The F-Word

George Orwell, in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, wrote: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. ” Little has changed since then.

One hears the term with fatiguing regularity in the angry voices of the Left. Bush is a fascist; Cheney likewise. Corporate executives are fascists, Rush Limbaugh is a fascist, neoconservatives are fascists, NRA lobbyists are fascists. Fascist conspiracies abound, and are responsible for the hijacking of elections, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the war in Iraq, the assassination of JFK, and innumerable similar offenses against the noble but too-trusting People.

It is, however, the opinion of the columnist and author Jonah Goldberg that it is the political Left themselves who are the torch-bearers of fascism in the modern world, and he argues this point in his recent book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, which I have just begun reading. If I may attempt a very brief summary of his central theme, it is that fascism is, at its core, a populist, statist, secular religion, one that carries in it the seeds of totalitarianism — which itself is “a quest to transcend the human condition and create a society where our deepest meaning and destiny are realized simply by virtue of the fact that we live in it.” Goldberg reminds us that this “cannot be done, and even if, as often in the case of liberal fascism, the effort is very careful to be humane and decent, it will still result in a kind of benign tyranny where some people get to impose their ideas of goodness and happiness on those who do not share them.”

He has my attention.


  1. the one eyed man says

    Surely you jest.

    Neoconservatives are happy to “impose their ideas of goodness and happiness on those who do not share them” in Iraq. After all, we are occupying a country against the will of its inhabitants, and the neocons are itching to repeat the failure of Iraq elsewhere.

    Conservatives are happy to impose their ideas of goodness regarding gay marriage, abortion, religion, and lots of other issues on those who do not share them.

    Liberals, on the other hand, are typically on the side of letting the individual make his own choices about what defines goodness and happiness. Hence liberals tend to support things like an expansive interpretation of freedom of speech and religion, a minimum of state interference in an individual’s moral decisions, and a rejection of the urgings of those who have falsely been called “values voters.”

    I’m not sure what examples Goldberg has in mind, but if he thinks that there is a straight line between Mussolini and (for example) the editorial page of the New York Times, then he is just plain wrong. He might want to look at his own publication – the National Review – to see a much clearer linkage.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Gee, Pete, rather than letting your knee jerk quite so reflexively, you might consider actually reading Goldberg’s book, or get yourself at least some inkling of what his argument consists of, before you declare it all to be hogwash.

    His book is not about neoconservatives and Iraq — or about conservatives at all — but about the history of the American Left, and its roots in the Progressive movements of the early 20th century.

    Liberals are permissive about some things, and quick to invoke the power of the State in others. Here in New York, the omniscient powers that be are busy regulating what sort of food restaurants can serve, where people can smoke, and there is even a bill pending prohibiting the wearing of iPods when crossing the street. All sorts of folks on the Left – environmentalists, animal-rights activists, etc., are more than happy to propose all sorts of infringements on our freedom, whether it’s about choice in schooling, wearing seat belts, burning leaves, owning a gun — you name it, they’re all over it, busily making a better world for all of us.

    And even the “expansiveness” of free speech isn’t safe from liberal attempts at regulation, as witness the efforts of far-left feminists to outlaw pornography, multiculturalist groups to define “hate speech” etc. In Europe, where the Left has gotten farther along with its radical agenda, people are being arrested for saying meant things about Islam, for example.

    Goldberg makes a well-reasoned argument here, and supports it with plenty of solid research and scholarship. Maybe you should listen first, and then speak?

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  3. JO says

    I’m so glad Peter spoke first! There are benefits to laying back and waiting to see what the reaction of others will be. I would like to take some of Peter’s issues and yours and design my own “party” –neoconserberal–I may still be working on the name of it!
    I, will, of course, read the book first!
    Whatever determined that you take up this issue, Malcolm, it is a very powerful force!

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Jeanie,

    Well, the proximate determining factor in this case was my son Nick’s giving me the book for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

    In this case the “reaction of others” was not to the book’s contents or argument, but merely to its title, or perhaps only to its very existence!

