Liberal Fascism Recap

Below is a recap of the Liberal Fascism series by Jonah Goldberg that appeared in the Glenn Beck email newsletter…

Feb 22: Emulating FDR: A horrible idea

Feb 21: Government Knows Best

Feb 20: What Hillary and Barack have in store

Feb 19: The facts your liberal friends need to hear


Emulating FDR: A horrible idea

By Jonah Goldberg

Liberal Fascism

"America has a dictator," Benito Mussolini proclaimed, watching FDR from abroad. He marveled at how the forces of "spiritual renewal" on display in the New Deal were destroying the outdated notion that democracy and liberalism were "immortal principles." "Roosevelt is moving, acting, giving orders independently of the decisions or wishes of the Senate or Congress. … A sole will silences dissenting voices." That almost sounds like Harry Reid talking about Bush.

Mussolini reviewed FDR’s book, Looking Forward proclaiming the author a kindred spirit. The way Roosevelt "calls his readers to battle," he wrote, "is reminiscent of the ways and means by which fascism awakened the Italian people." "Without question," he continued, the "sea change" in America "resembles that of fascism." Indeed, the comparisons were so commonplace, Mussolini’s press office banned the practice. "It is not to be emphasized that Roosevelt’s policy is fascist because these comments are immediately cabled to the United States and are used by his foes to attack him."

The German press adored FDR. In 1934, the Vlkischer Beobachter, the Nazi Party’s official newspaper, described Roosevelt as a man of "irreproachable, extremely responsible character and immovable will" and a "warm-hearted leader of the people with a profound understanding of social needs." Hitler sent FDR a letter celebrating his "heroic efforts" and "successful battle against economic distress." Hitler informed the U.S. ambassador, William Dodd, that New Dealism was also "the quintessence of the German state philosophy."

The New Dealers were not so much mimicking the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany. They were attempting to recreate what they had built -up under Woodrow Wilson’s war socialism. Today we have no historical memory of how brutal the Wilson Administration was, nor do we realize that many Progressives supported the war not so much because they championed its foreign policy aims, but because they yearned for the "social possibilities of war," in the words of John Dewey, the 20th century’s premier political philosopher.

The war provided an opportunity to force Americans to, as journalist Frederick Lewis Allen put it, "lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step." Or as another progressive put it, "Laissez faire is dead. Long live social control."

It was this spirit which informed FDR’s administration. By 1944 he made good on Wilson’s conviction that the US constitution was outmoded and in need of replacing with a new "living constitution." FDR’s proposed innovation was a new "economic bill of rights" which included:

>The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

>The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

>The right of every family to a decent home.

>The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

You read correctly, the right to ‘recreation’.

With the intellectuals on their side, Wilson recruited journalist George Creel to become a propaganda minister as head of the newly formed Committee on Public Information (CPI).

Mr. Creel declared that it was his mission to inflame the American public into "one white-hot mass" under the banner of "100 percent Americanism." Fear was a vital tool, he argued, "an important element to be bred in the civilian population."

The CPI printed millions of posters, buttons, pamphlets, that did just that. A typical poster for Liberty Bonds cautioned, "I am Public Opinion. All men fear me!… [I]f you have the money to buy and do not buy, I will make this No Man’s Land for you!"

Meanwhile, the CPI released a string of propaganda films with such titles as "The Kaiser," "The Beast of Berlin," and "The Prussian Cur." Remember when French fries became "freedom fries" in the run-up to the Iraq war? Thanks in part to the CPI, sauerkraut become "victory cabbage."

Under the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, Wilson’s administration shut down newspapers and magazines at an astounding pace. Indeed, any criticism of the government, even in your own home, could earn you a prison sentence. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn’t want to buy Liberty Bonds.

The Wilson administration sanctioned what could be called an American fascist, the American Protective League. The APL – a quarter million strong at its height, with offices in 600 cities – carried government-issued badges while beating up dissidents and protesters and conducting warrantless searches and interrogations. Even after the war, Wilson refused to release the last of America’s political prisoners, leaving it to subsequent Republican administrations to free the anti-war Socialist Eugene V. Debs and others.

