Liberal Fascism: A Fawning Review

CRDaily

photo: Yelena Pecheny

I have done it. I have hugged Jonah Goldberg. He agreed to take my picture and hugged me — basically. Jonah Goldberg writes for a little something called the National Review. I figure he shook the hands of William F. Buckley more than a few times. I have shaken his hands. Enough said.

Anyway, down to business. If you attended his speech Monday then you got a general summary of his book, Liberal Fascism. An enjoyable read, it discusses how fascism is a phenomenon of the left, not the right (as we define the terms today. Now, if you are like me you are probably saying: “Well, duh.” At least for me this has been intuitive ere I picked up Jonah’s number-one best-seller. For, if a society is totalitarian (a word invented, in this context, by Mussolini) in the sense that politics saturates every aspect of life, what is the difference?

To illustrate the obviousness of this point, Jonah asked a logical question: “In what other subject do we presume two opposites are the same thing?” In other words, if fascism is of the right and communism is of the left yet they both facilitate the exact same outcomes what is the distinction? The differences aren’t so earth-shattering that there is much of a distinction. Which is the point isn’t it?

Now, to be clear, Jonah Goldberg isn’t saying that “liberalism” equals fascism. In fact, he states this numerous times throughout the book. And, when asked how he felt his book had impacted discussion of the subject of fascism he noted that he was upset over how his success has popularized the term fascism on the right. He feels

Reading

uncomfortable using the term fascist to describe “liberals” precisely because of how the left has misused the word.

Among my favorite comparisons Goldberg makes between fascism and progressivism is that of the necessity for a “moral equivalent of war.” Back in the day National Socialism under Wilson (attempted by Teddy Roosevelt) was achieved in large part through the mobilization necessitated by World War I. Today, the “moral equivalent of war” is invoked most notably in the left’s desire to fight poverty, in the argument over health care reform, and when discussing environmentalism. These issues touch upon nearly every other aspect of life (as does a literal war) and if the “progressives” can gain control over these areas of your life they will have achieved a totalitarian system of government.

Jonah Goldberg offered a funny, involving speech that, simply put, made my semester (if you add my hugging him).

YES! Photo: Yelena Pecheny

BTW, Review Crew, a weekly cartoon that depicts UNC student life humorously, is going to start up again. Join us next Friday:

15 thoughts on “Liberal Fascism: A Fawning Review

  1. John Stewart: Tell them why organic food fascist.
    Jonah Goldberg: The Nazis were obsessed with the idea of the organic. They were obsessed with the idea that we are all in it together… that we are all part of this organic whole. The first green movement in Europe feeds into Nazism.

    Jonah Goldberg: Hillary Clinton says she's not a liberal anymore — she says she's a progressive. Shouldn't that mean something when the progressives were racist, they were imperialistic, they were warmongers, and they were collectivists?

    Austin Bramwell: "Not only does Goldberg misunderstand liberalism, but he refuses to see it simply as liberalism… Liberal Fascism reads less like an extended argument than as a catalogue of conservative intellectual clichés, often irrelevant to the supposed point of the book."

    I think Mr. Goldberg missed something in college: correlation is not causation.

  2. Nope. Didn't read the book. Those are his words though; that was his explanation of why organic food is fascist. And, you know who Austin Bramwell is, right?

  3. Jonah Goldberg never said organic food is fascist. That is simply an example of how, in terms of the modern "left" as we understand the term in America, fascists weren't right-wingers. It is supposed to be funny I think.

  4. Mr. Crowder: No, I think he genuinely meant what he said. He equated organic food with Nazis being "obsessed with the idea of the organic." Watch the clip — he was serious. Seems like he's stretching a little far for a correlation that doesn't exist: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-16-

    Mr. Dent: By your metric, a lot of people wouldn't "get very far" in a debate on the "issue of a shared intellectual pedigree between fascism and progressivism."

    And for you to even use the word progressivism in your final sentence runs counter to Goldberg's argument. He draws a distinction between liberalism and progressivism (watch the interview), albeit a flawed one. Haha, his book seems more of an attempt to attribute something negative to Democrats than an actual piece of fine literature. He makes up his own definition of modern liberalism and progressivism. Good luck justifying the thesis to yourself — and remember, as long as you're justifying it to yourself, you'll always be right. Cheers!

