by: Amanda Busse, January 16, 2008
Conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg is tired of being called a fascist. In his latest book, Liberal Fascism, he fights back against the term that those on the right are often saddled with, reminding readers that the original fascists leaned more toward the left.
Goldberg, the editor-at-large for National Review Online, argues in his book that fascism under Benito Mussolini and Nazism under Adolf Hitler came from the same intellectual source as Progressivism, the birth-mother of American liberalism. The term �liberal fascism� comes from a speech made by author H. G. Wells when he told a group of Young Liberals at Oxford that Progressives must become �liberal fascists� and �enlightened Nazis.�
�I�m not saying today�s liberals are Hitler�s cousins,� Goldberg said at his first discussion of the book held at the Heritage Foundation. �They�re more like his grand-niece once removed.�
The author claims the point of the book is to give an accurate definition and history of fascism, a word which he asserts is commonly misused.
�Many modern liberals and leftists act as if they know exactly what fascism is. What�s more, they see it everywhere�except when they look in the mirror,� Goldberg�s book reads. �Indeed, the left wields the term like a cudgel to beat opponents from the square like seditious pamphleteers.�
The side of fascism he attributes to American liberalism is not that associated with the works of George Orwell or the racism and genocide of the Holocaust. It is much less brutal, �smiley-face fascism,� as he puts it. He asserts that liberals hold political principles which are similar to those found in many fascist regimes. They have a desire to form a powerful state which coordinates a society where everybody belongs and everyone is taken care of; where there is faith in the perfectibility of people and the authority of experts; and where everything is political, including health and well-being. Apparently, the Nazis were strong promoters of organic foods and animal rights, fought against large department stores, and promoted antismoking and public health drives.
�The Nazi war on smoking would make Michael Bloomberg�s heart jump,� Goldberg jokingly said.
According to Goldberg, fascism has a long history in American politics, spanning back to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Goldberg even finds fascist tendencies within the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton as each tried to create an �all-caring, all-powerful, all-encompassing� state. His book traces more recent signs of fascist ideology in the economic ideas of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore.
So how did fascism become associated with the political right? Goldberg claims this stems from the propaganda surrounding Marxism. In the 1920s, fascist ideas were popular among the American left as many saw Italian Fascism as a �worthwhile experiment.� The German version that emerged in the 1930s had considerably less appeal.
�The American left essentially picked a different team�the Red team,� Goldberg writes, �and as such swore fealty to communist talking points about fascism.�
At the same time, Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, found it beneficial to label all ideas which he did not agree with as fascist; this included socialists who were disloyal to Moscow and, of course, the political right. Those loyal to his social doctrine also began to see communism and fascism on opposite ends when, as Goldberg asserts, both are in fact socialist in nature.
Goldberg asserts that Liberal Fascism is different from fascism of the past because today�s left are pacifists rather than militarists; their plan is to nanny, not to bully. Still, he warns that this method can be just as politically hazardous.
�Simply because the nanny state wants to hug you doesn�t mean it�s not tyrannical when you don�t want to be hugged,� Goldberg concluded...