Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Negative reviews of "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning" by Jonah Goldberg

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning is a book by Jonah Goldberg, in which Goldberg argues that fascist movements were and are left-wing. Published in January 2008, it reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list of hardcover non-fiction in its seventh week on the list.

Goldberg is a syndicated columnist and the editor-at-large of National Review Online

Philip Coupland, whose paper "H.G. Wells's 'Liberal Fascism'" was used as a source for Liberal Fascism, criticized Goldberg's understanding of the term:

Wells did not label his 'entire...philosophy' liberal fascism, not in fact and not by implication. Liberal fascism was the name which he (and I) gave to his theory of praxis, that is his method of achieving his utopian goal, not the goal itself. ... Wells hoped for activists who would use what he considered to be 'fascist' means (technocratic authoritarianism and force) to achieve a liberal social end. In contrast, a 'liberal fascist' would pursue fascist ends but in a 'liberal' or at least more 'liberal' way.[21]

Austin W. Bramwell wrote in The American Conservative:

Repeatedly, Goldberg fails to recognize a reductio ad absurdum. ... In no case does Goldberg uncover anything more ominous than a coincidence. ... In elaborating liberalism's similarities to fascism, Goldberg shows a near superstitious belief in the power of taxonomy. ... Goldberg falsely saddles liberalism not just with relativism but with all manner of alleged errors having nothing to do with liberalism. ... Not only does Goldberg misunderstand liberalism, but he refuses to see it simply as liberalism... Liberal Fascism reads less like an extended argument than as a catalogue of conservative intellectual clichés, often irrelevant to the supposed point of the book. ... Liberal Fascism completes Goldberg's transformation from chipper humorist into humorless ideologue.[22]

Curtis Yarvin wrote about the book:

One reason the Jonah Goldbergs of the world have such trouble telling their right from their left is that they expect some morphological feature of the State to answer the question for them. For anyone other than Goldberg, Stalin was on the left and Hitler was on the right. The difference is not a function of discrepancies in administrative procedure between the KZs and the Gulag. It's a function of social networks. Stalin was a real socialist, Hitler was a fake one. Stalin was part of the international socialist movement, and Hitler wasn't.[23]

The book reads like a Google search gone gaga. Some Fascists were vegetarians; some liberals are vegetarians; ergo... Some Fascists were gay; some liberals are gay... Fascists cared about educating children; Hillary Clinton cares about educating children. Aha! ... Like Coulter, he's got a bunch of footnotes. And for all I know, they check out. But they are put in the service of an argument that no one with any knowledge of the topic would take seriously.[24]

Journalist David Neiwert, wrote in The American Prospect that Goldberg

has drawn a kind of history in absurdly broad and comically wrongheaded strokes. It is not just history done badly, or mere revisionism. It's a caricature of reality, like something from a comic-book alternative universe: Bizarro history. ... Goldberg isn't content to simply create an oxymoron; this entire enterprise, in fact, is classic Newspeak. ... Along the way, he grotesquely misrepresents the state of academia regarding the study of fascism...[25]

David Oshinsky of The New York Times wrote: "Liberal Fascism is less an exposé of left-wing hypocrisy than a chance to exact political revenge. Yet the title of his book aside, what distinguishes Goldberg from the Sean Hannitys and Michael Savages is a witty intelligence that deals in ideas as well as insults—no mean feat in the nasty world of the culture wars."[26]
Michael Tomasky wrote in The New Republic: "...I can report with a clear conscience that Liberal Fascism is one of the most tedious and inane—and ultimately self-negating—books that I have ever read. ... Liberal Fascism is a document of a deeply frivolous culture, or sub-culture. ... However much or little Goldberg knows about fascism, he knows next to nothing about liberalism".[27]
In his book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, Charles P. Pierce describes Goldberg's book as "Apparently written with a paint roller" and "a richly footnoted loogie hawked by Goldberg at every liberal who ever loosely called him a fascist." Pierce also claims that Goldberg ignored historical facts relating to his accusations against Woodrow Wilson:

It seems that Wilson was a Progressive, and Goldberg sees in the Progressive movement the seedbed of American fascism which, he argues, differs from European fascism, especially on those occasions when he needs it to differ because he has backed up the argument over his own feet. Anyway, Wilson brought the country into World War I. Therefore, Progressives love war.

Gordon's review discovered numerous historical errors that other negative reviews failed to mention. He faults Goldberg's claim that Rousseau is a precursor to fascism and his interpretation of various philosopher's statements. [28]
In January 2010, History News Network published essays by David Neiwert, Robert Paxton, Roger Griffin, Matthew Feldman, Chip Berlet, and Michael Ledeen criticizing Liberal Fascism.

They also published Goldberg's response which several authors responded to.

For more reviews go here