The left claims that president Bush seeks to do something like this with the war on terror. But look at the evidence. No newspapers closed down, a sum total of three detainees water-boarded, two hard core terrorists who happen to be American citizens have had their habeus corpus rights "infringed." After 9/11 President Bush asked the American people to go shopping, not to give up capitalism.

Meanwhile, on the left, self-styled progressives keep trying to recreate the New Deal and the progressive era. New York Times columnist pines for a "new progressive era." Barack Obama gushed about how he was re-dedicating his campaign at the University of Wisconsin where the Progressive movement was born. Hillary says she’s not a liberal but a "modern progressive."

Now, obviously, none of the current crop of self-described progressives are eager to replay the darkest chapters of the past. But we make a mistake when we assume that we can cherry pick only the good parts of our past to re-create.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller Liberal Fascism.


Government Knows Best

By Jonah Goldberg

Type "New York City Council" and "ban" and "2007" into Google. Here’s some of what you find:

A New York Times story: New York City Council Approves Ban on Metal Bats

A BBC News story: "Racial slur banned in New York."

A CNN story on how New York is considering banning "ultrathin" models.

A New York Sun article on how New York City is contemplating banning feeding pigeons.

A link to the Humane Society’s effort to ban horse drawn carriages.

And that’s on the first page alone.

These sorts of stories trickle-in almost hourly. Sometimes we hear them and are briefly distracted by them, other times we tune them out as background noise. And, most often, we simply forget them, these little human interest stories that amused us for a moment on talk radio or in back pages of a newspaper.

Sometimes we giggle about what’s happening in other countries, without long pondering that places like Canada and Britain often blaze the trail we are on. For example:

In Britain, in a perfectly typical event quickly forgotten, police tracked down and nearly arrested an 11-year-old boy for calling a 10-year-old boy "gay" in an e-mail. This was considered a "very serious homophobic crime" requiring the full attention of police. In 2006, the coppers fingerprinted and threw a 14-year-old girl into jail for the crime of racism. Her underlying offense stemmed from the fact that she refused to join a class discussion with some fellow students because they were Asian and didn’t speak English.

In England, traffic cameras are now trained on drivers to arrest them for eating in their cars. And in both Britain and Canada, the old Hitler Youth slogan, "Nutrition is not a private matter!" has taken on a new life. One expert this week argued that obesity must now be treated like Global Warming, requiring stern government intervention.

Health experts in Britain and Canada insist that the government has every right to meddle in the private life of its citizens since the state is picking up the tab for their healthcare (never mind that it’s not the "state" but the taxpayers themselves). As Tony Harrison, a British health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun, "Rationing is a reality when funding is limited." So fat people and others can’t get surgeries if bureaucrats or doctors don’t think they’re worthy of surgery. Now, of course, there’s a certain logic here since the taxpayers are picking up the tab and someone has to make the hard choices about priorities. But it never occurs to these people that maybe the fact that the government is slowly being put in charge of many of the most important and personal issues in peoples’ lives is in fact an argument against socialized medicine. It doesn’t occur to them that refusing to unload seriously ill patients from ambulances, sometimes for hours at a time, just so emergency rooms can meet government quotas, is a sign that something is seriously wrong with the way statists handle medicine.

Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that the goal of Progressivism was to have the individual "marry his interests to the State." "Government" he wrote in book, "The State," "does now whatever experience permits or the times demand." "No doubt," he wrote elsewhere, taking dead aim at the Declaration of Independence, "a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle."

He was hardly alone. "[W]e must demand that the individual shall be willing to lose the sense of personal achievement, and shall be content to realize his activity only in connection to the activity of the many," declared the pioneering progressive social activist Jane Addams.

The old story of the frog who doesn’t jump out of the pot because the heat is turned up so slowly comes to mind.

