24 January 2008

All you fascists

Jonah Goldberg is an editor at National Review, the bastion of highbrow American conservatism, and as such is what passes for an intellectual on the right these days. He is the son of right-wing publisher Lucianne Goldberg, proving, along with the Kristols, Podhoretzes, Buckleys, Bozells, and Bellows that intellectual conservatism is remarkably hereditary.

If you follow my "On the Beat" widget, you know that Goldberg recently wrote a book called Liberal Fascism, a laborious effort to revise the history of fascism by placing it as the sole property of the political left. Goldberg infamously claimed his argument "has never been made with such detail or with such care" which is rather self-evident, since no one's ever made that argument at all. That detailed, careful argument is essentially a drawn-out recreation of the old gotcha game that places the Nazis on the left because they had "socialist" in the party name. (One wonders if Goldberg also believes North Korea is "democratic.")

I'm not going to waste my limited patience for reading on Jonah's 50o-page whale of idiocy, and I don't imagine you are either. (Thanks to the Oprah-like power of the Mel-Anon Book Club, Jonah's tome will now disappear forever from bestseller lists). If you must have a little taste of the blubber, Sadly, No has many excerpts from a leaked copy last month, including the instant classic "the white male is the Jew of liberal fascism." (Goldberg, unluckily, hits the trifecta.) Crooked Timber and Orcinus have steamrolled what little there is of a substantive political argument between its pages.

I do have a couple of minor observations to make. It's ironic that Goldberg's apparent definition of fascism effectively mirrors that of the '60s New Left which helped drive the term into meaninglessness; which is, as a shorthand for any authority forcing me to do something unwanted ("I have to tuck my shirt in; this job is so fascist!") This may still be a colloquial misuse of the term, but Goldberg apparently mistakes if for a scholarly opinion Goldberg does want to apply the clause "with my money" to the above definition, which is apparently a modern libertarian trope.

Goldberg goes to great pain to reassure you that he is not calling liberals Nazis. Liberals don't want to gas Jews and homosexuals or invade inferior Slavic countries, they only want universal healthcare and sustainable organic farming, just like the Nazis did. In other words, they are like fascists in all the ways except those that actually make fascists dangerous. So why is "liberal fascism" such a severe revelation? Because they're still FASCISTS!! BLAAAGGGH! FASCIST FASCIST FASCIST!!

Of course, if liberals and leftists have degraded the term fascism by applying it carelessly to conservatives, the right has returned the favor by smearing liberals as crypto-Communists. They may want to get their story straight. A synthesis of fascism and Communism may prove beyond the capability of even Goldberg's revisionist pen. But perhaps this provides an opportunity to have some fun of our own.