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On Hamid Mir, Jonah Goldberg and Liberal Fascists

Hamid Mir, the moderate with super moderate Osama

The new face of moderate Pakistanis, renowned columnist and talk show host, Hamid Mir along with his other counterparts like Javed Chauhdry have coined an oxymoron term “Liberal Fascists”. He referred to Jonah Goldberg’s book with the same title. Mr. Mir has written some columns on this and in “Josh E Jazbaat” called the Inter services Intelligence (ISI) too liberal fascists as the spy agency who handed the Al Qaeda operative Afia to the Americans.

And to prove his point Mr. Mir is quoting Jonah Goldberg. An extreme right-wing author and journalist who is frequently seen on Fox News, especially with Glenn Beck! He supported the Iraq War and colonialism, especially African colonialism, as something “civilizing” and argues that America should intervene more aggressively to solve African problems. In his writings he has frequently alluded to a more aggressive stance in relation to Pakistan, and justified the use of special forces’ raids in FATA as essential to US security.

Mr. Goldberg’s book is a sorry read of historical manipulation, trying to paint the Obama administration as some new age Mussolini, trying to shape America into a western European socialist state. The context within which he uses the term Liberal Fascist is totally irrelevant to the people in Pakistan!

Perhaps Mr. Mir should question who exactly is using the term “liberal fascism” before he starts labeling people in Pakistan with that title. (Nadir El-Edroos)

However, the people who are religiously following Hamid Mir may have no concern with the term and reference to Jonah Goldberg. We are producing here a review of Jonah’s book to understand who Hamid Mir is fascinated with in coining the term. Hamid Mir found a perfect match in Jonah as he too is a diehard friend of neo-cons in America. (Ali Arqam)

The Scholarly Flaws of Liberal Fascism

By Robert Paxton

Robert Paxton is emeritus professor of history at Columbia University. His latest book is Anatomy of Fascism (Vintage, 2005).

Jonah Goldberg tells us he wrote this book to get even.  The liberals started it by “insist[ing] that conservatism has connections with fascism” (p.  22).  Conservatives “sit dumbfounded by the nastiness of the slander” (p.  1).   “The left wields the term fascism like a cudgel” (p.  3).   So Jonah Goldberg has decided it is time to turn the tables and show that “the liberal closet has its own skeletons” (p.  22).   After years of being “called a fascist and a Nazi by smug, liberal know-nothings” he decides that “responding to this slander is a point of personal privilege” (p.  392).

Feeling oneself a victim is wonderfully liberating.  Anything goes.  So Jonah Goldberg pulls out all the stops to show that fascism “is not a phenomenon of the right at all.  It is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left” (p.  7).  The reader perceives at once that Goldberg likes to put things into rigid boxes: right and left, conservative and liberal, fascist and non-fascist.  He doesn’t leave room for such complexities as convergences, middle grounds, or evolution over time.  Thus Father Coughlin was always a man of the left, and so was Mussolini (Giacomo Matteotti or the Rosselli brothers, leaders of the Italian left whom Mussolini had assassinated, would have been scandalized by this view).  The very mention of a “Third Way” puts one instantly into the fascist box.

That’s too bad, because there really is a subject here.  Fascism – a political latecomer that adapted anti-socialism to a mass electorate, using means that often owed nothing to conservatism – drew on both right and left, and tried to transcend that bitter division in a purified, invigorated, expansionist national community.  A sensitive analysis of what fascism drew from all quarters of the political spectrum would be a valuable project.  It is not Jonah Goldberg’s project.

The bottom line is that Goldberg wants to attach a defaming epithet to liberals and the left, to “put the brown shirt on [your] opponents,” as he accuses the liberals of doing (p.  392).  He goes about this task with a massive apparatus of scholarly citations and quotations.  But Goldberg’s scholarship is not an even-handed search for understanding, following the best evidence fully and open-mindedly wherever it might lead.  He chooses his scholarly data selectively and sometimes misleadingly in the service of his demonstration.

Jonah Goldberg knows that making the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR the creators of an American fascism – indeed the only American fascism, for George Lincoln Rockwell and other overt American fascist or Nazi sympathizers are totally absent from this book – is a stretch, so he has created a new box: Liberal Fascism.  The Progressives and their heirs who wanted to use government to rectify social and economic ills, and who, in Goldberg’s view, thereby created an American Fascism, acted with good intentions, rarely used violence, and had nothing to do with Auschwitz.  Even so, they share an intellectual heredity and a set of common goals with the European fascists.  So they go into the “Liberal Fascist” box.