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  5. the one eyed man says

    I haven’t read the book, but I read its review a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal. I read a steady diet of conservative thinking – including a daily read of the Journal editorial page – and I don’t see the need to add Goldberg as Hamburger Helper.

    His polemic may not be about conservatives or Iraq (although it’s easy to see why any conservative ideologue would do his best to avoid talking about Iraq), but if he wants to argue that liberalism has a fascist impulse, then the logical question is: compared to what? Otherwise he makes his case in a vacuum. In my view, if you compare liberalism to its opposite, you will see that it is much more libertarian in outlook than conservatism (or at least conservatism as it is practiced today).

    Any law will by its nature restrict freedom. Child labor laws restrict the ability of eight year olds to work in mines and factories. However, this is a restriction which we willingly accept to prevent minors from being miners.

    I’m not sure what foods are being banned in NYC (transfats?) but I don’t think the legislation mandates living on rice crackers and carrot sticks. I’m agnostic on whether smoking should be allowed in bars and restaurants, but there is a legitimate argument that bans protect those who work in them. Banning ipods sounds silly, but banning the use of cellphones while driving seems reasonable – there is a public safety concern which trumps the driver’s freedom to talk on the phone.

    My point is not that laws shouldn’t restrict freedom – rather, it is that there is a large sphere of actions under the rubric of individual morality which ought not be regulated by the state. Since you cite pornography as an example – and radical feminists aside, I think it’s fair to say that liberals in general are far more tolerant than conservatives regarding porn – I would argue that restrictions against porn are intrinsically different than restrictions against smoking in restaurants. Smoking bans tilt the balance between workers’ health and smokers’ rights towards the worker, in the belief that there is a public interest in preventing second hand smoke. Pornography bans are enacted because of the view that the individual is not capable of making the decision regarding whether it is morally wrong or not.

    The difference is that restrictions on smoking, transfats, etc., exist because they are thought to be harmful and hence there is a public safety issue involved. Restrictions on gay marriage, pornography, etc., exist because there is a moral issue involved.

    As for radical feminists, environmental wackos, animal rights activists, and European leftists banning free speech: it is wrong to conflate liberalism with its radical fringe (and I think that it is a stretch to call these players liberals – there isn’t much which is liberal about applying spray paint to fur coats), just as it would be wrong to equate conservatism with Glenn Beck or Tom Tancredo. Liberalism, in the true meaning of the word, has little or nothing to do with fascism, in the true meaning of that word.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Pete, the book is about the origins of fascism, and the history of the American Left. Mussolini was a socialist through and through, and the Fascist movement in Italy had the universal support of American Progressives. If you look at the Italian Fascist political agenda, it’s all the same sorts of things that are still favored by the Left today.

    We can argue about freedom and individual morality all you like, and about what is rightly in the public sphere and what isn’t, and whether liberals are nicer people than conservatives, too. That isn’t what this book is about. It’s about fascism, and how fascism has its origins in the socialist political Left, and about how that characterization still applies. It looks like an interesting book. You might want to read it.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    One other point I just want to make: one of the goals of this book is to look closely at what the word “fascist”, which is just a general-purpose insult these days, actually means. Are there right-wing fascists? Absolutely. Are all fascists genocidal maniacs? Absolutely not.

    As for your wish to dissociate yourself from “fringe” liberals, it is awfully easy to fall into a “No True Scotsman” argument; I’m sure the PETA folks think of themselves as liberals, just as Tom Tancredo would self-identify as a conservative. And radical Muslims are Muslims, etc.

    Also I will point out that seeing things as legitimate candidates for state-level regulation is the same on both sides: social conservatives see their pet issues as just as important to society’s general well-being as liberals do theirs. American liberalism is no more “libertarian” than American conservatism; they are just libertarian about different things. When it comes to gun control, business regulations, redistribution of wealth by taxation, and a wide assortment of other matters, liberals seek far more state-level regulation. You can say “well, those are the things that it is right to seek government regulation for”, but that is just a question of social and political philosophy, and reasonable people may disagree.

