Liberal Fascism

The Appeal of Authority

Charles Martin at Pajamas Media has an interesting take, though I think he downplays how much I argue that the totalitarian temptation is a human failing, rather than an ideological one. A bit from the piece:

It’s a shame that people on both sides aren’t reading more carefully, because Goldberg is on the trail of a deep truth. (Contrary sort that I am, I have read the book, but I’m primarily interested in what Goldberg didn’t say.) He describes fascism, properly, as collectivist and authoritarian, and notes that these collective and authoritarian threads run through American politics. The whole thesis of Goldberg’s book is that the use of “fascist” as a pejorative applied to the “right wing” ignores, or perhaps purposely obscures, the roots of nationalist collective authoritarianism on the “left”.

Certainly we think of Hitler and Mussolini as being in some sense fascist; Goldberg shows that it’s difficult to distinguish between the “fascism” of Mussolini and the “progressive” politics of both Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. He then shows how those same threads of centralized planning, group identification, and willing obedience to some charismatic leader show up over and over again, from LaFollette to the present.

A lot of Goldberg’s book is devoted to showing how these themes are much more clearly identifiable with the “left” as we now understand the term. In fact this effort is, finally, unimportant: what we consider to be the “left” or the “right” is purely arbitrary. What Goldberg is really showing is that whether we call it left or right, authoritarianism runs through both political parties and all political movements. It’s as if authoritarianism has some seductive power that makes it nearly impossible to resist.


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