Liberal Fascism is an oxymoron, of course.  A fascism that means no harm is a contradiction in terms.  Authentic fascists intend to harm those whom they define as the nation’s internal and external enemies.  Someone who doesn’t intend to harm his or her enemies, and who doesn’t relish doing it violently, isn’t really fascist.

But the problems go much deeper.  Pushing Liberalism and Fascism together requires distorting both terms.  It doesn’t help that these are two of the most problematical words in the political lexicon.  To his credit, Goldberg is aware that the term “liberal” has been corrupted in contemporary American usage.  It ought to mean (and still means in the rest of the world) a principled opposition to state interference in the economy, from Adam Smith to Ronald Reagan.  Goldberg sometimes refers to “classical liberalism” in this sense, and with approval.  Unfortunately he has capitulated to the sloppy current American usage by which “liberal” means, usually pejoratively nowadays, any and all of the various components of the Left, from anarchists and Marxists to moderate Democrats.

Goldberg stereotypes liberals to make them abstract, uniform, robotic.   The telltale phrase is “liberals say” or “liberals think” (mostly without anyone quoted or footnoted).   For example, “Liberals .  .  .  claim” that free-market economics is fascist (p.  22).  Could we please have a few examples of “liberals” who say this? It is a straw man, as is the vast, ghostly “liberal mind” that sounds like a physical reality: “fascism, shorn of the word, endures in the liberal mind” (p.  161).  Does this liberal mind have a telephone number, as Henry Kissinger said famously of the European Union?

This “liberal mind” is a very big tent.  Goldberg believes that moderate reformists are essentially involved in the same project as radical activists.  Bernardine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Al Gore, Hilary Clinton are all devoted in one way or another to the allegedly fascist project of taking action to make a better world.

Goldberg makes sure we understand that force and violence are integral to this “liberal” project of state action to improve society.  Robespierre’s terror begins “liberalism” in this sense, and Goldberg attributes  to it a fanciful fifty thousand deaths (the scholarly consensus is 12,000, which is bad enough).  Later he spends a lot of time on the worst excesses of 1960s radicalism, as if the Weathermen and Hilary Clinton belong together as seekers of a new community.

Fascism is given an equally broad definition:  it is any use of state power to make the world better and to create a community.  This is not only too vague to mean much, it is simply wrong.  Authentic fascists have never wanted to make the whole world better.  As uncompromising nationalists, they want to make their own group stronger, purer, and more unified, and establish its domination over inferior groups, by force if necessary.  Goldberg’s real target is state activism, and matters would be much clearer if he had just left it at that.

Having headlined the violent history of “liberalism,” Goldberg soft-pedals that of fascists, especially Mussolini.  There are the ritual references to Auschwitz, but he denies that racial extermination is integral to Nazism by noting how many Progressive reformers fell for Eugenics in the early twentieth century.  His Mussolini – that lifelong “man of the left – is seen largely through the eyes of his many foolish American admirers.  Che Guevara killed more people than Mussolini, he asserts (p.  194).  This is possible only if one leaves out of the picture the murder of over a thousand Italian citizens by the squadristi who brought Mussolini to the brink of power in 1922, or of the Italians’ use of poison gas, forced displacement into camps, and aerial strafing against the populations of Libya and Ethiopia.

Goldberg simply omits those parts of fascist history that fit badly with his demonstration.  His method is to examine fascist rhetoric, but to ignore how fascist movements functioned in practice.  Since the Nazis recruited their first mass following among the economic and social losers of Weimar Germany, they could sound anti-capitalist at the beginning.  Goldberg makes a big thing of the early programs of the Nazi and Italian Fascist Parties, and publishes the Nazi Twenty-five Points as an appendix.  A closer look would show that the Nazis’ anti-capitalism was a selective affair, opposed to international capital and finance capital, department stores and Jewish businesses, but nowhere opposed to private property per se or favorable to a transfer of all the means of production to public ownership.

