosophical bases (different by far though their body counts may have been — America and Italy being relatively benign and Germany and Russia each killing tens of millions)?

We Have Ways of Making You Talk About Fight Club

Throughout the kindred socialist, progressive, and fascist movements was the hunger for “direct action,” the (naive but familiar and almost endearing) revolutionary sense that what needs doing is so obvious that a fired-up mob can easily cast aside society’s bourgeois nonsense and, with one mighty push, make things right.

Goldberg sees a similar aesthetic impulse at work in several of today’s pop culture works, including Fight Club, which I concede I had a hard time “placing” politically before reading Goldberg’s description of it as fascist: it’s plainly Nietzschean, with its machismo and purification rituals and contempt for consumer society and desire to tear down the existing world — yet it’s not quite anarchic or leftist, with its battling male prankster-terrorists quickly forming a cultish and paramilitary force that reveres its leader. Fight Club, despite its partial pull-back from the abyss at the end, is arguably fascist — which makes all the more disturbing the surprisingly young, male, enthusiastic, and large crowd that turned out for the Chuck Palahniuk talk I once went to see, hosted by my decidedly non-fascist friend Read Schuchardt, a mild-mannered media studies professor. I had expected the Barnes & Noble that day to be filled with a typical crowd of ironists and film nerds, but Fight Club may appeal most to the same demo that forms the eager youth cadres in all totalitarian movements.

Similarly, the macho-achievement vibe of something like The Matrix, when yoked to a revolutionary impulse, may have implications that are as much fascist as socialist. Given my own current project, planning a book on Conservatism for Punks — itself intended to harness the anarchic, creative impulse for productive political ends — I should keep in mind that all such strategies are playing with revolutionary fire, and not all revolutions lead to Sweden, despite what some socialists might tell you.

Goldberg also reminds readers of the immense popularity of eugenics, across the political spectrum and among all the high-minded idealists of the interwar period (witness George Bernard Shaw’s unbridled enthusiasm for combining socialist economic planning with eugenic reproductive planning — and come back in February for my analysis of another brilliant yet eugenics-influenced writer of the 1920s, H.P. Lovecraft, as that month’s Book Selection). That is troubling enough to make me rethink my casual use of the word as a neutral or even positive thing when promoting biotech, which is quite a different, less centralized, less authoritarian phenomenon — voluntary, piecemeal enhancement for unforeseen but diverse ends vs. enforced purity and a single, all-natural “ideal.”

So Does All This Make Hillary a Nazi?

There is interesting volatility in both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidate polls as I type this, but as early as next week (with the Iowa caucus), it is possible that Hillary Clinton will cement her status as the Democratic nominee — and perhaps go on to be president. She is alluded to in the subtitle of Goldberg’s book and has, quite rightly, taken pains recently to explain that she is a “progressive” rather than a “liberal.” I fear that for once an American politician is using those terms in the way they were traditionally meant to be used. A century ago, when “liberalism” still meant what we today label “libertarianism” — minimal government, free markets, strict property rights adherence, and individual freedom (to flourish or flounder) — liberalism was a despised punching bag for all the early-twentieth-century political movements, progressivism, socialism, and fascism, each seeking to invest the state with the power not only to solve all our minute problems but to force us to band together with the zeal and cohesion of a tribe or tight-knit religious community.

Hillary’s not going to put anyone in internment camps (barring some strange new wrinkle in the war on terror), but as Goldberg explains, she comes from that same religious-left progressive tradition that saw itself as doing the Lord’s work whether it was expanding and ostensibly rationalizing the government bureaucracy or banning alcohol. Hillary has a mission, and it requires that we all think of ourselves as one “village,” committed not to selfish, individual ends but to letting government tax us more, regulate us more, and run our healthcare.

