“Heil Myself!” (and other rude Goldberg devices)

by John Holbo on January 2, 2008

Jonah Goldberg’s forthcoming Liberal Fascism. Ahem.

Matthew Yglesias notes that the falsehood of Goldberg’s thesis seems a more pertinent consideration than the NYT reviewer, David Oshinsky, seems to find it. I agree. Ramesh Ponnuru reads the review differently: “Jonah, I think it is remarkable that Oshinsky did not dispute one of your central contentions: that fascism is essentially a left-wing phenomenon. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that his silence on this point constitutes a concession.”

And here is Goldberg, in response to Yglesias: “Oshinsky in fact doesn’t deal with my “main thesis” at all. As Ramesh notes, Oshinsky actually concedes that fascism is a phenomenon of the left. As for where Oshinsky does disagree with my thesis, it is so poorly supported and so unrelated to what I actually write, I’m still a bit flummoxed as to how to respond to it, save to thank the man for his kind words and hope some other liberal actually reads the book and offers a sustained argument against it. Honestly: I would actually like to read such a review.”

Well, if he is willing to send me a free copy I will write a review no ruder than the book itself. But let’s stick with Oshinsky. It’s a puffy review, but did he or did he not dispute the central contention that ‘fascism is essentially a left-wing phenomenon’? Oshinsky notes, in passing, that the truth of the thesis that “fascism is strictly a Democratic disease” – i.e. Republicans can’t catch it – can hardly hope to survive contact with known facts about Republicans. Any definition of ‘fascist’ broad enough to include Clinton and Hitler is going to sweep up Reagan and Bush for good measure. The title of Oshinsky’s review ought not to have been ‘Heil Woodrow!’, but ‘Heil Myself!’ (as Chaplin put it.) We are all fascists now. Apparently Goldberg finesses this consideration by not considering it. Nor is it encouraging that neither Goldberg nor Ponnuru even recognizes the objection as an objection, when it is made clearly enough – at least by implication – in a short review. (Admittedly, it was confusing not to register a sense that obvious falsehood is a problem.)

What explicit definition of ‘fascism’ is Goldberg operating with, if any? To judge from reviews, the author’s own comments, his ‘results’, he must be applying the term to any sort of ‘statist’ or ‘collectivist’ political rhetoric, policy proposal, or legislative act, especially such of these as entangle the state in coercive action on behalf of ‘communitarian’ values or ‘identity’ politics: values that subordinate the individual to the whole. The trouble is: pretty much the only sort of conservative who is not going to come out fascist, under this umbrella, is (maybe) the likes of F. Hayek, when penning essays with titles like “Why I Am Not A Conservative”. Otherwise, the whole tradition of conservative thought, from Burke to Kirk and beyond, is ‘fascist’. Hillary says it takes a village, but Burke would never have settled for small-time socialism. He thundered about “the great primeval contract of eternal society.” No doubt ‘it takes a village’ is pretty weak, qua anti-fascist vaccine. But switching to the belief that you would do best to unquestioningly submit yourself to some sort of primordial, vaguely mystical, hierarchical social order is not going to inoculate you either.

In Oshinsky’s review we read: “To [Goldberg’s] mind, it is liberalism, not conservatism, that embraces what he claims is the fascist ideal of perfecting society through a powerful state run by omniscient leaders.” But the obvious examples of believers in the possibility of guidance by omniscient beings are theocrats (admixers of church into state in substantial proportion.) Goldberg is trying to target liberal technocrats and hubristic social engineers. But he can hardly get religion out of the target zone. In general, belief in hierarchy, hence the need to establish and maintain a socially superior class of natural leaders is eminently conservative – from Burke to Kirk and beyond, once again. Furthermore, ‘omniscient’, badly as it serves Goldberg’s purpose, is only there because the word you really want would be even more embarrassing to his case. Fascists believe in Great Leaders. Heroic leaders. It is quite obvious, from Carlyle to Gerson and beyond, that hero-worship is not inimical to conservatism. Of course, conservatives have their rugged individualist sides. They aren’t pure statists or collectivists or slavish self-subordinators. But, then again, neither are liberals. This is all pretty obvious.

Now we get to what is maybe an actually half-interesting point. There are two reasons why ad hitlerem arguments tend to be rude and crude. (Everyone knows Godwin’s Law is law. Here’s why, more or less.) First, the Holocaust. It’s pretty obvious how always dragging that in is not necessarily clarifying of every little dispute. Second, a little less obviously, ad hitlerem arguments are invariably arguments by moral analogy. Person A espouses value B. But the Nazis approved B. Not that person A is necessarily a Nazi but there must be something morally perilous about B, if espousing it is consistent with turning all Nazi. The trouble is: with few exceptions, the Nazis had all our values – at least nominally. They approved of life, liberty, justice, happiness, property, motherhood, society, culture, art, science, church, duty, devotion, loyalty, courage, fidelity, prudence, boldness, vision, veneration for tradition, respect for reason. They didn’t reject all that; they perverted it; preached but didn’t practice, or practiced horribly. Which goes to show there is pretty much no value immune from being paid mere lip-service; nominally maintained but substantively subverted. Which, come to think of it, isn’t surprising. How could a list of ‘success’ words guarantee success, after all?

If I believe it is important to be moral, it hardly follows that I am immoral, just because the fascists believed it was important to be moral – which they did. On some level. Wash. rinse. repeat.

The matter is more complicated, of course. It is plausible to say fascists really lack – except in a pitifully vestigial, reduced sense – certain essential values: tolerance, individualism. (That’s why fascism is a commonly considered inherently anti-liberal. And, since these are classical liberal values, conservatives can be liberals, too, in this sense.) But it isn’t the case that the fascists were the nasty pieces of work they were just because they lacked these values. It’s not that all anti-liberals are as morally monstrous as the fascists were, after all. The problem was also that the fascists valued (or at least said they did) things that really are valuable, but in hideously corrupt fashion. It’s this that feeds the bad ad hitlerem. Fascists believed in the power of the state to improve the lot of the individual. Well, so do liberals. So do conservatives. So do libertarians, if it comes to that. (The fact that extreme minarchists want to hire a night watchman – the Nazis hired lots of those! – hardly proves extreme libertarianism is inherently fascistic.)

This problem crops up in other, slightly less unserious contexts. Sometimes people try to argue that the Enlightenment was a terrible thing, because – look! – it led straight to the Nazis. Sometimes people try to show the counter-Enlightenment (irrationalism, romanticism) was a terrible thing, because – look! – it led straight to the Nazis. They’re both right. What doesn’t follow is that you need to take a stand against the legacy of Enlightenment, or on behalf of that legacy, to ward off moral monstrosity. Saying you believe in the great good of science and technology will not inherently preserve you from that. Nor will saying you think art is nobler than science and technology. You can screw it all up either way. Or both. Why not? The Nazis did.

Of course you can solve this little problem by not specifying values at an unhelpfully abstract, vague or sloganeering level. Still, it is a rather common fallacy that I think has no recognized name: to think that something that can be believed in a really screwed up way must be inherently screwed up in some way. Maybe it could be the abuse-mention distinction, or something like that.

At any rate, the problem with the ad hitlerem is that it is both trivially false (since your interlocutor is rarely a rabid, anti-semitic exterminationist); and trivially true: nominally – at some very general level of description – your interlocutor is almost sure to share a whole range of values with the Nazis.

You want to restrict ‘potential fascist’ to cases where there are not only shared values, in a weak ‘we are all fascists now’ sense, but some evidence that – due to those shared values – the person might turn into a sort of fascist, in a more full-blooded (blood and soil) sense. At the very least, you want to be on the lookout for people looking at actually existing fascism and thinking it’s sort of fascinating or attractive. Maybe they express sympathy with, or peddle apologetics on behalf of, actually existing fascism. Jeet Heer (whose anthology, Arguing Comics, is really good!) has been doing some digging through the archives:

Since its founding in 1955, National Review has been a haven for writers who are, if not fascists tout court, certainly fascist fellow travellers.

