Few books by conservative author’s have received as much vitriol and mockery before release as Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. Its title -and the changing subtitle in particular- and premise have been attacked and decried from one end of the liberal blogoshere to the other. Many have assumed it is a banal, if outrageous, attempt to follow in the footsteps of Ann Coulter. Quite a few have even asserted that Jonah couldn’t finish the book and maybe never would. The book’s amazon page was even hacked.
I have long been of the opinion that critics should read the book before attacking it. And after reading an early version I offered the opinion that it was “a serious argument with important points to make” and that while readers may not agree with all of his arguments that he “draws out some fascinating aspects of history and makes some pretty compelling arguments about the faulty nature of the conventional wisdom surrounding fascism past and present.”
Well, it seems that Publishers Weekly agrees with me. No one would accuse PW of being some sort of right wing propaganda machine and yet they offer this mostly positive review:
In this provocative and well-researched book, Goldberg probes modern liberalism’s spooky origins in early 20th-century fascist politics. With chapter titles such as “Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left” and “Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism”–Goldberg argues that fascism “has always” been “a phenomenon of the left.” This is Goldberg’s first book, and he wisely curbs his wry National Review style. Goldberg’s study of the conceptual overlap between fascism and ideas emanating from the environmental movement, Hollywood, the Democratic Party and what he calls other left-wing organs is shocking and hilarious. He lays low such lights of liberal history as Margaret Sanger, apparently a radical eugenicist, and JFK, whose cult of personality, according to Goldberg, reeks of fascist political theater. Much of this will be music to conservatives’ ears, but other readers may be stopped cold by the parallels Goldberg draws between Nazi Germany and the New Deal. The book’s tone suffers as it oscillates between revisionist historical analyses and the application of fascist themes to American popular culture; nonetheless, the controversial arc Goldberg draws from Mussolini to The Matrix is well-researched, seriously argued–and funny.
So here is my challenge to all of the bloggers and writers who have mocked and chided Jonah through the delays and subtitle changes and everything else: when the book is released, read it, and offer criticisms based on substance rather than emotional reactions and ignorant gossip.
I have a feeling that most will simply ignore it rather than wrestle intelligently with its claims.