Some books catch one’s eye and pique one’s interest because the title is so simple yet striking. For me, Bridge of Spies and 48 Laws of Power were two books just like that; their titles pulled me in and the content didn’t disappoint. Liberal Fascism, written by Jonah Goldberg, is another such book.
In Liberal Fascism, Goldberg chronicles how supposedly “progressive” elements within American society are really pushing for an Americanized version of fascism. By that, he, of course, doesn’t mean that Hillary Clinton or Woodrow Wilson were American incarnations of Hitler. In fact, he describes Nazism as being somewhat of a separate entity from true fascism, which was mainly found in pre-World War II Italy.
I was unconvinced at first, but as I read and understood the similarities he drew between the progressives and the fascists, especially the Italian fascists, I was convinced that his argument was both factual and much-needed. Hopefully, this review will convince you of that too.
Summary of Liberal Fascism
Goldberg’s book is a bit too long to adequately summarize here in its entirety. While his writing is concise, it spans from the early 20th Century to the modern-day. That’s far too much to fit into an under 1000 word review. So, to summarize his main points without being too wordy, I will first give you the names of the chapters in Liberal Fascism and then delve into some of the most profound statements and claims that he makes.
The Chapters of Liberal Fascism:
- Mussolini: The Father of Fascism
- Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left
- Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism
- Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal
- The 1960’s: Fascism Takes to the Streets
- From Kennedy’s Myth to Johnson’s Dream: Liberal Fascism and the Cult of the State
- Liberal Racism: The Eugenic Ghost in the Fascist Machine
- Liberal Fascist Economics
- Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism
- The New Age: We’re All Fascists Now
- Afterword: The Tempting of Conservatism
From those chapter titles, you can probably ascertain the main gist of Goldberg’s argument: progressives chart their root back to the socialist, cult of the state ideas that Hitler and Mussolini developed as they seized power in Germany and Italy and that they refined from early nationalist and statist politicians, such as Otto von Bismark.
While American liberals are obviously far less evil than those two men, the general concept of the state being the omniscient good actor in society, along with the need for public morality, state-controlled public health, and the cult of action, all come from fascist ideology. Progressives, especially Woodrow Wilson and FDR, latched onto those ideas and unwittingly embedded them into the left’s psyche. If you read Liberal Fascism, you’ll learn much more about how that happened and why.
My Favorite Sections of Liberal Fascism
One of Goldberg’s best points is that progressives and fascists both subscribe to the idea of society waging a war on every negative force. Their end-goals might differ, but as the Nazis waged their war on Jews and public health, today’s progressives are waging their wars on drugs, smoking, cancer, poverty, and climate change. Yes, the right has helped shepherd the war analogy into everyday discourse, but those long-running “wars” are generally the product of progressivism and trace their roots back to the fascist call for action. We can see some of that now in America’s wars for democracy in the Middle East.
Another great point Goldberg makes, this time in his chapter on Kennedy, is that Kennedy was the embodiment of a superhero-like politician who roused American society into a state of action.
His imaginary missile gap, profligate defense spending, the glamorization of the state and technocratic solutions, all of which are described in The Best and The Brightest, are concepts that wouldn’t have seemed so foreign to the fascists in Europe. Certainly, Kennedy wasn’t aiming for that. But, he was focused on readying the population for a state of forever war, which is exactly what Mussolini and Hitler would have liked.
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Also in his chapter on Kennedy, Goldberg discusses the enduring progressive and fascist faith in economic planning. Kennedy wanted economic planning during the Cold War. Wilson and FDR used economic planning during and before the world wars. Hitler and Mussolini used economic planning to prepare for their wars of conquest. In every situation, the government was in bed with Big Business. That’s called corporatism and it’s a feature of fascist systems, not free-market ones. Capitalism and corporatism are very different.
A fourth important point Goldberg makes is that progressives and fascists both tend to go after thought criminals. Rather than allow free speech and the open marketplace of ideas, they desire to crack down on and silence dissenters. They want to censor dissenters. Or, in his words, “Now, of course you’re not going to get a visit from the Gestapo if you see the world differently; if you don’t think the good kind of diversity is skin deep or that the only legitimate community is the one where “we’re all in it together,” you won’t be dragged off to reeducation camp by the political correctness tyrants.
But you very well may be sent off to counseling or sensitivity training.” That might be his most important statement in the book; free speech on college campuses and in the workplace is being crushed by fascist SJWs who want nothing less than to force you to subscribe to their worldview on pain of cultural ex-communication or losing your job. That’s evident in corporate virtue signaling and bowing down to the BLM Marxists and in the idea of “hate speech” that is behind the creation of speech codes on college campuses.
Is that really all that different from the actions of the Gestapo? No, leftists are silencing conservatives in the same manner that the Gestapo silenced critics or the gulag archipelago locked up and silenced political enemies of the Soviet regime.
Finally, in his afterword, Goldberg describes the overall meaning of his book. In his view, liberals aren’t cartoonish Nazi villains. That would be absurd. But, they do exhibit many similarities, especially when it comes to free speech and public health.
For example, think about the war on smoking and e-cigs. By most accounts, e-cigs aren’t all that unhealthy. But, the campus administrators and far-left culture warriors hate them and demand that you subscribe to their worldview, so they’ve attacked those devices with a vengeance, just as the Nazis attacked smoking. The parallels are concerning, to say the least, especially when viewed in the context of the greater war on individual liberty the left is undertaking in America.
Liberal Fascism, like Righteous Indignation, is a book about today’s far-left that you need to read. Goldberg shows why today’s attacks on liberty, free speech, and individuality aren’t just the product of a desire for a nanny state but are also stemming from the fascination early progressives had with fascism, especially Mussolini’s hyper-socialist fascism.
Those roots are easy to see in today’s culture. Antifa is obviously a fascist organization; its entire ideology is premised around physically attacking those with opposing viewpoints. Similarly, the left’s fascination with state-governed child-rearing is concerning because the fascists wanted to do the same thing. And, of course, fascism is at its base a socialist, or at least collectivist and statist, ideology. So is progressivism.
Goldberg describes all that and much more in Liberal Fascism. His arguments, far from being the ramblings of a conservative crackpot that one might expect from a book about the left’s fascist roots, are nuanced and well-supported. Reading Liberal Fascism will leave you better able to describe why many liberal policy goals aren’t just wrong, but also evil. Order and read a copy today!
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As I wrote about in my post on why Antifa is a fascist organization, I generally think it is best to stay away from calling the other side a gang of fascists. Doing so diminishes the potent evil that our troops fought and died to extinguish during World War II.
But, when fascism rears its ugly head, we need to call it out. Even if it comes from the left. Liberal Fascism shows not only why that is the case, but also why its accurate to say that most progressive ideas and deeply-help beliefs are just Americanized versions of fascist ideology. It’s a book you need to read immediately. We often hear liberals say that conservatives are the true fascists.
That was, for example, an accusation often leveled against George W. Bush. But, in reality, nothing could be less accurate. Conservatives stand for free markets, individual rights, free speech, and a small government. Progressives, on the other hand, are members of a wild, woke mob and stand for public morality, shutting down opposing viewpoints, rewriting the English language to benefit their political objectives, physical violence against political enemies, and Big Government solutions to every possible issue. Who do you think the real fascists are? I tend to agree with Goldberg in Liberal Fascism on this issue.
By: Gen Z Conservative