And she’s not unique this regard, of course. Goldberg also condemns “compassionate conservatism” and warns that “We are all fascists now,” as the subtitle of his penultimate chapter puts it. That is, after a century of collectivist zeal across the political spectrum (except among libertarians like Ron Paul, for whom I’ll vote in the Republican primary), almost all of us expect government to address every problem, speak to every heart, unite all citizens, forge a better world. We have largely forgotten that there was ever a time when government was a little-noticed last resort with few duties and few powers. As De Tocqueville and others warned over the past two centuries, it may be that mass democracy has inevitably led to demagoguery and a mild form of totalitarianism — government in every nook and cranny, but eager to “help.”

I’ll take another look at Hillary’s first entrance into the White House in this coming Friday’s Retro-Journal entry, and I hope the entry you are reading now will generate some Responses below about the broader question of how we go back to the days when politicians didn’t increase their popularity by sounding like they wanted to use the state to solve all our problems (Goldberg himself says he may weigh in here, which would be great). I’m not worried that America is about to develop Nazi death camps, but Goldberg’s book — which is too sweeping in its warnings to be dismissed as a mere anti-Democrat book a la Ann Coulter — does leave me worried that we have long since come to accept a watered-down form of totalitarianism as the normal mode of politics (is there any area of life not covered by regulations and taxes, any area in which politicians do not get cheers by promising to do still more?).

Socialists have long comforted skeptics with the assurance that if socialism comes to the U.S., it will be stamped “Made in America,” and Ron Paul recently lamented, in response to Huckabee’s rise in the Republican polls, that when fascism comes to America, it will of course do so bearing the beloved symbols of the cross and the flag. Have we stopped minding totalitarianism, as long as it contains a dash of patriotism and a promise to help the poor? Goldberg’s book, I hope, will spark a serious dialogue about that question rather than another round of distracting right-left name-calling during which the state will happily continue to grow.

Some Other Big-Picture Books from Editor Adam Bellow

The same editor who shepherded Goldberg’s book, Adam Bellow, has a few other books, out now or about to appear, that address other admirably large political questions, each worth reading:

Day of Empire by Amy Chua (a law prof at Yale with a thorough knowledge of history) looks at no less epic a topic than the handful of empires, starting with the Persians and arguably ending with us, that have dominated not just one region but the entire known world (in their day) — the hegemons, if you will. Encouragingly, she finds that such empires were characterized not by their unparalleled brutality but by a tendency to be very open to outside influences and eager to mix and match elements from diverse subordinate cultures, at least during their ascents — but to turn inward and become xenophobic and repressive during their declines. They also offered a package of imperial citizenship that subject peoples wanted. Should America strive for that brand of imperialism, accept a multipolar world, or withdraw to become a mere nation-state again?

I can’t be sure, but I will say that Chua’s description of the empire that preceded England and the U.S. as hegemon — Holland — offers an exciting example of an empire more of trade than of military might, leading me to hope that the whole “empire” analogy will simply become irrelevant as military powers melt away into overlapping, peaceful commercial “empires,” with ill-defined borders and little cause for armed conflict.

On a more practical level, I learned from Chua that Holland’s financial success circa the seventeenth century was built in large part on the popularity of civet cats, raccoon-like animals whose anal glands can be squeezed to yield a very popular perfume scent — animals that to this day are valued for their ability to confer an extra aromatic quality to coffee beans that pass through their digestive systems. So, since the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England transferred much of Holland’s monarchical and mercantile might to England, and since we in the U.S. are in turn the heirs of England’s common law and political traditions, there is a very real sense in which American liberty was founded on ass-coffee. (Civets were also the likely source of SARS, so they have their good points and bad points.)

The Al Qaeda Reader, a collection of essays and pronouncements by bin Laden and his associates, is a useful resource, especially for anyone still laboring under the illusion that al Qaeda is really just a group of “freedom fighters” who want to be left alone by the American imperialists. As they make painstakingly clear, they want to keep killing until they destroy all manifestations of democracy, individualism, religious pluralism, female literacy, homosexuality, and Judaism, taking as their literal marching orders the Koran’s instructions that the only non-Muslims to be spared are those willing to pay a special tax to their new Muslim overlords and submit to the ruling Muslim theocracy. Al Qaeda happily equates the duty to engage in jihad against non-Muslims with terrorism and sees Mohammed as a positive model of religious violence.

