Goldberg's Liberal Fascism argument panned: 'Like saying mustaches are fascist,' Stewart tells author
You write a book whose title and symbology implicitly ties liberals to Nazis, and you should expect to get a little bit of heat.
Jonah Goldberg, says the Hitler-mustachioed smiley face and title, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, are based on ideas espoused by others. He bristles at critics -- most recently The Daily Show's Jon Stewart -- who call him out, accusing them of not having read his latest tome.
"As far as I can see, what you're saying is you don't like the ease with which people throw around the word fascism," Stewart charged. "So what you've done is, you basically have just done that."
Stewart accused Goldberg's attempt to equate modern liberal ideas with early 20th-century fascism of not holding any water.
"That's literally like saying mustaches are fascist [because] Hitler had a mustache," Stewart said, accusing Goldberg of "unbelievably misrepresenting what they said in the progressive era."
Goldberg accused Stewart of not having read the book.
Other critics who did read the book, also found its arguments lacking.
"It seems that nothing gets conservatives off nearly so much as writing obviously unserious books with patently offensive titles, designed in every way to not be taken seriously, and then get huffy when people make fun of them without having given their precious works the deep consideration they deserve," wrote Matthew Yglesias.
"One major problem with the book is that Goldberg has no ability whatsoever to stick to a coherent line of argument. You might call this book 'disparate essays about fascism and American liberalism designed to annoy liberals,'" Yglesias judges. "He doesn't seem to care about what his various claims amount to or even whether or not they're inconsistent."
Michael Leeden, a conservative scholar who sometimes writes for Goldberg at National Review, says Liberal Fascism "trivializes Nazi racism, equating it with some American political rhetoric."
"The best that can be said about this is that itís imaginative," he writes. "But itís what happens when you are bound and determined to put liberals, Socialists, Communists, fascists and Nazis into a common political home."
Goldberg's Daily Show interview was heavily edited because, Stewart said, the two spoke for 18 minutes but only had six minutes to air the segment. One connection Goldberg drew was between organic food and Nazis, eliciting a groan from Stewart.
On his Liberal Fascism blog, Goldberg complained about the editing, but said he just couldn't quit Stewart.
"As expected the response from John Stewart on air was a lot less warm than the response from him in the green room," Goldberg wrote. "Maybe I've got a platonic Brokeback Mountain thing going in that I just can't quit liking the guy, no matter how shabbily the edit job turned out to be (or how silly the interview itself was)."
This video is from Comedy Central's A Daily Show, broadcast January 16, 2008.