Jonah Goldberg – Proud Citizen of Bizarro World

The far Right web site Town Hall has a review of Jonah Goldberg’s book, Fascism’s Legacy: Liberalism By Daniel Pipes Tuesday, January 8, 2008

To sum up a near-century of history, if the American political system traditionally encouraged the pursuit of happiness, “more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered.”

Second, Goldberg dissects American liberal programs – racial, economic, environmental, even the “cult of the organic” – and shows their affinities to those of Mussolini and Hitler.

If this summary sounds mind-numbingly implausible, read Liberal Fascism in full for its colorful quotes and convincing documentation. The author, hitherto known as a smart, sharp-elbowed polemicist, has proven himself a major political thinker.

The only thing that Pipes gets right is that Goldberg has been and still is nothing, but a polemicist and if Jonah actually believes the tripe he writes a stupid one at that. Jonah Goldberg’s Bizarro History

The title alone is enough to indicate its thoroughgoing incoherence: of all the things we know about fascism and the traits that comprise it, one of the few things that historians will readily agree upon is its overwhelming antiliberalism. One might as well write about anti-Semitic neoconservatism, or Ptolemaic quantum theory, or strength in ignorance. Goldberg isn’t content to simply create an oxymoron; this entire enterprise, in fact, is classic Newspeak.

Indeed, Goldberg even makes some use of Orwell, noting that the author of 1984 once dismissed the misuse of “fascism” as meaning “something not desirable.” Of course, Orwell was railing against the loss of the word’s meaning, while Goldberg, conversely, revels in it — he refers to Orwell’s critique as his “definition of fascism.”

And then Goldberg proceeds to define everything that he himself considers undesirable as “fascist.” This is just about everything even remotely and vaguely thought of as “liberal”: vegetarianism, Social Security, multiculturalism, the “war on poverty,” “the politics of meaning.” The figures he labels as fascist range from Woodrow Wilson and FDR to LBJ and Hillary Clinton. Goldberg’s primary achievement is to rob the word of all meaning — Newspeak incarnate.

The term “fascism” certainly is overused and abused. The public understanding of it is fuzzy at best, and academics struggle to agree on a definition, as Goldberg observes — and he makes use of that confusion to ramble on for pages talking about the disagreements without ever providing readers a clear definition of fascism beyond Orwell’s quip.

Along the way, he grotesquely misrepresents the state of academia regarding the study of fascism, which, while widely varying in many regards, has seen a broad consensus develop regarding certain ineluctable traits that are uniquely and definitively fascist: its populism and ultranationalism, its anti-intellectualism, its carefully groomed culture of violence, its insistence that it represents the true national identity, its treatment of dissent as treason, and what Oxford Brookes scholar Roger Griffin calls its “palingenesis” — that is, its core myth of a phoenix-like rebirth of the national identity in the mold of a nonexistent Golden Age. And, of course, it has historically always been vigorously — no, viciously — antiliberal. (emphasis mine)

David Neiwert is an expert on the history of the Right and also writes for the blog Orcinus. The essay at Prospect suggests that David will be writing some more about Goldlberg’s bizarre assretions. As silly as Goldberg’s propositions may be many will take them seriously and they are nothing new. Take for instances Goldberg’s blatant disdain of historical fact in the way he uses the name of Hitler’s party to suggest that Hitler’s ideology should be assigned to the left of center because of the name, The National Socialist German Workers Party, (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei . You see it has the word socialist in it thus Hitler was left of center ( its still not uncommon to see a Conservative call Social Security socialist because it has the word social in it – thus one must assume that social gatherings such as birthday parties are all socialist).. Furthermore anyone left of center up to and including the man who kicked Hitler’s ass Franklin Roosevelt was a socialist. Hitler actually thought the name of the party should have been changed at one point to the “Social Revolutionary Party”, but Rudolf Jung persuaded him to keep the old name. The reason was that at least in the beginning the NSDAP expressed concern for the rights of workers and the common man. With the rise of Hitler’s influence the party swiftly transformed its real political ideologically to one that concentrated on two things, ultra nationalism (a trait that still defines the extreme Right like Jonah and Pipes) and antisemitism. Though Hitler soon made other groups scapegoats and the subject of eliminationism rhetoric including Slavs, the disabled, intellectuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, labor unions, college professors and last but not least communists. Hitler made many claims to the effect that he was pro working class, but what politician in their manipulations haven’t made that same appeal even as they, like George Bush, has done everything they could to undermine and stripe away the rights of the working class. The following are some quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf,

* Sooner will a camel pass through a needle’s eye than a great man be ‘discovered’ by an election.

* Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.

* Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.

I see the antithesis of liberalism here, but unlike Jonah I am not able to strangle rationalism to death to make a point. I’m sure Jonah and Bush supporters will find the comparison unfair, but there is an underlying contempt for liberal democracy in both Hitler’s infamous “Enabling Act” which granted him both nearly unlimited executive and legislative power and Bush’s claims to unlimited executive power. Bush has claimed the right, fabricated out of thin air to have a unitary presidency, to use signing statements as a legal maneuver to claim the right to ignore laws passed by a co-equal branch of government and to ignore Congressional subpoenas used to investigate presidential wrong doing. In operating the presidency in such a manner Bush has not sunk to the level of Hitler, but has moved toward what some have called soft fascism.

Why is modern Conservatism that has expanded the size and scope of government whenever they’ve had the power to do so thought of as having fascist leanings. Maybe because of connections to groups like the racist nationalist  Council of Conservative Citizens have views and goals that embody fascist thinking. If liberalism is fascism why don’t Democrats like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama belong to the CCC, yet well known Conservatives like Trent Lott are honorary members. Republicans such as Haley Barbour, Gary Jackson, Dean Kirby, Guy Hunt of Alabama and Kirk Fordice have either spoken at group meetings or contributed writings to CCC publications.

Conservatism as it is actually practiced in America, ignoring the absurd assertions that a movement that generally has marched in amazing lock step the last forty years stands for individualism, believes that ordinary citizens cannot and should not be trusted with running society. Society and its government must be ruled if not with an iron Hitler like fist, then an imperial arrogant leadership that gives nothing more then lip service to classical American values such as liberty and equal justice. They believe that power is best left to the powerful who will act in what they believe are the common man’s best interests, not their actual best interests – Hitler and the Nazis started out using concerns for common working people as their front. Doublespeak that gives rhetorical nodes to values, family, business and personal freedom are just that when it comes from Bush or Jonah. In many ways Goldberg has embraced and is all too eager to promulgate the core attitudes that have been a hallmark of the Right from Hitler to Bush, but also from the doublespeak masters on the extreme left such as Stalin. Central is these extremes on the political spectrum are extreme nationalism (post Eisenhower nationalism combined with militarism has been a defining characteristic of Conservatism), contempt for human rights ( torture is just like a college prank) , lots of scapegoating (could the Limbaughs, Malkins or Coulters even speak if they had to stop scapegoating), controlling or at least gaming the media, national security used as a device to scare people out of proportion to the threat from the ominous all powerful them, the suppression of the power of labor and a judicial system packed with ideological cronies whose decisions are guaranteed through a careful vetting of their ideologies. If we assume that Goldberg is sincere and this book is his bid to become one of the stars of the intellectual Right ( an oxymoron I know) then maybe its just the Right’s usual problem, they keep projecting their extraordinary record of bad behavior on liberals because as we all know accountability and personal responsibility are virtues they continually hold in contempt.

Dahlia Lithwick, in what has become an annual tradition lists The Bush administration’s dumbest legal arguments of the year. Not to Goldberg or Town Hall of course, but to normal Americans they denote totalitarian leanings.

3. Alberto Gonzales.

I am forced to put the former attorney general into his own category only because were I to attempt to round up his best legal whoppers of the calendar year, it would overwhelm the rest of the list. As Paul Kiel over at Talking Points Memo so aptly put it earlier this year, Gonzales was and is clearly “the lying-est attorney general in recent history.” Kiel went on to catalog Gonzales’ six most egregious legal lies of the year, but I’ll focus here on just two. First, his claim at a March press conference that he “was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on” with respect to the U.S. attorney firings. This was debunked shortly thereafter when Kyle Sampson testified that Gonzales was frequently updated throughout the process. Second, his April testimony that he had not “talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven’t wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations,” which was promptly contradicted by Monica Goodling’s testimony about his efforts to coordinate his version of the story with hers.

2. State secrets.

Again, it’s virtually impossible to cite the single most egregious assertion by the Bush administration of the state-secrets privilege, because there are so many to choose from. This doctrine once barred the introduction into court of specific evidence that might compromise national security, but in the hands of the Bush administration, it has ballooned into a doctrine of blanket immunity for any conduct the administration wishes to hide. The privilege was invoked in 2007 to block testimony about its torture and extraordinary rendition program, its warrantless surveillance program, and to defend the notion of telecom immunity for colluding in government eavesdropping, among other things. No longer an evidentiary rule, the state-secrets privilege has become one of the administration’s surest mechanisms for shielding its most egregious activities.