Things One Should Not Forget: The Quickening

Jonah Goldberg rather dramatically misses the point thusly about why people look askance at his assertion that Mussolini was not on the political right:

Again and again people are throwing a few Mussolini quotes at me where he talks about being on “the Right” and therefore — case closed — he was on the “Right.”

Since I’m one of the people tossing the quote, and he name checks me in the entry previous to that one (in which he admits that he hasn’t read what I’ve written but nevertheless opines that I clearly haven’t read a great deal about fascism, which is a neat trick, I have to say), let me clarify this for him, at least from my point of view.

The reason I tossed the quote at him is because in an interview he made the really very silly statement that Mussolini was called right wing only because he supported World War I. The Quote, however, rather elegantly contradicts that very silly statement, because it showed that Mussolini viewed himself as being on the right, politically, thus offering another possible reason as to why people might think of him as right wing: Because he said he was. And who’s going to argue that point to Mussolini? Especially in 1932?

Again, if Goldberg’s going to make stupid and easily refutable statements, he should expect people to smack him down for it. This was one of those statements. And thus, the smackination. Goldberg deserved it, he got it, done.

However, if you didn’t notice, Goldberg’s trying pull to a fast one here by suggesting that all people have to argue that Mussolini was on the right were a few quotes where he says “hey, I’m on the right.” Point of fact, he’s not just on the right, cased closed, because he uses the word “right.” Context matters, and the context for the quote in question is the Doctrine of Fascism, in which Mussolini (or his ghostwriter, whose work Mussolini then signed off on) makes a pervasive case as for why his movement is a right-leaning movement, and why it stands in contrast to, and in opposition to, socialism, liberalism and democracy. Mussolini doesn’t have to write “Hey! I’m on the right! Look at me! Right! Wooo!” every single paragraph; that devil — the awful, nasty, autocratic devil — is all there in the details. It’s not a matter of a “few Mussolini quotes” here and there; it’s a document in which Mussolini explicitly details what Fascism is, and what it stands against. Mussolini explicitly declaring fascism to be a right-focused movement is just the sparkly, obvious jewel mounted in a setting of pervasive “right” rhetoric.

Now, as I understand it from the article linked above, Goldberg wants to argue that Fascism was really on the left, on the argument that back in the day, everyone was so left, and in such a massive way, that just being a little left let you claim you were actually on the right, and that’s where Mussolini was. Well, it’s an argument. It does seem from what I’ve read that Goldberg is conflating “collectivist” with “leftist,” which makes things easier for him, but I don’t have any problem with letting him ride that pony. I just wouldn’t bet on it in a race.

Goldberg says “if you can get beyond my critics cherry-picked quotations from texts and speeches they never read until last week, and look instead at the anatomy of fascism, it becomes most clearly part and parcel of the collectivist, leftist tide during the first half of the 20th century.” This is nice snark, but inasmuch as Goldberg himself couldn’t actually seem to remember much about the “Doctrine of Fascism” when he was asked about it and had material quoted to him from it in his Salon interview, it falls, well, a bit flat and calls into question his own research on the subject. “It’s been about three years since I’ve read it,” is his fairly lame excuse when exhibiting his total noncomprehension of it. Really, Mr. Goldberg? A seminal treatise on what Fascism is, from the guy who invented the movement, and you can’t recall even a little bit of it, in a discussion of your book about fascism? Really?

You know, it’s pretty short. It’s no Das Kapital. You could tuck it in in about an hour. I think you might consider reading it (again). Especially since people are pwning your words up and down the Intertubes with it. Just a suggestion. Mind you, I don’t expect it to change your mind any — you’ve got a book to promote and it wouldn’t do for you to have a Saul-on-the-way-to-Damascus moment on the subject — but at the very least I would feel more confident that you weren’t just pulling all “liberal fascism” stuff entirely out of the air, holding it up to the light and saying “look, I’ve picked myself a cherry.”

Mr. Goldberg, you haven’t read me but suspect I don’t know much about fascism. Well, I am reading you, the parts where you’re shucking and jiving on the Internet, anyway, and I have to say, I’m getting pretty much the same vibe about you.

76 thoughts on “Things One Should Not Forget: The Quickening

  1. Aaargh, the madness knows no end! Killing with your bare hands is clearly modus operandi of the Right, but Gretchen, if I recall correctly, is the daughter of a career bureaucrat — no doubt a Lefty. The political sands here, they shift so, thus making my belly hurt.

    I’m off to haz cheezburger.

  2. One suspects that if the man’s beliefs were supportable, he’d be talking about his beliefs rather than attempting to use guilt by association to discredit the massive variety of differing political philosophies with overly general words like “liberal” or “left” without actually talking about them.

    The man’s an idiot and not worthy of anyone’s time.

  3. Arachne Jerico:

    Well, she could show you, but then she’s have to kill you. With her bare hands!

  4. Well, I gotta’ say I’m with Steve: the man’s an idiot and not worthy of our time.

    Or, as it was more commonly phrased on Usenet discussion groups (am I dating myself?):

    Please don’t feed the trolls.

  5. It’s not the dating yourself that’s the problem, Dane. It’s going steady with yourself that worries people. Not that I’m saying you are.

    To be honest about it, I think it’s actually fine that Mr. Goldberg is looking at fascism from this perspective — I like novel interpretations of history and political and social trends. But if his scholarship is no good, it’s going to sink him (from the point of view of being a book of consequence; I have no doubt the book will sell, at least initially). What I’ve seen of his scholarship online has not been encouraging. But as noted, I can’t comment on it re: the actual book because I’ve not read it.

  6. We shouldn’t even have to argue with the content of his book or his internet posts, the very cover of it invokes Godwin’s Law. Goldberg lost the argument the first time he posted an image of it on his website.

