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Monday, October 20, 2008

Liberal fascism: What it is and why you should care

Recently, I read a book by an American political analyst Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, which helped me understand a political landscape that I have watched with growing concern: increasingly authoritarian government and increasingly supine citizens.

Culturally, it reached the point recently where the term denialist began to characterize anyone who departs from a consensus - as if departing from a consensus were not part of the engine of progress in the Western world.

Goldberg calls the new mood "liberal fascism." To interpret the political landscape correctly, we need to understand fascism clearly.

At present, most people think fascism is simply "the way the Nazis behaved." While there is no question that the Nazis were fascists, it is quite easy to be at the opposite end of the traditional political spectrum and also be a hard core fascist. And so far as I can see, there are currently more fascists in North America at the leftward end of the political spectrum than the rightward end. That's what Liberal Fascism is about.

So what is fascism?

Fascism is not a program in politics, it is a mood. It can be a mood of the right or the left.

It is the mood of an angry identity group. The group could be vegans, transgendered people, the losers in a war, members of an impoverished ethnic group ...

In their view, they have been wronged - by members of another group. The government must make things right by giving them money, status, and power and punishing members of the evil group that has wronged them.

Typically, fascists thrive on crises. When they don't have actual crises, they proclaim or even manufacture them in order to get what they want.

As Goldberg points out, fascism is a modern substitute for traditional religion. Fascists, right or left, relate to government as worshippers do to a god. They look to government not only to provide for them but to validate their lives, to proclaim that they are good, to say that they have a right to be proud of themselves.

The head of state is seen as a messiah who will usher in a new age - even in nature. By contrast, his political opponents are endlessly plotting evil conspirators who must be crushed.

The crises the fascist thrives on (or invents) are - of course - so serious that civil liberties and normal justice are unimportant, perhaps even offensive or dangerous.

Note: We should not confuse "fascist" with "authoritarian." If the government is authoritarian, it simply says, "We boss, you not, get lost." That's bad, but it is not nearly as bad as the government saying "We are your saviour, we give meaning to your life."

If you think you've seen anything like that in politics recently, read on:

1. Why do people think "fascist" means "right-wing" or "traditional"?

2. So, can "progressives" really be fascist too?

3. Are "left" and "right" a useful political spectrum any more?

4. What does fascism look like in North America?

5. But what is the ultimate goal of today's liberal fascism?

6. How dare anyone call liberals fascists? Liberals and progressives are good people!

7. Do liberal fascists single out specific people as targets to attack?

8. Why do you say that liberal fascists are addicted to crises?

9. What is the most totalitarian concept in politics today?

10. But surely it is good to want the country to be one, big happy family!

11. Explain what you mean when you say that liberal fascism exalts feelings over facts

12. How did we get here and how can we get back?

Next: 1. Why do people think "fascist" means "right-wing" or "traditional"?

Note: A bit about Goldberg:

One of the most prominent young conservative journalists on the scene today, Jonah Goldberg is Generation X’s answer to P.J. O’Rourke. His columns and articles, laced with keen wit and pithy insights, have rapidly generated a large readership. Whether he’s issuing a sharply-worded cultural critique or laying out a lucid analysis of a hot political issue, Goldberg is guaranteed to make you laugh, and learn. His work is proof that reading and thinking about political, media, and cultural issues can be enlightening and entertaining at the same time--even if you don’t agree with his particular point of view.

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