Liberal Fascism

[Amazon Link]

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.

[fasces] 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.

Last Modified 2012-10-15 11:03 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2008-01-21 Update

All candidates shed phony hits over the past week, save for Mitt Romney, whose gains were good enough to vault him into (to use primary-vote analysis lingo) "a weak third".

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Ron Paul" phony224,000-17,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony221,000-13,000
"Mitt Romney" phony172,000+14,000
"Barack Obama" phony169,000-15,000
"Fred Thompson" phony164,000-22,000
"John Edwards" phony160,000-13,000
"John McCain" phony155,000-2,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony125,000-15,000
"Rudy Giuliani" phony120,000-4,000
"Dennis Kucinich" phony73,100-6,200

But what are the stories behind the hits?

  • Out in San Diego, Chris Reed has made his choice: "The phony I hope is our next president":
    Mitt Romney is now the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination. He has more delegates than all the other GOP hopefuls combined, he's finished first or second in every caucus or primary, and he's got the money advantage. The media, in full swoon over John McCain again, don't like this and make their bias plain. Newsweek now has a piece headlined, "Romney's Michigan Win: A Fluke?"

    I'm happy about Romney's rise. As a libertarian lite, I think a hypercompetent CEO type like Romney is most likely of all the candidates of both parties to do a good job managing the government without protectionism, intrusive nanny statism and hubristic idealism about grand, sweeping new initiatives. Sure, I think his posturing and pandering of recent months has been pathetic. But I agree with what a smart liberal, Jon Chait of The New Republic, has to say about it:

    Go see what Jon Chait of The New Republic has to say about it. (It's an excerpt from his not-yet-online article "My Little Phony: Defending Mitt Romney."

  • Chris wrote before the South Carolina results, where Romney finished "a strong fourth". But there's a phony story there too: a Christmas card sent from "The Romney Family" to a lot of South Carolina voters was branded as being "Paid for by the Boston Massachusetts [Mormon] Temple". It also included a polygamy-defending quote from a Mormon apostle, and a Book of Mormon verse about a FAIR AND WHITE virgin in Nazareth. (Emphasis in original.)

  • A Mr. Richard Cohen writes in Willmar Minnesota's West Central Tribune of his recent realization that—gasp!—Barack Obama can play just as fast and loose with the facts as the other politicians in the race:
    John Edwards lied about the cost of his haircuts. Fred Thompson lied about lobbying for a pro-choice outfit. John McCain insists that the U.S. was founded as a "Christian nation." Mitt Romney concocted the story about how his father marched with Martin Luther King Jr. And Rudy Giuliani is one-man fib machine — everything from why he had to provide police protection for his then-mistress to the cure rates for prostate cancer in Britain. Yet it is something Barack Obama said that bothers me most of all because Obama is a new kind of politician. He is supposed to be coolly authentic.

    What concerns me is the lie or fib or misstatement — call it what you want — that involves Obama's assertion that more young black males are in prison than in college. It is a shocking statistic — and it is wrong. But when The Washington Post's lonesome but formidable truth squad, Michael Dobbs, brought this to the attention of the Obama campaign, he not only got the brush-off but the assertion was later repeated.

    Let's play Sherlock Holmes briefly and look for the dog that's not barking. Which major phony candidate is missing from Cohen's first paragraph?

  • That's right, it's Hillary! In the New York Times, Patrick Healy reviews the recent history of her assumed personas:
    There has been Commander in Chief Hillary Rodham Clinton, the steely leader who, voters were assured, would "destroy" terrorists and be Thatcher-like tough.

    There has been Strong-and-Experienced Hillary Clinton, but that proved to be so uninspiring that Change-Agent Hillary and Likable-Since-I-Was-a-Kid Hillary were rolled out.

    And Teary-Eyed Hillary, of course, won the New Hampshire primary last week, after the candidate choked up describing the rigors of the race.

    But as her advisers said after New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton cannot cry her way to the Democratic nomination. So she and her team have been searching for the right personality to help her connect emotionally with voters — an intuitive talent of her chief competitor for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama — while also emphasizing her competence and experience.

    Emphasis added. For phony connoisseurs, Hillary is a five-star restaurant that never closes.

  • Of course, that last bit was from the New York Times, where they have no problem with op-ed columnists claiming to be in Derry, NH when they're actually in Jerusalem, Israel. Now, that's phony!

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:17 AM EST