YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 10, 2015

The case for feminism

Ad from Avant Garde "blowout sale" January 2015

Ad from Avant Garde “blowout sale” January 2015

I have written numerous blogs tracking the second wave of feminism (1960s-1970s and on).  See for example https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/. This blog is part of a two-part series: https://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.

Many of my prior blogs lament the automatic alignment of second wave feminists with their New Left male “oppressors,” abandoning the situations of women who were not either pro-choice, in the civil rights movement, or against the war in Viet Nam, especially as much of the Left and even those older ex-leftists who became neoconservatives remained at best ambivalent about gender issues. Perhaps these differences between liberal and conservative women are too deep to bridge, since many conservative women deny that they are subservient to males. Some liberal males feel differently, but don’t necessarily act on it.

For instance, cultural historian David Brion Davis once gave a series of lectures at an Ivy League university on race, later published, that stated that the subject of women was as grave a matter as subjection by race, but he saved that remark for his last chapter, and has, to my knowledge, never developed it, not have his students who now dominate the profession at Yale and other prestigious venues.

When I reviewed David Horowitz’s recent book Radicals (https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/), criticizing it for excessive moderation and for putting quotation marks around the word “feminist.” I send the piece to him, for David is my friend, and he welcomed the dialogue, but DH clearly doesn’t see feminism as a political priority, while I do, very vehemently.

Why do I care? For one thing I have five granddaughters and two daughters, who are coping with, or will cope with the same choices that I have done all my life: they will have to choose between stereotypes: Madonna, nymphet, femme fatale, happy mother, party girl, dominatrix, bluestocking, etc. My female descendants are all intelligent and creative, but most might not have the support network commensurate with their brains and talents. Nor are they likely to depart from the “normal” subservient posture in relationship to men, which may combine all these attributes as the illustration I have posted above:  Women as child, yet menacing in black, with short skirt inviting movement of the male hand up her thighs. (This was an ad for a sale from the boutique Avant Garde.) This teen ager is sexually provocative, yet wholesome looking with that pony tail. She will nab an upper-class mate. But will she be emancipated from the tyranny of stiletto heels for very long?

I was told by a nurse who did my blood work that there was a rule at the UCLA famed medical school and home for excellent doctors who tend to all classes of persons, that the female administrators must comply with a dress code that demands “heels”—not flat shoes, or nurse’s shoes, even though any orthopedist will warn women that high heels will inevitably lead to back, knee, and ankle problems as they age. Women must please male authority in the workplace or be fired.

Then there is the issue of androgyny, and the continued preference for hyper-masculine males and “girly” females. This combination of good father and apron-wearing mother, both God-fearing, will lift minority children out of poverty—a common viewpoint among conservatives. The same faction will go to the mat to prevent reproductive rights for women, and will oppose all but heterosexual love and marriage. Behind the opposition to gay marriage, I sense that there is a fear of effeminacy and subjection to the influence of mother, now embodied in the so-called “nanny state.”

I will not belabor the rise of “the moral mother,” or the diminution of paternal authority in the household after the Industrial Revolution, culminating in the welfare state as a bulwark against socialism, for I have written at length about the progressive movement on this website.

But I have no doubt that hierarchies, such as the domination of most women by males, “breed deceit, terror and catharsis” as I stated in passing here: https://clarespark.com/2010/08/15/nazis-exhibit-der-ewige-jude-1937/. Men will never know what their female mates are really thinking, as long as the extreme difference in sex roles persists, no more than did the slaveholder know what his slaves really had on their minds, nor does the employer know what his employees are really thinking about his conduct and their jobs.

Perhaps Nietzsche, and not Marx had the correct solution to the organization of advanced societies. But I would hate to think that the battle of the sexes, though insoluble owing to biological differences, cannot be more flexible in what men and women (or homosexual couples) expect from each other.

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June 2, 2013

Hair and Make-up: Megyn Kelly smackdown

bettygrable2

[Update 10-26-16:last night, MK demanded that Trump “take responsibility” for his insults in an interview with Mike Pence, then took on Newt Gingrich who failed to back down in their dispute over media bias.]