On countless fronts, the natural pastures of daily liberty are being paved over by bureaucrats, politicians and other do-gooders. They aren’t merely fixing problems as they come up. They are laying-down a path to a world where people like them are in charge of our lives, in large ways and small. And when you realize it, the funny stories we so often hear, aren’t so funny anymore.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller Liberal Fascism.


What Hillary and Barack have in store

By Jonah Goldberg

The most common left wing definition of fascism is "when business runs the government." Historically, this is basically nonsense. But that hasn’t stopped liberals like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from saying it over and over again.

But if we are going to go by that definition, conservatives in the U.S. are hardly the fascists. The principled conservative position is that the free market should rule the day. Businesses are never "too big to fail" and corporate welfare is folly. In all honesty, we must admit that many Republicans fail to live up to these conservative principles. But what are liberal principles? They are simply this: corporations should be "progressive." Government should regulate corporations heavily as a means of using big business as another branch of the state. Hillary Clinton wants "public-private partnerships." She believes that businesses must collude with government in providing universal healthcare to the point where it’s impossible to tell where the government begins and business ends. She has contempt for entrepreneurs and small business. When it was pointed out to her that "Hillarycare" would hit small businesses while enriching big corporations, she replied that she couldn’t worry about every under-capitalized business in America. Barack Obama, meanwhile, talks incessantly about how government must police the "patriotism" of corporations. His definition of "patriotism" in this regard seems extremely elastic.

We’ve seen something like this before. Woodrow Wilson implemented a form of "war socialism" during WWI. Big Business and government worked seamlessly together under the auspices of the War Industry Board. Industry rigged the system for its own benefit, with the approval of government. When the war ended, the American people rejected Wilson’s war socialism, but Progressive intellectuals didn’t. They proclaimed "we planned in war" and, hence, felt they should be allowed to plan the economy during peacetime as well. They looked enviously at Fascist Italy and, even more so, the Soviet Union. These were the sort of grand "experiments" they wanted to conduct here at home. "Why," Stuart Chase asked in his 1932 book, A New Deal (which many credit with originating the phrase) "should the Russians have all the fun of remaking a world?"

They finally had their chance under the New Deal, where FDR – a veteran of the Wilson Administration – tried to recreate what the Progressives had wrought during the war. When Hugh Johnson — the head of the National Recovery Administration, the centerpiece of FDR’s New Deal – took office in 1932, one of the first things he did was hang a portrait of Mussolini on his wall and started handing out pro-fascist literature to FDR’s cabinet.

The left has told us that the New Deal rescued the little guy, the "forgotten man." But in reality it prolonged the Great Depression and served as a boon to Big Business.

For example, Clarence Darrow was charged with studying the effects of the NRA. In "virtually all the codes we have examined," he reported, "one condition has been persistent . . . In Industry after Industry, the larger units, sometimes through the agency of . . . [a trade association], sometimes by other means, have for their own advantage written the codes, and then, in effect and for their own advantage, assumed the administration of the code they have framed." We may believe that FDR fashioned the New Deal out of concern for the "forgotten man." But as one historian put it, "The principle seemed to be: to him that hath it shall be given."

The fundamental mistake Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and company make is that they assume "clamping down" on corporations will lessen the role of big business in politics. The reality is exactly the opposite. Microsoft had nearly no lobbyists in Washington DC until Washington DC decided to go after Microsoft. Now, Microsoft has an enormous lobbying operation. Walmart is the same story. Once big business discovers that it’s profit margins are determined in Washington, big business focuses on Washington.

Perhaps more importantly, really big corporations like regulations. Coca-Cola can pass its costs onto the consumer. But smaller business are not only hurt by regulations, they are also prevented from competing with the big boys because those regulations serve as a "barrier to entry."

The great "fascist bargain" with big business goes something like this: The government promises corporations market share, a lack of competition and reliable profits in exchange for compliance with its political and ideological agenda. Today big corporations hold up their end of the deal. They buy into global warming (often at a profit) they agree to all the tenets of diversity-mongering and affirmative action. They cast themselves as "Progressive" corporate citizens and in exchange we get economic policies that punish entrepreneurs and inhibit free markets.

