Monday, June 16, 2008

"Liberal Fascism"

"""Youth politics—like populism generally—is the politics of the tantrum and the hissy fit."" (Goldberg).

Goldberg's tome, "Liberal Fascism," has created a stir in some quarters of blog-land. Most reviews have been negative (not surprisingly, since more reviewers tend to be liberal). Goldberg makes the bold claim that modern liberalism follows as much from Mussolini and Hitler as from, say, the Founding Fathers, Locke, etc. That's not an entirely new or innovative thesis: some economists of the "Austrian school" had suggested as much after WWII (fascism and communism are both statist religions: totalitarianism manifests itself in a sort of Janus-faced Hegelianism, according to the Hayekian sorts).

Goldberg does make a few interesting points, however obvious. One point concerns free speech. Fascists, like their ideological cousins in the Bolsheviks, started things rolling by controlling the press, and in effect eliminating dissent (and it might be recalled that Lenin and the Bolsheviki had no problems cutting deals with the most militaristic prussians). That's sort of an obvious, run-of-the-mill Orwellian theme some might aver. And it is. Few topics are as boring as citizens arguing about free speech, rights to free expression, the First Amendment, dissent, yada yada yada. At the same time, perhaps few topics remain as critical as communication rights (some of the blogocheks now call that "transparency").

Other important rights depend on that foundation-stone of free speech (and a free press). Democracy it might argued, relies on open communication, whether in terms of letters to the editor, academic writing, or blogs. In Blogland that freedom to speak one's mind is continually under attack, and as Goldberg rightly notes, it is "liberals" who now do most of the attacking. Attacks on free speech now assume various forms in blogland, from being troll-rated, moderated, or banned for say making a few comments in support of a Hillary or McCain, or taking issue with some rabid Darwinian (especially ones incapable of perceiving the rather unsavory implications of strict Darwinism) Simply proclaim that you will NOT cast a vote for Barack Obama, and you are no longer welcome at many sites, and/or have a swastika (virtual or real) posted next to your link. That said, free speech and communication rights should not be confused with a right to shriek pop-marxist slogans or punk-rock-like defamation at all times (the usual bad-blog fare: tho' hick-conservative often is as guilty as the zombiecrat in that regard).

""""This is one of the main reasons I’ve written this book: to puncture the smug self-confidence that simply by virtue of being liberal one is also virtuous. At the same time, I need to repeat that I am not playing the movie backward. Today’s liberals aren’t the authors of past generations’ mistakes any more than I’m responsible for the callousness of some conservative who championed states’ rights for the wrong reason well before I was born. No, the problems with liberalism today reside in liberalism today. The relevance of the past is that unlike the conservative who has wrestled with his history to make sure he does not repeat it, liberals see no need to do anything of the sort."""" (pg.317)

One needn't agree with Goldberg's terms or exact argument (for one, I do not think "liberal" adequately describes the zany paranoids of DailyKOS or DU. "Insane" seems a bit more appropriate--as with this stooge's daily drivel). Goldberg's criticism of Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt seems a bit unwarranted, really. He's not so wrong-headed, however, about some of the scummier, violent radicals of the 60s New left, whether Weather Underground or Black Panthers (sober protests of the Vietnam war carried on the American tradition of free speech. Blowing up Brinks trucks in the name of Revolution didn't: there's a great difference between Bertrand Russell and Abbie Hoffman). A mob is a mob, whether it's for Mussolini, or Barack Obama.

Apart from the many generalizations (and occasional religious tone), Goldberg's essential point relates to that time-honored political theme of hypocrisy. The Kossack at once insists on liberal principles--Due Process, transparency, dissent, communication rights, etc.---yet when challenged he turns around and denies them to anyone who disagrees with him, or anyone who is not a par-tay member (that is the related theme of ID politics). Like some wannabe-KGB or Cheka-man, the liberal blogochek remains convinced he does the right thing--the virtuous thing--as he eliminates freedom, rational debate, and dissent, and sends the troublemakers (Trolls!) off to the gulags of the iggy bin. DailyKOS, and its countless spinoffs: that is the new McCarthyism, a cyber-McCarthyism.

1 comment:

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I think it would have been less controversial had he called it "soft fascism". Of course, he probably wanted to stir things up (ala Ann Coulter) to sell more books. I actually agree with some of his theory; strong-armed tactics like outlawing trans-fats in restauants, smoking in bars, etc.. And like you say, the free speech stuff.

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