Clever title, no? Well as you know, Jonah Goldberg has a new book out called Liberal Fascism which understandably has some people upset. Jonah has decided that he’s tired of Liberal’s use of the guilt by association fallacy of fascists being “right-wing” being thrown at him, so he’s going to turn the tables. As I understand it from reading his comments on some reviews, he isn’t himself employing the fallacy, but I suppose this makes for an excellent exercise in why its use is faulty. I find the most interesting thing of all in the ways the book is dismissed by liberal pundits is that they think that even if Progressives had Fascistic tendencies, that’s just becuase they lived in the past, in the time of “right-wingness”, and liberalism is supposed to be the future, moving past the old right-wing times. This is of course a Whiggish outlook, which they may share in common with some liberal democratics of the bygone era of Classical Liberalism, but they also share this with Karl Marx, and this is of course the more plausible source for this view. Of course, the accusation will be that Fascism is “rejection of modernity” (Environmentalism, anyone?) but let us not forget the days when Fascism was the wave of the future (so perhaps this criteria is in fact an ill proposition-Mussolini also made the trains run on time (or was that Thyme?)). When you suggest that a Progressive held views in the past that they associate with words like “bad” “Fascism” (Liberals have an interesting thesaurus, to be sure.) they weren’t wrong becuase they were left-wingers, but becuase they were right-wing on that one issue (becuase everyone was, in the time of “right-wingness” i.e. the past). That’s ludicrously unfair, of course, becuase we Conservatives are forced to bare the weight of all kinds of skeletons, real and imaginary, without getting to cast them of as from the time of “left-wingness”. The point of Jonah’s book isn’t that todays liberals are evil for being Fascists, but that they to must own up to the skeletons in their closets, or let Conservatives alone about theirs. We are all fascists, now, apparently, so it isn’t as if Jonah is only going after you, he also wishes to eschew all “conservatives” guilty of, what’s the phrase? Oh yeah “Romanticizing the State”. The trouble with so many left-wing people in regard to how they view fascism is that the seem to use the definition “what I am not” and while it is temping to take the most reviled spot on the political spectrum and define oneself as in opposition to it, it is not accurate. Jonah has shown what few wish to acknowledge, that the left is not free of fascistic roots, and that the Progressives these people worship (think John McCain and his wanting to get back to Theodore Roosevelt “Republican Environmentalism”, as if the man were in anyway compatible with today’s party. Let’s remember that TR also liked eugenics.) were not perfect and were in fact quite “illiberal” so to speak, even if they took these actions in the name of liberalism.
Jonah is by no means walking on fresh ground. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom was mainly a tract about socialism, but also about the fact that Nazism actually had its roots in Socialism. Or how about Three New Deals?
Jonah has gone and said what anyone really knows when they think about it. Communism, Socialism, Fascism, all stem from the same totalitarian impulse, anti-modern to be sure, in a brutal, back to nature, read in tooth and claw sort of way, but also “post-modern” in a sense, Whiggishly transcending the past and tradition.
Jonah does a good enough job defending the book himself, but I thought I’d offer this up. Much of it is echoing his points, but that is becuase I agree with them. I definitely will want to read it. I also read some reviews, as well, including the review over at TCS and I note that Jonah has an interesting take on what Conservatism is:
“What many conservatives, including Bush and Buchanan, fail to grasp is that conservatism is neither identity politics for Christians and/or white people nor right-wing Progressivism. Rather, it is opposition to all forms of political religion.”
I couldn’t agree more.