The Banality of Fallacy

We may not write about it much, but we like books. We hope you do to. Do you know who else likes books? Fred Siegel, that's who; and he talks about it. A lot. In fact, he's read a lot of books and come to the conclusion the "Politics of Hope" is a hopeless junket. In fact, this pie-in-sky "utopianism" cashes out to little more than fascism, communism or and totalitarianism. I really hope he's got an argument for this. Oh, joy:

Emerson wrote during a time of numerous experiments in utopian living. Obama—whose candidacy rests upon a standard utopian dichotomy between the earthly evils of poverty, injustice, war, and partisanship, and the promise of the world to come if we allow him to rescue us—appeals to the same Elysian strain in American and Western political life, largely in remission since 1980, when the 1960s truly ended.


In the wake of bloody utopian experiments in 1930s Europe, a slew of erudite authors launched compelling attacks on them. Jacob Talmon, Karl Popper, Raymond Aaron, Czeslaw Milosz, and Hannah Arendt laid waste to the historical, philosophical, sociological, and literary assumptions that supported communism and fascism. But their arguments didn’t endure, despite their power. By the mid-1960s, utopianism had again taken hold, and its lure was such that even Arendt, once a vocal opponent, found herself drawn to the religion of politics. Propelled by her disdain for America in general and the Vietnam War in particular, as well as the promise, as she saw it, of worker-control experiments in Europe, she effectively reversed much of her earlier writings.

 Obama’s utopian vision of transcending the interests that make up the fabric of our democracy is unlikely to fare any better than the “politics of hope” did in Emerson’s time. The key question at hand is whether Obama’s Edenic bubble bursts before or after the election.

Nice. Emerson wrote when utopian projects were the latest fad. Those failed, ergo Emerson failed. If Obama's populism appeals to the same strain of American thought as Emerson's, who wrote around the time of utopian projects, Obama must be a utopian thinker. And, as we all know, utopianism is just warmed over communism and fascism.  Since Obama is a utopian, and thereby a communist/fascist, Obama is doomed to fail, just like communism and fascism have failed, thus, the Politics of Hope is a sham. Got it. Solid reasoning.

No Bear 

Besides the obvious factual objections that might be made to Siegel's claims, note the subtle shift from speaking about communism and fascism to speaking about utopianism as if they were the same thing. And it's not that Siegel simply doesn't argue for this position, its that he assumes it as evidently true in the course of his argument.