A still closer look at how the fascist parties obtained power and then exercised power would show how little these early programs corresponded to fascist practice.  Mussolini acquired powerful backing by hiring his black-shirted squadristi out to property owners for the destruction of socialist and Communist unions and parties.  They destroyed the farm workers’ organizations in the Po Valley in 1921-1922 by violent nightly raids that made them the de facto government of northeastern Italy.  Hitler’s brownshirts fought Communists for control of the streets of Berlin, and claimed to be Germany’s best bulwark against the revolutionary threat that still appeared to be growing in 1932.  Goldberg prefers the abstractions of rhetoric to all this history, noting only that fascism and Communism were “rivals.” So his readers will not learn anything about how the Nazis and Italian Fascists got into power or exercised it.

The two fascist chiefs obtained power not by election nor by coup but by invitation from German President Hindenberg and his advisors, and Italian King Victor Emanuel III and his advisors (not a leftist among them).  The two heads of state wanted to harness the fascists’ numbers and energy to their own project of blocking the Marxists, if possible with broad popular support.  This does not mean that fascism and conservatism are identical (they are not), but they have historically found essential interests in common.

Once in power, the two fascist chieftains worked out a fruitful if sometimes contentious relationship with business.  German business had been, as Goldberg correctly notes, distrustful of the early Hitler’s populist rhetoric.  Hitler was certainly not their first choice as head of state, and many of them preferred a trading economy to an autarkic one.  Given their real-life options in 1933, however, the Nazi regulated economy seemed a lesser evil than the economic depression and worker intransigence they had known under Weimar.  They were delighted with Hitler’s abolition of independent labor unions and the right to strike (unmentioned by Goldberg), and profited greatly from his rearmament drive.  All of them would have found ludicrous the notion that the Nazis, once in power, were on the left.  So would the socialist and communist leaders who were the first inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps (unmentioned by Goldberg).

In the Italian case, Goldberg somehow imagines that Mussolini’s much-vaunted corporatism was a device to subject businessmen to total state control.  Scholars who have looked at the way corporatism actually worked have generally concluded that Italian businessmen simply ran the economy through the corporatist agencies that they easily dominated.  Corporatism – the management of an economy by joint committees of businessmen, labor representatives and government officials who organize the economy sector by sector, to emphasize common interests over class differences – functions quite differently, of course, under different regimes.  In the Italian Fascist case, quite unlike the New Deal, labor representatives were, in the end, excluded from any meaningful role.

Having set up distorted stereotypes of “liberalism” and “fascism” Goldberg finds them united by a host of similar projects such as campaigns against smoking (it was Nazi doctors who first established the link between smoking and cancer, and Hitler was a fanatical anti-smoker).  These similarities concern peripheral matters.  The foundational qualities that separate liberalism from fascism simply vanish from the analysis: political pluralism vs. single party; universal values vs. the supremacy of a master race; elections vs. charismatic leadership; fascism’s exaltation of feelings over reason.

Goldberg has indeed unearthed plenty of skeletons in the liberal closet, such as the Eugenics fad.  Some liberal violations of human rights were temporary, as in war government.  Others were the work of radicals of the left who made war on liberals, hated them, and have no place in an analysis of liberalism properly understood.

This book is stuffed with references to scholarly work that make it look authoritative.  But when something really surprising comes along, we look in vain for a footnote.  Did Hitler really write a fan letter to that Jew-loving plutocrat FDR in 1935? No footnote.  How do we know that the New Dealer Hugh Johnson read Fascist tracts, and for what purpose (p.  156)?  And that FDR put a hundred thousand American citizens into camps (p.  160)?  Does he mean that C.C.C.? In what sense was “deconstruction” a Nazi coinage (p.  173)?  Goldberg probably means Heidegger, but he wants us to think Goebbels.  Just which proponents of affirmative action claimed that their opponents were on a slippery slope to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and in what words (p.  243)?  Exactly where and when did Al Gore say that global warming is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and what were his actual words (p.  314)?  The list of bombshell remarks smuggled into this text without any reference to a credible source could go on and on.

Goldberg hijacks scholarly work and applies it in misleading ways for his own purposes.  Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., showed conclusively that German businessmen were often skeptical of Hitler in the early days.  Since they gave money to all non-Socialist parties, the small amounts they gave the Nazis prove nothing.  But Turner’s book stops in January 1933.  Goldberg extends Turner’s conclusions misleadingly into the later period, ignoring the way German businessmen adjusted to the new situation.  David Schoenbaum meant his title Hitler’s Social Revolution ironically: Hitler recruited all the losers in Germany’s 1920s crises, and then betrayed them by following policies favorable to big business and big agriculture after January 1933.  Goldberg appropriates this book’s first half misleadingly to support his fantastical conclusion that Hitler was always “a man of the left.”