Let’s put it this way: if Woodrow Wilson and Hillary Clinton are fascists then what word do we have for those who admired Francisco Franco? When the Spanish tyrant died in 1975, National Review published two effusive obituaries. F.R. Buckley (brother to National Review founder William F. Buckley) hailed Franco as “a Spaniard out of the heroic annals of the nation, a giant. He will be truly mourned by Spain because with all his heart and might and soul, he loved his country, and in the vast context of Spanish history, did well by it.” James Burnham simply argued that “Francisco Franco was our century’s most successful ruler.” (Both quotes are from the November 21, 1975 issue). Aside from F.R. Buckley and Burnham, many of the early National Reviewers were ardent admirers of Franco’s Spain, which they saw as an authentically Catholic nation free from the vices supposedly gripping the United States and the northern European countries. National Review stalwarts like Frederick Wilhelmsen, Arnold Lunn, and L. Brent Bozell, Jr. made pilgrimages to Spain, finding spiritual nourishment in the dictatorship’s seemingly steadfast Catholicism.

The really twisted side National Review’s philo-fascism came through in 1961 when Israel captured Adolph Eichmann, a leading Nazi, and tried him for crimes against humanity. National Review did everything they could editorially to offer extenuating arguments against the prosecution of Eichmann, arguing that he was being subjected to a “show trial”, that this was post facto justice, that pursuing Nazi crimes would weaken the Western alliance and further the cause of communism. As the magazine editorialized on April 22, 1961, the trial of Eichmann was a “lurid extravaganza” leading to “bitterness, distrust, the refusal to forgive, the advancement of Communist aims, [and] the cultivation of pacifism.” (The editors didn’t consider that a mere 16 years after the death camps were liberated, a “refusal to forgive” the architects of genocide might be understandable).

There’s more. I don’t think it follows that Goldberg is a fascist, just because he is an editor for National Review. Certainly he isn’t an anti-semite. But I think it does follow, by the terms of Goldberg’s own argument, that he is the editor of a journal that is not just fascistic but liberal, at least at an earlier point in its career. The latter of these consequences I think even Goldberg ought to concede is pretty awkward.

Link via Kip Manley.

UPDATE: via John Emerson (in comments), it turns out Spackerman is doing yeoman’s work, heroically slogging through the thing. It turns out my speculations about Goldberg’s sense of ‘fascism’ were pretty on the mark. Certainly close enough for government work.

Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve that common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy.

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01.06.08 at 12:45 pm

{ 103 comments }

1

geo 01.02.08 at 6:44 am

John’s post says just about everything necessary, surely. Might it also help simply to list a number of historical figures generally considered leftists or liberals and ask how Goldberg could conceivably go about showing that they were proto-fascists? Eg,(in no particular order): Paine, Wollstonecraft, Mill, Morris, Russell, Liebknecht, Luxemburg, Korsch, Pannekoek, Emma Goldman, Kropotkin, Gramsci, Keynes, Orwell, Silone, Camus, Adorno, Habermas, Rorty, Chomsky, Lasch, E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Grass, Enzensberger, Konrad, Havel, Michnik, Michael Harrington, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, Philip Rahv, Gore Vidal, Mary McCarthy, Grace Paley, Dwight Macdonald, Amartya Sen, Jeffrey Sachs, Barbara Ehrenreich … I’ll stop now. My wrist is getting tired.

2

a sentient being 01.02.08 at 8:59 am

I’m amazed all this ink is being spilled on a book none of you admit to having read yet. (By the way, it’s already available in several mass market US bookshops. I saw copies over the holidays.) Goldberg has obviously hit a raw nerve here with you ‘liberals’.

3

leinad 01.02.08 at 9:02 am

If you don’t comment on it, you must be silently conceeding Goldberg’s point. But if you do comment it’s obviously hit a nerve.

Sounds like the sort of logic HITLER would use…

4

jholbo 01.02.08 at 9:19 am

Not only is he using the sort of logic HITLER would use, but by not conceding my point, he is conceding my point!

5

Zephyrus 01.02.08 at 9:33 am

To someone who has read the book: does Goldberg actually ever deal with inconvenient facts like Mussolini explicitly associating himself with the Right and Hitler hating on Jewish left intellectuals? Does he attempt to make a case about how Schmitt and Rawls are actually two brothers separated at birth? Does he even say what he means when he says “liberalism” and “fascism”?

I’d like to think the book is something vaguely interesting, arguing for parallels beyond the observation amounting to “fascists and liberals both believe in the validity of a state’s existence.” After all, it’d be impossible to write a book-length work filled with tired old canards like “national SOCIALISM” and “Hitler and liberals both dislike smoking,” right? Right?

6

bad Jim 01.02.08 at 10:01 am

Goldberg:

The chump would lay some lame Daniel Bell rip-off line, and I’d kick him to the curb.

No, there’s nothing of the jackboot about him.

7

otto 01.02.08 at 11:07 am

Well, if he is willing to send me a free copy I will write a review no ruder than the book itself.

Cough up the $$$ for a copy and write a review, dammit.

8

a sentient being 01.02.08 at 12:20 pm

In response to 5, all I would say is that Schmitt and Rawls are not discussed together because Rawls is not discussed at all in the book. Schmitt is hardly mentioned either because Goldberg largely agrees with Schmitt’s premise but takes the opposing side of the argument: What Schmitt dislikes about liberalism, Goldberg likes, or at least can accept in so far as it minimizes the chances for decisive collective political action. (That some leftist intellectuals have come around to Schmitt in recent years is grist for Goldberg’s mill.)

If you want to see Goldberg’s thesis in its most charitable light, I think you need to think hard about the fact that fascists have historically — both then and now — drawn from the same constituencies as the left. And here I think for non-US people it’s important to realize that ‘liberal’ in the US means ‘social democratic’ not ‘libertarian’ or even ‘classical liberal’. Perhaps this is causing some confusion. This is how Goldberg is using the term — basically the vector that leads from liberalism to collectivism.

9

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 1:05 pm

Holbo is a Nazi, but I’ll refrain from developing this theme and make a few other points. I’ll also refrain from questioning the sentience of anyone here.

The unitary presidency being pushed by Addington, Cheney, and Bush looks pretty Schmittian to me. Schmitt believed that the power to set aside the law (martial law, state of exception) was the essense of the state and the source of political order. Perhaps Leo Strauss, as a student of Schmitt’s, was the Schmittian vector for the U.S. When he fled Germany from France in the early thirties he asked Schmitt for an introduction to Charles Maurras, a Nazi-collaborator-to be. Strauss actually did accuse Schmitt of being “still too liberal”, but what he meant by that is obscure to me. There were lots of actual liberals in the world at that time (both “classical liberals” and social democrats), and Strauss rejected them in favor of Schmitt, despite his vestigial liberalism. (Both Schmitt and Strauss rejected classical liberalism and social democratic liberalism together).

Note that Ramesh Ponnuru has dutifully praised Goldberg’s book, while ignoring the criticisms. Along with Christopher Caldwell, he was recently mentioned on a different thread as a possible “honest, intelligent conservative” to be promoted to the editorial pages of the Times. But Caldwell proved himself a hack by shrieking right on schedule during the Wellstone funeral, and I think that we must face the possibility that the American conservative movement (always weak, since the American tradition has always been a liberal one) has been so completely compromised and corrupted by the Movement Republicans that the “honest, intelligent conservative” species is extinct.

10

John Holbo 01.02.08 at 1:05 pm

“fascists have historically—both then and now—drawn from the same constituencies as the left.”

Can you be a bit more specific about where this is going? I think I can guess, but I’ve done enough of that already.

“‘liberal’ in the US means ‘social democratic’ not ‘libertarian’ or even ‘classical liberal’. Perhaps this is causing some confusion.”

