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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Liberal Genealogy

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Jonah Goldberg is in big trouble. Who is Goldberg? He’s a nationally syndicated columnist and a National Review contributing editor who has just published his first book. That’s why he’s in trouble. The book is called Liberal Fascism, The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Prior to publication (and before anyone had read it) the book was given scathing reviews on which was hacked, replacing Goldberg’s picture with one of him with a Hitler moustache. Since publication, it has frequently been placed behind other books in unrelated sections of the bookstore and on more than one occasion people who purchased it were scolded by bookstore staff for doing so. Despite this it has reached #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.

Here’s why the book has caused such controversy: Conservatives are so frequently referred to as fascists by liberals that we sometimes think it must be our middle name. Google the word Bush and Hitler and you get over 800,000 pages where they appear together. Goldberg wondered about the reason for this. He couldn’t think of any policies that conservatives held that seemed even vaguely Nazi-like. So he started researching. Liberal Fascism was the result.

The book presents the history of fascism from its roots in the Jacobins of the French revolution through the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson to the rise of Mussolini and Hitler to the countercultural 60’s to the current Politics of Meaning so beloved by Hillary Clinton. This is not the history the Left wants you to know. According to the prevailing interpretation as presented in the media and academia fascism is a Right-wing phenomenon. It isn’t. Like communism, and socialism, its ideological cousins, fascism is another “ism” of the Left. And Goldberg has the goods to prove it.

When liberals make their frequent claims that various actions of the Bush Administration are historically unique acts of fascism they are either being ignorant or dishonest because nothing that Bush has done can even come close to the actions of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, among whose fans was Benito Mussolini, instituted a propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) which among its activities hired 100,000 men to spread out over the country to restaurants, theaters, street corners etc. to spread the Administration’s gospel. He passed the Sedition Act, which makes the Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights in comparison as it banned “uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States government or military.” Magazines and newspapers were regularly subjected to government censorship, the radical magazine, Masses not being allowed to be distributed due to offenses such as publishing an “anti-American” cartoon. The American Protective League, created by the Justice Department employed at its greatest strength over 250,000 Americans to spy on their neighbors and often act as muscle to physically crack down on “seditious street oratory”.

Liberal icon, FDR was an enthusiastic member of Wilson’s administration and populated his own administration with many other like-minded Wilsonians. Mussolini was an early supporter of Roosevelt’s, seeing many similarities between their policies, once admiringly stating that “America has a dictator” referring to Roosevelt.

Fascists and progressives (the name by which liberals were known until the middle of FDR’s years in office) did (and still do) in fact have much in common; the raising of the State to quasi-religious status and the corollary need to diminish religion’s place in the public square; the use of the tactic of making each issue a “crisis” requiring military-style mobilization, (Think War on Poverty or the need to Save The Earth.) including the need for mass communal action. They also both see the need for the virtual ideological take-over of the universities and believe that the “old ways” are corrupt and outmoded. They believe in “new ideas”, “new ways of doing things” and a “new politics of meaning”. They frequently agitate for “change”.

One of the interesting aspects of fascism is that unlike communism which has always held itself out as being universal, fascism often adapts itself to the culture of the country in which it has taken root. This explains Germany’s and the Nazi’s anti-Semitism while Italy’s fascists weren’t anti-Semitic at all. Mussolini frequently tried to protect Jews until he started taking his orders from the Germans.

There are many reasons that fascism has come to be known as a Rightist phenomenon but virtually none of them have anything to do with any philosophical kinship or policy similarities. There were no small-government Nazis. The philosophical heritage of the Right comes to it from Edmund Burke, James Madison and the Federalists. Their pedigree has no connection with fascism. Liberalism’s does.

Goldberg has written a book that is being and will continue to be vilified by those who refuse to read it. But to those who do much of what they hear in current public discourse will sound uncomfortably familiar. The United States is highly unlikely to evolve into a Nazi-like fascism. It isn’t within the American character. If it comes at all it may come the way comedian George Carlin (of all people) says, as quoted in Liberal Fascism, not in “jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley-shirts. Smiley-smiley.” And it won’t be Right-wing at all.

Cross linked at Liberty Pundit

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