This is as it should be according to the Progressives, the New Dealers and today’s Democratic Party. And whether you want to call it fascism is up to you, but it fits what liberals have been saying about fascism to a T.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller Liberal Fascism.


The facts your liberal friends need to hear

By Jonah Goldberg

Liberals, perhaps more than anyone, believe that we should be vigilant against the threat of fascism. Now, they also believe that fascism can only come from the Right–I think they’re wrong. But, what liberals – and everyone else – very much need to understand is that whatever direction fascism comes from, it’s popular. Fascism succeeds in democratic countries because it convinces people that it’s the wave of the future, it’s progressive, it’s young, it’s vital, it’s exciting. Fascist promise to fix what’s broken in our democracy, to heal our wounds, to deliver us to promised lands. So if you think fascism comes from the Right, fine. But at least keep in mind that it won’t sell itself as dull, or uptight, or old-fashioned.

Let me take a moment to give you a concrete sense of what I mean.

Fascism appealed to youth activists. Indeed, the Nazis and Fascists were in major respects youth movements. In 1931, 60 percent of all German undergraduates supported the Nazi Student Organization. "Their goal," the historian John Toland wrote of the young idealists who fed the Nazi rise to power, "was to establish a youth culture for fighting the bourgeois trinity of school, home and church."

Meanwhile, middle and lower class Germans were attracted to the economic and cultural populism of Nazism. The Nazi party began as the German Worker’s Party. The Nazis economic rhetoric was eerily similar to John Edwards "Two Americas" talk. The Nazis promised to clamp down on Big Business – particularly department stores, the Wal-Marts of their day – and end the class struggle. Theodore Abel, an impressively clever American sociologist, gives us insight into why working class Germans were attracted to Nazism. In 1934 Abel took out an ad in the Nazi Party journal asking "old fighters" to submit essays explaining why they had joined. He restricted his request to "old fighters" because so many opportunists had joined the party after Hitler’s rise. The essays were combined in the fascinating book Why Hitler Came Into Power. One essayist, a coal miner, explained "Though I was interested in the betterment of the workingman’s plight, I rejected [Marxism] unconditionally. I often asked myself why socialism had to be tied up with internationalism-why it could not work as well or better in conjunction with nationalism." A railroad worker concurred, "I shuddered at the thought of Germany in the grip of Bolshevism. The slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite!’ made no sense to me. At the same time, however, National Socialism, with its promise of a community . . . barring all class struggle, attracted me profoundly." A third worker wrote that he embraced the Nazis because of their "uncompromising will to stamp out the class struggle, snobberies of caste and party hatreds. The movement bore the true message of socialism to the German workingman."

Nazism’s appeal to the professional classes was just as strong. Raymond Dominick, a historian specializing in the history of German environmentalism, found that by 1939, 59 percent of conservationist leaders had joined the Nazi party, while only 10 percent of adult males had. Forty five percent of medical doctors had joined and roughly one quarter of teachers and lawyers had. The two groups of professionals with the highest rates of participation in the Nazi Party? Veterinarians were first and foresters were a close second. Dominick found a "unique nexus between National Socialism and nature conservation."

The Nazis and Italian Fascists won-over big business, cultural elites, the youth and the lower-classes because they portrayed themselves as heroically on the side of progress, protecting the environment and the poor. Fascists preached unity, togetherness and an end to division.

Liberals need to ask themselves where do they hear this rhetoric the most?

I’m not saying that merely being for the environment, the poor or national unity makes you a fascist. But what I am saying is that if you’re concerned about spotting fascism on the horizon you can’t just look at people you don’t like. That’s like only looking for your lost car keys where the light is good. Huey Long reportedly said that if Fascism comes to America it will be called "anti-Fascism." Liberals can still make their arguments that fascism comes from the right. But until they understand that wherever fascism may come from, it never arrives save in a form that the best and the brightest are willing to accept with open arms.

And if liberals don’t know their history, they won’t be equipped to spot it when it comes knocking.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller Liberal Fascism.