    Obviously there’s a fair bit of snark in that above paragraph. But seriously, wouldn’t you say this liberals-are-fascists-no-conservatives-are-fascists argument going on between liberal blogs and Jonah is just a slightly more intellectual extension of the flame wars that stretch back to the dawn of the internet? Comparing Mussolini and Hitler to either modern-day American liberals or conservatives is, to me, like comparing night and day. Hence the need for Godwin’s Law.

  7. “But if his scholarship is no good, it’s going to sink him ”

    Heh. I think putting out hackwork like this is the Washington conservative equivalent of the hazing prior to being fully accepted into a fraternity. Better than something involving a goat, I guess.

    As an establishment Republican hack and propagandist, I think the only way for Goldberg to sink himself would be to write a paean to Mike Huckabee. Scholarship don’t enter into it.

  8. After a very brief perusal of The Doctrine of Fascism (a scary read) you find a few interesting things…

    In the Salon interview Goldberg states; “Mussolini was born a socialist, he died a socialist, he never abandoned his love of socialism…”

    Yet in the aforementioned Doctrine of Fascism Mussolini hisself says, “…Fascism the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying so-called scientific and Marxian socialism…” and, “Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism…”

    Ummm… and he thinks Mussolini was a lefty… interesting.

    On a personal note while I am not a liberal or a leftwinger by anybodies lights… I am very uncomfortable with the idea that this doctrine can be defined as rightwing. I think maybe we could say this is that ‘orthagonalwing’ thing… and god only knows which direction Mussolini was leanin.

    Goldberg, no matter how interesting a twist he puts on Fascism, is still, IMHO, a proven id10t.

    Wonder if Gretchen should pay him a visit…

  9. I just can’t believe you guys are still at it? Wow. I took a class entitled “Domination and Resistance” and we discussed the various terms. It is well known in the Universities that fascism is very much on the right and socialism is very much on the left. What’s the big deal? I am sure that this was probably mentioned but I am looking at a book entitled “Political Ideolgogies and the Democratic Ideal” written by Terence Ball and Richard Dagger. I have not read the book in years but as I remember it, they agree with Scalzi on what is or is not a rightest, leftest, socialist or fascist.

    That’s all I’m sayin’ I know I am late to the party but what the heck?

  10. Anyone who manages to maintain that opinion that liberals, not conservatives, are out to regulate our sex lives, is not someone I’d come to for opinions on what liberals really think, the history of liberalism, or even is this dress makes my ass looks big.

    His scholarship is crap, and his cover up for his crappy scholarship inevitably digs him a deeper hole.

  11. Nietzsche and Kant had very different views about morality, but they are both historically considered existentialist.

    I think the socialism/fascism dichotomoy is similar. If you want to say that the primary reason we should consider fascism a rightist movement is because Mussolini said so, you are ignoring the entire historical and social context of the fascist movement. This tack might make sense if you entire modus operandi is to use fascism to condemn modern right-wing movements by association, but it seems disingenuous to suggest that modern left-wing movement can remain similarly untarnished.

    I think Goldberg’s point (and I admit to being wholly unfamiliar with his writing aside from what I’ve read here) is that when you look at the statist and collectivist nature of today’s leftist movement, they have a whole lot more in common with fascism and socialism than modern day right wing movements. There is a point to be made there, but it can’t be carried too far. Perhaps that is Goldbergs primary problem, aside from the inarticulate manner in which he is describing his research.

    Compared to socialism, fascism surely was on the right wing. Mussolini, in that context, would surely have thought so and made statements to that effect. It doesn’t follow however that the same context and political dichotomy carries over into todays political rhetoric. That may defeat Mr. Goldberg’s argument, but it also defeats the implication made by John and many commenters here that today’s right wing movements are guilty by association.

    Right wing parties may have their own problems, but I don’t think some historical alignment with fascism is one of them.

  12. It’s pretty obvious to me that Goldberg has never been through the kind of indoctrination in political doctrine that military officer candidates went through in the 1970s through 1990s (I can’t speak for today only because I’m not current — I went through it in the 1970s and very early 1980s, and taught in the 1990s). If he had been, he would have encountered Heller & Nekrich’s work (such as http://www.amazon.com/Utopia-Power-History-Soviet-Present/dp/0671462423) which, for all its flaws, does a very nice job of distinguishing among socialism, fascism, left, right, etc.. In particular, the history of the Soviet Revolution itself does an excellent job of decoupling “collectivism” from the common left/right axis understood by Americans.

  13. JD Blackwell@13 says

    “Yet in the aforementioned Doctrine of Fascism Mussolini hisself says, “…Fascism the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying so-called scientific and Marxian socialism…” and, “Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism…””

    I saw something like this in the other thread as well. Someone basically saying because Benito is opposed Marxian socialism that somehow that means he’s not socialist at all. The only problem with this that Marx did not invent socialism. Socialism as a recognised political theory predates Marx by centuries (Marx argues against other forms of socialism in his Communist Manifesto), and if you’re willing to include things like Plato’s republic, millennia .

    Geekygirl602 at home sick today@16 says

    “I just can’t believe you guys are still at it? Wow. I took a class entitled “Domination and Resistance” and we discussed the various terms. It is well known in the Universities that fascism is very much on the right and socialism is very much on the left. What’s the big deal? I am sure that this was probably mentioned but I am looking at a book entitled “Political Ideolgogies and the Democratic Ideal” written by Terence Ball and Richard Dagger. I have not read the book in years but as I remember it, they agree with Scalzi on what is or is not a rightest, leftest, socialist or fascist.”

