After a week of proudly trumpeting it, Glenn Beck on Friday unveiled his "first documentary," titled The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die -- a flashily edited piece dedicated to portraying the progressive movement as at the root of all the world's most recent genocides, and suggesting thereby that current-day progressives are taking America down the same murderous path.
Actually, it was largely a long promotion for Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent bestseller, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning and its underlying thesis, to wit, that fascism is "properly understood" as "a phenomenon of the left."
In Beck's hands, of course, this mishmash of a theory gets mashed even more, so that fascism is indistinguishable from communism and socialism, and that all are essentially identified in the bundle of the progressive movement, which is Beck's ultimate target.
On Thursday, promoting the piece on his show with Goldberg, Beck worried that "the academic bloc" of the progressive movement would be arraying its forces to attack him for this piece of work (and it is a real piece of work). In reality, most of them will likely dismiss it as just another piece of lunacy from the nation's fearmonger in chief.
But it's obvious that, despite the cold reality that Goldberg's thesis is profoundly dishonest and the most odious kind of historical fraud, right-wingers like Beck not only believe it but have embarked on avidly promoting it -- especially among the Tea Party set, where the signs calling Obama a fascist are almost as common as those decrying his tax increases. Indeed, Goldberg's thesis has become conventional wisdom for the Tea Partying right.
Because of this phenomenon, I began some months ago writing to some of the more authoritative historical experts -- historians and political scientists -- in an effort to finally produce a serious response from academics to Goldberg's traduced version of history. Some of them responded enthusiastically, concerned as they were with what was happening to the public's understanding of fascism's essential nature.
- Robert O. Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University and the author of The Anatomy of Fascism, leads off the essays with "The Scholarly Flaws of Liberal Fascism."
- Roger Griffin, professor of political science at Oxford Brookes and the author of The Nature of Fascism, has a piece titled "An Academic Book - Not!"
- Matthew Feldman, professor of history at University of Northampton, and a co-editor of several academic texts on fascism, offers his assessment on why refuting Goldberg still matters: "Poor Scholarship, Wrong Conclusions".
- Chip Berlet, senior researcher at Political Research Associates and the co-author (with Matthew Lyons) of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, has penned a history of Goldberg's arguments, "The Roots of Liberal Fascism: The Book."
Beck, of course, has leapt from this fraudulent foundation to the bizarre conclusion that the progressive movement has always produced genocide -- mostly by equating fascists with communists with progressives, which is part of the underlying illogic of Goldberg's thesis. The obvious conclusion is that President Obama is leading America on a path to genocide as well.
Indeed, anyone who's been watching Beck's show the past year is aware that his continually building thesis about Obama -- that he is secretly a black radical Marxist/fascist/socialist/whateverist intent on creating a totalitarian regime in America -- is largely built on Liberal Fascism and its thesis. Beck has had Goldberg on numerous times to promote the fraud. And his long-running attacks on the progressive movement as the "cancer" destroying the country -- which has been the entire point of Beck's show this week, including the conclusion that progressives may try to assassinate Obama if he moves to the center -- have been nakedly drawn straight from Goldberg's Planet Bizarro version of history. (The giveaway has been Beck's running insistence that Woodrow Wilson is at the root of this evil.)
I've previously explained in some depth exactly why Goldberg"s thesis is so profoundly dishonest, especially when it comes to the mountain of historical facts that contradict his claims, which he simply elides. But I'm not an academic -- just a journalist who has real-life experience writing about real American fascists.
Academic historians, in fact, have tended to shy away from tackling Goldberg's book, precisely because it is such an obvious work of propagandistic polemics, and his methodology so shabby, that they haven't considered the work (such as it is) contained therein to be worthy of academic consideration. But because Goldberg"s fraudulent thesis has now become conventional wisdom on the American Right -- and particularly among the Tea Party set, where signs equating liberals to fascists and Obama to Hitler have become commonplace -- many historians, especially those who have specialized in the serious study of fascism, have come to the realization that calling out Goldberg for his fraud is long overdue.
The rest of us can call out Beck for his flagrant and thoughtless promotion of this fraud.