Jonah Goldberg sometimes sounds sweetly reasonable.  Liberals mean well, they aren’t taking us toward Auschwitz.  The filiation is intellectual, not a matter of exact identity.  Fascism takes a different form in each national setting (very true), and it takes a “softer form” (p.  391) in the United States.   Then he drops the mask and goes on a rant.  In the chapter headings and subheadings – the parts that casual readers will remember — liberals are fascists pure and simple.   For example: “Franklin Roosevelt’s Fascist New Deal” (p.  121);  “The Great Society: LBJ’s Fascist Utopia” (p.  329), and so on.

While Goldberg is reasonably careful of names, dates, and quotations, his more general judgments often go badly awry.  It is not true that “the hard left had almost nothing to say about Italian Fascism for most of its first decade” (p.  30).  The Third International diagnosed it right away, clumsily, as an agent of capitalism.  The Italian elections of 1924 were not “reasonably fair” (p.  50), for according to the Acerbo Election Law passed at Fascist insistence just beforehand, the leading party would automatically receive two thirds of the parliamentary seats.  It is untrue that Germany spent relatively little on armaments in the first years; they spent as much as they were allowed under the Versailles Treaty, and then arranged secretly for further training and arms development in the Soviet Union (p.  151), a point that ought to suit Goldberg quite well.  Hitler never ever campaigned from the back of an old pickup truck (p.  289).

Jonah Goldberg does not tell us much about his own beliefs, except that he loves America.  But it is clear that he inhabits a world where the sole serious danger to individual and national wellbeing is the state.  No rogue corporations, no drunk drivers, no polluting factories, no well-funded lobbies threaten us, only the state.  Anything that enhances the power and reach of the state is bad, even George W.  Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”

If you are looking for brickbats to throw at Democrats, reformers, environmentalists and other do-gooders, you will enjoy this book.  If you are looking for some reasoned arguments about the politics of our time, you will find both liberalism and fascism grossly distorted in this tract.

About the author

Ali Arqam

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  • لبرل فاشسٹ وہ ہے جو اپنی ذاتی زندگی میں لبرل ہو اور سیاسی طور پر طالبان فاشسٹ کا حامی ہو
    حامد میر ،شاہد مسعود ،جاوید چودھری وغیرہ لبرل فاشسٹ کی مثال ہیں

  • very good definition by Zalaan

    Allies of taliban feeling heat , hang upside down hamid mir, general gul, orya maqbool jan etc. they will tell manythings about their support to terrorists in Pakistan and in Afghanistan

  • During Judicial Crisis [Musharraf Days] it was Hamid Mir who got out of the office and slapped one policeman in Islamabad to instigate Policemen to enter GEO office to create a scene. These anchors often create a situation where they made their guests to say what they themselves [anchors] want to say. Why we forget that Nazir Naji and Ahmed Noorani Tapes were also made available on internet. Who tapped the conversation???? Hamid Mir and many other leading anchors in several Pakistani Private TV Channels [who are also leading correspondents in Newspapers] seem to work like ASSETS of someone. Hamid Mir is a known time server. Many of us have now forgotten that it was Hamid Mir who filed a lead story [and story was false] in Daily Dawn [Hamid Mir wasn’t even a Contract Employee of Dawn] after 911 that “Osama bin Laden” has more than 30 Nukes [as if Nukes are .22 Caliber Pistols and can easily be carried around when half of the leading Military around the world were looking after for OBL. Above all Hamid is an expert in quick somersaults.

  • It is not just Hamid Mir,Javed ch, or Dr shahid masood, our whole media with minor exception, is comprador. It has sold its conscious to militancy, religious fanaticism, and all the evil zoonistics are humane being.

  • Liberal Fascists and Religious Extremists both are wrong words.

    because a true Liberal person can’t be a Fascist and a true religious person can’t be a extremist.

  • Three ‘liberal fascists’

    By Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Today is the 100th anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Pakistan’s most famous poet laureate and secular humanist. It has come amidst unprecedented religious and social turmoil in Pakistan and the larger Muslim world which makes it all the more important for us to look back at the life and times of this great minstrel of and see if we can salvage something of the message of this great man and apply it to our lives.