I agree this is causing confusion, but I think you are confused about its locus. ‘Liberal’ in the US doesn’t mean ‘social democratic’ but rather a somewhat uncertain mix of social democratic (that term will do), libertarian (concerning some issues) and classical liberal values.

In response to Otto, I actually will buy the book if someone gives me some reason to suppose it might contain something interesting – some new or potentially innovative twist. It’s supposed to be a secret history. I don’t demand that it live up to such lurid billing. But, so far, it sounds like the plain old unsecret history, overlaid with some simple conceptual problems. What is new and right in what he has to say?

I don’t think it’s entirely reasonable to say: read the book and find out. I’ve speculated explicitly about what he must mean by ‘fascist’. If I’m right, then the book is just confused. If I’m wrong, someone should be able to give me a tolerably clear executive summary version of why my objection misses the mark. Some hint as to how Goldberg’s thesis stands up.

11

Barry 01.02.08 at 1:30 pm

Otto: “Cough up the $$$ for a copy and write a review, dammit.”

Ya know, fascists wanted your money, as well.

Hmmmmmmmmmm……..

12

Ben Alpers 01.02.08 at 1:32 pm

Strauss actually did accuse Schmitt of being “still too liberal”, but what he meant by that is obscure to me.

Schmitt based much of his critique of liberalism in The Concept of the Political on Hobbes. Strauss argued in a famous review of that book that Schmitt’s critique was insufficiently radical as Hobbes was himself a liberal (indeed the founder of modern liberalism according to Strauss). Strauss suggested that a proper critique of liberalism had to go entirely beyond the horizon of liberalism and have its basis in pre-liberal political philosophy. Schmitt greatly admired Strauss’s review (indeed this exchange was the basis of their intellectual relationship; Strauss never studied with Schmitt).

13

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 1:41 pm

Goldberg’s primary audience is his editors and publishers, and he knows that very well. His secondary audience is people who aren’t payiong close attention. As long as he makes the editors happy and produces something that inattentive readers find plausible, he can make as many ungrounded and ludicrous claims as he wants. For example:

As for where Oshinsky does disagree with my thesis, it is so poorly supported and so unrelated to what I actually write, I’m still a bit flummoxed as to how to respond to it, save to thank the man for his kind words and hope some other liberal actually reads the book and offers a sustained argument against it. Honestly: I would actually like to read such a review.

This is silly. Oshinsky did make some serious criticisms in his ridiculously indulgent review, and Spencer Ackerman, for example, has dissected the book at length. But Goldberg’s editors are happy with him, and that’s all Jonah needs. He’s a made man, and a second-generation made man at that.

14

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 1:43 pm

Thomas Hobbes: too liberal for America.

15

Justin 01.02.08 at 1:53 pm

Epistemologists use the term “luminous” to describe a mental state such that if you’re in that mental state, you know that you’re in it. Pain would be one of the best candidates, I suppose. Sounds like Goldberg is assuming values must be luminous–if you really believed in justice, you’d know what the just thing to do was. And you’d do it.

I thought of this when you described that unnamed fallacy. Sadly, I didn’t come up with any way to make up a catchy name based on ‘luminosity.’ More evidence that philosophers are bad at naming their ideas (and luminosity is comparatively good).

16

stuart 01.02.08 at 1:55 pm

It seems to me one of the problems is that the term Fascism has moved with constant use (abuse?) to be a synonym with Authoritarianism, which it admitted shares a few key facets of, and is essentially a subtype of – but Fascism is a much more tightly defined concept, at least originally.

Of course the second problem after this is that while the major candidates for the current Democratic primaries are mostly mildly to moderately authoritarian, all of the major Republican candidates are moderately to strongly authoritarian with Ron Paul the exception being only mildly authoritarian (about the same as Clinton and Edwards roughly, although clearly in very different ways) and completely outside the norm for current Republicans.

Given this any attempt to broaden the definition of Fascism to include the Democratic candidates would have trouble avoiding capturing basically all current major contenders from all parties (without micromanaging the definition of Fascism in use to deliberately avoid doing so, which might be what has been done here).

This site used as a rough gauge of the leanings of the various candidates, and it backs up what I remember from some quote matching site where I was surprised how non-Authoritarian Clinton particular was given the popular media image of her.

17

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 2:05 pm

The site in 16 looks to me as though it pays too much attention to textual analysis of campaign rhetoric. Giuliani is running on a strongly authoritarian track record, which he can reference with code words and slogans without saying anything specific. Romney and Huckabee are playing catch-up and trying to hide their own less-authoritarian legacies. None of the others have administrative experience, though I would grant that Tancredo and Gingrich may be more authoritarian than Giuliani.

18

Ginger Yellow 01.02.08 at 2:08 pm

What explicit definition of ‘fascism’ is Goldberg operating with, if any? To judge from reviews, the author’s own comments, his ‘results’, he must be applying the term to any sort of ‘statist’ or ‘collectivist’ political rhetoric, policy proposal, or legislative act, especially such of these as entangle the state in coercive action on behalf of ‘communitarian’ values or ‘identity’ politics: values that subordinate the individual to the whole.

That’s more or less it. More precisely, he says that what makes liberalism fascism is that both are “totalitarian political religions” which take as a premise that all aspects of life are subject to state interference/control.

Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve that common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy.

Why this label applies more to liberalism, which for instance believes the state should not restrict reproductive freedom, than to conservative Christianity or national security rightism is a mystery. It is also a mystery why he thinks the pervasive use of violence and the preeminence of nationalism in fascist movements is irrelevant.

19

John Holbo 01.02.08 at 2:24 pm

Hey, thanks for the Spencer Ackerman link, John. I should do an update.

20

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 2:26 pm

Not mentioned so far, because everyone knows that it’s true, is that Goldberg’s book is not only very poorly argued and completely unconvincing, but is also purely and simply a smear — the nastiest that Goldberg can dream up, down to the Hitler mustache on the cover. The fact that this kind of smear attempt is regarded as routine and vaguely amusing tells us a lot about the success of the right wing’s colonization of almost all of the mass media.

The playground-taunt nature of Goldberg’s argument has also not been sufficiently noted: “I know what you are, but what am I? I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. Fascist! Fascist!”

21

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 2:26 pm

You’re still a Nazi, John. But I don’t mean that in a bad sense.

22

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 2:28 pm

I originally thought that the link in #6 was a parody. But no.

23

John Holbo 01.02.08 at 2:31 pm

“I know what you are, but what am I? I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. Fascist! Fascist!”

In fairness, Bérubé made fun of that specifically. And he even made it more rigorous by means of ‘infinity no backsies’. So that’s that.

24

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 01.02.08 at 2:32 pm

1: My wrist is getting tired.
… but is it as tired as Goldberg’s? It couldn’t be. He probably went through both wrists and got RSI in his thumbs and fingers finishing the book.

25

Phill Hallam-Baker 01.02.08 at 2:36 pm

Goldberg is a NAZI, a jackbooted, NAZI. Don’t call him a fascist as he has cheapened the term. He is a NAZI and uses the NAZI propaganda techniques for the NAZI purposes of justifying war and torture by demonizing opponents as un-human, beneath consideration.

The reason NAZIs got a bad name was not their ideology but their actions. In particular the deliberate murder of at least ten million people, between 5 and 6 million of which were Jewish but also including Gypsies, homosexuals and various political opponents. In addition to the deliberate murder the NAZIs caused a further 50 million deaths by starting World War II.

Hitler did not get a bad rap because of his position on common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, or because he was a vegetarian. It was the starting wars he couldn’t quite finish that really did him in. That and the torture, secret police and such. Oh and the genocide.

