The American Conservative Whomps Jonah Goldberg

Oh, I just can't get enough popcorn these days:
Not without reason was Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism widely expected to be a bad book. As many predicted from the title, Goldberg does not content himself with rebuking those who call anyone who disagrees with them a fascist. Instead, he invents reasons of his own for calling anyone who disagrees with Jonah Goldberg a fascist....

He makes much of his discovery, for example, that the Nazis supported organic farming and animal rights and even goes so far as to admonish us to “grapple with the fact that we’ve seen this sort of thing before.” Readers can spare themselves the energy. That Nazism and contemporary liberalism both promote healthy living is as meaningless a finding as that bloody marys and martinis may both be made with gin....

[L]iberals plainly have changed their minds when it comes to nearly every damning quotation that Goldberg unearths. This goes not just for the white supremacy of Wilson or the eugenics of Margaret Sanger but for liberals’ preferred political theories as well.... Goldberg thinks it significant that progressive intellectuals scorned individual rights and the Declaration of Independence. Well, liberals these days do not. Goldberg cannot force liberals to stop championing the Declaration right now just so his attacks on liberalism can be vindicated....

At one point, he writes that liberals cavalierly “dismiss abstract arguments involving universal moral principles.” On the contrary, with the exception of a few eccentrics such as Richard Rorty, liberals do not hesitate to argue from abstract, universal moral principles such as human rights or equality. Celebrity intellectuals such as Martha Nussbaum even invoke Aristotle to prove that liberalism is everywhere and at all times morally correct. Whatever the errors of liberalism, a failure to appreciate abstract moral obligations is surely not among them.

Goldberg falsely saddles liberalism not just with relativism but with all manner of alleged errors having nothing to do with liberalism. At one point, he exhumes the likes of Derrida and Foucault in order to pummel them once more for introducing postmodernism, deconstruction, and other continental horrors into the world. What this tiresome routine has to do with liberalism escapes the reader. From the outset, liberals opposed these fads as fiercely as conservatives....

Intelligent liberals will not cry foul at Liberal Fascism so much as groan. They were not fixed in these formulated phrases before and they will not be so fixed now.

Goldberg does at times display a blush of shame. He qualifies his conclusions to the point of taking them all back, insisting that he does not actually mean to say that liberals are dangerous totalitarians. He grants that some of his points are trivial and others may appear outrageous, so that nothing he says should be taken as both true and interesting at the same time....

Why then link liberalism in particular with fascism? Here Goldberg is surprisingly candid: because, he argues, liberals do it to conservatives all the time....It does not speak well of Goldberg that, by his own admission, he wrote his first book not to enlighten but to exact revenge.

Liberal Fascism completes Goldberg’s transformation from chipper humorist into humorless ideologue. Perhaps it was hubris that made him do it. The last important book by a conservative was Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind in 1987, whose ideas had been in circulation for many years before. Goldberg may have convinced himself that by penning yet another disquisition into the “true nature of liberalism,” he could become the first movement conservative in a generation to write something lasting. In the end, he succeeded only in recycling 60 years worth of conservative movement bromides.

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