The reviews for Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism are awful, of course, and the new line from its author is that the critics just haven't read it hard enough. It's like the mis en scene in Hostel II. You'd get it, if you just watched a few more times.
Which made me feel bad, because I hadn't planned on reading it at all. I still have all these Michael Savage books on the nightstand.
(With the Savage books I just like staring the author photos on the covers. He looks like Al Goldstein without the panache. Odd that he has all this trouble with women.)
So I went to Borders and read Liberal Fascism.
I can't imagine what terms we're supposed to be judging it on. It's tragic.
It's not just that Goldberg's understanding of history would get him laughed out of a game of Axis & Allies; the index doesn't work.
Is it for young adults?
Here's the Goldberg Thesis:
Liberals are like Fascists because Fascists told people to do things and so do Liberals. The End.
Yeah, it's not exactly Umberto Eco.
I guess Jonah Goldberg is supposed to be a fun guy -- you don't grow up in a whorehouse without learning to play at least a little piano -- so it's okay that he's not very bright. And he's still just a kid, in Young Republican terms; he's not even forty. At his age George Bush was still driving drunk. But is that really an excuse?
When you buy it, you don't get to pay with play money.
Goldberg also notices that "Nazi" is short for "national socialist," which is scholarship on a level with discovering that there were mid-winter holidays that predated Christmas. (Religion's like a myth, dude!) It's the kind of thing stupid people think sounds smart. A grown man might sit there and listen to a boy say it, but only to humor him. "Well, that's an interesting thought, son, but Jesus was a historical figure. Now run upstairs. I've paid my $10, and I need to fuck your mom."
If you get to the end, you do, however, find the "rosebud" of the whole thing: Liberal Fascism is Jonah Goldberg's revenge on Gore Vidal for making William F. Buckley lose his temper.
"In 1968, in a televised debate on ABC news during the Chicago Democratic convention, Gore Vidal continually goaded William F. Buckley, eventually calling him a crypto Nazi. Vidal himself is an open homosexual, a pagan, a statist, and a conspiracy theorist. Buckley, a patriotic, free-market, anti-totalitarian gentlemen of impeccably good manners, could take it no more and responded: 'Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddam face and you'll stay plastered.'"
This is a pretty well-known incident. (I'm not sure why "open homosexual" is the first thing Goldberg lists in Vidal's bio, except as a synonym for "asking for it," but it's his book. I might have gone with, "author, playwright, screenwriter, veteran," but that's just me.) Most viewers remember the other guy, the impeccably well-mannered patriotic gentleman speed freak dilettante footnote, getting the worst of it, as he was the one screaming slurs and threatening to hit people.
I think Vidal compared it to watching a cuckoo clock bird pop out of Buckley's head.
But that's not how Goldberg sees it.
"It was one of the of the few times in Buckley's long public life that he has abandoned civility, and he instantly regretted it. Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of many similar insults and diatribes, I have deep sympathy for Buckley's frustration. For at some point it is necessary to throw down the gauntlet, to draw a line in the sand, to set a boundary, to cry at long last, 'enough is enough,' to stand athwart 'progress' and yell 'stop.'"
(Or I'll hit you with my purse.)
"My hope is that this book has served much the same purpose as Buckley's intemperate outburst while striving for his more typical civility."
Liberal Fascism isn't about politics or history or even making a fast buck. It's about sucking up to the boss.
"Remember that night you totally lost your shit on national TV? (Probably not, you were taking a lot of speed at the time.) Well, I thought you were swell. That mean man was totally asking for it."
I'm glad you called him a queer.
By the way, don't look for this incident with the dozen other references to homosexuality in the index. It's not there.
William Buckley, when remembered at all, will be remembered for eating it that night in 1968. The way, up until now, Jonah Goldberg's claim to fame was lifting a line from The Simpsons, "cheese eating surrender monkeys," and applying it to anyone who didn't want to fight Iraq. (And by "fight" Goldberg meant, "send somebody else.")
Goldberg doesn't get many ideas. So where'd he come up with pure gold like "liberal fascism?" Wait, look:
I'm pretty sure that's The Simpsons. The line is: "McBain to base. Under attack from Commie Nazis."
I know no one gets paid for the Internet, but someone owes someone some money.