October 25, 2009
Rightwing Fascists and Other Fables
The political Left has been saying for the longest time: Fascism is an ideology of the right. In January 2008, Jonah Goldberg's excellent Liberal Fascism debuted, and in it he demonstrated for all time that fascism is most definitely an ideology of the left.
What distinguishes Mr. Goldberg's book is not that his "secret history" revealed things no one knew, but rather its singular success both in America and abroad as a work of political heresy. That success is due, I think, to the book's packaging and presentation: From the jarring title to the relentless rolling out of suppressed history to the unsettling conclusions, it's a most compelling read. (The book is now available in paperback, with a new afterword on Obama.)
Sadly, Goldberg's authoritative history has not sunk in with the media. This can be seen in the coverage of the October 22 appearance on the BBC's Question Time program of British National Party leader Nick Griffin, who is widely accused of fascism in the U.K. The main gripe against Griffin seems to be his position on immigration. But, inasmuch as the protesters were trying to silence a man and shut down debate, could this be a case of fascists protesting other fascists?
Because they're so toxic, charges of fascism and racism can't be allowed to stand. Justice Secretary Jack Straw probably wishes he hadn't launched such charges, as Mr. Griffin's comeback was devastating. (See it in this excerpt from the BBC show, which garnered a huge audience. For more British coverage of the event, read: Times of London, Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Sun, The Independent.)
In America, the press continues to conflate fascism and rightism. The Associated Press leads with: "Anti-fascist protesters broke into the BBC's west London headquarters on Thursday ahead of a far-right party leader's appearance on a leading political debate show". Another AP writer titles his story: "UK Far-Right Leader's BBC Appearance a Ratings Hit". The title of the John F. Burns' article at the New York Times' website is: "Rightist on BBC Panel Draws Protests and Viewers".
Journalists need to understand that you can be fascist or you can be rightwing but you can't be both. Ink-stained wretches, you need to brush up your Goldberg.
Although Goldberg's book is essential reading -- indeed, it should be required reading for journalists until they get up to speed on these matters -- I don't think one needs his historical research and ideological analyses to "know" that one of his central ideas is correct. But the Left's counter claim (that fascism is rightist) has taken firm root. So let's define some terms. All-purpose dictionaries can be unreliable in their treatments of certain political words, but these definitions ring true:
totalitarianism American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural LiteracyDomination by a government of all political, social, and economic activities in a nation. Totalitarianism is a phenomenon of the twentieth century: earlier forms of despotism and autocracy lacked the technical capacity to control every aspect of life. The term is applied both to fascist governments (see fascism) and to many forms of communism.
totalitarian American Heritage DictionaryOf, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed: "A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul" (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)
The reason I've trotted out the 125 words of these definitions is to show that even the slightest bit of familiarity with fascism and communism should be enough to tell you that the idea that they're opposites is nuts.
If two tribes both practiced ritual human sacrifice like we saw in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, would you think that in all the important matters they were really quite different? If two governments each had economies based on slavery, would you say they were the exact antitheses of each other? If they each had vast networks of concentration camps or gulags, would you think of them as opposites?
If you answered in the affirmative, the political Left has assimilated you. If you answered correctly, you still need to read Goldberg's book.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.