December 27th, 2007


Liberal Fascism: From Blah De Blah to Yackety Yack

Those of you who have been eagerly awaiting my review of Jonah Goldberg's magnum dufus are bound to be disappointed. I only got my review copy today, and honestly, my colleagues at Sadly, No! have done a much better job than I could have, and more timely, too. But I did want to mention a couple of things.

For a while, I have to admit, I was actually worried that the book might be…well, not good, really – it's Jonah fucking Goldberg we're talking about – but at least bad in a dry, unfunny way, like Victor Davis Hanson. I was, in short, worried that Jonah (who, of course had spent months talking about how the thing was going to be this ground-breaking academic work that would totally change the way that history would view fascism) was going to turn in a book just good enough to not be easy to mock. I shouldn't have worried – the thing is a total sack of crap, shoddily researched, transparently partisan, and without a single shred of genuine insight or original thought. Even his fellow ideologues are having a hard time thinking of good things to say about it. So, hooray for that.

So, if you set out to write a book called Liberal Fascism, you have the same problem as if you were to write a book called Red Cars That Are Blue: how to solve the internal contradiction? Liberalism, after all, has always placed a great emphasis on personal freedom and liberty, and stood against the idea of government oppression. And fascism has always been defined as a movement characterized by a strong central government using police and military power to encourage national strength at the expense of civil rights. Here's how Jonah does it:

1. REDEFINE "LIBERAL". At every opportunity, Jonah blurs the meaning of the word 'liberal' to include communists, socialists, atheists, unionists, Democrats, and everyone who ever expressed a positive opinion about the inheritance tax. But beyond that, since it's common knowledge that the most heinous fascists of the 20th century were right-wingers like Hitler and Mussolini, he has to turn them into liberals as well, which he does by deploying the word "socialism" like it was magic. Why, "Nazi" stands for "National Socialist", says Jonah, as if he's accomplished a particularly clever magic trick, and moves on to his next amazing feat just as if Hitler hadn't ruthlessly persecuted communists and abandoned any pretense of socialism once he got into power. Why, Mussolini started out as a socialist journalist, says Jonah, folding his doughy arms in triumph just as if Mussolini's commitment to socialism was a tissue-thin pretense which he dropped immediately upon his ascent to Italian leadership. None of them even remotely embraced a socialist platform, and both actively persecuted liberals, but who cares? Jonah needs to establish that fascists were liberals, and so, voila! They are!

2. REDEFINE "FASCISM". Since, as has been noted, liberals are not particularly well-known for being oppressive and dictatorial so much as they are for opposing oppression and dictatorship, Jonah's next task, having defined 'liberal' outwards to include people like Adolf Hitler, is to define 'fascism' down to include things like, say, outlawing lynching. Because the actual central thesis of this book is that all liberals are bad and that all bad things are done by liberals, Jonah gets claim that having anything in common with Nazis (vegetarianism, organic farming, physical fitness) means that you're a fascist. This guilt-by-association stuff gets laid on so thick at times that it's absolutely stunning in its ignorance: he claims that Hitler and Roosevelt – who by all accounts loathed one another – were two peas in a pod (because, of course, you only declare war on the ones you love) and goes on and on about American leftists who praised Stalin while completely ignoring American rightists who praised Mussolini (Fortune Magazine Man of the Year, 1934). What is a liberal? A liberal is a fascist. What is fascism? Fascism is what liberals do. QED.

Along the way, Jonah has lots of fun, seeing as he has to define fascism as solely the provenance of the left, jumping through hoops to establish that groups like the Ku Klux Klan were in fact flaming liberals. But he also has to ignore all of the actual fascist behavior of the right (he has nothing to say, for example, about the banana republics of South American, Suharto, or the Shah, or even, to give a homegrown example, Prohibition), and he has to establish that all the traditional bugaboos of the conservative movement are breeding grounds for fascism. So when he discusses gays, he attempts to claim that laws to protect their civil rights are examples of fascism (which they are in fact totally the opposite) and that the presence of gays in the Nazi elite is proof of the liberal/fascist Axis (when in fact the Nazis sent gays to the death camps in hundreds of thousands).

I know I'm not being really funny here; like I said, if you want the laffs, go see the work of myself, Gavin and Brad at S,N!. It's just that reading the fucking thing, reading him talk about the Klan like they're an extension of the Democratic National Committee, or gays as if they weren't massacred by the Nazis, or liberals as if they're the ideological brethren of the people that so many of them have died fighting – kinda sucks the funny right out of me. Just as his colleagues at the National Review helped lie us into a pointless war and now expect to be patted on the head for supporting the troops, Jonah has written the most deceptive, lazy, and hateful book imaginable, smearing half the population as the ideological bedfellows of history's greatest monster while expecting to be praised for his academic accomplishment.

What a fucking asshole.

On the other hand, the Liberal Fascism blog is fantastic.