Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dr. Helen, Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg in Fantasy Land

I listened to a conversation the other day between a trio of folks who have garnered internet fame and the words and concepts expressed left me with some unsettling thoughts. And since the trio is taken somewhat seriously in the world o' internet punditry I decided to share my thoughts in this forum.

Glenn Reynolds, Dr. Helen and Jonah Goldberg shared (in my opinion) some utterly dubious reasoning and extremist ideas in an interview via Dr. Helen's page with Goldberg regarding his new book, "Liberal Fascism." (Thanks to Katie for linking to the interview at Knoxville Talks. Normally I do not seek out that trio's output, as scattered readings revealed to me there was little of value, for me anyway, to discover in their offerings. Others find great value to such, an idea which stoked my notions of writing about what I encountered.)

The book is on the verge of publication and numerous online writers have already ripped into it. I have not read the book, only a few excerpts, however the above-linked interview pretty much revealed the "thinking" of the author and no, I would not want to read it. It falls into the vast pantheon of revisionist historical wingnuttery which continues to flourish in our current age. And I do not mean this post to be a virulent screed against the trio - more that it is a good example of bad practices in punditry.

In essence, Goldberg takes his particular worldview-goggles and peers backward, cherry-picking the events and language of the past in order to bolster his views that Democrats and Liberal politics virtually destroyed America and only the Rise of the Neo-Conservative has saved us from oblivion.

He also embraces an already well-known bit of fakery on the internet - making use of Godwin's Law, which states that the longer an online discussion continues, there will inevitably occur the invocation of Hitler and Nazis to the topic discussed. Judging from the trio's discussion and several excerpts from his book, he takes that Law as primary to his thesis. He also says title came from writer/social activist H.G. Wells and that Wells was a founding father of the modern American Liberal Democrat.

Wells was certainly a Utopian, though his novels tended more to show the failings of Utopias and the destructive elements of human nature. He was certainly well-regarded in the early days of the 20th century, but Goldberg's elevation of his status is problematic at best.

Goldberg's propositions involve creation of an argument, which may be provocative but are more "academic," meaning
having no practical or useful significance. Specious reasoning taken to its furthest extensions. Speaking in syllogisms, one could say: Hitler Had A Mustache, Many People Have Mustaches and so, Many People Are Hitler.

At one point in the trio's conversation, Reynolds compares former president Jimmy Carter's appearance on TV in a sweater urging Americans to turn down their thermostats to an act of Fascism and "at least it wasn't a brown sweater". Oddly tortured turns of metaphor often arise in the trio's discussion. Another is the concept from Goldberg noting that Hitler was a vegetarian and hence all current interest in healthy foods and vegetarianism is somehow related to following ideals of Hitler's National Socialism.

You can listen to the interview (linked above in the 2nd paragraph) for yourself and hear the trio's faux logic. It's a common trait among many popular Neo-Con pundits - Ann Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and others: be outlandish, be histrionic, constantly repeat your points so that others must use your language to debate your topic, and claim that elitist Leftist madmen are trying to silence your viewpoint.

For myself, when I notice a particular political argument must always have An Enemy Which Must Be Defeated as it's basis, I find the argument based more on fantasy than reality. It's as if the first action of such a view is to destroy all things not in agreement, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. And such agents of argument have sadly risen to prominence, praising the self-determined individual while demanding obedience to a particular dogma

Your views may vary.


  1. Anonymous2:58 PM

    I gave up on Dr. Helen early on after reading her blog for several weeks. Not a very compassionate psychologist, IMO. I can't go listen to the interview. I have no doubt as to your analysis being accurate.

  2. Anonymous3:04 PM

    I do see many signs of fascism on the left. I believe environmentalism, for instance, is a totalitarian belief system. I suggest you at least read the book before you post.

  3. signs on the left and the right, Anonymous.

    i was not reviewing the book here, just my thoughts on what is evident in the podcast.

    couldn't any "-ism" could be lumped into a totalitarian system given enough fanatic impulses?

  4. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Mussolini said;
    "the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity.... The fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.... Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.

    Or; "...a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."

    Number three echoes Shrubs "gut instinct" he said he made decisions by.

    Labeling " Liberals" Fascists is merely switching slurs: A generation ago, Liberals were Communist sympathisers, eager to undermine the US, with rock and roll, free love, peace and cannibis. No such movement existed in the Communist block or course but what did reality have to do with it.

    Yea, Liberals ore Conservationist, Anti-monoply and like the idea women vote, but then so did Teddy Roosevelt. They are sometimes stupid but in the end the idea of a nation where no body crowds no body but no body goes it alone isn't a totalitarian system.

    This rebranding of Liberals is a mark of desperation by the wingnuts and oddly coincides with the increased discussion of how much BushCo resemebles a totalitarian state. It smacks of the same detachment from reality as their discussions of how "24" a Fox TV series reflects our War on Terrorism

    But Goldberg gets the last laugh: how many people get paid for defecating onto paper for big money.

    Next they will be pointing out the hyprocrisy of Liberals
    when they want to fund Special Educatiion but object to a retard being President

  5. The Sunday Book Review carried a review this weekend. It's pretty good. Mostly Goldberg is taken to task for miopically looking only at Democrats and completely ignoring anything any Republican president ever did, from Bush's "Mission Accomplished" air craft carrier landing going back to the 1920s and "the largest state-sponsored social experiment in the nation’s history — Prohibition — and it lasted through three Republican administrations before Franklin Roosevelt ended it in 1933."

    Basically Goldberg is and always has been a partisan hack. This drivel will end up in the 99-cent bin along with Ann Coulter's oeuvre. Really, the only proof one needs that conservatism is intellectually bankrupt is to look at the movement's chief spokes-bots, whose only message seems to be "Liberals Bad, Conservatives Good."


  6. SB -

    more than once I have tried to post some thoughts on the specious and deceptive reasonings of Neo-Cons and their obsessions with thought/language control. Sadly, their message is constantly swathed in dubious information. So I figure if they are going to constantly repeat nonsense, they need to be called on it just as repeatedly.