The landmark publication of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: A Sourcebook for Blog Snark has set me to wondering: where have I seen this kind of thing before? And then it hit me . . . it’s The End of Racism for the post-9/11 world!
It’s making me kinda nostalgic. You see, back in the 90s, before I became pen pals with David Horowitz, my very favorite wingnut and BFF was Dinesh D’Souza. And with good reason: he was a crossover phenomenon, breaking out of his obscurity in the middle of the Regnery list (in 1984, they published his first book, a praise song for Jerry Falwell) and placing a 10,000-word excerpt from Illiberal Education in the March 1991 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. He followed up the monster success of that book with The End of Racism, a 750-page tome I called, in my review of the book, “the D’Souza Ulysses.” (I can’t believe he never used that as a pull quote. Ingrate.) And the reason The End of Racism leaps to mind as a Goldberg variation, even though there is no clear evidence that Cheetos were involved in the composition of D’Souza’s magnum opus, is that both books rely on precisely the same gambit: just as Hitler and McCarthy have lately emerged as men of the left, their influence on contemporary liberalism descried at last, so too, twelve years ago, did D’Souza show that Franz Boas and W. E. B. DuBois were the real racists. Having established that much, he exposed contemporary liberals for what they really are:
Increasingly it appears that it is liberal antiracism that is based on ignorance and fear: ignorance of the true nature of racism, and fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterpart.
The End of Racism was chock full of clever formulations like this—which reminds me of yet another parallel with Goldberg: just as Jonah has had some well-publicized trouble coming up with a subtitle, D’Souza reportedly wrote the first draft of his masterwork under the working title, I Know You Are But What Am I: No Backsies Infinity. For one goal of D’Souza’s book, obviously, was to defend the right from charges of racism by rendering the term all but meaningless. The Reaganite Right, as David Brooks has recently reminded us, really really hated being called “racist” just for doing things like kicking off a presidential campaign by going to Philadelphia, Mississippi and invoking “states’ rights”; so, in The End of Racism, D’Souza the Rising Star of the Reaganite Right was going to turn the tables on those nasty, ignorant, and fearful liberals. Henceforth, liberalism would be the new racism!
D’Souza’s book was published in 1995 by the Free Press, one year after that good house graced us with The Bell Curve. It turned out to be exceptionally handy, especially for people who wanted to promote Pioneer Fund-quality studies of race, genetics and intelligence in major American journals of opinion, to have someone like D’Souza covering the right flank: while Murray and Herrnstein were trotting out the hoariest racist bromides in the Social Darwinist book, D’Souza was chirpily manning the perimeter, asking “If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?” and pointing out that “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.” The tag-team approach to racism worked quite well, and both aspects of it are alive and well today: those hoary old bromides were recently revisited in this fine publication, and the slavery-revisionism has found fertile soil in these somewhat more humid climes.
So if Jonah Goldberg’s project is to show that liberalism is the new fascism, it probably makes sense to ask whether there’s any old-time fascism running around somewhere while the doughty Mr. Goldberg mans the perimeter. Nothing precisely like the classic stream-lined models from the 1930s, mind you, but maybe something borrowed and something blue, involving chanted loyalty oaths at campaign rallies*, or maybe imprisoning people without showing cause and denying them legal representation, or, I dunno, domestic spying and secret torture sites and bold new theories of the unitary executive. It couldn’t hurt to look!
Oh, and if you’re in the market for a new book on American liberalism that’s every bit as smart as Goldberg’s is stupid, my friend John McGowan has just published this wonderful book, available at an Internet near you.
- And check out the truly delicious Mark Foley (R. – Fla.) flashback in that link, courtesy of Chris Suellentrop. Those were good times!