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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the…
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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini… (2007)

by Jonah Goldberg

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  1. 12
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Preaching to the choir, alas. Author Jonah Goldberg is a National Review contributor and Liberal Fascism reads like a greatly elaborated version of a National Review article: erudite, extensively researched and documented, and never read by the people who should. Goldberg falls all over himself apologizing; he doesn’t really think Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama are Fascists, just that their programs have some things in common with Fascist programs. He’s rather handicapped here because the John the Baptist of Fascism, Benito Mussolini, didn’t really have any programs – Mussolini said “Our program is to govern”. This has historically allowed Leftists to define Fascism as “anything we disagree with”. Lots of Fascist/NSDAP goals and accomplishments – guaranteed employment, abolition of interest, confiscation of war profits, nationalization of trusts, profit sharing, old-age pensions (all these come from the NSDAP party platform) – would be counted as “progressive” if they had come from any other political entity. In fact, as Goldberg points out, they were counted as progressive at various times by Lincoln Steffens, H.G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw and others with impeccable leftist credentials.


Goldberg’s deconstruction of Woodrow Wilson is particularly enlightening and should be required reading for anybody who thinks George W. Bush was “the worst president ever”. The Wilson administration was responsible for the Espionage Act and Sedition Act, which allowed it to arrest anyone who criticized WWI. The Postmaster General was empowered to prohibit mailing any “seditious” publication (and did so for over 75), and the War Resources Board interdicted supplies of newsprint to any critical newspaper.


There are a lot of eyebrow raising quotes here. Cole Porter: “You’re the top, You’re the Great Houdini; You’re the top, You are Mussolini!” (original version). Woodrow Wilson: “I am an advocate of peace but there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war”. Clarence Darrow (speaking of Wilson and WWI): “Any man who refuses to back the President in this crisis is worse than a traitor.” Walter Lippmann (speaking to FDR): “The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers”. Völkischer Beobachter (about FDR): “A man of irreproachable, extremely responsible character and immovable will.” Mussolini: “Roosevelt is moving, acting, giving orders independently of the decisions or wishes of the Senate or Congress.” (They meant that as a compliment).


This just skims the surface of a 400+ page book. Every quote and claim is documented. The problem is nobody who needs to is going to pay any attention to this. This isn’t Goldberg’s fault; it’s just the way things are. You can explain all you want that Hitler was a Socialist, and what “Nazi” is short for, but all it invokes in the typical liberal is cognitive dissonance.


I have some gripes. From time to time Goldberg blames various liberal excesses on “Darwinism”, as if that were a political philosophy (what he actually means is “Social Darwinism”). And Goldberg goes a little overboard when he comments on McCarthyism: “…under McCarthyism a few Hollywood writers who’d supported Stalin and then lied about it lost their jobs in the 1950s.” – the problem being that they shouldn’t have been forced to lie about it in the first place. But on the whole, recommended. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 15, 2017 |
Insightful and well researched. Clearly presents his arguments and his major assumptions. ( )
  jefware | Dec 20, 2016 |
Terrific ( )
  JaredChristopherson | Nov 16, 2015 |
It has provocative thesis which is probably more accurate than its critics would give it credit for. Unfortunately it sometimes seems to be devoted to slamming liberalism rather than giving a balanced view (it attempts to account for similar conservative tendencies in a postscript, a rather unfortunate place since you have to get through the whole main text first). Because of this, it's unlikely to convince any current liberals. I still enjoyed it. ( )
  Kenoubi | Sep 6, 2014 |
The interesting ideas are drowned in a sea of skewed logic. There are some genuinely good arguments and I believe this book deserves a read (if only to hone your argumentative skills). I couldn't read it again. ( )
  ancameme | Feb 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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. . . .

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. . . ."

Liberal Fascism is a bracing and stylish examination of political history. That it is being published at a time when Goldberg's free market has failed and big government and charismatic presidents are on their way back in no way invalidates his work. Hard times test intellectuals and, for all its occasional false notes, Goldberg's case survives.
added by TomVeal | editThe Observer, Nick Cohen (Feb 8, 2009)
 
The Progressives were the first generation of Americans to criticize the United States Constitution, especially for its limits on government's scope and ambition. They rejected the American Founders' classical or natural rights liberalism, offering instead a vision of the modern state as a kind of god with almost limitless power to achieve "social justice." When modern liberals like Senator Clinton call themselves progressives, therefore, they are telling the truth, even if their audiences don't fully understand the implications.

How gratifying it is then to have Jonah Goldberg's new book . . . to pursue these half-forgotten, if not exactly secret, implications. Although liberals throw around the term "fascist" to abuse conservatives (just as they do "racist"), Goldberg . . . persuasively shows that today's progressives are fascism's true descendents, embracing the statism at the heart of the 20th-century's most notorious outlaw regimes. . . .

Goldberg's Afterword is so good, in fact, that one hopes for a book on the problem of conservative statism from this excellent writer. In order to defeat liberal fascism, American conservatives will need to awaken their own ranks from the progressive spell. With his new book, Jonah Goldberg has renewed for them, and for all friends of constitutional government, a vital argument for the political battles ahead.
 
Goldberg goes beyond this conventional wisdom, however, to construct a much more ambitious theory of fascism as a kind of über-ideology. His broad thesis is that the decades from the early 1900s to the 1950s were “the fascist moment.” Across the advanced world, intellectuals lost faith in limited government, free market ideas, political democracy, diverse and competing social and cultural institutions, and all the higgledy-piggledy messiness of a free society. Groups as different as “progressives” in America, Fabians in Britain, Bismarckians in Germany, and the Futurists in Italy all sought to replace laissez-faire with state control and regulation. . . .

[W]hen H. G. Wells coined the term “liberal fascism” in a 1932 speech that called on his audience to replace the “dilatory indecisiveness” of democracy with bodies that would “end as the sustaining organizations of a reconstituted mankind,” he was not limiting his aims at all. No time limit or lack of ambition there even if in the service of liberal ideas.

Herein lies the significance of Goldberg’s long list of current liberal attitudes—mocked by some reviewers—that mimic past fascist ideas. From the young Hillary Clinton’s attempt to collectivize children under the banner of rights through the authoritarianism of political correctness and “sensitivity training” to the post-religious “politics of meaning,” modern statist liberalism exhibits an itch to regulate the lives—and increasingly the minds—of others that seems both boundless and boundlessly self-confident. If Goldberg exagerrates he exagerates something real.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385511841, Hardcover)

“Fascists,” “Brownshirts,” “jackbooted stormtroopers”—such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst?

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler's Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing myths with research, journalist Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left. The Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term "National socialism"). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and campus speech codes were all the rage. These striking parallels don't mean that today's liberals are genocidal maniacs, yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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