Liberal Fascism

Modernity & Fascists Cont’d

I also think looking for too much internal consistency in fascist thought is ultimately a fool’s errand. I think this is one of the reasons (aside, perhaps, from my lack of clarity) why so many people have trouble getting my intent in the “We’re All Fascists Now” chapter. Even though I say several times that I actually like many of the things in contemporary society one could reasonably call fascistic. For example, I shop at Whole Foods all the time. I also admit that I like many of the movies I’m discussing even though they have fascistic themes or elements.  And yet people still think that I’m just hurling the f-word around. In reality, my intent was to do something quite different. It was,  first of all, to show that fascism isn’t simply a codeword for evil and to demonstrate that much of our own culture is indebted to strains of thought and taste that are traceable straight back to what we’ve been told are the most evil regimes of the 20th century.

Of course, I have no problem calling Hitler’s Germany evil — it was. But I think that we’ve spent so much time looking for fascism where it isn’t that we’ve ignored lots of places where it’s bubbled up. We just don’t recognize it for what it is. Critics think that simply because I’m recognizing it, I’m calling it evil. But that’s not my intent. Gladiator and Starship Troopers are suffused with fascistic themes and imagery. But I love those movies. I think what’s interesting is to ask why we love these movies and what does it say about us? Why is fascism so fascinating? Why are we seduced by its record while we consider the Soviet Union to be sort of a joke? 

Here’s a relevant quote from Susan Sontag:

It is generally thought that National Socialism stands only for brutishness and terror. But this is not true. National Socialism — more broadly, fascism—also stands for an ideal or rather ideals that are persistent today under other banners: the ideal of life as art, the

cult of beauty, the fetishism of courage, the dissolution of alienation in ecstatic feelings of community, the repudiation of the intellect, the family of man (under the parenthood of leaders). These ideals are vivid and moving to many people . . . because their content is a

romantic ideal to which many continue to be attached and which is expressed in such diverse modes of cultural dissidence and propaganda for new forms of community as the youth/rock culture, primal therapy, anti-psychiatry, Third-World camp-following, and belief in the occult.

—Susan Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism”

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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