Interestingly, some of these writings are addressed solely to fellow Muslims and attempt to rationalize the aspects of al Qaeda’s philosophy that (thank goodness) seem counterintuitive to most normal, sane Muslims. Particularly intriguing, I thought, was the fact that while homicide in the name of religion is relatively easily reconciled with Islam, suicide is not — which means that conservatives and pro-Israeli commenters who were so keen to relabel suicide bombings “homicide bombings” a few years ago were unquestionably barking up the wrong tree. Calling al Qaeda or the Palestinians murderers is not going to make them feel guilty — but calling them suicidal just might.

As with so many other manifestoes in this world, especially ones by faith-based organizations, the writings of al Qaeda have an almost heartbreaking naivete about them at times: bin Laden never questions his most basic premises — such as the existence of God — but merely rails against the world, wondering why it chooses so brazenly to ignore the obvious truth. He can only ascribe it, exasperatedly, to some form of perversion or stupidity on our part.

Embrace the Suck: A Pocket Guide to Milspeak by Col. Austin Bay is just one of many small, useful, inexpensive items from Bellow’s New Pamphleteers project, and reading through it gives you a bit of a feel for the sheer pragmatism of military work, the grunt-level issues like dust, poor visibility, bad food, or obtuse bureaucrats that become part of daily, grudgingly accepted discourse. And “going Green Lantern,” I’m pleased to report, means using night vision.

World War IV by Norman Podhoretz, who coined that phrase to describe the ongoing conflict with Islamic terror and tyranny (World War III correctly, in my opinion, being reserved for the unfulfilled worst-case-scenario in the Cold War), is about as good a case for the neocon position on military matters as one could ask for — and it stops to dispel many little anti-Bush, antiwar myths along the way — but I am still left with the nagging feeling, as many (especially post-Boomer) readers might be, that this is an older generation’s World War II-forged model of conflict overlain on a much messier, more protracted, more cultural problem. Podhoretz’s dedication mentions the hope that his grandchildren will see the day of our “victory” in World War IV, but such sentiments just make me all the more painfully aware that there is no Global Terrorist Headquarters to be decisively blown up in this conflict, no Hitler-in-his-bunker moment that will end things with any clarity. The enemy is indeed evil and irrational and must be fought, but at the same time I think we’re going to have to wait for the gradual erosion of totalitarian thinking into commercial thinking in the Middle East, perhaps over generations, before we’re safe — if we last that long.

Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again by David Frum is another inadvertently heartbreaking book, about how Republicans can win America back after numerous terrible missteps (of course, while Frum is very smart and writes well, if you take his advice on how to rebuild the GOP, you’re taking advice from the same guy who declared Bush The Right Man in 2003, ten years after he pronounced the conservative movement electorally dead in his 1993 book Dead Right — one year before the GOP took over Congress).

Frum counsels his fellow conservatives not to engage in nostalgia for fights rooted in the 60s, the days of Reagan, or past fights over the size of government, since America has plainly moved on and wants its current, more mundane, everyday problems solved: healthcare, education, job anxiety, etc. We should also, though, push the idea that Republicans defend America as a nation, its pivotal role abroad, and its integrity in the face of runaway illegal immigration, always reminding people that Democrats are less patriotic and nationalist — even though Frum’s own stats underscore the fact that half the population doesn’t much care about nationalism or militarism anymore. (This is not to say that he doesn’t encourage mostly market-friendly, specific programmatic reforms, but the big picture still ends up being a patriotic message.)

