Over at Alicublog, Roy Edroso presents yet another in his series of Shorter Jonah Goldbergs (read the comments, too, which are excellent – Roy’s commenters are always worth reading). Jonah is reacting to the new book by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right. Jonah is amused that the cover of the book appears to be a takeoff on the cover of Goldberg’s magnum opus, you know, that book with the grandiose and ridiculous title Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
Okay, so about Kos’s cover. I think it’s hilarious, though not really for the reasons Kos probably does. Herewith some thoughts in response to a lot of different e-mail.
First and foremost, it shows you how much Liberal Fascism got under the skin of the netrootsy Left. That’s worth a chuckle.
Second, it seems to show how little they’ve actually come to grips with the book. “Hey, that Goldberg book had a smiley face with a Hitler mustache on it and it sold really well. Let’s try the same gimmick and make a grumpy smiley face with a turban! That’s, like, twice as clever!”
First, Jonah gives away the game when he states upfront what the real intent behind his book was: to piss off liberals. An entire book devoted to the proposition that liberals are almost, but not quite, like Nazis, because they want to use the power of the state to force people to do what’s best for them, really never had any purpose other than to anger Jonah’s political opponents and provide conservatives with an excuse and opportunity to describe liberals and progressives in the worst terms imaginable. Jonah’s “scholarship” has been ably shredded elsewhere; of course, those prominent scholars and historians probably gave Jonah more credit than he deserved, and for my money the most appropriate responses to the book came from the geniuses at Sadly, No! (for example; see also here for many more). And, of course, there is the The Poor Man Institute‘s The Editors’ vastly superior book of the same name.
Second, Jonah’s conceit that his book “sold really well” totally ignores the fact that it was bought in bulk by various right-wing websites and book clubs, as free giveaways for subscribers and members. But obviously there is a market for it: just as there is a market for any book by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and all the other various and assorted parasites and scum-suckers that make up what passes for
“public intellectuals” amongst the bottom-feeding right. The idea that Kos was making fun of Jonah’s ridiculous cover art and thesis apparently hasn’t occured to Jonah:
Moreover, the smiley-face cover of LF wasn’t simply a gimmick. For reasons that have something to do with the times we live in, people took one look at the Hitler-mustached smiley face and said “Aha!” Conservatives got it and many liberals took instantaneous offense to it. I remember, for instance, Jon Stewart hectoring me about how that picture was a huge “f*** you” to liberals. Given the title, I’m not going to pretend that liberals were crazy to assume that the picture was a symbolic shot at, well, them. But the point is the image works.
From that nearly incomprehensible piece of prose, and what follows, I’m assuming that Jonah reluctantly agreed to use the cover art but, hey, it did the job of pissing off liberals (which was central to his point), so what’s the problem?
The Hitler-smiley-face conjures that argument, and I return to the themes of this discussion over and over again for the next 500 or so pages. Absent any other information, the Taliban smiley conjures not an argument but, uh, my book (which, again, is worth a chuckle). Now, in fairness, I haven’t read Kos’s book. He may have a fantastic explanation for why his grumpy-face-turban-wearer makes sense. But I doubt it.
This, too, is central to Jonah’s point: as commenter “Jason” at Alicublog notes:
That’s pretty much it, no? He says that judging his book by its cover without having read it is unfair and an act of bad faith, and then proceeds to smash through his entire post making a bad-faith judgement of a book he hasn’t read. This is the kind of logical contradiction that Cpt. Kirk used to use to murder alien computers.
I had my own brief encounter with Jonah, and I’m pretty much convinced that he is an unimaginative idiot, incapable of expressing doubt or admitting he is wrong about anything, and who got whatever position of influence he currently holds strictly through nepotism and the inability of right-wingers to discern the difference between serious arguments and trolling. But I have a theory (a theory, which I have, and which is mine) that the current clown show of right-wing lunacy that so dominates political discourse in this country had its genesis in the January 8, 2008 publication of Liberal Fascism.
Of course, right-wing craziness has been with us for what seems like forever: it was present when Joe McCarthy was ferreting out commies in the State Department and the Army in the 1950s; it was with us when Jimmy Carter was villifed as History’s Greatest Monster; and it reared its ugly head during the Clinton administration, when it even got a half-serious name – “The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.” As John Rogers told us way back in 2005, there is a permanent underclass of crazy in America, which constitutes around 27% of the population, and which has remained remarkably steady since the Bush administration, through the 2008 election, and remains with us in the form of Palin worshippers, Birthers, and Teabaggers.
But in the America of 2010, you have to look for the roots of the crazy in more recent events, and the publication of Jonah’s masterwork marks the beginning of a period in which crazification not only became commonplace, it also became worthy of notice by the fluffers of the corporate-owned media.
It continued through the campaign of 2008, when the nomination of Barrack Obama as the Democratic candidate for president loosed the floodgates of batshittery, until a copious flow of unhinged rhetoric, lunatic conspiracy theories, and unparallelled demogoguery became so commonplace that factcheckers had to work overtime to debunk it all.
It intensified when Obama was actually elected and sworn in as president, to the point where right-wingers are actually in control of the narrative that determines how the corporate-owned media cover American politics and political actors. We have arrived at a point where conservatives have fully embraced the concept of liberals as fascists, and right-wingers feel no compunction about using the n-word, as a way of counteracting the horrible scourge of reverse racism visited on powerless whites by our all-powerful Negro Overlords.
Liberal Fascism made all of this possible because it gave right-wingers a pseudo-intellectual sheen to cover their hatred: of all things liberal; of anything that might smack of empathy for those in worse circumstances than their own; of the gays and n*****s and illegals and baby-killing women and their special rights and privileges; of a child of mixed race who had the audacity to think that he could actually be the president of this great country of ours.
They’re all just like the Nazis, you see, trying to force their damn socialist agenda down our throats, for our own good, and against our wish to remain ignorant, and in thrall to the rich motherfuckers who keep us in our place (those elitists who we both loath and fear, and who we aspire to become, so we can dish out our own brand of punishment on those beneath us). The 27% or so of the population who believes these things could easily sway an election, or grow in size and influence because of a recovery that wasn’t, and a stimulus that wasn’t big enough, and an unemployed underclass that is dismissed as an unpleasant but necessary side effect of the workings of the glorious free market.
I have a crazy idea, too: that a coalition of the long-term unemployed, disgruntled liberals, young people looking at the desolate job market that they’re about to enter, and centrists who aren’t freaked out by the idea of deficit spending to alleviate the effects of the worst recession since 1929 can actually become a viable force, and make enough noise to push policy decisions, and get noticed by the corporate-owned media.
I don’t know if anyone in power would actually notice such a movement, even if it exceeded the 27-percenters in size, and even if it could be shown to have an actual basis in reality, rather than in the paranoid delusions of misanthropic assholes and their wealthy enablers. But I’m willing to give it a try. Maybe, with enough of us, we can give Jonah and his cohort of flaming assholes a run for their money. Who’s with me?