Dux nobis

If a prize were given for sophistry, Jonah Goldberg would win, not because he's good at it, but because he earnestly believes his own nonsense.  The entire thesis of his recent book, Liberal Fascism, rests (judging by his frequent descriptions of it) on the following hodgepodge of fallacies: the formal fallacy of the undistributed middle; equivocation on the word "socialist"; ignorance of the origins and meaning of the term "fascist"; and various straw persons of "progressive positions" (to name the most obvious).  By the way, if you haven't seen his interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, go see it.  It's hilarious.

Just for fun, and because it bears repeating how this fellow has no business writing books on fascism or any subject for that matter, take the following explanation of why Mussolini is called a fascist:

To sort of start the story, the reason why we see fascism as a thing of the right is because fascism was originally a form of right-wing socialism. Mussolini was born a socialist, he died a socialist, he never abandoned his love of socialism, he was one of the most important socialist intellectuals in Europe and was one of the most important socialist activists in Italy, and the only reason he got dubbed a fascist and therefore a right-winger is because he supported World War I.

Not so much.  Maybe it's because Mussolini founded the doctrine of fascism.  Here's a taste of Mussolini's own description of his view: 

In the Fascist conception of history, man is man only by virtue of the spiritual process to which he contributes as a member of the family, the social group, the nation, and in function of history to which all nations bring their contribution. Hence the great value of tradition in records, in language, in customs, in the rules of social life (8). Outside history man is a nonentity. Fascism is therefore opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism; and it is opposed to all Jacobinistic utopias and innovations. It does not believe in the possibility of "happiness" on earth as conceived by the economistic literature of the XVIIIth century, and it therefore rejects the theological notion that at some future time the human family will secure a final settlement of all its difficulties. This notion runs counter to experience which teaches that life is in continual flux and in process of evolution. In politics Fascism aims at realism; in practice it desires to deal only with those problems which are the spontaneous product of historic conditions and which find or suggest their own solutions (9). Only by entering in to the process of reality and taking possession of the forces at work within it, can man act on man and on nature (10)

And he continues:

Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity (11). It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts The rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual (12). And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State (13). The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people (14).  No individuals or groups (political parties, cultural associations, economic unions, social classes) outside the State (15). Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State (16).

Yet, despite these well known documents, that Mussolini never thought himself a fascist and that he was really a socialist is somehow the basis of this silly book.

5 thoughts on “Dux nobis”

  1. Comedy Central’s taken the interview down, but Youtube saves the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m10R3VT87c

    It’s good, but not as good as his interview with Chris Matthews about his new book.

    I think you may be overstating Goldberg’s position. He seems to assent to the fact that Mussolini was a fascist. (Anything less would be incredibly ignorant or insane.) The confusion is perhaps that he’s juggling multiple definitions of “liberal” and “progressive,” and apparently, Mussolini was some of these, too.

    Didn’t you cover his organic food = nazism argument before? Stewart handled that one well. Something tells me he was the only one in that conversation who’s had a course in basic logic.

  2. “Maybe it’s because Mussolini founded the doctrine of fascism.”

    Well, sure, if you want to nitpick…and I suppose that next you’re going to tell me that Marx was a commie because he wrote kind of manifesto or something once when really he just couldn’t wait for the coming of Jane Fonda.

  3. Thanks for the updated video link. It seems to have been taken down as well. I did cover the organic food argument before (which seems to be, by the way, representative of the basic logical trope of the book, as Goldberg continually points out). Goldberg is so entranced by the incorrect–i.e., the non technical–use of “fascist” that he can’t distinguish between that use and the term’s and the movement’s actual history. Fascism is by Mussolini’s definition a right wing movement–and it still is here in the U.S. and in Europe. In Italy, for instance, right wingers from the former fascist party–the Movimento Sociale Italiano–still inhabit the government at high levels (Gianfranco Fini). In its non technical use the term means something like “totalitarian jerk.” Goldberg seems to have constructed an argument against the latter though he alleges it’s against the former.

  4. So basically, Stewart hit the nail on the head when he said Goldberg was objecting to the frivolous overuse of the word fascist by writing a book called “liberal fascism”.

  5. On that score he did. He also hit him on the all of the other points–Goldberg’s mischaracterization of progressive positions, the historical falsity of his conception of fascism, the silly claim that advocacy of social programs makes you a fascist–or uncovers your fascist lineage (there weren’t social programs, education, etc., before fascism?). Insofar as one advocates the existence of a government, on Goldberg’s view, one has affinities with fascism: after all, didn’t the fascists build highways? Perhaps Amtrak should be concerned the trains run on time, lest they be shown to be the fascists they are. But of course, Mussolini, wasn’t a fascist. He was a socialist. Which is what liberals are–socialists fascists–that is to say, Fascist communists.

Comments are closed.