    Yes it does, but just because it’s written in a college textbook does not make it automatically true. Doesn’t mean it’s automatically false either. What Goldberg is doing is arguing that it is false. Is he right? I don’t know, I’m reserving my judgement until after I read his book at the very least. But based on what I know of fascism it doesn’t seem as inherently ridiculous to me as some of you seem to think it is.

    Josh Jasper@15 says

    Anyone who manages to maintain that opinion that liberals, not conservatives, are out to regulate our sex lives, is not someone I’d come to for opinions on what liberals really think, the history of liberalism, or even is this dress makes my ass looks big.’

    Didn’t realize that was Goldberg’s opinion. I certainly haven’t read that. If you could provide a link as to where Goldberg says this, and explains what it has to do with fascism, socialism or liberalism I’d certainly appreciate it.

  14. I just wonder what Goldberg considers to be extreme right-wing, if facism is a socialist doctrine. I could possibly see making the assertion that the further left you go the more constrictive the government while the further right the more laizzes faire libertarian. It’s a wrong assertion, but I could see how he might think it.

    I do think that if Goldberg would at least define his version of the far right wing we could at least better pinpoint where his concept goes awry.

  15. Mr. Scalsi,

    I think you (and many commenters) are missing the larger issue in Jonah’s assertions – simply examine this graphic and then reconsider his hypothesis.

    http://www.nolanchart.com/images/advocates.png

    While Mussolini could be considered to be to the “right” of communists, his regime was on the opposite of any and ALL axes in relation to what we call Classical Liberalism (= maximized individual freedoms, maximized capitolism, minimized State) and so Fascist.

    Right and Left are poor descriptors of political theory. Avoid using them.

    Jonah’s assertions, as I understand them, are accurate in considering the ‘Nanny State’ of today’s Socialist progressive liberals as close allies of Soviet communism and Fascism. [even if Jonah is at times unclear about it]

  16. Mr. Scalsi,

    I think you (and many commenters) are missing the larger issue in Jonah’s assertions – simply examine this graphic and then reconsider his hypothesis.

    http://www.nolanchart.com/images/advocates.png

    While Mussolini could be considered to be to the “right” of communists, his regime was on the opposite of any and ALL axes in relation to what we call Classical Liberalism (= maximized individual freedoms, maximized capitolism, minimized State) and so Fascist.

    Right and Left are poor descriptors of political theory. Avoid using them.

    Jonah’s assertions, as I understand them, are accurate in considering the ‘Nanny State’ of today’s Socialist progressive liberals as close allies of Soviet communism and Fascism. [even if Jonah is at times unclear about it]

  17. YNot:
    “Right and Left are poor descriptors of political theory. Avoid using them.”

    Amen. This whole discussion seems to circle around defining those terms. Look, I can win any debate I want if I am allowed to redefine as I go. I think it’s pretty clear that even attempting to compare the American Left and Right to the Left and Right of Mussolini’s time is near impossible. I suspect if you were to make a table of the core beliefs, as actually practiced, between all four groups, there would be a massive amount of overlap.

    In any case, this book is not about serious scholarly research – it is a further attempt to use the word “Left” as a pejorative term, and frankly I’m done wasting cycles on it. The simplistic “Right good! Left bad!” world view is not worth the time it takes to argue.

    We can all pretty much agree that Mussolini was a jerk, Fascism is probably a bad idea, and every political party would do well to not follow in those footsteps. Simply claiming it’s the other groups problem with some rhetorical hand waving is not a recipe for success.

  18. Oops. Sentence was supposed to read

    “I suspect if you were to make a table of the core beliefs, as actually practiced, between all four groups, there would be a massive amount of overlap, but no one would agree on which beliefs to attribute to which groups.”

    It’s getting a bit late.

  19. So, let me see… not content with redefining the left as the right in the US, some right-wing commentators want to impose that self-serving doublethink on the rest of the world. Isn’t invading other countries enough? Now they have to rewrite their history as well?

  20. Jonah’s assertions, as I understand them, are accurate in considering the ‘Nanny State’ of today’s Socialist progressive liberals as close allies of Soviet communism and Fascism. [even if Jonah is at times unclear about it

    Use whatever reasonable-sounding language you want; that’s a bunch of horseshit. By that sort of reckoning, tables are “close allies “of cows because they both have legs.

    A statement like that only makes sense if you’re so far gone to right-wing demagoguery that you can no longer see straight.

  21. Hi –

    I think you all need to put this in perspective, an economic perspective.

    WW1 saw the collapse of the classic bourgeois societies in Europe, where the means of production were owned by an extremely conservative political elite. With the collapse of the classic societies, the fringes came out and grabbed as much power as possible: the development of fascism in Germany and Italy can be seen as paralleled by Soviet communism, and indeed the tenets of fascism and communism differ more in degree than in substance, when looking strictly at the economics behind them (both call for a revolutionary elite that will lead the ignorant working masses, disenfranchised and oppressed, to the glorious future of state control of the means of production: we now know how that turned out on both sides. Under fascism, the government told industry what to produce and industry willingly went along; under Soviet communism, the industry was taken from its owners and placed under state control. The difference in comparison to the classic capitalist liberal western society in either case is huge; the difference between the two is not insignifcant for those involved, but the result is the same: government tells industry what it produces, rather than the market).

    Both Hitler and Mussolini started out on the classic left, wanting to control the means of production by disenfranchising their political victims: in Germany the Jews and the liberal bourgeoisie; in Italy this was largely limited to the liberal bourgeoisie.

    This differs from classic marxist thought only in identifying the evil-doers that are to be destroyed in order to bring on the utopia, and on the one side uses ethnicity and race; the other side used class envy to achieve the same result. Both were brutish, preferring to use violence to achieve power and then holding it, while brutally repressing any dissent.

