Two years after reaching to the top of the non-fiction bestseller lists, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism remains an influential book on the right. If you blog on topics that overlap with its subject matter, especially if you argue in any way against its thesis, conservative commenters will link you to it, seemingly under the presumption that, if only you had fully imbibed of its wisdom, you could never be so complacent about the evil ones on the other side of the American discussion.
As for that other side, Goldberg may at least have made leftists a bit more self-conscious about dropping the political f-bomb on their opponents, perhaps because those opponents have learned a set of comebacks. In fact, partly due to the work of those who have taken up Goldberg’s arguments and run with them, the thesis has been taken a step further than the author claimed he wanted to go. Goldberg writes insistently that, of course, he didn’t really mean to suggest that liberals are the same, or virtually the same, or as bad as, the real fascists. Yet it’s not hard to find that thinking, in pretty much those words, on the internet right. In part by lending his services to popularizers, but also by virtue of the argument as he set it down in 400-plus pages, Goldberg has encouraged that development.
Here’s Goldberg’s “working definition” of fascism, from LF‘s first chapter “Everything You Know About Fascism Is Wrong”:
Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.