    In my opinion, Faiz is the third in a series of poetic giants who formed a glorious continuum of artistic and philosophical revolution in thought for Muslims of South Asia that began roughly in 1799 which coincided with the fall of Seringapatam and the beginning of the final phase of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The humiliation and extinction of the Mughal Empire in India embedded in the Muslim community a sense of depression and fear. Ghalib’s poetry was in part a reflection of this depression and profound sense of loss. Consider for example ‘koi umeed bar nahin atee koi soorat nazar nahin ati’ (there is no hope, no way forward). In this Ghalib’s own life became a metaphor for the decline of Muslim power and prestige. This brought forth the first man of action amongst Muslims of South Asia, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who sought to rectify the ills of Muslim community by encouraging modern education and founding the premier modern institution for Muslim renaissance
    in Aligarh.

    The next phase was of Muslim regeneration and here is where the second of these giants Iqbal came forward. He became the voice of Muslim confidence and assertive nationalism when he declared ‘Muslim hain hum watan hai sara jahan hamara’ (we are Muslims; the whole universe is ours). Despite his allegiance to a universal religious identity, Iqbal was, in the balance, a liberal modernist. If there is a sense of confusion or his adherence to certain causes which sit uneasy with liberals today, it is because he was driven by his anxiety to see Muslims as a united force for reform of Islam. Reacting to a Hindu majority, he placed emphasis inadvertently on issues that were later utilised by conservatives for their own purposes. However it is important to place in perspective Iqbal’s attachment to causes such as the issue of Ilam Din, the murderer of Rajpal. Consider for example that Dr Muhammad Din Taseer, a leftist par excellence and the father to Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, was involved in Muslim agitation for Ilam Din in Lahore.

    Iqbal’s efforts to forge Muslim unity found a man of action in Jinnah and a purpose ultimately in a free homeland in Muslim majority areas of South Asia. Therefore by the time the third of these giants, Faiz, emerged on the scene, the concerns and issues of Muslim consciousness and identity had already been replaced with more universal and humanistic concern. Even the lessons of Islamic modernism had been internalised and become part of conventional wisdom. Thus in Faiz we find the culmination of the thought process that began with Ghalib. Faiz was a free man and a poet writing in a free country unhampered by his Muslim identity. Like Ghalib his poetry was secular but instead of depression, he called upon his people to listen to the hope of the new dawn ie umeed sahar ki baat suno. Unlike Ghalib who was the poet of the Delhi’s Ashrafia and Iqbal who spoke of communal consciousness, Faiz’s poetry spoke of the people and of workers and peasants rising up and bringing down the divisions of class, caste and religion. Going beyond the individual and the community, Faiz resonated in the third world and was more universal than his predecessors. Unfortunately unlike Ghalib and Iqbal, Faiz did not find a man or woman of action to galvanise his vision into something concrete but one suspects that the final chapter in this book is not yet written.

    According to the standards set by the anchors of our free media like Kamran Shahid and Orya Maqbool Jaan, however, all three of these giants were ‘liberal fascists’ in some form or the other. Ghalib was a ‘liberal fascist’ because as poet of the Mughal darbar, his poetry was entirely secular (because Mughal culture was essentially secular with the exception of the aberration caused by Aurangzeb) and even atheistic. Iqbal was a ‘liberal fascist’ because while he emphasised his religious identity, he openly praised Kemal Ataturk’s reforms in Turkey as perfectly Islamic, including the strict ban on polygamy and his change of alphabet. For more on this read Iqbal’s rejoinder to Jawaharlal Nehru. Faiz was a ‘liberal fascist’ because he stood for a secular democratic and economically just Pakistan. Perhaps then it is ‘liberal fascism’ that Pakistan needs more than ever before.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\13\story_13-2-2011_pg7_26

  • It seems Mr.Mir used the right terms and hit at right place that’s why liberal fascists are getting fits. Who says left wing can’t be fascist and extremist? Extremism is all about silencing others and there are various examples among us how liberal fascists like MQM,ANP and PPP usually silence the voice of others;either by closing channels or killing by bullets. SO yes ali Arqam, Hamid used the right term, the moron YLH himself is a product of liberal fascism and ignorance.

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    to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog
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