The ideological content of fascism was neither sophisticated nor particularly coherent. Like Goldberg, the Fuehrer’s grasp of philosophical treatises did not rise much above the level of what he read on the back of the cereal box in the morning. Its the Reader’s Digest version of Nietzsche at best. The Nationalist Socialist Party was named and its main platform laid out before Hitler showed up. In government Hitler simply ignored the platform, his sole concern was building the war machine. If he could have invaded Poland without changing the economic structures he would have.

Compare these actions to the policies of the principal US parties since WWII. Aggressive imperialist wars? That would be the Republican party which has waged neo-imperialist wars on the NAZI model under every Republican President. Eisenhower began the troubles in the middle east by authorizing operation Ajax which replaced the only Democratic government the region has ever seen with the dictatorship of the Shah. Nixon did not start the war in Vietnam but he spread it to Cambodia and launched the coup in Chile that condemned Latin America to the rule of the generals for decades.

It is under Bush and his be-jackbooted enablers such as Goldberg that the true NAZI character of the Republican party has emerged however. Support for torture and the politicization of every branch of government, including and especially the military has become routine.

It is no wonder that the likes of Goldberg and Joe Lebensraum (CT, Likud) just love the Bush Republican party. Its like a NAZI party that will finaly allow Jews to become members now that Arabs are the new Jews. OK so its only an associate membership but better to be inside the tent pissing on the rest of the world than being the one thats pissed on while Lynndie England takes photos.

Goldberg is merely an anglicized form of Goebbels.

These arguments are irrefutable: None of my critics have yet read my book “President Doofus is a NAZI (and other observations)”, in fact I have yet to write it. So you Republicans out there, shut your cake-holes. You can’t criticize what you can not read.

Goldberg and Lebensraum also have cooties.

26

Eric Scharf 01.02.08 at 2:39 pm

It would probably be a more profitable excercise to ignore Goldberg (and Oshinsky) altogether and make a good-faith update to our model of “What would American fascism look like?” Even serious arguments made in more detail and with more care than Goldberg’s often get mired in pedantic comparisons to this or that Nürnberg rally digression. I’m reminded of Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s postscript to his post here:

One of the besetting sins of American progressives is a tendency to wish for a more European politics, rather than buckling down to deal with the country we’ve got.

27

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 2:41 pm

Stalin, Roosevelt, and Hitler all responded to the Great Depression, both by trying to ameliorate its effects on individuals and by trying to jump-start the overall economy. The Austrian economists never forgave any of them. I think that that might be Goldberg’s seed “idea”. Creeping socialism, the road to serfdom, etc. If you accept Hayek’s argument, you can’t admit that after 50-75 years serfdom has not been achieved in (for example) England, the U.S., and Sweden. You must believe that the hapless peoples of these nations are, in fact, being crushed under the heel of the fascist octopus as we speak, and that the apocalypse has already happened and the seven-headed beast rules the world.

Reagan and Bush tried, but they failed. Even more heroic efforts are required. Giuliani! Giuliani! Giuliani!

28

roger 01.02.08 at 3:08 pm

I liked the CT policy of firm mockery re Liberal Fascism much better. Goldberg and his friends have to treat Goldberg’s fauxbook as a thing containing, like, arguments. But the CT instinct to see it as a platform for a buncha Producers jokes is sound and healthy. It would have spoiled the Producers if the plot twist required the audience to take the Hitler play as a controversial thesis on the Fuehrer – but that the play is a hit because of its unintentional humor is the brilliant twist that makes it work.
So: less references to reviews in the NYT, more hilarious quotes from the mouthbreather who actually penned the thing.

29

John Emerson 01.02.08 at 3:18 pm

I do harp on this, everywhere, but the mild NYT review is more evidence of the corruption of our media, including once-respected publications like the Times. Only evisceration or ridicule would have been an honest approach to Goldberg’s maliciously false book, but the Times is incapable of that. The Overton Window has been shifted far over, and the worst slanders against liberals are now routine.

Our glee at Goldberg’s humiliation should be tempered by the awareness that almost no one willing and able to say what’s wrong with Goldberg’s book will be allowed to do so in a major publication. You have Olbermann and Krugman, and after that it’s just the Nation and maybe The New Republic (if Peretz allows it).

30

lemuel pitkin 01.02.08 at 3:25 pm

The trouble is: with few exceptions, the Nazis had all our values – at least nominally.

Well, this is going too far. And I know you walk it back a paragraph or too later, but not back far enough. You’re at least flirting with bending the stick too far the anti-Goldberg way (yes, it’s possible.) If he wants to use every similarity in language or program, however strained, to argue that that liberals are really fascists, you come close to saying that language and program just don’t matter at all.

I rise to defend the thesis that the Nazis were horrible in large part because they believed horrible things. This — as often noted — in contrast to the USSR, where your didn’t practice/practiced horribly take fits better.

Fascists really believed in the inherent inequality of human beings and in the universal superiority of hierarchy over democracy or other forms of collective self-government, preferred war to peace, elevated the strong over the weak, etc. Their practice reflected their beliefs. And it’s not an inherently corrupt project to look for affinities with those beliefs among political movements today.

Benjamin said that even if there were great fascist poets, we couldn’t read them. But there weren’t any, and there’s a reason for that.

31

des von bladet 01.02.08 at 3:36 pm

#30: Dogmatic doggerel: from chopped liver to Ezra Pound. I’m almost looking forward to it; when is it out?

32

MzNicky 01.02.08 at 3:39 pm

Wait—Mussolini was an American liberal? Huh. I guess I was absent from history class that day.

33

Mrs Tilton 01.02.08 at 3:43 pm

Lemuel @30,

to use “poet” (and, perhaps, “fascist”) in a doubtless overbroad sense: what about Céline? Cela? Heinz Rühmann?

(OK, that last one was a joke, sort of. I know Rühmann wasn’t really a fascist despite earning his bread by entertaining them, and divorcing his Jewish wife in 1938. But Die Feuerzangenbowle — a film that epitomises all that can go horribly wrong in the German aesthetic — made its annual appearance on the Glotze last night, so I am feeling even more ill-disposed to him than usual.)

34

Alex Higgins 01.02.08 at 3:47 pm

John,

nice article, but I think you have been too courteous in your dissection of Goldberg’s case, which simply don’t merit any kind of respect given his monumnetal bad faith.

Just as his book came out on the connection between liberalism and fascism, Goldberg wrote this piece in the LA Times calling for Iraq to put under the control of an Iraqi Pinochet:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-goldberg14dec14,0,5277475.column?coll=la-opinion-center

The piece includes the standard apologetics for Chilean fascism, which Goldberg cleary approves of.

Or take this equally recent gem from the National Review Online where Goldberg posts a pro-war quote from Evelyn Waugh:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NTdhYjk1Yjk5Y2YzNjg4YWQyN2Q1MjM5NTFkNzk3ZTc=

The war Waugh is defending is the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. After this was pointed out, Goldberg added a little note to say he didn’t personally support Mussolini’s aggression, but liked the quote defending it.

This is the guy dissecting the politics of those actually opposed to fascism to claim that they are proto-fascists.

“Only evisceration or ridicule would have been an honest approach to Goldberg’s maliciously false book, but the Times is incapable of that. The Overton Window has been shifted far over, and the worst slanders against liberals are now routine.”

Exactly.

35

P O'Neill 01.02.08 at 3:48 pm

It’s too mean to note that Jonah has a blog ready to go for the book, which (given its lack of content, since he hasn’t publicised it yet) is symbolic of the book.

http://liberalfascism.nationalreview.com/

36

Ben Alpers 01.02.08 at 3:49 pm

Here in the former East Germany, Die Feuerzangenbowle was being screened repeatedly all over the place during the last several weeks. As a German holiday culture newbie, I got the sense that it has a similar status here to It’s a Wonderful Life back home. Not sure what this means…though perhaps Jonah Goldberg would conclude that it proves that Frank Capra was a Nazi.