Frum is a lot more convincing when he cites polls suggesting that rising Generation Y is the least-Republican generation in the history of polling, I’m afraid. Yet I’m not convinced that his effort to craft a Republican program that addresses people’s concerns as stated in polls is really the answer anyway. Wasn’t it chasing after focus groups that got us to the mushy, unprincipled place we are now? Might not a dash of popularity-be-damned radicalism attract attention and respect in the long run? (I’m reminded again of the speech by pollster Frank Luntz I heard in which he said libertarians could become popular as long as they stopped using scary words like “privatize” and “capitalism” — though I’m not sure you can win anything more than a Pyrrhic victory if you have to disguise your message that much.) There’s something odd, I must also note, about a Canadian writer seeing U.S. nationalism as a practical, broadly appealing solution to everyday problems like schooling and healthcare — but Frum’s way may end up being the next Republican blueprint anyway, so it’s well worth familiarizing oneself with it.

And Finally, a Solution

•If all this talk about fascism, war, and nationalism is getting you down, though, economist Donald Boudreaux may have the solution, with his new book, Globalization, which describes the ongoing emergence of exactly the sort of peace-making, life-enhancing commercial world order that seemed to be peeking out between the lines of Chua’s book, described above. Bourdreaux’s book is $55, so globalization is not without its costs, but at least you’ll have ample ammunition, stats and all, against the next person — whether Nazi, hippie, or Canadian — who tells you that the decline of the nation-state and spread of global capitalism is a bad thing. It’s the best thing, and the sooner government (left, right, or Islamic) gets out of the way of it all, the better.


cehwiedel said...

Nice to read a thoughtful review of “Liberal Fascism” I’m jealous! I have to wait for my on-order copy until January.

Onosho said...

This is parody right?

sashal said...

if that is not the parody , then the author is as dumb as Jonah

leftard said...

As a radical leftist, this book, and this review, disturb me greatly.

I wish to God I could refute them, but I can’t.

This book, and this review, must be stopped.

Maybe I should claim it is parody?

MonkeyBoy said...

So Prescott Bush, who had 4 businesses seized for “Trading with the Enemy” (Nazis), is a Liberal?

sashal said...

any group that can be associated in any way with the Nazis is literally fascist — but only as long as they’re not a Republican group.

Gays = Fascist; Jews = Fascist; vegetarians = Fascist; dog-lovers = Fascist.

The Klan = NOT Fascist; George Prescott Bush = NOT Fascist; Jonah Goldberg = Greatest, Most Manly American Action Hero EVAR who’s NOT Fascist.

A. Noney Moose said...

Of course Hillary Clinton is the target. We liberals may be evil but we are not stupid.

Steven said...

“dog-lovers = Fascist”

Haha. Maybe you should ask Comso about that.

brad said...

Dood. I’ve read the book, too. If you think this is serious scholarship, there’s a reason you’re not in academia.

All Jonah does is assert something contrary to reality, then cite a source based on reality, which contradicts his claim. Or he cites the Pink Swaztika, which is not credible.

Argument by assertion is not effective, except at fooling fellow wingnut welfare queens like you, and the five people who’ll actually buy this book.

Katherine said...

Jonah Goldberg’s book in a nutshell: Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore all vegetarians are Nazis. Hitler loved his dog, therefore all people who love dogs are Nazis. Hitler loved artichokes, therefore… According to Jonah, everyone is a little bit of a Nazi because they breathe air just like Hitler did. I have yet to see any evidence of liberals invading countries that are of no threat to the US, rounding up “undesireables” and interning them in concentration camps and exterminating them en masse.

Over the past eight years Republicans have achieved a torture bill permitting torture, flouting the Geneva conventions, murder (Abu Ghraib), arrests without warrant, secret prisons, and one invasion of a country that posed no verifiable threat to the United States (something Bush himself has admitted).

You may want to have a gander at these reviews before you embarrass yourself any further:

noen said...

How’s the girlfriend hunt going?

Who knew that Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford, Randolph Hearst and Prescot Bush were all raging liberals?

“Fight Club may appeal most to the same demo that forms the eager youth cadres in all totalitarian movements.”

Obviously that includes you, but you are also apparently too stupid to even understand that you included yourself in that demographic.

And my god learn how to write.

Peter K. said...