    What turned both Mussolini and Hitler into “rightists” is the nationalistic component of their thinking, both of which developed as they saw how they could grab power, i.e. on an opportunistic basis. Germany saw the development of the myth of Aryan supremacy, which was based to a large extent on the ideas that Mussolini also used (yes, there was Italian nationalism to exploit there) to increase his popularity from nutcase ballroom to electable buffoon.

    Hence Goldberg’s assertion, taken in the proper context, can be argued: however, the assertion that modern-day liberalism is essentially fascistic is, at best, a stretch of the imagination.

    Does sell books, though, and that is probably the entire point of the exercise.

  22. Rigel @ 19 –

    It’s form his Salon.com interview - “You know, you have environmental groups giving out kits and instructions about how to have environmentally conscious sex. You don’t have conservative groups talking about what kind of condoms you should use or what positions you can be in. That kind of thing doesn’t really go on.”

    I’m sure some fan will try and defend him on that, but he’s an idiot as far as I’m concerned.

  23. “Hence Goldberg’s assertion, taken in the proper context, can be argued: however, the assertion that modern-day liberalism is essentially fascistic is, at best, a stretch of the imagination.”

    This is not Goldberg’s thesis, as stated by him in both the book and numerous interviews…neither of which you have obviously read.

  24. What fascists and Third International Socialists have in common is that they tend to be aggrieved nationalists. Most of the Democrats I know of are not while Goldberg seems to be. Using the same logic that JG uses HE is then a fascist or a commie, as opposed to a third-rate libertarian. If Goldberg didn’t have family connections to get him his job at the NR he’d be holding down the lost pet beat at some county newspaper.

  25. HSPSR:

    “This is not Goldberg’s thesis, as stated by him in both the book and numerous interviews…”

    Huh. So I guess I’m just imagining this quote from the Salon interview:

    “What unites, in some sense, fascism and contemporary liberalism and a lot of other isms is their pragmatic sense that the government is smart enough and morally empowered to do good wherever and whenever it sees fit.”

  26. #32 Sounds like projection to me, considering the lack of respect the GOP now seems to have for law and procedure.

  27. Jonah Goldberg reminds me of Anne Coulter. He’s an icon, but he lacks substance and should stick to mocking others rather than attempting something more intellectual like this re-definition of fascism. I too enjoy different takes on history, I simply prefer it if the author can face critics with a little more class than Mr. Goldberg has shown so far.

  28. Gregory:

    No, no…Hitler was a jerk; Mussolini was a weenie.

    History lesson time: Mussolini bit his weenie. Now it doesn’t work.

    That’s what you get for posting my damn joke before I thought of it.

  29. Matthew Yglesias makes an excellent point in his very serious blog post:

    A certain strand of libertarian, perhaps Justin Raimondo from AntiWar.com, could have credibly written a book with the form of argument “today’s liberals rightly identify fascistic strands in contemporary conservatism, but ignore the fascist mote in their own eye” and deliver a diatribe against statism in general and seek to tar everyone, left and right, with lax deployment of the brush of fascism. But that’s not Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg is, instead, a loyal foot soldier in the Republican Noise Machine. He’s a steadfast supporter of the political party representing the dominant ethnocultural group in the United States, the party that supports torture and unlimited surveillance, the party that supports a larger and more aggressively employed military, the party that supports a more punitive criminal justice system at home, the party whose backers are prone to fretting about low birthrates, the need to police gender roles more rigidly, etc…. [N]obody with allegiances like that can seriously turn around, point at the other ideological camp, at start yelling “fascism” at the slightest whiff of collectivism.

  30. Any political movement, left, right, up, down, whatever can be perverted into something horrible. It doesn’t really matter if any particular doctrine grew out of the left or right. The notion that a horror arose from any one side doesn’t change the fact that both sides are equally corruptible. I am not suggesting we ignore history – less that whole doomed to repeat it thing…. The important question is what current side of the political spectrum is currently sliding into perversion.

  31. Seth Gordon-

    The Republican party is not, as Matthew Yglesias is apparently stating, in favor of “unlimited surveillance.” The Patriot Act, which I assume this allegation refers to, is 1) not unlimited; 2) Republicans have never suggested that it should be unlimited; 3) both the conservatives of the Republican Party and the liberals of the Democratic Party opposed it, it being the mushy middle of both parties that enacted it.

    As to the larger and more aggressive military, both the far right and the far left are opposed. Again, it is the mushy middle, which includes (based on votes) the leading Democrats in addition to Republicans, who are in favor of a larger and more aggressive military.

    Further, the conservatives of the Republican Party are not in favor of “policing gender roles.” What they are opposed to is the State redefining gender roles. There is a considerable difference between the two.

    What I think has been occurring in this thread and its predecessor is equating the Republican Party, and its various components, with neocons. That equation is simplistic and incorrect. The conservative movement within the Republican Party is, as I understand it, composed of: 1) neocons (tenents of which are aggressive military in support of Pax Americana, social morality, pro-big business, expanding the size of government and pro-deficit spending in some circumstances); 2) libertarian-conservatives (pro military but only in self defense, limited goverment [federalism], balanced budgets, pro individual rights [such as gun ownership], and pro small business coupled with hostility to uber corporations); and, 3) social conservatives (pro balanced budgets, pro military for self defense, ambivalent on either federalism or big government- favoring whichever gets them closer to improving social morality).

    The problem with equating neocons with the Republican Party is that they are equally prevalent in the Democratic Party. Based on her voting record and actions (ignoring words), Hillary would largely fit the mold as does George Bush.