    Finally, your reference to this book as a “polemic” is totally unjustifed; it is nothing of the sort.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  8. the one eyed man says

    1) Fair enough. The exegesis of the book in the Journal made it appear to be an equivalence between fascism and contemporary liberalism. The title of the book gives that impression. We all know the mischief which Goldberg and his mother perpetrated with Linda Tripp. So hopefully one can be forgiven for making that assumption.

    I’m not sure what relevance the purported liberal enthusiasm for Mussolini eighty years ago has with contemporary liberalism. Moreover, I’m not sure if the argument holds water. Liberals at that time were the almost exclusive source of volunteers for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which fought fascism. (Unlike today’s neocons, the liberals of that time actually went to war to fight for their beliefs, as opposed to sending others to war). Does Goldberg mention Spain in his book?

    Also, there has been a sea change in liberal thought between then and now. Socialism and Communism had an undeniable attraction to the Left — however we have since learned that they are dead ends. I don’t think you will find many contemporary liberals who are enthusiastic about Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. Or Mussolini, for that matter.

    2) The issue is not whether conservatives find their pet issues to be “just as important” as liberals do. Intensity of belief is irrelevant. The relevant point is whether the pet issues are an effort to impose one set of moral beliefs on those who do not share them.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Well, Pete, as I said, I’ve only just begun to read the book, and I have yet to get to his treatment of modern liberalism. So far we are examining what fascism is, and what its origins are.

    As for imposing moral beliefs on those who do not share them, liberals do that in spades: it is morally right to confiscate my wealth to support redistributive welfare and social-engineering schemes, or to deny me my right to own a gun for self-defense, or my right to sell fatty foods, or to award my college admission to a less-qualified minority applicant, etc.

    Everyone, conservatives and liberals alike, thinks they have the moral high ground: as Socrates said, no sane person would knowingly do evil. It is all a question of what turns your particular moral crank.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  10. the one eyed man says

    You are absolutely right that one of the distinctions between liberalism and conservatism is the liberal belief that government has the moral responsibility to help those who are poor, sick, or needy. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are historic liberal achievements. These programs were denounced by the Right as “redistributive,” just as the Right opposed a graduated income tax. History has shown that these programs have provided great benefit to millions of people, and even contemporary conservatives recognize this. (In fact, conservatives have expanded these programs: witness Bush’s prescription drug benefit).

    Gun control and fatty foods are public safety issues much more than they are moral issues. (Any law can be reducible to a moral foundation: bank robbery is illegal because as a society we think theft is morally wrong. The distinction I am unsuccessfully trying to make is between laws which are enacted primarily because legislators impose their views on private moral behavior and those laws which are enacted primarily for some other reason.) Gun control advocates believe that public safety is enhanced by prohibiting felons from buying guns, not because there is something intrinsically immoral about owning them. Those at the extreme end – such as the ban on handguns in Washington – make the case that fewer innocents will die when there are fewer guns available, not because gun ownership is immoral. I’m not sure what the issue is with fatty foods – it seems to me that you could go into any supermarket and buy as many Twinkies as your heart desires – but I don’t think that anyone is making the case that it is morally wrong to eat a chilibaconcheeseburger. Or several of them.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Well, your first paragraph is the point here, and the extent to which this sort of thing is seen as a moral obligation, or to which every reasonable person would agree on what “helping” should consist of, or on what you flatly declare that “history has shown” — namely that all liberal government programs have created benefits in excess of their cost — is precisely what we are talking about. On the one extreme of this spectrum you have Cuba, or Bolshevism, and on the other, a laissez-faire Dickensian jungle. Where to strike an optimal balance is an open question, and how one judges the results of the various experiments that have been tried depends rather sensitively upon one’s personal political philosophy, much more than some monolithic judgment of “history”. There are those who would say that the liberal experiments of the past decades have left our culture in worse shape, not better. And what some may see as a morally justifiable concern for “public safety” might reasonably be seen by others as a movement toward an intrusive “nanny state”, where the government knows what’s best for us all.