37

lemuel pitkin 01.02.08 at 3:49 pm

31, 32- Well, the distinction would be between “great fascist poet” and “great poet drawn to fascism”, but that’s probably cutting things a bit fine. So, um, strike that last paragraph.

38

Ginger Yellow 01.02.08 at 3:53 pm

John Emerson, if you head over to Sadly, No! you’ll find the playground taunt nature of the book explicated in full and rebutted in like fashion with much detail and care.

39

Mrs Tilton 01.02.08 at 4:18 pm

Ben Alpers @35:

perhaps Jonah Goldberg would conclude that it proves that Frank Capra was a Nazi

Was that ever seriously in question, Ben?

Oh, and I should concede that Die Fzb. is also much loved by German university students, to be viewed well-lubricated. (So is The Blues Brothers Movie, for that matter, or at least it was back in my day.)

But you will never truly understand German holiday-season popkult until you have digested Dinner for One.

40

bob mcmanus 01.02.08 at 4:36 pm

Have Dave Neiwert’s books ever been reviewed at Crooked Timber? Just askin.

41

Ben Alpers 01.02.08 at 5:22 pm

Mrs Tilton @38:

Having missed Dinner for One on Silvester, I just caught it online courtesy of ndr (it’s up until January 5).

I suppose I am now more culturally literate. But I’m not entirely convinced that I understand the phenomenon.

42

Rickm 01.02.08 at 5:51 pm

Goldberg’s strategy to connect liberalism and fascism uses two tactics: denigrating liberalism, and apologizing for fascism. In doing the latter, Goldberg is a Holocaust denier.

Now, when I say that Jonah Goldberg is a Holocaust Denier, I am not saying that he denies that the Holocaust occurred. What I am saying is that Jonah Goldberg claims that one of the persecuted minorities, which serious historians agree the Nazis specifically targeted, were NOT targeted because of their status, namely homosexuals. This is the exact same tactic that the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving employs, except instead of denying that homosexuals were specifically targeted, he claims that denies that Jews were targeted by the Nazis.

I will let Goldberg speak for himself. He writes: “Nazi attitudes toward homosexuality are a source of confusion. While it is true that some homosexuals were sent to concentration camps it is also the case that the early Nazi Party and the constellation of Pan-German organizations in its orbit were rife with homosexuals…Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams write in The Pink Swastika that ‘the National Socialist revolution and the Nazi party were animated and dominated by militaristic homosexuals, pederasts, pornographers, and sadomasochists.'”

Here is what the US Holocaust Memorial Museum says about homosexuals and the Holocaust:
“The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the state asserted, carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. Denounced as “antisocial parasites” and as “enemies of the state,” more than 100,000 men were arrested under a broadly interpreted law against homosexuality. Approximately 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others-perhaps hundreds-were castrated under court order or coercion. Analyses of fragmentary records suggest that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings, and murder.”

That doesn’t seem ‘confusing’ to me. The Nazi’s hated homosexuals and viewed them as deviants. The Nazi’s hated Jews and viewed them as vermin. If anyone denies the latter, they are excised from public discourse. Yet Jonah has effectively denied the former. Why is Jonah getting a pass on this one?

43

lemuel pitkin 01.02.08 at 5:58 pm

39-

Much as I love Crooked Timber, it is certainly true that it engages exclusively (and I do mean exclusively) with writers of its own politics or to its right. It’s like one of those brain injuries you read about in Oliver Sacks: the left half of the field of vision is effectively excised from consciousness.

Taking — as a hopefully representative sample — the three “intellects” tags, the following people were debated here in 2007:

Brad DeLong
Alan Dershowitz
Ross Douthat (twice)
Kevin Drum
Jonah Goldberg (once or more, depending where you draw the line between mockery and debate)
Mark Levin of the National Review
Megan McArdle

Two centrists, five conservatives. The only possible exception is McLemee’s stuff on Avakian et al., but that makes even less of a pretense at engagement than the Goldberg posts.

A week doesn’t go by here without a link to The Atlantic or National Review. On the other hand, the archives show a grand total of five mentions of New Left Review over the blog’s whole history, the most recent in 2005. And Monthly Review seems to have been mentioned only once, in a 2004 post on Paul Sweezy’s death.

44

bob mcmanus 01.02.08 at 6:53 pm

41:1)I certainly wouldn’t characterize Neiwert as on or of “The Left” at least as far as I can determinehis personal politics.

2) I just thought that, fo instance, the list of disinguishing characteristics of fascism that Neiwert uses in his book could be useful to this discussion. Not that Dave is the only authority blah blah.

3) Knowing a little about some of the regulars’ political history…well I have about given up on understanding the liberal attitude toward whatever the Left is today. I know the true Leftblogs I read pay no attention to the liberal blogosphere either. Mutual despair and estrangement or something.

4) OTOH, I don’t understand the engagement of the liberal blogosphere with the Right. I am trying to watch a sporting event where one side is trying to play cricket while the other side is playing rugby. Needs a lot of beer.

45

nick s 01.02.08 at 6:58 pm

Cough up the $$$ for a copy and write a review, dammit.

With all due respect, bollocks to that. The market model for books like the Doughpus Magnum is to be given away for nothing with your tax-deductible donation to some wingnut foundation.

46

Randy Paul 01.02.08 at 7:04 pm

IIRC, Heil Myself was from “To Be or Not to Be,” the Ernst Lubitsch film.

47

Colin Danby 01.02.08 at 7:24 pm

I have a solution, Lemuel. We’ll get Brad D to make a separate RSS feed for his periodic leftward snarls, and you can kind of sprinkle that in with your CT reading.

48

lemuel pitkin 01.02.08 at 7:37 pm

45-

Well, I’d prefer an argument to a snarl. Altho as a matter of fact BdL probably does do a bit better than CT on this metric.

49

James Currin 01.02.08 at 7:47 pm

I do not wish to defend Franco. His reign of terror against his former enemies after the Republican collapse is sufficient to condemn him for all time. Nevertheless, he was not a Fascist in the strict sense of the term as it was used in Spain during the Civil War any more than the Anarchists were Communists. The Fascists were a more or less well defined part of the anti-republican coalition and Franco was not one of them.

50

Jim 01.02.08 at 7:52 pm

Speaking as a conservative, I thought you did a good job in your discussion of Goldbergs book. (Which I have not read yet either.)

But my impression is that he considers himself more of a classical liberal than a Burkean conservative, so you probably miss your mark in that respect.

“Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people.”

Of course conservatism also assumes that the polity is an organic entity, whatever about the “national leader” bit.

51

Jim 01.02.08 at 7:57 pm

“Fascists really believed in the inherent inequality of human beings and in the universal superiority of hierarchy over democracy or other forms of collective self-government”

So did liberals in the 1930’s. And, to some extent, today. Liberalisms obsession with ruling via the courts rather then the democratic process is one of its least appealing aspects.

52

Sk 01.02.08 at 8:20 pm

“Well, if he is willing to send me a free copy I will write a review no ruder than the book itself.”

What’s so rude about the book? I’m frankly uninterested in whether it is accurate (by that, I mean, I don’t intend to read it, don’t intend to take its argument seriously, and have no interest in the whole argument). But I am interested in your response to the book.

The status quo, unconsidered understanding of fascism is that fascism is right wing, or conservative, politics taken to an extreme.

I take it that Goldberg’s argument is that on the contrary, fascism is in fact left wing, or liberal, politics taken to an extreme.

He may be correct or incorrect about this argument. But I don’t understand why his argument is uniquely rude-in other words, both arguments-the subconscious status quo perception, and Goldberg’s overt contrarian position, are equally rude, aren’t they? (is there a ‘rudeness difference’ between ‘Left wingers are fascists’ and ‘Right wingers are fascists’?)

BusHitler. Cops are fascists. Soldiers are fascists. All of these statements/perceptions are common enough to be part of the cultural makeup of protest movements in our country (regardless of whether they are accurate or not, or whether you personally agree with them or not-they’re still here, part of our cultural conversation). Is what Goldberg doing any different? And if its not different (which I contend), then what’s the big deal? He may very well be wrong, but so are hippies, right?

Sk

53

Charlie (Colorado) 01.02.08 at 8:28 pm

Imagine how interesting this could have been if you had actually read the book first.

54

Sk 01.02.08 at 8:32 pm

Holbo hasn’t, why should I?

55

Uncle Kvetch 01.02.08 at 8:37 pm

No, sk. There is absolutely no difference between

(1) an editor-at-large at the National Review, nationally syndicated columnist with the Los Angeles Times, and frequent TV pundit, who publishes a book that is reviewed in the New York Times Book Review; and

(2) some hippie holding up a sign.

No difference. None whatsoever. And because there is no difference, that means that even if Goldberg is, in fact, full of shit, the hippie is even fuller of shittier.

You sure told us.

56

nobody 01.02.08 at 8:40 pm

So: all those references to Republicans as fascists were never meant seriously, since they can’t possibly actually mean anything. If anything, they were jokes! tragically misread by earnest literalists like those irony impaired idiots at the National Review.

It follows that any examination of which party or ideological pole might make a better fit for the label is obviously unnecessary — so much so that that any such examination is, obviously, in bad faith, and can therefore be safely ignored.

57

PHB 01.02.08 at 8:56 pm

SK @ 47

What is really quite interesting is the consistency with which views such as the one you advance here appear in any discussion of Goldberg’s book in a liberal forum. Almost like Goldberg himself had succumbed to the pathetic instinct to pimp his own screed anonymously.

As with the ‘response’ to the review, none of the posts I have seen ‘defending’ Goldberg actually deal with the substance of his argument, rather they attack liberals for being insulted at being compared to the perpetrators of the largest genocide in human history. Its the classic Rovian bitchslapp tactic: make an unsubstantiated accusation, then use the objections from the target to portray them as weak.

Since the start of WWII it has generally been considered that calling any person other than a member of an actual Fascist party in Italy, Spain or Germany is almost certainly a form of vulgar abuse. Certain military regimes in Latin America that actually lent support to NAZI fugitives may be fairly compared to fascism. But in general comparing the democratically elected leader in any country a ‘fascist’ is out of bounds (except of course in cases of electoral fraud).

In fact the defining theme of fascism might well be considered a rejection of all democratic and constitutional institutions. Neither Franco nor Mussolini committed genocide on a scale that came close to that of Hitler (both had plenty of blood on their hands). So if one takes fascism in the large it would be a loathing of elections and accountability to the governed rather than the genocide per se that was the defining characteristic of fascism. That and sharing a liking for military uniforms.

Let us see, how many Presidents have worn a military uniform in office? How many Presidents have shown such a complete disregard for the constitution to the point of petitioning the Supreme Court to prevent the counting of ballots and sacking Prosecutors for either bringing prosecutions of members of the ruling part or for failing to bring prosecutions against the other.

A rational argument can be made to the effect that Bush and his enablers have employed fascist techniques to gain and maintain power, that their policies of global hegemony and their indifference to the means used to secure it are essentially fascist in nature.

The reason that the Rovian GOP is investing so much effort in comparing Liberals to Fascists appears to me to be the self-knowledge that they must work to avoid a similar judgement being made on themselves by history.

Like Hilter, Bush has made the bizare strategic error of starting war on a second front before the first is finished. Like Hitler, Bush has surrounded himself by advisors chosen for their sycophancy rather than the quality of their advice. Like Hitler, Bush has displayed overt pleasure at the thought of others being tortured or executed. Like Hitler, Bush appears at best indifferent to the suffering caused by his policies.

Forget Johnah Goebbels’ book. It is a distraction. Instead consider the real truth that the GOP and the establishment media are seeking to hide: That Bush has attempted to exploit 9/11 to turn the US into a fascist state and that the establishment media has been more than happy to oblige.

58

Bloix 01.02.08 at 8:57 pm

Oshinsky holds an endowed chair at a major research university and is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize (twice) and also of prize-winning books on Joe McCarthy and on the Mississippi state penitentiary known as Parchman Farm.

Goldberg is the holder of an undistinguished BA in poli sci from an undistinguished college which he attended, he admits, because no other school he applied to would admit him (Goucher took him because it was just going co-ed and desperately needed male students).

In other words, in the pages of the NYT Book Review, on a highly technical subject that has been studied for decades by thousands of scholars in a dozen countries, one of the nation’s greatest living historians is debating a guy who couldn’t earn a place in an undergraduate seminar at the historian’s own university.

What the hell is going on here?

59

Watson Aname 01.02.08 at 9:02 pm

bloix: Welcome the the 21st century U.S. of A.

60

PHB 01.02.08 at 9:06 pm

#48

You read a book if there is serious reason to beleive that either its content or argument is being misrepresented. So far the author has passed up every opportunity to demonstrate that this is the case. He refuses to engage in debate on the substantive objections raised by reviewers, avoiding the argument by describing himself as unable to understand it.

Given that Mr Johnah Goebells is clearly so very confused it scarcely seems worth spending good time reading his book.

Imagine for the sake of argument that someone was criticising the central theme of Mein Kampf that Germany must wage war on Poland to establish Lebensraum.

‘Read the book’ would certainly be a valid response to someone who suggested that Mr Hitler was really a jolly nice chap and excellent leadership material for a major European power.

‘Read the book’ would not be a valid response to someone who objected to Mr Hitler’s characterization of Jews, Gypsies, etc. I don’t need to read Mein Kampf to understand Hitler’s game and I don’t need to read Johnah Geobells to understab his either.

61

PHB 01.02.08 at 9:09 pm

#52

Yes, and Oshinsky is the wrong person for this ‘debate’. He is an academic reviewing an intentionally deceptive polemic as if it was written with honest intent.

62

THR 01.02.08 at 9:12 pm

I would have thought that, contrary to sk’s rather shrill claims, the ‘status quo’ among many historians would be to distinguish clearly between garden-variety conservatism and fascism. In Italy and Germany, for instance, fascist parties were clearly distinct from the local conservative parties and their entourage of self-serving elites. One could also make the argument that in the 1920’s, fascist parties were competing with far-left parties for recruitment of an impoverished, shell-shocked, and militant constituent.
On the other hand, under Franco’s Spain, fascism is less clearly distinct from traditional conservatism (i.e. fascists were relatively friendly to Church and King). Also, Mussolini and Hitler were both abetted into power by deals with conservatives. I don’t think too many serious historians would conflate the conservatives with the fascists in Germany and Italy, but it is worth noting that the two groups formed provisional alliances in order to keep the communists at bay.

63

P O'Neill 01.02.08 at 9:13 pm

What the hell is going on here?

Sam Tanenhaus.

64

THR 01.02.08 at 9:13 pm

Point of the above, of course, is merely to suggest that there is no false and violently anti-conservative ‘status quo’ which needs a trashy ‘remedy’ like Goldberg’s.

65

engels 01.02.08 at 9:37 pm

There are many important differences between fascism and conservatism but the American Right, in many ways, has a lot more in common with the former than it does with the latter.

66

Colin Danby 01.02.08 at 9:43 pm

This blog needs to get tougher on hippies, and tougher on the causes of hippies.

67

Anderson 01.02.08 at 9:57 pm

However qualified Oshinsky is as a historian, what does he actually know about fascism?

It’s not like there’s a shortage of professors studying the subject — NYTBR couldn’t find one?

68

Rickm 01.02.08 at 10:11 pm

anderson-

While Oshinsky may not be an expert on fascism, I’m sure he has read Griffin, Payne, and Paxton, and is thus light years more educated on the subject than Goldberg.

69

nick s 01.02.08 at 10:46 pm

It’s not like there’s a shortage of professors studying the subject—NYTBR couldn’t find one?