Ah, the typical responses to a reasoned examination of history and consequences. Ad hominem attacks, sexual innuendo, and, of course, the uncritical assumptions of the ‘new’ Left. “We can’t have that in our history, we must air-brush it out or throw it down the Memory Hole before it becomes public knowledge!”. Typical.

Congrats on a very good review, Mr. Seavey. You must have had some history with the Left, otherwise your attackers wouldn’t have been quite so unpleasant.

hist_ed said...

I haven’t read the book, but a few obvious responses to Katherine, who also, apparently, hasn’t read the book or the review:

“Hitler was a vegetarian . . ” etc.

I am betting that Goldberg actually argues that Hitler liked a controlled economy, government involvement in health care, industrial policy, and well, every other policy, therefore he was, by current American definitions, a liberal.

“Over the past eight years Republicans . . .”

Did you read the review? Read the part again where the wartime actions of WIlson and FDR are dicsussed.

“I have yet to see any evidence of liberals invading countries . . .”

Let’s see, Did Cuba present a threat to us when Kenndy invaded? Were the Serbs a threat when Clinton attacked (without UN authorization-the horrors!!) Did North Korean threaten the US when Truman fought them? How about Vietnam. Started by Kennedy, escalated by Johnson, ended by . . .(drumroll) NIXON.

MonkeyBoy said...

Sock Pupptes

I wonder if all the people here praising Goldberg for his excellent historical analysis are just sock puppets of the doughy pantload himself.

There is nothing here to prevent people from using an assumed name to praise him so I assume all praise is coming directly is coming directly from the blubber butt momma boy himself.

cokane said...

Awesome review. It is striking how you ignore the imperialism of Nazi Germany, USSR, Mussolini… Imperialism is a common thread of all these 20th century fascists, and the current Left in America is decidedly anti-imperialist.

Now, what movement does want us to invade foreign countries?

“So how does all this, or the humble attempt at a history lesson of my last column, justify tearing down the Baghdad regime? Well, I’ve long been an admirer of, if not a full-fledged subscriber to, what I call the “Ledeen Doctrine.” I’m not sure my friend Michael Ledeen will thank me for ascribing authorship to him and he may have only been semi-serious when he crafted it, but here is the bedrock tenet of the Ledeen Doctrine in more or less his own words: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” That’s at least how I remember Michael phrasing it at a speech at the American Enterprise Institute about a decade ago (Ledeen is one of the most entertaining public speakers I’ve ever heard, by the way).”

Hmm… so Liberals want to tax the rich and that’s fascist? Goldberg wants to enact a foreign policy of sadism and that’s–what?–freedom?

You are a shameless hack.

Dr. Cletus Kraus said...

The liberals have nothing but personal attacks. It must hurt to have your political principles exposed for their similarities to the most infamous fascist regimes in memory. I’d be pissed, too, if someone did that to everything that I hold dear.

It’s a lotta fun to watch, though :-)

Thanks for the review.

the Doctor

Todd Seavey said...

It’s interesting that after only three positive Responses about Goldberg and numerous very negative ones that sound quite similar to each other, one commenter above accuses the _pro_-Goldberg posters of being sock puppets.

People often fear in others the darkness they see in themselves, I suspect. Now everybody calm down.

brad said...

Well, the pro Goldbergians keep using the same “argument”, which is to say anyone who disagrees with them is a lefty and therefore automatically wrong. That’s Jonah’s basic premise to the book, which be then builds on by calling them fascists.

I am the person who gave Sadly, No! a copy of Jonah’s book. I’ve read it, too. You’re full of it to call it anything but a textbook case of projection. There’s no actual scholarship in the book. There’s unfounded assertions which he pretends to back up by referencing a source which contradicts his assertion. But hey, I mentioned Jonah’s name, so therefore this is an ad hominem attack based on projection, right? Gotta find some way to dismiss the criticism and salve that ego, eh little man?

Oh, n fyi, just because the founder of S,N! moved to Germany doesn’t make it a german blog, bright guy. The rest of the people who post are Americans living in the US. I do, however, have to ask if you realize that, since you’re neither funny nor informative, that assertion on your part amounts to slander. I suggest you apologize and hope not to be sued, tough guy.