    To pretend, however, that liberals aren’t making moral judgments when they propose government policy is utterly disingenuous, and you know it. (Certainly anyone who has ever been piously lectured by a Greenpeace, or PETA, or gun-control leafleteer — or by Al Gore, for that matter — knows it.) Liberals get just as morally haughty about their pet environmental, affirmative-action, and other social-policy opinions as any conservatives do about theirs, and social conservatives are as concerned about the well-being of our culture as anyone else.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  12. Jesse Kaplan says

    Sheeesh! Haven’t you guys heard of conceptualizing the political spectrum as a circle, an ouroboros, not a line?

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    A circle, instead of a line?!? Man, you libruls can’t leave anything alone. Seeing the range of political philosophies as a linear continuum was good enough for my Paw, and it’s good enough for me.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  14. JK says

    Hey Malcolm, well JO too,

    “Neoconserberal?” That has a certain ring to it. To register, might one have as his favorite Justice a guy named “Scalia?” A consideration that States rather than the Feds should have more say in what goes parading as “the public good?” A fairly moderate view about such things as “background checks” for gun purchases (although this runs smack dab into an objection to big unwieldy, and sometime dubiously filled databases?

    Perhaps a tweaking of farm subsidies that pay for not doing something as opposed to maybe reimbursing an entity for something that through the course of things was lost to flood or somesuch? Same for Big Oil? An end to “no-bids” for governmental acquisitions? However conversely subsidizing stuff like pure science so long as it’s not a public study to determine stuff like whether male wasps actually leaving sperm on orchids in Australia by some pheromonally phenomenistic kinda thing actually enjoy the experience?

    I could go on but I’ll just end it here: there seems to be this thing where a guy who steals fifty bucks at a liquor store is likely to serve more prison time than, say a guy who does an Enron thing that affects more people than live in most counties in Arkansas?

    Actually, I don’t care what the platform is, where do I sign up?

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    Help! I am being misquoted!

    I wrote specifically that Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare have been shown by history to “have provided great benefit to millions of people.” This is fact, not judgment. Americans have a longer lifespan than they did prior to the 1930’s because, among other things, far fewer elderly are not starving to death or living on dog food or dying for lack of medical care. Do you dispute this?

    I don’t claim that conservatives have a monopoly on sanctimony. My point is simply that liberals are far more reluctant to impose their values when the issue falls within the realm of private morality: gay marriage, abortion, and so forth. The environment is in a different realm, as is gun control. Also, I don’t think that there is any consensus on the left about affirmative action – I don’t view this as a left vs. right issue.

    BTW, did you see the article in yesterday’s Times about the Kahlil Ghibran school in Brooklyn?

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    Well, Peter, I’m not proposing abolishing Social Security myself, but it’s all a matter of perspective, and there are those who see mandatory contributions to it as confiscatory, and can make a reasonable argument for their position. Yes, Social Security has benefited many people, but it has also created an enormous, bloated bureaucracy, and has taken an awful lot of money out of a lot of people’s pockets, ostensibly for their own good, without their having any choice in the matter.

    Not everyone sees abortion as simply a matter of “private” morality; conservatives on the issue think that the unborn child has an interest in being protected from murder. Likewise, social conservatives see a cultural erosion, one that affects society as a whole, in relaxed definitions of marriage (I don’t, but they do). And so on. Again, we come back to the fact that there is a broad range of views on what a government “ought” to be doing — and “oughts” are always rooted in moral choices, by definition. You cannot pretend that it’s all moralizing on one side, and just sound public policy on the other. It is simply a different set of moral and political axioms.

