Charles Murray and “Liberal Fascism”

Sans Everything is a blog that supports animal rights. So it seems amiss for me to keep beating the same poor broken-down horse, whether it’s dead or alive. Still, there is one last comment to make about Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. The book has been enthusiastically endorsed by Charles Murray, a blurb that’s included on the book’s website. “Liberal Fascism is nothing less than a portrait of 20th-century political history as seen through a new prism. It will affect the way I think about that history-and about the trajectory of today’s politics-forever after,” Murray says.

What credibility does Murray have as a critic of fascism? As I noted in two earlier postings, Murray is most famous as the co-author, along with Richard Herrnstein, of The Bell Curve, a book tainted by its reliance on extreme racialists. The writers Muray drew on for his book are not the made-up “liberal fascists” of Goldberg’s imagination (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Hilary Clinton). Rather, Murray built his case by relying on men who had genuine connections with dictatorial, racialist regimes. One of them was Nathaniel Weyl, a strong supporter of the apartheid-era South Africa.

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Conservative Scholarship, then and now

The dunce cap. 

I’ve been upbraided for dealing with Johan Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism in an elliptical fashion, by talking about National Review‘s history of philo-fascism, rather than directly. But Goldberg’s book is being widely reviewed and commented on. It would be redundant for me to simply echo what smart writers like Dave Neiwert, Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein have already written. (And in time real historians of fascism will also be tackling the book). My philosophy as a blogger is to always try to make points that aren’t being articulated elsewhere.

Having said that, here is one fresh point that no one, as far as I know, has made about Goldberg. The book is about the relationship between fascism and American politics. Goldberg, on the evidence of the book, can’t read German, Italian or Spanish. These are the main languages you need to possess if you want to read the primary sources and major scholarly literature on fascism. The endnotes in Goldberg’s book are monolithically English.

Imagine writing a book on Shakespeare without knowing a word of English, or a book on the American Constitution while being unable to read Madison and Hamilton without the aid of translators.

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Goldberg’s “Fascism” and the Real Thing

Jonah Goldberg’s gall is greatly to be admired. A contributing editor at National Review, Goldberg will soon issue forth a book entitled Liberal Fascism. Early peeks show that the dust jacket contains this clever apercu: “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.” Chapter titles include: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism, Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal, Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism.

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