Liberal Fascism

The Toronto Star Reviews LF

It’s peppy. An excerpt:

Into the mosh pit of the most addictively gruesome political spectacle going – an American presidential campaign – Los Angeles Times columnist and National Review contributor Jonah Goldberg drops a book guaranteed to ramp up the hysteria.

Surely the timing cannot be coincidental, any more than the book’s talk-show marquee title – Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning – and Hitler-moustached happy face cover can be dismissed as innocently serendipitous. This is a book with menace on its mind, arrows in its quiver and a dagger in its teeth. Better or worse – depending which side of the great divide you’re on – it’s got a case.

The result is a fascinating, near 500-page tightrope walk between sensation and reason, polemic and history, journalism and invective. Here’s a perfect volume perfect for the gladiatorial atmosphere of contemporary American political discourse. It’s as fascinating as it is infuriating for that very reason.

To even begin to entertain Goldberg’s thesis that certain fundamental vestiges of traditional fascism – especially those pertaining to the role of the state in the life of the individual – are alive and well in American liberalism, one needs to understand the author’s meaning of the word. He repeatedly stresses that the popular vernacular use of “fascist” – with its knee-jerk associations of dictatorship, paramilitary thuggery, brute bigotry and especially right-wing extremism – is a perversion created by the horrors of the Third Reich.

Goldberg traces the parallel origins of the idea to such pre-20th century figures as Robespierre, Bismarck, Nietzsche and Marx – fascism and communism being mutant Siamese siblings – but also to the American political philosophy of progressivism. According to Goldberg, the same ideas that motivated Mussolini and Hitler are also at the heart of the American liberal enterprise. And they’ve been there for generations.


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