    Traditionally, it is the Left that is always more inclined to more central-government regulation, more redistribution of wealth, more subsuming of the individual in his obligation to the State, and so forth. Socialism is a philosophy of the Left, not the right, and fascism (which is what we are talking about here, remember?) has always been rooted in socialism. Italian Fascism was a socialism that was rooted in a particular cultural populism; a socialism minus internationalism, one that made the practical realization that a global solidarity based exclusively on class would never trump allegiances of race, nation, culture, family, and religion. It essentially went from “Workers of the world, unite!” to “Workers of Italy, unite!”.

    And are you seriously suggesting that support for affirmative action isn’t a “left vs. right issue”? As you said in your first comment: surely you jest.

    I did see that article about the Arabic school; I’ve been following that story all along. I’m not surprised it hasn’t worked out.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says

    Me neither. The yahoos who distorted what she said and did bring new meaning to H. L. Mencken’s boobus americanus.

    I don’t think that affirmative action is a left vs. right issue — there are plenty of people on the left (including me) who think that affirmative action is wrong. When we speak of affirmative action, it’s shorthand for “reverse discrimination.” There are certainly plenty of people on the left who endorse it, but I don’t think that there is a liberal consensus that it is a worthwhile or effective remedy to discrimination.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:41 pm | Permalink
  18. Malcolm says

    Perhaps, but its supporters are exclusively on the left. I defy you to find anyone at all on the right who endorses it.

    I added a few lines to my previous comment as well, just before you responded. Sorry.

    As for that school, no further comment from me; those who would like to understand the issue from the opposition’s side may find interesting reading here.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    Conservatives who support affirmative action? Clarence Thomas presumably was for it before he was against it — after all, an affirmative action program got him into Yale Law School.

    Re your addendum: I agree completely except the part about fascism being rooted in socialism — there are socialist and quasi-socialist countries in Europe which are also democracies — not that I’m a big fan of socialism, but I don’t think that a socialist state must necessarily also be a fascist state.

    Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  20. Greg Calbi says

    Remember the “Soup Nazi”? “No bread for you!!!!” The word “Fascism” has morphed into a concept representing any unwanted authority imposing itself on the citizenry, either from the left or the right.
    A quick re-visit to the preamble of our Constitution finds the words “promote the general welfare”.
    This phrase could be helpful in determining whether our laws have taken on a fascist bent. However, by definition,” Fascists promote a type of national unity that is usually based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, national, racial, and/or religious attributes” (Wikepedia, sorry too lazy to open the dictionary upstairs). This is why the left finds the conservative pro-Christian, xenophobic agenda so scary. Sorry Malcolm, but not smoking in a restaurant and wearing a seatbelt doesn’t pass muster on the Fascism scale. File those under “inconvenient things to do to promote the general welfare.

    Here are some rather fascistic trends in the American Conservative agenda:
    Injecting religious dogma into Federal Law (abortion)
    Using public money for religious education (vouchers)
    Subverting international law (torture)

    The behavioral fascism of the Left is simply not fascism….and Malcolm, tonight, NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  21. JO says


    What are the characteristics of a “radical feminist” or what actions would a feminist carry out to have one fall into this category?


    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says

    No Greg, I must disagree. Regarding your examples:

    Injecting religious dogma into law is certainly objectionable to a non-believer like me, but do keep in mind that traditionally fascist regimes have been irreligious; Mussolini, for example, was an outspoken atheist. The mechanisms of fascism and totalitarianism (a term coined also by Mussolini) do, however, co-opt the apparatus of religion; they become secular religions themselves. But the Italian Fascists wanted to turn St Peter’s into a museum.

    Using public money for religious education (vouchers) is actually allowing individual citizens to retarget the public funds that have been taken from their pockets to educate their children as they see fit. Many social conservatives regard having the schools teaching their children about sex, and even distributing condoms, as having a sort of secualr religion pushed down their throats. Don’t get me wrong; I think that religious training for children is a form of child abuse – but I think it is important to acknowledge that one person’s benign social program is another person’s ideological coercion.

    Subverting international law (torture) may be morally or even pragmatically objectionable, but it is neither here nor there when it comes to defining a government as fascistic. Governments of every imaginable kind have done this.

