His controversial book Liberal Fascism has already divided his own country. Now, as American political columnist JONAH GOLDBERG’s bestseller is published in Britain, he explains why he believes that – contrary to conventional wisdom – fascism and left-wing philosophy are inextricably linked …
Hallelujah! The Bush nightmare is over. The dark night of American fascism is giving way to the dawn of hope, the Age of Obama. The forces of truth will once again prevail and the crypto-Nazis will be banished to their caves.
That pretty much captures a large segment of current liberal conventional wisdom on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the course of his presidency, President George W. Bush and his supporters have been called fascists and Nazis thousands of times in books, articles, documentaries and by legions of poster-wielding ‘progressive’ youths with open-toed shoes and closed minds.
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. For more than 70 years the Left has hurled the F-word at anyone who gets in its way – Stalin invented this tactic to de-legitimise socialist opponents, including Leon Trotsky, assassinated for leading a ‘fascist coup’.
As early as 1946, George Orwell wrote that: ‘The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable”.’
Today, a better working definition of a fascist might simply be a conservative who’s winning an argument. But what if fascism means something more than ‘bad’. What if fascism was not, and is not, a Right-wing phenomenon at all?
For instance, what were the motivating passions of fascism? For starters, there was the cult of unity. The Nazis mastered the spectacle of the crowd to project an aura of unity, equality and common purpose. Submitting yourself to the movement was sold as a cleansing, redemptive, fundamentally spiritual experience.
Such spectacles were made possible by the cult of personality, the faith that a great leader would rise from among ‘us’ and bring everyone together. Well, where have we recently seen enormous rallies of ecstatic followers?
According to The New York Times, Barack Obama’s own recruiters were trained not to talk about issues, but to ‘testify’ about how they ‘came to Obama’ the way one might normally talk about coming to Jesus.
‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,’ Obama told mesmerised crowds. ‘Unity is the great need of the hour,’ he insisted. We need unity, he explained, ‘not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential [empathy] deficit that exists in this country’.
Or as his wife, Michelle, put it: ‘We need a leader who’s going to touch our souls because, you see, our souls are broken.’
It’s worth noting that in the Anglo-American tradition, unity is not, in fact, the highest political value. That’s why we have constitutions, separation of powers and independent courts. The hero in the Anglo-American tradition is not the mob, but the man who stands up to it.
And yet the cult of unity remains seductive, particularly in chaotic democracies. One way it manifests itself is in the myth of the Third Way, one of Tony Blair’s enthusiasms.
It’s ironic how the Left is always ready to brand a conservative who steps off the politically correct reservation as a fascist, but sees nothing wrong with embracing concepts that fit neatly within the fascist wheelhouse.
Italian Fascism and German National Socialism were both sold as a Third Way that would bypass all hard choices. ‘Neither Right nor Left!’ was a central fascist slogan.
The trouble with the Third Way is its core assumption that any hard choice is a ‘false choice’.
Economic growth and environmental regulations, socialised medicine and medical innovation, none of these things is at odds with one another so long as the right enlightened geniuses are in power.