    And it occurs to me that neocon philosophy tends toward most definitions of fascism, though it is not facsist in and of itself, as compared to the other conservative philosophies. Likewise the liberal/socialist philosophy. Neocons essentially borrowed from both, as fascism apparently did pre-WWII, though not to the extent of becoming facsist.

  32. Damnit people (especially John)! Stop bringing quotable sources into the argument! You know how that pisses off people who make specious arguments. You and your University of Chicago education….

  33. Maybe Goldberg’s point of view is upside – down, that would make fascism “left – wing”…
    but then again it wouldn’t be fascism he’s talking about, it would be msicsaf

  34. I think Goldberg’s point (and I admit to being wholly unfamiliar with his writing aside from what I’ve read here) is that when you look at the statist and collectivist nature of today’s leftist movement, they have a whole lot more in common with fascism and socialism than modern day right wing movements.

    And an initial definition of fascism (yes, it is from Wiki, which isn’t a credible resource for research, but should be accurate enough to get a general definition of fascism right): Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state or party. Fascists seek to forge a type of national unity, usually based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, racial, religious attributes.

    Now there are certainly elements of the extreme liberal movement in the US that does have elements of this definition, but the most visible element of the right, namely the current presidential administration, fits this bill pretty damn well itself. Two people can fit the same shoe size after all, and it turns out that typically both the right and left feet are usually the same size. Our president did flat out say “If you aren’t with us you are against us” which is pretty indicative of collectivism as well (but hey, lets here it for a president with the courage [or stupidity] to quote Hitler), and he certainly holds the rights of individuals to be subordinate to the security of the state (why should enemy combatants get a fair trial, just because unlike in a proper war there isn’t an obvious indication that they *might* be enemy combatants instead of an innocent dude picked up off the street or airport?). Economically the administration might not be a good fit (though its extensive use of massive no bid contracts and earmarks are about as anticapitalist as possible; capitalism does depend on competition to prosper after all) but socially it fits as good as any example from the left you could field.

    One little truth you might want to consider is that fascism is a form of extremism, which is going to share elements with any extreme viewpoint, left or right. At the moment we have had 7 years of an extreme right viewpoint on the world, so obvious examples of similarities are probably going to be more prevalent from that viewpoint than the left. That isn’t to say the extreme left doesn’t have examples as well, but they do have less exposure at the moment. Regardless, trying to stuff the left and fascism together and say the right is immune isn’t going to work out so well for you.

  35. I swore I would stay out of this but….. The bottom line for me is that the vast majority of people have already made up thier mind. Sound, logical and historically accurate arguments are irrelevant because they won’t listen to them. The small minority who will actually listen to, and think about arguments have already dismissed this guy because his arguments aren’t particularly sound. This was done the first time everyone pointed out how far he had managed to stick his foot into his mouth. Frankly I think any following posts are just gloating. Even when they are countering his sad attempts to remove his foot from his mouth. I really need to stick to the tempcat posts.

  36. This letter is not well researched,might as well say that at the onset.
    None the less,Goldberg is selling well on Amazon.If he doesn’t bother to at least read history he really doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.He may have points but that is by accident,not thought. That he is discussed is absurd,other than this book is fiction and can be discussed as such.
    He is a right wing shill ,and is polluting the public discourse . Tho I am suspicious that is a factor in why he wrote the book .Well that and to make a name for himself .And make money.

  37. Stevem–“unlimited surveillance” also applies to the Administration’s attempts to listen in on Americans without warrants, which were disclosed in 2005.

    The only prominent elected Republican I can think of who opposes a larger and more aggressive military is Ron Paul. The libertarian-conservative wing seems to have almost entirely vanished in terms of influence–again, how many elected Republicans (House, Senate, Governors) were speaking out against the Bush administration’s numerous power grabs? Only Ron Paul comes to mind. By contrast, there have been several Democrats who have been standing up against either imperialism, a larger military, NSA spying, or all three (Russ Feingold, Sheila Jackson Lee, Patrick Leahy, Chris Dodd). The libertarian wing *used* to have influence, and Paul is well worth listening too–particularly on imperialism–but I don’t think they have any influence in the party any more, and the Republicans have practically disowned Paul.

    Scalzi–thanks for continually smacking down Goldberg. Don’t know if it’ll do any good as far as he’s concerned, but it needs to be done.

  38. John,

    Goldberg is asserting that A) the American left-to-right political axis is properly mapped as authoritarian-to-(classical) liberal, and B) fascism and modern progressivism share the same love of, and adherence to, authoritarian governmental solutions. None of your objections have so far adequately addressed either assertion.

    To counter A) with Mussolini’s writings is to imply that the European left-to-right political distinction (call it “anarchy-to-authoritarianism”) is the proper view. So far, you’ve offered no compelling evidence, save “that’s what Mussolini thought” — which begs the question. Why should an American audience have sympathy for a distinction which has no relation to the nation’s founding principles over one that does?

    For B), if you are presuming that when Goldberg says this: “What unites, in some sense, fascism and contemporary liberalism and a lot of other isms is their pragmatic sense that the government is smart enough and morally empowered to do good wherever and whenever it sees fit,”

    he means the same as this: “Hence Goldberg’s assertion, taken in the proper context, can be argued: however, the assertion that modern-day liberalism is essentially fascistic,”

    …then you really ought to revisit the Creation Museum with a much kinder eye, because you’re making the same mistake as those who assert that “man and ape are descended from a common ancestor” means “man is descended from apes.” Both latter arguments incorrectly ascribe causality instead of derivation.

  39. I can win any debate I want if I am allowed to redefine as I go. I think it’s pretty clear that even attempting to compare the American Left and Right to the Left and Right of Mussolini’s time is near impossible.

    Yup yup. Goldberg’s thesis, briefly stated:

    “Fascism was statist. Today’s left is statist. Therefore today’s left is fascist, and all fascism is leftist.

