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An Open Letter to Mr. Jonah Goldberg

27 Jan. 2010
An Open Letter to Mr Jonah Goldberg,
I shall see the “old saying” in your retort, “Definitions and Double Standards”, and raise you another pithy adage:  “stop digging.” 

The sneering response to your total evisceration by knowledgeable critics – and you will struggle to find two more erudite in Fascist Studies than Professors Paxton and Griffin – in short, offers nothing new to your already-tautological account:  since critics of Liberal Fascism can only be on the left, we have therefore collectively attacked due to doctrinal loyalty, the party line, or some such variant of trying to shoot the messenger in order to kill off the message.  This argument was already tattooed across your book, which I read closely and completely.  I am glad I did, for negative examples are always useful in class.  I believe that, only in this way, will Liberal Fascism “catch on in academia itself.”

In fact, I reviewed your book with no access to views of any a priori “circles”, and availed myself of no ex post facto discussion, positive or negative, prior to reading it:  I tried to have an open mind at the start.  This is what self-reflective historians, and indeed many other kinds of people, attempt to do before coming to a judgment.  I suspect the other members of HNN’s symposium – including Chip Berlet, who you unfairly dismiss out of hand, and David Neiwert – have done the same.  But this, I fear, does not seem to be a quality you value.  So let me be totally clear in rejoinder:  I have no agenda, and genuinely have no desire to slander you personally.  But it needs to be said, loud and clear:  your book is just ridiculous.  And I do not misunderstand it.  I understand it perfectly well, despite your unsubstantiated claim that I am “wrong.”

Furthermore, I believe, Liberal Fascism is also dangerous.  Understandably, you seem not to engage with this last point, raised by other reviews wholly independent of mine.  Do you really want to carry extremists on your back in trying to discredit those trends in our country you so abhor?  You should look around:  the messenger here spills out the back of a Trojan Horse.  Please glance again at the picture concluding my review:  this is your argument in a 1,000 words.  It is a current image by the LaRouche Organization, whose leader notoriously declared in 1978:  “It is not necessary to wear a brown shirt to be a fascist... It is not necessary to wear a swastika to be a fascist ... It is not necessary to call oneself a fascist to be one, it is simply necessary to be one.”  I say again:  your book is manna from heaven for actual, ideological, revolutionary, radical right-wing, ultra-nationalistic fascists.  Yours is a valuable political cover. To wit:  these are the kinds of posts you have already received on the History News Network since posting your riposte:

Fascists on the left (#140004)
by Rich Xapt on January 27, 2010 at 4:31 PM
Liberal Fascism = the administration/policies of Barack Obama.
Everyone knows (or is catching on to this), hence all the sniveling "scholars" (snicker, snicker) from the left trying to get out front and obscure the truth.

Is this really the political discourse you seek to encourage?

To conclude, Mr Goldberg, I have spoken only for myself, both here and in my review, in pointing out that these criticisms are motivated by a heartfelt desire for historical integrity and closer approximations to an actual past, not contortions of history in the interest of political point-scoring.  In fact, and in public, I have been most critical of liberalism – both ‘classical’ or contemporary, since you seem to think these are ideological poles (like fascism and communism are instead) – in the practices it so often adopts in transgression of its own theories.  Quite simply, my wish to defend the history of liberalism is relevant only insofar as you traduce its history.  (I mean Woodrow Wilson, a fascist dictator?!? Do you honestly believe that?)  Yet then again, not nearly as badly, or perhaps willfully, as you traduce the history of fascism.  In sum, there is not enough interpretative texture in Liberal Fascism to even call this book one-sided.

So I ask you:  let these serious issues be aired properly.  Since I have argued that the dangers this ideological book poses to general understandings of the history of ideology in general, and that of fascism in particular – and especially, the dangers of giving ammunition to those that would really shoot us – are truly severe, I will defend that view in a public forum; in fact, I feel obliged to do so.  I therefore propose to engage you on the issues I have highlighted above, and respectfully request that we meet at a venue of your choosing to debate your book, Liberal Fascism.

I await your response.

Faithfully Yours,

Dr. Matthew Feldman

HNN Special: A Symposium on Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism