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Jonah Goldberg: Liberal Fascism
Jonah Goldberg: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (2008, Doubleday; paperback, 2009, Broadway Books)
Matthew Yglesias: The Goldberg Standard: Might as well quote this short post in toto:
Goldberg is so inscrutable I've never even managed to parse the title. In English we normally put the adjective in front of the noun, which should make the book about a subset of Fascism, specifically the Liberal subset. In other words, it reads like an oxymoron, but whereas you can find relatively jumbo shrimp, which fascists were relatively liberal? Franco? Juan Peron? Neither seems to be a subject of interest to Goldberg. Nor is it clear that he means Fascist Liberalism, although that seems to get closer to his intent. But rather than focusing on a subset of liberalism, he wants to taint the whole by finding a phylogenetic linkage from fascism to liberalism -- something remarkable (in the sense of ridiculous) not only logically but historically. Or maybe not: could he be complaining that fascism is debilitated by its ontological linkage to liberalism?
Given the confusion in the title -- not helped by the subtitle, The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, implying (among other things) that Il Duce was an American and that "the politics of meaning" actually means something -- it seems unlikely that reading the book would clarify anything. Still, the book was a huge bestseller, paving the way for subsequent nonsense by Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Dick Morris, and Michelle Malkin. Still, the main effect seems to have been to free the word "fascist" of all meaning for use as an all-purpose epithet. Maybe it was wrong to characterize George Bush (just to pick a not-quite-arbitrary example) as a fascist, but at least one could make a logical argument, citing points both for and against. But after Goldberg, the right is free to attack Obama as fascist or nazi or socialist or liberal or any other nasty itch they wish to scratch.
PS: From the publisher's notes:
No need to refute these arguments point-by-point. Like antimatter, few even survive as arguable assertions as far as the period. To take an example, one reason no one (but Goldberg) remembers Du Bois as having been "inspired by Hitler's Germany" was that the people we do remember so inspired where conservative racists and antisemites, not civil rights leaders. Another reason is that Du Bois is more often remembered as a communist, forgetting that before WWII hardly any white people but communists really supported civil rights. FDR certainly didn't want to talk about it -- Ira Katznelson wrote a book about the New/Fair Deals called When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold Story of Racial Injustice in Twentieth-Century America. (Goldberg's own magazine, National Review, was still defending segregation in the 1960s.)