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Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning [Hardcover]

Jonah Goldberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (694 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 8, 2008 The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

“Fascists,” “Brownshirts,” “jackbooted stormtroopers”—such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. Calling someone a fascist is the fastest way to shut them up, defining their views as beyond the political pale. But who are the real fascists in our midst?

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler's Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. 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.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this provocative and well-researched book, Goldberg probes modern liberalism's spooky origins in early 20th-century fascist politics. With chapter titles such as Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left and Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism—Goldberg argues that fascism has always been a phenomenon of the left. This is Goldberg's first book, and he wisely curbs his wry National Review style. Goldberg's study of the conceptual overlap between fascism and ideas emanating from the environmental movement, Hollywood, the Democratic Party and what he calls other left-wing organs is shocking and hilarious. He lays low such lights of liberal history as Margaret Sanger, apparently a radical eugenicist, and JFK, whose cult of personality, according to Goldberg, reeks of fascist political theater. Much of this will be music to conservatives' ears, but other readers may be stopped cold by the parallels Goldberg draws between Nazi Germany and the New Deal. The book's tone suffers as it oscillates between revisionist historical analyses and the application of fascist themes to American popular culture; nonetheless, the controversial arc Goldberg draws from Mussolini to The Matrix is well-researched, seriously argued—and funny. (Jan. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Certain to attract interest...across the political spectrum." ---Booklist Starred Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Series: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385511841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385511841
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (694 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JONAH GOLDBERG is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and contributing editor to National Review. A USA Today contributor and former columnist for the Times of London, he has also written for The New Yorker, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3,038 of 3,745 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
And boy, does Jonah Goldberg have himself some enemies.

It was inevitable that the review section for Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" would degenerate into the Mother of all Flame Wars. The advance dislike for this book simmered for months, and now the floodgates for negative reviews are open. I'd advise all potential readers of this book to bear in mind how few of the negative reviews appear to reflect a reading of the book.

For those willing to give Goldberg the chance, he offers the following thesis: that the label fascist has its roots in the governing philosophies of Italy's National Fascist Party and Germany's National Socialist (Nazi) Party. He argues that there has been a false duality created between the Soviet Socialists of the USSR and the socialists united under the fascists in Italy and Germany. He argues that the totalitarian impulse, the philosophy of state control of decisions taking priority over individual freedoms, is the core uniting principle behind these movements, and he argues that the ongoing home of such statism is in what has come to be known as the "liberal" politics of the modern progressive movement. As you can imagine, that doesn't sit very well with the targets of his argument (hence the rain of 1-star reviews).

I'd encourage open minded readers of all backgrounds to read Goldberg's book and address his arguments. I find his conversational and somewhat informal style to be witty and readable. That said, longtime Goldberg fans should know that this is not a book-length "G-File" (the hip and irreverent column he wrote for National Review Online). This is a serious scholarly work, and it deserves to be read and judged as such. Goldberg is attempting to right a historical injustice.
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778 of 989 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First of all, allow me to say that I have purchased and read this book -- something I believe few, if any, of the negative reviewers have done.

This is an important work, tracing the intellectual development of the idea that the all-powerful people's State should always trump the individual and be in firm control of all aspects of the population's culture, education, defense or military expansion, information, health and economy, from its modern beginnings under Wilson to the currently epoused nanny state. One could go further back to the French Revolution or further to Thomas More, of course, but given the deplorable state of history knowledge in the US, this might well be counter-productive. Monarchies need not be considered as they are not states that derive their legitimacy from the people -- but rather from God and inheritance.

The most negative aspect of this book is its title, "Liberal Fascism." A careful reader will learn what is meant by the author, but the vast majority will simply see the juxtaposition of the two words, "Liberal" and "Fascism" and read into this anything their pre-conceived ideas suggest. Actually, the author meant to describe something like "Benevolent Fascism", "Soft Fascism", "Smiley-Face Fascism", or my favorite, "Fuzzy Fascism" (e.g. Fascism that will not hurt you.) The word "Liberal" is used to put a more moderate or liberal face on Fascism, something more appropriate to nanny-state fascism. If the reader misinterprets the title, then little rational discussion can ensue.

The strengths of the book are in its rediscovery of the truly disturbing policies of the Wilson administration in 1917 and 1918 whereby opponents of his administration and policies were brutally suppressed.
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247 of 338 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liberal Fascism March 26, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At this point, I'm only about two thirds of the way through Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. So far, I've found the book to be fascinating. Growing up thinking that "this is just how things are", or hearing the sanitized (or romanticized) versions of recent history, it's really good to see the origins of "liberal" or "progressive" thought, its connection to the fascist or Nazi world view and the context of certain events -- like the unrest and the Great Society agenda of the 1960s.

