Varmint's Reviews > Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
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Jan 19, 2008

it was amazing

In a way, it reminded me of a book on dog psychology i'd read a few years back. So many behaviors made sense when when you realize that there's still a good bit of wolf hardwired in.

Much of liberalism confused the hell out of me. From F.D.R.'s internment of the japanese, to enviromentalist terrorism, to Sean Penn's almost sexual attraction to Hugo Chavez. It only starts to make sense when you understand the fascist impulse at it's core.

A century ago there was one united progressive movement. Lenin and Mussolini enjoyed the bohemian culture of Switzerland. And openly admired each other's work. But by the 20's, their success had created a crisis. Many socialists chose to throw their loyalty and support behind the Soviet Union. Those that wanted to work for socialism independent of Stalin's guidance were denounced as "right wingers". The failures of everyone from Mussolini to Trotsky were suddenly blamed on conservatives.

Goldberg does an excellent job of correcting this slander. He documents the desire to manipulate, and censor, the contempt for individualism, the racism. And above all, the lust for control that is at the heart of the progressive ideology.

Today's liberal has been downbred from the fascist. As different as the timberwolf and the chihuahua. But still not something you'd want to give power to.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
January 19, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Well, of course, I haven't read the book, so this isn't entirely fair, but my take on this would be that all of us, as humans, have within us an impulse toward controlling others, and have the ability to dehumanize those whom we want to control, and I'm not at all sure that impulse aligns itself more with one political philosophy than another. In more recent times, it seems that the desire to look down on others and force others to agree has been more the territory of political conservatives, which is why things like eco-terrorism stand out, because they're anomalous. But certainly, the willingness to subjugate others in the name of changing the world for the better has been present in many societies over many eras.

message 2: by David (last edited Feb 23, 2008 05:41PM) (new)

David I was struck by the following sentences, appearing in the publisher's blurb for the book:

The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots.

I don't know if this particular rhetorical strategy has a formal name, but it does strike me as transparently sleazy. Roughly speaking, it breaks down as:
Step 1. Smear using guilt-by-association (make your opponent look extreme)
Step 2. Deny the smear. (make yourself seem reasonable)
Step 3. Repeat the smear.

Damn those genocidal vegans!! Clearly they are responsible for most of the world's problems

message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark I think this falls under the "except that" branch of epistemology.

It is hard to deny that progressives favor animal rights and organic farming EXCEPT THAT they aren't trying to kill every Jew, Gypsy, Catholic, gay and malcontent in sight, and they aren't attempting world domination. Thank you.

Varmint david,
one of the most striking traits common to all wannabe totalitarians is their ability to make smug/damning judgements about books they haven't read.

if you had copy handy, i would just say, go to pages 73, 191, 340, etc. but that aint gonna happen.

one of the main problems is the way definitions change. remember that ten years ago "red state" meant north korea. now it means bible belt kansas. you can imagine the problem compounded over a century. goldberg tries to get around this problem by following individuals like margaret sanger. she was the founder of planned parenthood. and arguably the most racist woman who ever lived. she went from progressive, to socialist, to fascist, to liberal. all without actually changing her views. but she was never on the right.

the book argues that there is a flaw in the standard "left-right" chart we all keep in our heads. he doesn't really have a new model. but wants people to re-examine every issue before throwing wild charges of "nazi" around.

and i think you've already conceeded the main point of the book. fascism is not the exclusive problem of what we now call the right. imposing your values on others is fun. the modern conservative/libertarian/clasical liberal, again problems with definitions, fight for a reduced, less powerful government. a government that can do less for it's citizens. but also do less to them. this is the inherantly anti-fascist stand.

message 5: by Mark (new)

Mark Varmint: Again, I apologize for not having read the book, so these comments aren't related to that at all. My only cavil with your conclusion is that I think in many ways, civic life is too complicated to be reduced to any pat formula, whether it's liberal/conservative or communitarian/libertarian. I can find dozens of examples where government activity is intrusive, thick-head and downright injurious; but I can also think of many examples where government intervention is helpful, smart and even wise. At the risk of being fired upon, one possible example of an admirable government intervention long supported by both conservatives and liberals is the earned income tax credit, which at this point shifts more taxpayer money to poor people than traditional welfare programs, and yet does so only for those who hold down jobs. Scores of other examples like that exist.

The trouble with writing any book that is built upon a particular political philosophy is that it then must try to fit all its evidence inside that philosophy and ignore or demonize what doesn't fit. It's frankly why I don't read almost any political books.

message 6: by Varmint (last edited Feb 23, 2008 10:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Varmint if you exist anywhere to the right of noam chomsky, you can expect to be called fascist at some point. people who objected to government funds being used to display a painting called "piss christ" were called fascists. people who objected to non functioning school programs like head start were called fascist. people who want to bomb genocidal jew hating islamic terrorists are called fascists. it's getting sort of old.

at the core of the fascist-progressive-liberal ideologies is the belief that government should have the power to make people better than they are. fine if you believe this. just admit to where it comes from. goldberg's book traces this back over a century. to a time before fascism-progressivism-communism existed as separate ideas. back then they openly admitted it would involve sacrificing the freedom of the individual. leftists today seem to have forgotten that.

at this point in time, the only people even pretending to want to reduce government power are on the conservative/libertarian right. you can continue to oppose them. but find a new pejorative.

please read the book. it's 400 pages. should take a two days max. and it's a great way of keeping people from sitting next to you at the coffee shop.

message 7: by David (new)

David I made no judgement whatsoever about the book; merely a comment on the prose being used to peddle it.

But I also made a new year resolution not to respond to internet pettiness by stooping to the same level.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

David, if I may suggest:

Perhaps less time commenting on others' reviews of books and more time spent on actually reading the books in question.

Read the books, David. And add to your resolutions to to avoid commenting on threads about books you have not read.

Don Incognito Mark wrote: "Varmint: Again, I apologize for not having read the book, so these comments aren't related to that at all. My only cavil with your conclusion is that I think in many ways, civic life is too complic..."

I like your review. It's wise. I trust you mean only that you won't read contemporary political nonfiction, because refusing to read classic books of political theory is shooting yourself in the foot.

Don Incognito David wrote: "I was struck by the following sentences, appearing in the publisher's blurb for the book:

The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, an..."

I think the author relies on the reader's common sense to interpret this.

Don Incognito Mr. Kitchen wrote: "liberuls are the lower depts of humanity.

this book is so great. no more socialfasciobamunism!

health care is four the week!

All that did was make you look childish.

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