    No other descriptors or factors of degree or any other consideration are allowed or relevant.”

    Anyone wanting to count the logical fallacies per leap there are welcome to them. The rest is mostly semantics, and piling on to count the cavities past Goldberg’s toes.

  40. John Jasper, just give contemporary Liberalism time. After all, the state pays for your healthcare, why should you be able to smoke, eat cheeseburgers, have risky sex, etc.?

    A better title for the book would have been: “The Nanny State is Fascist.” And that would be fairly accurate in the current usage of that term.

  41. Gerrymander:

    Well, if you are accurately representing Goldberg’s thoughts on the matter,

    A) is a funny argument to make when the Bush Administration has spent years fronting its flavor of the “unitary executive” idea, which to my mind is a clearly authoritarian theory, promulgated clearly from the right side of the political spectrum here in the US, and

    B) is likewise a funny argument to make in the wake of Guantanamo Bay.

    Also, re: “causality instead of derivation,” neither statement speaks to either; the speak to what is: “modern-day liberalism is essentially fascistic,” “what unites fascism and contemporary liberalism is their pragmatic sense that the government is smart enough and morally empowered to do good wherever and whenever it sees fit.”

    Also, and incidentally, it’s clear the Bush Administration believes it is smart enough and morally empowered to do good wherever and whenever it sees fit. Which by Mr. Goldberg’s own rubric here certainly qualifies them for fascist, and it is a product of the US right.

    Unless you want to argue that Bush is somehow a product of the American left. In which case I’ll laugh my ass off.

  42. Wow, comment #51 – welcome to the bottom of the pile…

    “Opposed WWI?” or supported? Little slip there.

    I think we can agree Mussolini was wrong. And any logical construct that assumes some wrong info, (such as the doctrine of Fascism) can use the rules of logic to then ‘prove’ anything. Yes you can “prove” the big Muss was left, right, whatever. But mostly you can just prove he was wrong…

    John Gilbert
    (Never follow things to the logical ultimate conclusion – it always ends with the guillotine or hangings…)

  43. Was I imagining things or did Jon Stewart rip Goldberg apart on the Daily show tonight???

    Talk about perfect timing of guests…

  44. JB @ # 49 –

    John Jasper, just give contemporary Liberalism time. After all, the state pays for your healthcare, why should you be able to smoke, eat cheeseburgers, have risky sex, etc.?

    There are conservative states, such as Singapore for example, which have *exactly* the system you describe. Your problem with liberalism seems to be that it’s not libertarianism. Conservatives are absolute successes at implementing nanny states.

    A better title for the book would have been: “The Nanny State is Fascist.” And that would be fairly accurate in the current usage of that term.

    If only that were Goldberg’s actual thesis. It wasn’t, and he was damn clear about it.

    Also, it’s Josh Jasper, not John. John Scalzi, Josh Jasper. I’m the alliterative one, he’s the literary one.

  45. We shouldn’t even have to argue with the content of his book or his internet posts, the very cover of it invokes Godwin’s Law. Goldberg lost the argument the first time he posted an image of it on his website.

    Because we can always judge a book by its cover.

    Damn, is that the way the saying goes? Doesn’t look right.

  46. Charlie @ 56- Sometimes, not always, judging a book by it’s cover works. Like for example “The Pink Swastika” which Goldberg cites as some sort of evidence that gay culture in Germany was influential in creating the Nazi movement.

    I figured that book was about how the Nazis were gay-influenced, and lo and behold, it was. Also, Michelle Malkin’s “In Defense Of Interment” was in fact, a defense of the interment of US citizens based on race during WWII.

  47. Like for example “The Pink Swastika” which Goldberg cites as some sort of evidence that gay culture in Germany was influential in creating the Nazi movement.

    Oh my.

    The Pink Swastika is not a serious work of scholarship. It’s a screed written by Scott Lively, who is (or at least was) one of a squad of professional homophobes making their living pushing useless anti-gay initiatives in Oregon. He got mad about all those lippy gays and their pink triangles, so he wanted to “prove” that the Nazis didn’t hate gays, they LOVED gays, neener neener. There is no credible reason for Goldberg to cite this book as “proof” of anything.

    Next, I suppose Goldberg will be citing The Spotlight as evidence that Jewish bankers are behind the housing-market collapse.

  48. John,

    I’m not saying you need to buy Goldberg’s theses, I’m saying that your particular criticisms of them are poor. Take this reasoning, for example: “Contra Scalzi’s issues with the “unitary executive” and Guantanamo, those are clearly examples of compassionate conservative government, because Bush has stated that he is a compassionate conservative. Scalzi must therefore be uncompassionate, or at least unable to recognize compassion, as he opposes both.”

    If that example strikes you as ridiculous (and it should), note that it follows your first complaint against Goldberg precisely; it explicitly draws from original sources (Bush’s campaign speeches), and attempts to affix an otherwise debateable aspect of the argument thereby. And, like the case of Mussolini’s writings, it defines word in a manner which will cause complaint from an unbiased reader. These are both examples where the glib argument of a prima facie definition cannot apply.

    I haven’t read Goldberg’s book, but I can at least tell that any serious criticism of it is going to require, you know, work.

  49. Gerrymander:

    No, not really. First, “The Doctrine of Fascism” isn’t equivalent to a campaign speech; it’s an assessment and encapsulation of a political movement that by that time was already in power, by the person who grew the movement from the ground up. If you want the campaign speeches of the Fascists, go check out the 1919 manifesto, or, you know, actual campaign speeches at the time. But in terms of the actual intent and execution of Fascist political philosophy, some texts are more privileged than others, and a statement of doctrine, from a political movement already in power, is such.

