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.