    Imposing restrictions on freedom because they are “for our own good” such as seat-belt laws, smoking bans, etc., are good examples of the view that omniscient authorities know what’s best for us all, and should see to it that we are enlightened too, by virtue of our living in such a wise and beneficent State. It is quite reasonable to see this as exactly the sort of thing that fascist governments do; indeed both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists were obsessed with the national health.

    As for the Constitution’s call to “promote the general welfare” that is sufficiently vague as to cover just about anything. A religious fundamentalist could cite any number of studies showing that religious people are generally happier, and argue that it promotes the gerneral welfare to promote religion. It seems that you are saying that as soon as something is determined by some savant to be bad for us, it is the government’s obligation to prohibit it, or, if good for us, to ram it down our throats. (Note also that the Constitution merely suggests “promoting” our welfare, not guaranteeing it or forcing it upon us.)

    Everyone seems awfully defensive about Mr. Goldberg’s book. I suggest to all that we read it first, and understand its well-researched historical argument, before deriding it as rubbish.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  23. the one eyed man says

    Jeanie: that is a good question which I don’t have an answer to — June Cleaver’s diametric opposite? — I was merely responding to Malcolm’s post of 4/29 at 1:00, so I would defer to our gracious host for an answer. He refers to “the efforts of far-left feminists to outlaw pornography” — I responded that liberals in general are more accepting of porn than conservatives. My comment was more about liberals than radical feminists.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  24. the one eyed man says

    Malcolm: the reason states require drivers to wear seat belts — and motorcyclists to wear helmets — has as much to do with the public good as the driver’s safety.

    A teenager riding a Harley into a tree without a helmet will require substantial health care, assuming he survives. The health care system is supported by public funds, and requiring cyclists to wear helmets reduces health care expenses overall. The state licenses drivers and has the right to enact reasonable restrictions on driving. In the balance between the driver’s right to feel the wind in his hair and the taxpayer’s right to limit health care expenses, the state wisely decides in favor of the taxpayer.

    I don’t deny that there may be an element of nanny-ism in this — in the words of Rocky Rococco: maybe yes, maybe no — but there is more to it than that.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says

    Yes, quite so, Peter — and likewise, every social program put in place by the fascist governments in Europe had a similar for-the-greater-benefit-of-all rationale.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  26. the one eyed man says

    Your implication is a false syllogism. The fact that both liberal democracies and fascist governments both enact legislation out of utilitarian concerns does not imply an equivalence between the two.

    I like vanilla ice cream. Norman Podhoretz likes vanilla ice cream. That does not make me a neocon.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  27. Malcolm says

    It wasn’t supposed to be a syllogism. And the fact that seat-belt laws are seen as being in the public good doesn’t mean that a government enacting them isn’t fascist, as you seem to think.

    Anyway, Podhoretz likes pistachio.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  28. the one eyed man says

    Who doesn’t?

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  29. greg calbi says

    As regards redistibution of wealth, any idea on the Left pales by comparison to the CEO’s of Americas immoral, corrupt Corporate Culture. Now these guys really know how to re-distribute wealth…right into their own bank accounts. And they have figured out how to do it no matter who is elected.

    Malcolm, I’m curious as to how the Left’s proclivity to legislate your behavior has actually affected your life.

    Here’s how the conservative agenda has affected mine:
    I can’t buy marijuana legally, and if I smoke it on the street, I’m put in Jail (I know a few folks who this happened to).
    If my wife got pregnant by accident, they would make our difficult decision for us…we’d have to birth the child.
    By siding with the anti-regulation corporate greed crowd, they have weakened the water and air quality regulations and made my air and water more unhealthy (The EPA under Bush has been decimated).
    By doubting for years all the evidence on global warming, and financing think-tanks to subvert the evidence, again financed by the energy consortium, conservatives have selfishly and inexcusably made sure that our planet continues to warm. I don’t like being too warm, especially in the summer.
    Above all, by deciding to take over a Middle Eastern country, occupy it, and threaten to expand their control into neighboring countries, I have to lay awake at night wondering if these sickos will knock on my front door one day looking for my son to go and help out.