  5. Ouch, Mr. Dent, ad hominem attacks hurt. Relax a little. I know you love this guy, but I just want to know a few things:

    1) Why is organic food fascist?
    2) Why is Hillary Clinton's self-labeling of "progressive" in any way tied to racism, imperialism, and collectivism? (Even if "progressive" in the past was was representative of these things, how does he draw a parallel between those ills and Hillary Clinton?)
    3) Does correlation mean causation?

    Since you have read the book, I'm sure you can explain these complicated things to me. Thanks for keeping me informed.

  6. 1.) I haven’t read Goldberg’s book, but if he really thinks that, then he’s crazy.

    2.) I think that progressivism can be tied to “racism” because white progressives are constantly trying to fix the problems of everyone else in the world on the ground that everyone else needs their help–after all, they are the saviors of the world. They are very arrogant, not only in their thinking that they have all the answers, but also in the ways by which they force everyone else to comply (taxes, social pressure, political correctness, etc.).

    And, of course, this also explains why progressives are imperialistic.

    3.) Correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but correlation does suggest that two things might be two heads of the same beast, or that two things are related or parallel. Also, if two things are correlated, there’s always the possibility that one causes the other.

    1. I'd say your response to 2. is completely absurd and ad hoc. You may believe all that you wrote, and it may be true, but attributing that meaning to Goldberg, I think, would be false.

      I'd say Goldberg is making a very simple point about historical awareness. Hes basically asserting that Clinton and all the other liberal/progressives are ignorant to adopt the moniker "progressive," considering the types of folks historians call "progressives."

      The fallacy is in supposing that "progressive" simply means "the characteristics of those people that we call 'progressives'" Historians use the term "progressive" to refer to a set of ideas and values and, especially, the "progressive era." The progressive era was a great time. Women got the right to vote, child labor laws were passed, health and safety regulations were implemented, etc. etc. This was also an era of imperialism, racism, etc. To suppose "progressive" means "imperialist, racist" is silly. When we say "American Imperialism" we don't also mean "passing of labor laws, women's suffrage, etc." just because those two things were going on at the same time, by the same people.

      If Hilary Clinton were trying to liken herself to a present day Teddy Roosevelt (or Andrew Jackson) and thereby make the argument she were "progressive," I would admit that her reference would be disastrous.

      In any case, the appeal to the etymology or history of a word in making an argument is utterly fallacious in principle, and in anyone with any intellectual honesty will tell you that.

  7. So have you recently changed your politically-correct views on race now that you’ve admitted that you’re a Jonah Goldberg groupie? It’s just that if Pat Buchanan, a Western European white guy who’s supposedly anti-Semitic, were to come speak, you wouldn’t act like a 16-year-old cheerleader at a Taylor Swift concert. But now that this Jewish conservative who is very anti-European and, particularly, anti-French comes, you’re all about it.

    Now, I admit that I don’t know a lot about Goldberg, but if some of this stuff on Wikipedia about him is true, and I suspect that it is since Wikipedia has become much more reliable recently, then he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of multiculturalism and egalitarianism, which, according to Chris Jones, makes him “intolerant” of people who are different from him.

  8. "if a society is totalitarian (a word invented, in this context, by Mussolini) in the sense that politics saturates every aspect of life, what is the difference?

    To illustrate the obviousness of this point, Jonah asked a logical question: “In what other subject do we presume two opposites are the same thing?” In other words, if fascism is of the right and communism is of the left yet they both facilitate the exact same outcomes what is the distinction? The differences aren’t so earth-shattering that there is much of a distinction. Which is the point isn’t it?"

    Justin,

    We had a drawn out discussion by email two summers ago, on this very subject. You remember that essay I sent you about the fundamental differences between the extreme left (communism) and the extreme right (fascism)? I think, for the sake of enhancing this debate, you ought to address some of the points I made there. If you need me to email you a copy I can do that.

    From everything I've heard about this topic, here and in Goldberg's interviews, it seems to me that Goldberg is making the same mistake Ayn Rand made decades ago: the fallacious assumption that all forms of collective organization are inherently the same. And that's funny because he writes for the very publication that booted Rand out of movement conservatism in this first place.

      1. What happened to the other comments, above? I listed a few scholars of fascism for you to look up… I'd be interested to hear where you think Neiwert fails to grasp "basic logical argument." In Neiwert's view (and I agree), it is Goldberg who has an exceptionally poor grasp of logical argument, not to mention limited knowledge and understanding of history. The whole premise of the book is an excellent example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s