I haven’t read Jonah Goldberg’s new book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning,” and I probably never will. But I’m amazed that anyone even tried to make the argument he’s trying to make.
One of the main reasons why I started blogging a few years back was because I read Mein Kampf. As hard as it was to read a book that’s not just extremely racist but led to the deaths of people I’m related to, I felt like I had to wrap my head around how something like the Holocaust can happen. To try to compare the sentiments expressed in Mein Kampf to anything you hear on the American left today is a stretch of the imagination that I can’t comprehend. If Goldberg claims to have read Mein Kampf as part of researching his “thesis,” he’s either lying or crazy.
Dave Neiwert does a good job picking apart some basic errors, like pointing out that despite Goldberg’s claims that the Nazi’s were “socialists,” the first people sent by the Nazis to Dachau were actually Socialists and Communists. People who called themselves socialists back then were as close to real socialists as the people who today call themselves conservatives – but believe in starting war after war in the Middle East – are to real conservatives. But the whole book seems to be based upon this very basic error in understanding the history of Nazi Germany.
The Sadly No! crew actually have a copy of the book and have been posting some of the most ridiculous passages. His larger argument is that the desire by liberals and progressives to improve society through government is the direct path to fascism and relates back to the Nazi movement. Now while it’s certainly possible for left-leaning movements to become authoritarian, it’s not what’s happening in America right now, it’s not how fascism evolved in 1930s Germany, and one can really only reach the alternate conclusion if they believe that things like universal health care are more anti-liberty than torture. I think Brad may have located a major part of Goldberg’s mental block:
Giving out free food isn’t fascism. Look, Jonah, I’ve done some research into the matter and have determined that giving out free food is one of the least fascist things a government can do. Call this hyperbole if you will, but if the very worst thing the Nazis had ever done was to give people free food, they’d have probably gone down as the greatest government in history.
When Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, his vision had nothing to do with economics. His vision was pure paranoia, where he blamed the “Jewish press” for weakening support for the war effort during World War I. He viewed the influence of immigrants as a direct threat to the nation. He also railed against pacifists, Communists, capitalists, the ruling class, ethnic minorities, and fellow soldiers who faked injuries to get out of the war. As Germany was subjugated by the victors of WWI in the post-war period, his paranoid outlook found an audience, but his message was never one of socialism, it was of nationalism. In Chapter V of Mein Kampf, he shared his thoughts on what happened during World War I:
After the very first news of victories, a certain section of the press, slowly, and in a way which at first was perhaps unrecognizable to many, began to pour a few drops of wormwood into the general enthusiasm. This was done beneath the mask of a certain benevolence and well-meaning, even of a certain solicitude. They had misgivings about an excess of exuberance in the celebration of the victories. They feared that in this form it was unworthy of so great a nation and hence inappropriate.
The notion that the press (which was of course run by Jews and treasonous Germans) was insufficiently patriotic during the war and had a bias towards pacifism and international institutions like the League of Nations was central to his outlook. It’s the polar opposite of what the American left stands for today, and it’s why comparisons to Ann Coulter and other extreme voices on the authoritarian right aren’t all that far-fetched. At the same time I started blogging back in 2004 and wrote that post, Jonah Goldberg wrote the following:
In the process of debating the merits of publishing, and now continually hyping, the Abu Ghraib photos, I keep hearing that it is contrary to the American journalistic tradition to let patriotism or concern about the negative effects of bad news interfere with coverage. I have no idea where this idea comes from.
You know where the idea comes from, Jonah? It comes from people who’ve actually taken the time to study and to try to understand the roots of fascism, rather than just attempting to draw nonsensical parallels between Hitler and the people who make fun of you on the internet.