    Now what is it that bothers you about the Left?

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  30. Malcolm says

    Greg, please forgive me, but you’re wandering off topic here. It appears that your agenda in these comments is simply to express, in fairly simplistic terms, a vehement antipathy toward conservatives (e.g. that any aversion to intrusive government regulation of commerce must solely be a matter of “corporate greed”, and therefore evil), but that really has nothing to do with the subject matter under discussion.

    We could go over all the good and bad points of the political Left and Right; it’s certainly been a popular activity in here for years now. (The agendas of both sides affect our lives in an endless variety of ways, of course.) While I find my own opinions to be more closely aligned with the Left on some issues, and the Right on others, I don’t see either side as morally superior, particularly. Both sides offer, in my view, some stupendously awful opinions — but then as far as I can make out everyone is just bumbling along, trying to make sense of the world according to their own axioms and intuitions, and often insisting rather too loudly that everyone else is either a fool, or a villain, or both, for having different notions about how things ought to be run. (I do it sometimes too.)

    But the topic at the moment is a book that examines the meaning and political history of fascism, a word that, as Orwell said in the citation above, has become nothing more than a cudgel with which to beat one’s political opponents.

    From the reaction I’ve gotten to this post, it indeed appears that the mere suggestion that fascism might more accurately be seen as a phenomenon of the political Left is so intensely irritating, to folks on that side of the aisle, that upon hearing that this book even exists (or that anyone might actually be reading it), they are instantly driven mad, and rather than considering even for a moment Mr. Goldberg’s carefully reasoned and extensively researched argument they instead have no choice but to lash out in fury at conservatives. I’m sure it’s cathartic, but it’s really quite beside the point.

    Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  31. the one eyed man says

    Hate to pick nits, but agenda is the plural form of agendum — just like data and datum, which are rarely used correctly. The New York Times makes these mistakes all of the time. My wife thinks (correctly) that I am a jerk for pointing this out, but it’s like listening to fingernails on a blackboard to me.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  32. bob koepp says

    Now, I know that language is a living, changing thing. But I also know that a proper understanding of living things requires reference to their origins. So…

    Benito Mussolini: “Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State. It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual; Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual.”

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  33. Malcolm says


    ‘Agenda’ is not just a plural, but is also a singular noun for a collection of items, each of which is an agendum (not that anyone ever uses that word). You have an agenda, I have an agenda. Together we have two — what? Two agendae? Two “agenda” would simply be a pair of agendums, I think. So I’ll stick with this usage. I’m a folksy guy.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 11:37 am | Permalink
  34. Malcolm says


    Quite right you are, and one of the points that Goldberg makes clear is that modern-day ‘liberalism’ is very different from classical Liberalism.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink
  35. the one eyed man says

    According to “formally a plural of agendum, but usually used as a singular with plural.” It’s an instance of a mistake which is so prevalent that it’s not a mistake any longer.

    I’ll take English Language for $400, please.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  36. Malcolm says

    Well, I’m a stickler for this sort of thing myself, as you know. ‘Media’ and ‘comprise’ are near death as we speak.

    I’m glad to see you manning the ramparts for proper usage. It’s one area where we can agree on sound conservative principles.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  37. bob koepp says

    “… modern-day ‘liberalism’ is very different from classical Liberalism.”

    So different, in fact, that it’s modern day liberals who tend in the direction of affirming that “the State as the true reality of the individual.” Talk about inversion!

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  38. eugenejen says

    My good ole boy John McCarthy once said about these very long time ago before this book is published.
    1. “Inside of many liberals is a fascist struggling to get out”.
    2. “The difference between a contemporary liberal and a socialist is that to a liberal the most beautiful word in the English language is ‘forbidden’, whereas to a socialist the most beautiful word is ‘compulsory’”.

    Posted May 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

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