The author approaches the subject of Liberal Fascism with considerable thoroughness. That is good, because you can get a very good sense of how things fit together, looking at things from several different angles and in different contexts. However, by the time I got halfway through the book, a lot of things were starting to sound very familiar. Since I'm not an historian, I almost wish I had waited for the Readers Digest version to come out.

The author also makes very strong links between the progressives of the early 1900s and the liberal politics of today. And, while you can draw a straight line through these respective agendas, I think the author might be overstating the links. However, as he states, "even when motives and arguments change, the substance of the policy remains in its effects" (p. 276).

All-in-all, I think this book is well worth the time it takes to read it. Certainly, anyone from the Right would gain insights from this book; but, those from the Left could also benefit from the historical perspective of his or her own political view. I think this book would be a great textbook for a college course on political history, and would provide valuable insights into a study of 20th Century American History.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad
Look at these two paragraphs from the summary:

"Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term "National socialism"). Read more
Published 3 days ago by Nathan C
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile history overstretched into silly polemic
This is a better book than I expected from Jonah Goldberg, but it has problems. There is value in reminding a general readership that Italian Fascism and German National Socialism... Read more
Published 14 days ago by J. Cornelius
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
have not finished yet, but so far, I would rate average.
Published 15 days ago by Pillpeddler
4.0 out of 5 stars The thrust of the book is very good and all argumentation makes sense
Just a few sentences. This book goes too deep. Even for me, a connoisseur of history and an enemy of Stalin, there is too much. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Thomas M. Surmiak
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent audiobook. A major hit.
Published 17 days ago by Chief Pontiac
5.0 out of 5 stars The book makes a nice complement to Hayek's "Road to Serfdom
The book makes a nice complement to Hayek's "Road to Serfdom." Hayek wrote his book as a warning to American and British readers. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Joseph D. Kulisics
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, a lot of historical facts and it ...
Very good book, a lot of historical facts and it takes a little time to digest but I like it.
Published 28 days ago by cornelia
1.0 out of 5 stars Goldberg is a pathological liar.
I could call it ignorance, but Goldberg knows precisely what his intentions were with this book of misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies. Don't waste your money. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MacNeill
5.0 out of 5 stars Goldberg will make you think
Whatever your current thoughts on the political alignment and tendencies as currently constructed, Jonah Goldberg's detailed and painstakingly referenced historical review and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Giacomo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Finally clarifies the term for what it really is, and how it is used.
Published 1 month ago by Brian Nixon
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Topic From this Discussion
What A Liberal Historian Said
One thing that I've noticed after reading the book and then going to these forums is that most of the posters who reject Goldberg's thesis do so because they are so angry at the implication that liberals are fascists. In fact, throughout most of the book (and this has been quoted in numerous... Read More
Feb 29, 2008 by Mark A. Condit |  See all 13 posts
Actually, Jonah Goldberg was never nominated for a Pulitzer.
Goldberg is a serial exaggerator, having pulled the same stunt in 2008 and was widely called out for it. Amazing for a guy that makes a living out of claiming hypocrisy on the left, his career is one big lie.
May 9, 2012 by Paul Aussendorf |  See all 2 posts
Goldberg column contradicts Liberal Fascism
well, goldbergs definition of a fascist is moot; all political people support government.Even right wingers agree to some form of government , albeit a less engaged one.My guess is leftists believe/trust government to assist/change individuals and conservatives dont.....which makes me... Read More
Mar 9, 2008 by Natalia O. Novikova |  See all 42 posts
A Sincere Question for Liberals...
Jame's
I posted this on another thread and I'll post it again here because you seem intellectually honest.

A few of us who have actually read the book have been discussing it on numerous threads. But for those who haven't bothered here's a few quotes to chew on:

"Kennedy, like FDR,... Read More
Feb 27, 2008 by R. Lopez |  See all 128 posts
Complete, undeniable TRASH, as most Konservative books are
"Like most right wingers, Goldberg ignores the FACT that fascists are mostly right wing conservatives. "

Wow. You sure backed up that argument with lots of substance.

Tell you what, rather than ask you to repeat such formidable facts as the word 'fact' in all caps, how about you... Read More
Feb 26, 2008 by Stormcrow |  See all 82 posts
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