If you haven’t put together the results to which P O’Neill linked, Sam Tanenhaus’s tenure at the NYTRB has been marked by his commissioning of hatchet jobs towards liberal books and soft-soap reviews of conservative books. Indeed, Professor Bérubé noted this phenomenon when his own book came up for review.

(And others have suggested that Oshinsky’s conclusion may have been clumsily edited, on account of its odd tone at the end, thus removing an attempt to damn Jonah with faint praise.)

Like John Emerson said, Jonah’s a made man. And the current narrative is depressingly predictable: when no liberal reviewer provides anything that he himself considers a good-faith response to his bad-faith book, he will declare victory. One only hopes that he’s booked onto the Colbert Report for its return from strike hiatus.

70

a very public sociologist 01.02.08 at 11:00 pm

I can’t help feeling this is all a rather cynical exercise. Given the amount of words devoted to Jonah Goldberg on this site alone, you have to take your hat off to what is a text book exercise in viral marketing.

71

Wells 01.02.08 at 11:00 pm

John,

You should actually read his book before posting a review of it. Otherwise, it’s like you’re interviewing your imaginary friend. You’re literally judging the book by its cover.

If you don’t want to waste $$$ or put money in Jonah’s pocket, then just go to that great statist institution, your local public library, and borrow it. Then come back and write an update that says, “having read it, it was worse than I thought.” and then say how. Or “it was pretty much what I expected.” Or even, “actually, the book isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Commenting on a book you haven’t read is amateurish.

72

Colin Danby 01.02.08 at 11:29 pm

Re #67 Oshinsky wrote a good book on Joe McCarthy, so he’s well positioned to understand the game Goldberg is playing.

Re various comments above, there’s a lot to be learned by studying the politics of the 1930s and what political entrepreneurs like Mussolini actually did; there’s a lot to be learned about ideas of the nation and government, and even about the politics of health and the body in these connections … possibly Goldberg really did absorb some Foucault in college! But seriously, the only way to make sense of that dog’s-breakfast definition of fascism quoted up top is as an effort to stitch back together the bogey-liberal developed in the 1980’s against which neo, theo, and fiscal conservatives could unite.

73

Martin Bento 01.02.08 at 11:38 pm

sk in # 52

Take the two accusations: a) The German nation executed millions of Jews during WW2 and b) The Thai nation executed millions of Jews during WW2. The first is part of the general beliefs of our culture; the second would be a novel thought. By your reasoning, the second would be no more objectionable than the first; the accusation, after all, is the same. The reason the second is outrageous, and the first is not is that truth matters, and we cannot make it not matter by simply declaring ourselves “uninterested in the debate, but only in the reactions to the accusation”

74

stuart 01.03.08 at 1:44 am

I always thought Umberto Eco’s formulation of Urfascism made a lot of sense. I remember going to that page on wikipedia after reading some of David Neiwert’s writings a year or two ago, and thinking that he was overblowing the similarities, so I went to find a random third party definition of the term and that was the first thing I came across.

Was fairly sobering, and if you can match that set of values up to anything like Liberalism I would be impressed – although this could be a transatlantic translation issue, after all in US politics it seems liberal can be used as a slur, which just seems bizarre to me. You could as well go up to someone and say ‘I hate you, you tolerant person!’ and wonder why everyone looked at you as if you were an idiot.

75

Kip Manley 01.03.08 at 2:20 am

Stuart, man, tolerance is intolerant of intolerance, and therefore fascist. —Christ, I still remember laughing at the popular STOP TORTURE buttons back in the late ’80s, when we still wore buttons. What a brave, principled political stand to so loudly espouse, we said to ourselves. I mean, really. Who the fuck is ever going to come out in support of torture?

76

jholbo 01.03.08 at 2:40 am

Jim: “Speaking as a conservative, I thought you did a good job in your discussion of Goldbergs book. (Which I have not read yet either.)

But my impression is that he considers himself more of a classical liberal than a Burkean conservative, so you probably miss your mark in that respect.”

I thought about addressing this one in the post but ended up leaving it out. It’s one thing to argue that Burkeanism, or ‘National Greatness’ conservatism or what have you, is not the very best brand of the stuff. It’s quite another to imply that it’s not conservatism at all, but a sort of liberal fascism.

Burke qualifies, under the terms of Goldberg’s definition, better than Hillary. Fascism implies liberalism and vice versa. Ergo, Edmund Burke, the great grandfather of modern conservative political philosophy, was a liberal fascist avant la lettre.

77

"Q" the Enchanter 01.03.08 at 4:06 am

“‘Heil Myself!’ (as Chaplin put it.)”

I think that was Mel Brooks:

Sobinski: Heil Hitler!
Dobish: Heil Hitler!
Bronski: Heil myself!

78

John Holbo 01.03.08 at 4:29 am

“Heil Myself” is also in a war-time Bugs Bunny cartoon, if memory serves. Hitler does the salute without looking up from his bunker solitaire game.

79

John Holbo 01.03.08 at 4:53 am

wells: “John,

You should actually read his book before posting a review of it. Otherwise, it’s like you’re interviewing your imaginary friend. You’re literally judging the book by its cover.”

Well, right back atchoo, you could have done me the courtesy of at least reading my post before commenting, wells. (It’s free, after all.) It certainly isn’t about the cover of the book, you are wrong to assume that. In the post I show neither Goldberg nor Ponnuru understood the NY Times review of Goldberg’s book. Which seemed interesting enough to mention. I also make an argument of the form: if by ‘fascism’ Goldberg means x, then because of consideration y, his thesis is nonsense. As it turns out, I was right. He does mean x. Read the post, wells. (I’m not sure what the name is for people who critique blogposts without reading. ‘Hyper-amateur’?)

80

"Q" the Enchanter 01.03.08 at 5:46 am

““Heil Myself” is also in a war-time Bugs Bunny cartoon”

Hmmm, interesting. And what’s the Chaplin citation?

(But don’t think for a minute that I’ve taken my eye of the big picture, viz., that fascism is essentially a left-wing phenomenon.)

81

ed 01.03.08 at 5:53 am

Liberalisms obsession with ruling via the courts rather then the democratic process is one of its least appealing aspects.

Indeed, many of us are still pissed off about the Florida Recount Judicial Bullshit.

I would argue that RightWingers’ obsession with bullshit talking points is one of their least appealing aspects. Well, that, and the cult of tradition, cult of action for action’s sake, disagreement as treason, fear of difference, bogus appeal to frustrated middle class, xenophobic obsession with a plot (i.e, “stabbed in the back”), obsession with permanent warfare, contempt for the weak, selective populism, and newspeak.

82

ed 01.03.08 at 5:55 am

Please forgive my egregious error. I wrote, “i.e., “stabbed in the back.” It should read, “e.g.,…”

83

cw 01.03.08 at 6:31 am

1. I think some of you are too hard on JG and others overestimate him. I think he his basically an OK guy, grew up in the conservative machine and is apprenticing in the family business. He had to write a book and so picked this topic. it is not, as far as I can tell, a coulterish rant, but instead a pretty juvinile and irrelevant “thesis” of the type a conservative undergraduate history student would write. I don’t think it is part of any kind of Orwellian plot on the part of conservtives. I agree that it is very surprising that the NY Times reviewed it.

2. About his thesis, I think he concentraits on all the political intellectual crap floating around at the begingings of fascism, the hazy theories that half existed in the minds of the progenetors in the 20’s and early 30s. But this was all Romeny-type politics. THis was all an appeal to the populace at a time when the fascist were weak and seeking power. To cite these vauge speechifications as the definiton of fascism is to define Hitler as cute and cuddly becasue he was once, when he was a baby. I think you have to define phenomena of fascism according to what it looked like when it was in power, when it was free to be itself. In it’s full flower, which as far as I can tell, JG ignors, Fasicm had as little to do with modern american liberaslism as baby Hitler had to do with big-swoopy-hat Hitler.

