I had this book on order, Amazon tells me, since October 27, 2005. It finally showed up a couple weeks back, just missing my opportunity to get the author, Jonah Goldberg, to sign it when he was in the state as part of National Review's primary coverage. I've been a fan of Jonah's—I call him Jonah—for a number of years, due mainly to the unique mixture of humor, insight, and geeky references (most notably to Star Trek) in his writing.
But this is a serious book, so both the humor and the geekiness dials have been turned down to low levels. Although there are a few flashes of the Goldbergian wit; I don't think I saw any analysis of the relative fascism of the Federation as opposed to the Klingon Empire. No matter. The book is long, 400 pages of text, and about 50 pages worth of endnotes. But it reads easily. You may have heard that it's made some blogospheric lefties crazier than usual.
The term fascism comes from the Latin word fasces, which refers to wooden rods bundled together usually holding an ax blade, as pictured on the right. (I stole the picture from the American Fascist Party's alleged web page. So sue me, fascists.) To me, the symbolism is pretty obvious: the individual sticks are relatively weak and easy to break; bound, they are strong enough to make a hefty and powerful tool, good for chopping peoples' heads off. It's inherently, and obviously, collectivist. And, at least to me, it's telling that the individual sticks don't have a lot of say in the matter; there's someone else doing the binding behind the scenes.
(Check the Wikipedia article, linked above, for a long list of how the fasces is used in American political symbolism. Happily, I don't think there are modern examples; at least there's not one on the dime anymore.)
Jonah explores the rise of Mussolini in Italy and his lionization by "progressives" of the day. (The term "liberal fascism" is not invented by Jonah; he notes that H. G. Wells in a 1932 speech at Oxford urged students at Oxford to become "liberal fascists" and "enlightened Nazis." Charming.) He also looks at Hitler, doing a compare-and-contrast with Mussolini.
But then he mostly moves into exploring American history, with chapters on Wilson, FDR, the violent revolutionaries of the 1960s, JFK and LBJ. (The stuff on Wilson was especially chilling.) He then looks at the history of left-wing eugenics and economics. He devotes an entire chapter to the radical collectivist ideology of Hillary Clinton; I'd say it should be required reading before anyone votes for her, but that would be fascist of me.
And there's more. If you're at all interested in the intellectual DNA of today's liberals/progressives—the stuff they'd prefer you didn't know about, anyway—the book is a very worthwhile read.
And it's relevant. For example, this very morning my local paper offers a front page article on the effort of a Maine legislator to ban drivers from moking in cars with children under 18 inside. Of course:
The primary purpose of Rep. Pat Blanchette's proposed bill [...] isn't to punish offenders with fines, she said. It's to increase public awareness about the danger of smoking in front of children.That's a story that would fit right into page 388 or so.
(Right now Amazon has Liberal Fascism as the #8 bestseller—it was #1 for a while—despite quoting a "3 to 6 weeks" delivery time. But if I can wait over two years, you can manage a few weeks, can't you?) Jonah's "Liberal Fascism" blog is here, and also well worth reading while you're waiting for the book to show up.