Friday, January 11, 2008

The buck stops here

-- by Dave

OK, I've been proceeding to try to engage Jonah Goldberg in a discussion of his Liberal Fascism in good faith. Indeed, I've been preparing an in-depth counter to his response, but before we proceed, I think it's essential that he actually address the central point of my review.

After reading this, I'm calling a halt to it all (temporarily, I hope), because I'm doubtful that my good faith is being returned in kind:
I'm tempted to just leave it there since I think so little of Neiwart's attempt. It seems to boil down to: Fascists are always the bad guys. There are real bad guys today. They are on the right. Therefore they are the real fascists. Talk about anti-intellectual!

Of course, anyone who reads my point will see that this is not my argument at all.

The people I'm talking about -- the Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, skinheads, and nativists -- are not definably fascist because they're bad guys (whatever the hell that means). We can identify them as fascist for a number of reasons:
-- They share a direct lineage with American fascists of the 1920s and '30s whose activities never ceased in the intervening years, and whose ideologies and activities both in the 1920s and since were clearly on the political right, as they are today.

-- These contemporary groups all currently employ the symbolism, ideology, rhetoric and behavior of classical fascists. Many of them openly admire, even worship, Hitler.

-- They fully meet the definition of fascism -- not merely Jonah's, which as we've explained is wholly inadequate, but the broadly accepted understanding of fascism derived from the academic study of the phenomenon.*

Finally, we know that these organizations exist today on the right side of the political spectrum not because they're "bad guys" but because of what constitutes their ideology and agenda:
-- Anti-Semitism

-- Racial separation

-- The quashing of civil rights for minorities

-- The destruction of federal government power

-- Anti-welfare

-- Anti-public education

-- Anti-homosexual

-- Anti-abortion

-- Anti-immigration

Each of these positions today is largely a tenet of the political right, and has been for some time.

I'm going to hold off on my posting my longer response to Goldberg's response -- which is mostly involved with secondary issues -- until he actually takes the time to respond to what I'm actually arguing.


*Once again, see Paxton's nine "mobilizing passions" of fascism:
-- -- a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;

-- the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual, and the subordination of the individual to it;

-- the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group's enemies, both internal and external;

-- dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;

-- the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;

-- the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny;

-- the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason;

-- the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success;

-- the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

Roger Griffin has also offered a more detailed definition of fascism:
Fascism: modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.

These definitions generally reflect the academic consensus about fascism.

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