    Second, your example is stupid, I agree, and it’s stupid because the context of Bush using the phrase “compassionate conservative” has nothing to do with his philosophy of the unitary executive or shunting prisoners into Guantanamo, although of course I certainly invite you to prove me wrong, and give me an example of where Bush has explicitly said the unitary executive is an example of compassionate conservatism . However, Mussolini explicitly explaining how and why Fascism is a negation of socialism (amon other philosophies) is on point in countering an argument that Fascism is essentially socialism.

    “I haven’t read Goldberg’s book, but I can at least tell that any serious criticism of it is going to require, you know, work.”

    Given how off-base you were above, you may wish to reconsider that assessment.

  50. the context of Bush using the phrase “compassionate conservative” has nothing to do with his philosophy of the unitary executive or shunting prisoners into Guantanamo,”

    Of course it does — it is an encapsulation of the specific manifestation of conservative politics as promoted by George W. Bush. Unless you want to argue that Republicans didn’t exist as a power base prior to 2000 or that Bush has been a powerless president, then stating that Bush’s campaign planks define “compassionate conservatism” is just as valid as using Mussolini’s written doctrine to define fascism. What Bush does is compassionate by definition and not an abridgement of human rights, just as what Mussolini did was by definition fascist, not socialist.

    Of course, when I say “just as valid,” I mean “not valid at all.” Philosophy is all well and good, but like the man says, by their acts you will know them. If you want to believe that the way European fascism killed Jews in job lots is completely different from the way Soviet socialism killed Jews in job lots, feel free. But that gets us back to Goldberg, who is saying pretty much just the opposite, as per what I wrote above.

  51. If you want to believe that the way European fascism killed Jews in job lots is completely different from the way Soviet socialism killed Jews in job lots, feel free.

    Well, it is completely different from the way the socialist European states currently DON’T kill jews, and the way they argue for universal human rights, so perhaps it isn’t the socialist aspect of the Soviets that happen to be at blame but rather the authoritarian aspects that both the Soviets and Fascists happen share.

    This associative “Modern socialism has a liberal bent, soviet russia was a form of socialism, Fascist Italy has authoritarian similarities with the former soviet union, therefore liberals are fascist” is horrible and incorrect use of logic.

  52. so perhaps it isn’t the socialist aspect of the Soviets that happen to be at blame but rather the authoritarian aspects that both the Soviets and Fascists happen share.

    Yes! This is what Goldberg is trying to get across! Mostly, anyway. Goldberg would also claim that the authoritarian aspect is a defining quality of each, and is in fact inseparable from them.

  53. I was at work today and spent a few moments –rereading–nay researching Mr Goldberg and this very thread and like a bolt of lightning– I understood!
    It was the comment about the pink swastika that finally clued me in.
    Yes some of the Nazis were gay (Ernst Rohm ,Edmund Heines) But their gayness was tolerated as long as it was closeted.They were finally removed when it became too blatant.However they left a legacy of really great uniforms (zb watch the movie The Wansee Conference) and lapel pins …attacks on innocent foreign countries under trumped up circumstances .
    Then I started putting it together…what does this remind me of…no
    not the Democrats.
    OK a stretch but on a par with Goldbergs work.

  54. Gerrymander: But that’s not (from the pieces I’ve read, what he’s trying to get across. What he’s trying to say is the Democrats are Socialists, becuause they believe there are things the gov’t ought to be in charge of, QED, they are Fascists.

    He then fails to address the authoritarian aspects of the Republicans in power now; because he says they aren’t Fascists, and therefore aren’t going to try to consolidate power.

    Ergo, if you love “freedom” you can’t support the evil Democrats, because they are really Fascists, just like Mussolini and Hitler.

    If you disagree with him; by looking to the ends the the different groups have, and the means they use(d) to attain them; and thus show the substantive (as opposed to rhetorically arguable) differences between the groups; if you point out the, very real, groups which have fascist tendencies (or, like the American Nazi Party, are openly fascist) you are cherry picking, because that’s not relevant to his “proving” that the “Liberals” are fascists, and so the Republicans are protecting America from living under an evil regime.

    Am I being flip? Some, but from skimming the book, reading Goldberg’s defenses (and far too much of his other writings) that seems, to me, to be the real crux; and purpose of his argument.

    Means, and ends, matter. Stalin killed lots of people. He did it to create a new order, and consolidate power. He did it with active neglect.

    Hitler killed lots of people. He did it by creating camps into which he herded “undersirables,” and systematically murdered them. The Ukrainian Famine is one thing, Bergen-Belsen another, and the Gulags something else altogether.

    To equate them (because a lot of people died) is to strip all of them of any real meaning.

    That level of negational equation is what I see Goldberg doing. If he’s doing it knowingly, then he’s doing one of a couple of bad things (i.e. taking advantage of the credulous, or attempting to subvert the meaning of the words to attain political ends by lying), or he’s just so stupid he can’t see the folly of his arguments.

    None of those does him any credit.

  55. Great posts on Goldberg and Mussolini, John. You do some really inspired polemics when you put your mind to it!

    Goldberg’s argument is just as cracked when it comes to the Nazis. Real historians actually do debate whether Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) should be classified as “fascist” or as a distinctive phenemenon.

    But not because the NSDAP had the word “socialist” in its name. In fact, that bit of labelling was never much more than an attempt to get workers to take a second look at the party, because the Social Democrats and Communists were the workers’ parties in Germany in the 1920s. The NSDAP never won much support among workers, in any case. Their strength was among conservative Protestants who had been monarchists under the Wilhelminian Empire (which fell in the democratic revolution of 1918) and also in rural areas with farmers and small business people. Since Germany was a real democracy at the time and the NSDAP competed in elections, we actually have some pretty good data on who supported them.