Lino said...

I love the guy who says “my god learn how to write” immediately after splitting an infinitive. Just. Perfect.

Sean Hastings said...

This is a silly argument.

It is trivially true that the Nazis (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei OR National Socialist German Workers Party) were an economically leftist group by modern U.S. standards. Just think about it. If you started a party in the US today called the “National Socialist American Workers Party” you can bet they would support Ralph Nader for president.

But this says nothing about whether it is a modern Democrat or Republican in the US whom is closer to being a Nazi. They are both far too close for my liking, and are about equidistant from Hitler’s politics, each embracing different aspects of Fascism.

This doesn’t mean that Hitler was some kind of moderate, falling half way between them on a single left/right spectrum. The political universe is more complicated than a single left or right axis. Each different independent idea/issue creates its own axis. So a true graph of the political positions of various people or parties would be to complicated to view and intuitively grasp. However, even adding just one more axis, it is easy to see how Hitler’s politics are about equidistant from those of modern U.S. Democrats and Republicans.

Here is something I wrote recently, making use of the two dimensional “political compass,” that explains why I don’t vote for any of the neo-fascist candidates offered up by either party for my consideration:

(Notice where Hitler falls on the graph in reference to the current bunch of candidates)

Dylan said...

Good review, Todd.

I don’t go to many blogs very often, except this one and Hit And Run. I remember why now. The level of arrogant nastiness that commenters feel the need to express simply because they disagree is just tiresome. And it’s usually a sign that one has no real argument when he/she engages in such name-calling and whatnot.

I haven’t read the book, I’m not sure how much I agree with Goldberg’s idea that liberalism necessarily is “fascist”, but I think it’s a no-brainer that a good deal of the left is enamored with the use of force wielded by a strong central authority. Alas, so is a good deal of the right at this point.

But keep up the civilized debate and ignore the ad hominem assholes.

Scott said...

Thanks for the review. I had a chance to talk to Goldberg about the book back in November of 2006 and it sounded quite interesting, but then some of the promotional materials came out and made it sound like a Coulter-esque rabid dog piece (Coulter used to be a good writer and commentator, but somewhere along the line she decided to live down to the caricature of herself the Left created). This review (among others) restores my hope for the book. I’ll definitely be using the gift cards I got for Christmas to get it.

Oh, and to all, if you haven’t checked out that political compass site, don’t bother; the questions it asks to gauge where you are reduces complex issues to a series of black and white questions when the answers I’d like to give are shades of gray.

Bill Whittle said...

It seem to me that this is actually very simple.

The essential core of fascism is worship of the state over the individual. It’s really that simple. All of the millions of murders committed in the name of this ideology come from the belief that the state is everything and the people nothing.

Now, ask yourself: in America today, who tends to support large giovernment? Who looks to a large and powerful state to solve the problems of society? Liberals or Conservatives?

If you replace the word “Fascism” with “Totalitarianism” the picture is much clearer, as Fascism is a word with historical tethers. The Nazi’s were Big State, anti-individualits. So were the Soviets and the Cinese Commiunists, and the Cubans, and the North Koreans, the Sandinistas, and on and on. Some of the common hallmarks of totalitarian states are that they are anti-capitalist, anti-gun ownership, anti-religous and anti-free speech. American liberals are all of the first three, and as the reviews at SN clearly show, only for the latter when it is their speech they are defending. Anything contrary to to the Party Line must be villified, and if you can’t do that with fact and logic then they will do it with things like claims of “sock puppetry” and elevated analyses like “Momma’s Boy” and “Blubber Butt.”

Scratch most liberals and you will find a totalitarian, a person who feel they could cure all of society’s ills if they could just get their hand on the whip.

thomass said...

