Liberal Fascism

Nick Cohen in The Observer, the Sunday sister of The Guardian:

It is undeniable that the best way to have avoided complicity in the horrors of the last century would have been to have adopted the politics of Jonah Goldberg. Much can be said against moderate conservatives, but it has to be admitted that their wariness of grand designs and their willingness to place limits on the over-mighty state give them a clean record others cannot share. Few of Goldberg’s contemporaries will grant him the same courtesy. He lives in a western culture where “smug, liberal know-nothings, sublimely confident in the truth of their ill-informed opinions” accuse him of being “a fascist and a Nazi” simply because he is a conservative. Meanwhile, the heart-throb-savant George Clooney can assert that “the liberal movement morally has stood on the right side”.

Behind the insults and the self-righteousness is the assumption that politics runs on a continuum from far left to far right; that if David Cameron were to keep moving rightwards, he would end up a Nazi. Goldberg sets out to knock down this false paradigm and show that much of what Americans call liberalism, and we call leftism, has its origins in fascism.

I say “knock down”, but that is too mild a phrase. Liberal Fascism is not a clean blow to the jaw, but a multiple rocket launcher of a book that targets just about every liberal American hero and ideal. The title comes from HG Wells, the most strenuous intellectual advocate of totalitarianism on the early-20th-century British left. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti,” he told the Oxford Union in 1932, “for enlightened Nazis. The world is sick of parliamentary democracy. The Fascist party is Italy. The Communist is Russia. The Fascists of liberalism must carry out a parallel ambition of a far grander scale.”


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