    Trying to argue that the Nazis were left-wing is just so goofy it’s hard to imagine that Goldberg is serious. The Nazis spent the 1920s having street fights against the Communist and Social Democratic parties. Those two had their own street-fighting sections so they didn’t get suppressed until after Hitler became Chancellor (which happened in January 1933, 75 years ago). The Catholic Center Party was the closest thing then to what we would think of today as a democratic conservative party. They didn’t have street-fighting units so the Nazis went a long way toward suppressing them before 1933. The two tiny liberal parties were virtually insignificant by 1932.

    It was the monarchist conservatives who had always despised the democratic revolution of 1918 who brought Hitler in as Chancellor in 1933, thinking he could help them rally the public to the conservative cause. But he turned out to be a more skillful politician than they expected. President Hindenburg, the stodgy conservative hero of the First World War, enabled Hitler’s rule until his death in 1934.

    The NSDAP was always seen as part of the nationalistic, revanchist, anti-democracy right throughout the 1920s. The old monarchist conservatives never really broke with Hitler’s movement, though some of the anti-Hitler conspirators during the Second World War were monarchist types. The old monarchist conservatives were largely absorbed by the Hitler regime. And, in any case, the NSDAP was the only legal party from mid-1933 onward.

    Certainly Germans of the day would have been amazed at anyone thinking the NSDAP was “left”. That’s just pseudohistory.

  56. One correction to John F. Opie’s comment that both Hitler and Mussolini began on the political left. That’s true of Mussolini. Not of Hitler. The Austrian historian Brigitte Hamaan has a book called Hitler’s Vienna in which she sorts through the various political influences on the young Hitler in his prewar days. He always had contempt for democracy and was attracted to the anti-Semitic and German-nationalist politics that were very much a part of the poison soup of Viennese politics at that time.

  57. Did anyone see the Daily Show last night? I thought it might be relevant. ;-) I actually wish Stewart had put in the whole interview with Goldberg. Oh well. It is very entertaining.

    Jonah Goldberg

  58. George Bush can be labeled “compassionate”, based on his actions. I can’t, on the other hand, label him a conservative. At best, he’s conservative light.

    Though many Bush haters like to ignore it, he did push for an extension of drug benefits for seniors. He did push for what is essentially amnesty for illegals. He, with Kennedy, put NCLB into place. He is trying to put in place a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan, even if he was wrong to be there in the first place (which I don’t think he was). After some neglect, he threw money at Louisiania.

    None of the above are per se ‘conservative’. All are big government programs, including the nation building he is engaged in (and which he pledged not to do in his 2000 campaign). All of the above are pretty well resented by the conservative base.

    As to the “compassion” of Guatanamo, consider the alternative. Many of the detainees were subject to be shot on the battefield under existing international law. The Guatanamo alternative demonstrates some compassion, despite not extending the entire Bill of Rights to the detainees.

  59. Geekygirl etc.-

    Thank you for the link. Considering the heavily edited nature of the interview, Goldberg came off better than I anticipated.

  60. Bruce Miller @ 66: Certainly Germans of the day would have been amazed at anyone thinking the NSDAP was “left”.

    There are some places in Germany where one might imagine Goldberg elaborating on his thesis and deal with an audience that would react about as well to being called “left” as a football hooligan would react to being called a supporter of a team he hates.

  61. Mr. Scalzi,

    Goldberg actually includes “compassionate conservatism” on his list of political ideas owing an intellectual debt to fascism. He clearly criticizes Bush for statements like “When people hurt, government has to move.”

  62. “As to the “compassion” of Guatanamo, consider the alternative. Many of the detainees were subject to be shot on the battefield under existing international law. ”

    And many of the detainees were people picked up off of the street around the world without so much as a hearing into whether they were even the people the government hoped to grab, much less actually guilty of the conspiracies they are accused of. Abu Ghraib and similar camps house far more of the enemy combatants actually caught combating us.

  63. Fascism and communism both result in dictatorships and police states. It does not matter what principles a political party asserts, whether they be from the right or the left, a rejection of checks-and-balances and seperation-of-powers leads a state to quickly drift towards authoritarianism. Heck, communism calls for a “withering state”, yet it leads to a bloated totalitarian state (kind of like how conservatives in America cry for “smaller government”, yet when they are in power, oddly enough, they increase government). Communism leads to authoritarianism mainly because they want no check or division in powers. Just as fascism does. This is not a function exclusive to the left or the right.

    To assert rejection of checks-and-balances and seperation of powers and is a function of the left is absurd. In essence, this is what Goldberg is asserting and it is especially ironic given his support for the Bush administartion, whose concept of the “unitary executive” has it that all branches of government outside the executive branch are window-dressing. The right/left metaphor came from the French Revolution and basically means “right=tradition” and “left=change”. Authoritarianism can be used just as much to preserve a traditional order as it can for sweeping, revolutionary changes.

  64. El Chupageek-

    I have no reason to disagree with the statement that “And many of the detainees were people picked up off of the street around the world without so much as a hearing into whether they were even the people the government hoped to grab …”. However, whether Gitmo is more compassionate than the alternative, depends on from what “streets” they were snatched.

    For example, if London, I suspect that British facilities are far more favorable than Gitmo. If Egypt or Afghanistan, Gitmo might be a the compassionate alternative.

    Also, Gitmo detainees are assigned attorneys (who admittedly operate in less than ideal circumstances). Hearings are being held, with time out for the various appeal courts and Congress to determine what rights attach at those hearings. And, detainees are being released from Gitmo, albeit slowly. So no matter how modest the rights, they are being given rights, which is more than can be said for some of the world’s streets.

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