I’m not against the book, but the reviews are making it sound like he is arguing fascism actually is ‘left wing’… which is problematic… a better / more accurate argument would be it was a hybrid (of extreme right and left) and furthermore American Conservatism is not right wing by Euro standards… its basically ‘liberal’ (or has more overlap with it than Euro conservatism)… The Euro right wing was anti American democracy, anti free market, anti individual. like the left. but still, it was different and this should be explained… On the other hand, I think the argument that it (the old right) has mostly since been absorbed by the left (anti globos, identity politics, naturalism, non Christian spiritualists) is perfectly fair….

Anyway, I look forward to reading it and I hope he does not make that argument (that Nazism, or Italian Fascism, was actually pure left wingery). It simplifies things so much as to be inaccurate.

thomass said...

Sean Hastings | 7:37 pm on the 26th of December, 2007

“But this says nothing about whether it is a modern Democrat or Republican in the US whom is closer to being a Nazi. They are both far too close for my liking, and are about equidistant from Hitler’s politics, each embracing different aspects of Fascism. ”

Fair enough, but if it takes the air out of the progressive’s sails (and/or windbag) of accusing American conservatives of being closet Nazis… then its worth a go. :)

Basically, pot to kettle to the progressives.

Anyway, its probably not that bad around the country but I live in the San Fran bay area. and there are plenty of lunatics convinced that US conservative = fascist. while at the same time they are Hugo Chavez / Castro apologists. et cetera.


cokane said...

so Bush sets up secret prisons, advocates torture, invades foreign countries, hires a paramilitary force that is above the law, etc, and yet it is taxes on the rich that are fascist? Right

MonkeyBoy said...

Todd, you own the blog.

Rather than say you think there are more left-wing sock puppets here than Jonah Goldberg sock puppets, you can just look at the IP addresses of the posts and out anybody that posts from the same IP address.

Since you didn’t do this I guess you are covering up for Goldberg acting as a sock puppet. He is probably too stupid to realize that his IP address stays the same no matter which username he uses.

Patrick Carroll said...

Thanks for the review. I look forward to the book.

inmypajamas said...

Very helpful review. I will definitely be buying the book (I am a little mystified at the claim of some commenters that they have read the book when it is not on sale yet). I also thought your “Goldstein” post was exceptional. Your description of the left’s considering their hate to be “the holy and justified kind” is pretty evident in the comments you refer to.

MB, may I suggest that you review the primer on the net’s premiere sock-puppeter, a dedicated lefty, Glenn Greenwald.

Todd Heap said...

Thanks for a thoughtful review. The debate forums at Amazon reveal the enormous double-standard raging in the Leftist brain. They call conservatives fascist and Nazi if they detect even the slightest similarity. However, when Jonah turns the tables, suddenly it’s completely unfair to use these terms since Leftists don’t actually want to build concentration camps and exterminate Jews. These words, once thrown out so casually, suddenly acquire a very narrow definition.

I don’t know how people live with such cogniive dissonance.

Ray Lewis said...

When did you stop beating your wife, MonkeyBoy?

Dylan said...

Todd Heap –

Yeah, I agree with you. Goldberg seems to be playing their own game in many ways by using the term “Fascism,” which they have no problem tossing around, um, liberally, until it’s tossed at them.

But that’s what concerns me a bit about it. Again, having not read the book, I still think the idea of using that term is kind of sinking to their level. Because terms like “fascist,” “nazi,” “socialist,” “communist,” etc each have a distinct definition, and it’s very easy to show how a modern liberal in many ways doesn’t fit into any single one exactly (and how plenty of things about the right might fit into some of them as well).

A liberal friend of mine once called my positions (fairly libertarian-leaning) “fascist.” I responded that if either of our positions could be described in such a way, it’d be her faith in big government, not my skepticism of same. But I made it clear that I was not in any way trying to suggest that she was actually a nazi or a fascist.

And I have nothing against Goldberg — I’ve read his articles before and never thought he was out of his mind or offensive. But he does write for National Review, and has often supported Bush and the Iraq War, two positions which, in my view, are hard to reconcile with the argument that those who support big government are fascists (unless he considers himself one).

But I won’t draw too many conclusions till I read the thing.