84

the Other Paul 01.03.08 at 8:00 am

58: Oshinsky is indeed an accomplished historian, but he’s only won one Pulitzer (for Polio.) I just thought I’d clear that up.

83: I think you’re being much too kind to Goldberg. As far as I can tell, his book is indeed a Coulterish rant, evidenced by its table of contents (http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/8193.html) and the bizarre saga of its multiple name changes. The book is an addleheaded smear job, pure and simple.

85

John Holbo 01.03.08 at 8:02 am

““Heil Myself” is also in a war-time Bugs Bunny cartoon”

Hmmm, interesting. And what’s the Chaplin citation?”

Maybe I’m misremembering or hallucinating. In “The Great Dictator”, maybe Hynckel himself says ‘Heil Hynckel’? (Not ‘Heil Myself.’?) I’ve always thought that the Brooks song was a Chaplin homage.

At any rate, Bugs Bunny, “Herr Meets Hare” (1945) appears to be the original for “Heil Me!” (not “Heil Myself”.)

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Ginger Yellow 01.03.08 at 12:47 pm

“He had to write a book and so picked this topic. it is not, as far as I can tell, a coulterish rant, but instead a pretty juvinile and irrelevant “thesis” of the type a conservative undergraduate history student would write. “

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Goldberg doesn’t have Coulter’s knack for over-the-top inflammatory one liners and he fancies himself as an intellectual, but pretty much everything he writes comes across as juvenile. I’ll agree there’s more of an effort to sustain an actual argument in Goldberg’s book than in Coulter’s books, but the aim of the respective projects is the same.

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Matt Weiner 01.03.08 at 2:35 pm

You should actually read his book before posting a review of it.

You know that saying “You don’t have to eat all of an egg to know it’s rotten”? You don’t actually have to eat any of an egg to know it’s rotten. You can smell it from far away.

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Jonathan H. Adler 01.03.08 at 4:37 pm

I’m confused by the claim that Burke would be a “liberal fascist.” This might be true of Burke, as channeled by Russell Kirk or some modern conservatives, but not Burke himself. He was, after all, a whig who supported the American Revolution, and (on his own account) and agreed with Adam Smith on every significant point.

I have not yet read Goldberg’s book, but if there are folks in the pantheon of NR influences who are close to his definition of fascism, I would think Russell Kirk (rather than Burke) would be at the top of the list, followed by some of the more hard-core anti-Communist types who were willing to subvert any value in order if necessary the Reds. It’s also potentially worth noting that NR senior editor Frank Meyer pointed out Kirk’s totalitarian tendency before Meyer even joined the magazine.

JHA

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david jimerson 01.03.08 at 5:00 pm

“You should actually read his book before posting a review of it.”

You know that saying “You don’t have to eat all of an egg to know it’s rotten”? You don’t actually have to eat any of an egg to know it’s rotten. You can smell it from far away.

That’s about as asinine an attempt at rationalizing an anti-intellectual position as I’ve heard in the last year.

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cw 01.03.08 at 5:03 pm

JG admitted in a raido interview that the book is an exercise in “I know you are but what am I.” He’s trying to create a defense for his team against the scratch-a-conservative-and-you’ll-find a-fascist attack by claiming fascism and modern american liberalism share the same intellectual roots. Proto american liberals were collectivist (whatever that really means) and believed improving citizens lives through a strong state. Fasicst said and did some things that sounded similar in their early days. But the relevancy of the connection between the two ideologies is trivial at best. It’s dumb. But it’s not anne coulter and I don’t think Goldberg has Rovian motives. See JG for who he is and see his book for who he is, and then it’s not such a big deal. It’s kind of funny really.

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Stuart 01.03.08 at 5:42 pm

John, isn’t the lesson of this contretemps simply that you can argue anything if you raise your concepts to a level of generality suitable for your argument?

I’m a lawyer, and I see this sort of exercise regularly done in arguments about the Constitution.

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Ray Davis 01.03.08 at 6:29 pm

“Heil myself” is one of the greatest gags from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be. Mel Brooks wisely kept it in the remake.

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Ginger Yellow 01.03.08 at 7:31 pm

“John, isn’t the lesson of this contretemps simply that you can argue anything if you raise your concepts to a level of generality suitable for your argument?”

Even on his own terms, however, Goldberg’s argument fails spectacularly. To take an example, his bizarre argument about the Nazis and homosexuals applies far more to the conservative movement than it does to liberals. To throw his own words back at him, while it is true that conservatives oppose equal rights for homosexuals, it is also the case that the Republican Party and the constellation of conservative organizations in its orbit are rife with homosexuals.

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Walt 01.03.08 at 8:29 pm

What I find interesting is that SK comments on this thread, rather than reading and reviewing my forthcoming opus from Regnery Press, “SK Rapes Little Boys”.

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mq 01.04.08 at 1:16 am

That’s about as asinine an attempt at rationalizing an anti-intellectual position as I’ve heard in the last year.

To take you seriously for a moment, there is more than enough free material available on the net to allow a judgement on how very bad this book is. Do you have to buy and read every single book you see in the bookstore before deciding that it’s a waste of your time?

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Matt Weiner 01.04.08 at 4:20 am

That’s about as asinine an attempt at rationalizing an anti-intellectual position as I’ve heard in the last year.

Woo! I am the winner!

No, seriously, what mq said. And did you check the link? Citing unreliable bigot lunatics in the service of a Very Serious Argument for a thesis that’s ridiculous on its face — that’s really a very reliable sign that a book is worthless.

(And yes, that means I did read a little bit of the book, the bits posted at Sadly, No! Still, I maintain that you can have extremely good evidence that a book sucks without having read any of it. For instance, I haven’t read any of The Pink Swastika or the work of David Irving, but the descriptions I’ve read of them are enough to discredit them. I wrote a dissertation about how you can gain evidence from what other people say about things you haven’t directly experienced, so this isn’t just an anti-intellectual position.)

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Sk 01.04.08 at 12:41 pm

“What I find interesting is that SK comments on this thread, rather than reading and reviewing my forthcoming opus from Regnery Press, “SK Rapes Little Boys”.”

John H- Do you consider this acceptable dialogue on your website?

Sk

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John Emerson 01.04.08 at 5:19 pm

As I understand, the boys that SK may or may not have raped weren’t exactly “small”. They were very big for their age and could have been mistaken for 14-year-olds, maybe 15-year-olds.

Holbo is still a Nazi, though.

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Sk 01.04.08 at 6:15 pm

How do people on this website define ‘rude’?

Sk

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Ginger Yellow 01.04.08 at 7:08 pm

Jesus, SK. The point is that you wouldn’t have to read walt’s book, let alone in it entirety, to know that it’s bullshit.

As to your original point: no, Goldberg does not say that fascism is liberalism taken to the extreme. He says that liberalism, or at least “progressivism” is inherently fascist.

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Hume's Ghost 01.04.08 at 8:58 pm

Has anyone bothered to point out to Goldberg that his pal Michael Ledeen wrote a hagiography of a fascist?

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Hume's Ghost 01.04.08 at 9:01 pm

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dadanarchist 01.04.08 at 9:37 pm

Let’s be realistic here, it was not a serious or in-depth review, more what back in the day would have been called a “notice” – goes through the content and argument of the book, some praise, some criticism – much like most of the reviews in the NY Times Sunday Book Review.

Besides, I thought that Oshinsky was being ironic. His whole tone seemed to me slightly bemused and if you were being more cynical, academically contemptuous of Goldberg’s book. I’m sure if we could have seen him winking and nodding in print, well, Goldberg wouldn’t be so happy with himself.

As it is, Goldberg seems to be grasping at straws in clinging to this review. I wonder if the New York Review of Books will run a review of the book or if, correctly, they assume the book is below their threshold, and not worth responding to.

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