Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 4, 2008

Michael Tomasky’s Critique of Liberal Fascism

Filed under: books, culture, politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:28 am

Michael Tomasky has posted a review of Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.” I would like to publicly thank Tomasky for his efforts, since I certainly wasn’t going to read the book. Some might find such a stance close-minded, I consider it an issue of basic pragmatism. I don’t like spending my limited free time reading every bit of intellectually dishonest garbage that is put out. Jon Stewart had an interview with Jonah Goldberg on The Daily Show. I posted the this comment at reddit in the wake of watching the interview. A slightly shorter  and modified version is given below.

There are a couple tells in the interview that should tell you the book is horrible. One of which is the author’s reluctance to answer questions on his claims (read the book! Did you read the book? I don’t think you read the book!). One can compare and contrast Goldberg’s performance against Neil Shubin’s on the Colbert Report.

Goldberg is playing fuzzy definition games. It is clear what Goldberg really wants to argue is collectivism is bad, Hitler-bad, literally. Not all forms of collectivism however, just some select instances that modern “liberals” or “progressives” embrace, such as unions, environmentalism, socialized medicine, etc. As Stewart repeatedly points out, one can only accept the premise by ignoring all the differences. One of the most fundamental and glaring being the view of the individual’s role in society. Fascism places the state over individual regard. Modern liberalism/progressivism tries to empower the individual. There are some apparent contradictions because modern liberalism tries to provide a floor on the minimum welfare of any individual in the society. It comes from the sensibility that a person who is desperate is not truly free. The institution that modern liberals frequently call upon to provide this floor is the government.

Goldberg’s analysis goes no deeper than Fascism is for state power and modern liberals want to use state to provide for people’s minimum welfare.

Goldberg will make other arguments like Hitler was vegetarian, so vegetarianism is a fascist ideology.

Believing that there is any significant correspondence between the modern realization of these movements and fascism is at the bleeding edge of wing-nuttery, equivalent to calling modern atheism a religion.

Tomasky provides evidence that I was in fact correct in my predictions.

Here is where Liberal Fascism gets simply ridiculous. For Goldberg, the fact that Progressivism and totalitarianism shared certain traits – a belief in the possibility of collective action through the state, basically – tells him all he needs to know about both creeds. Ipso facto, any totalitarian impulse must therefore have leftish origins. Never mind that there actually was a totalitarianism for which the left was responsible – the one called communism. Goldberg is after more arcane understandings.

What really cements Goldberg in the hall of wing-nuttery is the same slippery slope argument that defines other forms of paranoid delusion of the right wing of the country that Tomasky nails expertly.

Is Social Security a fascist programme? Goldberg implies as much, partly because Roosevelt felt moved to push for the programme owing to pressure from his (admittedly) quasi-fascistic left in the persons of Huey Long and Father Coughlin, and partly because Social Security is, after all, administered by the state. And once you start implementing public pension systems, well, how far away can the execution of political opponents really be?

Probably the most distinctive quality of Goldberg’s argument is not what he considers fascism, but rather what actions can the state pursue that aren’t fascist?  Goldberg’s technique is to have an overly broad definition of fascism and then point out all the aspects of the left that resemble it.  The central flaw is the standard is inconsistently applied and contradicting evidence is not regarded.

At the end of the day, I really have to question how many copies of “Liberal Fascism” and their ilk are actually read and internalized.  As if the mere fact that someone spent three years writing a book with more than 400 pages about how every aspect of the “nanny-state” comes from a fascist ideology makes it true. I could only imagine the majority of readers would be bored out of their mind after the first 200-300 pages, much like Tomasky was.   Complicating matters, these readers would have to have a particular twisted world-view in order for Goldberg’s book to be overly enthralling.  At the end of the day, I imagine the book is more of a status symbol, just something  conservatives use to piss-off those self-righteous, tree-hugging, Prius-driving liberals who think they are oh-so-smart.  In that respect, it is useful regardless of whether it is read or not.  In fact, for that purpose it is probably better that the book is snooze-inducingly boring.


1 Comment »

  1. […] into law restrictions on these rights. Enough said. Michael Tomaskys Critique of Liberal Fascism Michael Tomaskys Critique of Liberal Fascism Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind These fit the right more than the left. George W Bush and the 14 points of fascism – Project for […]

    Pingback by The Brownshirts Among Us - Page 4 - US Message Board — October 25, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

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