[Update, 10-1-16: Megyn Kelly continues to present herself as a feminist, while seemingly regressing to an “aw shucks” parody of femininity and defending (obesity) in the name of outraged womanhood.]

Megyn Kelly, often considered the brainiest of Fox News Channel anchors, does not overtly define herself as a feminist, but she sure sounded like one in her spirited and feisty interviews with Lou Dobbs (Fox News Channel commentator) and Erick Erickson (editor of Redstate.com), May 31, 2013. So much so that liberal blogs have been gleefully covering her encounter with the two conservative males.

(See the smackdown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN_EP3zcUXs )

Before I go on to the time wasted by women in decking themselves out as dolls and harem girls (Betty Grable, illustrated: the number  one pinup girl in WW2), I must make this point about the internal contradiction of some “Christian” thought: Much of what Dobbs and Erickson presented as incontrovertible truth relies upon some brand of sociobiology: men were, they insisted, biologically determined to be protectors of the weaker females, especially during the vulnerable period of pregnancy and child-rearing. Working women who defied these God- and Nature-given sex roles are obviously responsible for social decadence and worse. (The same would go for ‘unnatural’ gay marriages where the usual division of labor between father and mother would not prevail.)

On the other hand, many social conservatives often believe that our species is not in Nature, but stands above it: nothing so irritating as a Spinoza follower, who often drops into pantheism.  (See Leon Wieseltier’s commencement speech quoted here: https://clarespark.com/2013/05/30/nostalgia-for-the-middle-ages/. Wieseltier draws a sharp line between Man and Nature and laments the period when the two were conflated. )

I would have preferred that Megyn Kelly, herself an experienced lawyer, point out this contradiction, but she chose to stand up for working women and for married gay parents, suggesting that research had shown that their children were not harmed by the lack of a traditional father and mother.

Nothwithstanding her smackdown of Dobbs and Erickson, Kelly is a babe, whatever she says about herself;  I felt some cognitive dissonance watching her stand up to the two conservatives, for she is a beautiful, expertly-coiffed, heavily made-up blonde. After seeing the encounter yesterday, I thought I should say something about “hair and makeup”, those two time-consuming, nature-defying imperatives for women out in the world or waiting at home for the male breadwinner to return to his castle.

Antiquity-dreams...Deviant Art

Antiquity-dreams…Deviant Art

In the nineteenth century, during the first wave of feminism, the female pioneers whose tireless efforts and dedication gave women the consideration and political power they wield today, were not babes. They were usually religious Protestants, were plainly dressed, and certainly did not waste hours and hours on coloring their hair or applying make-up to enhance their lips, cheeks, and eyes, let alone painting their fingernails and toenails or lusting after high heeled shoes by Christian Louboutin. Rather, such decorations were generally confined to actresses and fancy women.  There were not enough hours in the day for self-education (19th century women did not attend male colleges or have their own–with a few exceptions– and were denied entrance to the professions, though their [maternal]nursing skills were highly valued); these heroic early feminists were traveling to remote parts of America to further feminist  causes (including abolition, temperance, votes for women, cleaning up corrupt city governments, and rescuing prostitutes from a life of disease, degradation and early death). Some of them were unmarried, while others had large families: household help was cheaper and husbands pitched in. In regarding their intertwined efforts at elevating our country, historian David Pivar has described their cause as a “purity crusade.”

Generally considered to be killjoys determined to pry into the affairs of men, these women have been caricatured by other male opponents.  As a rising class, as progressive women “who want to make the whole world home-like”, they are blamed for “the nanny state” and for “the fetishism of facts.” Their masculinist opponents “want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad.” Lots of luck, guys. (For more blogs on the various stages of feminism, see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/04/links-to-blogs-on-feminism/, or its twin https://clarespark.com/2012/03/19/links-to-feminist-blogs/.)

The photographer of the Deviant Art image is John Lynn of SNTP, and is on Facebook, as is Raven Winter, stylist and model.

its time to wear the pants

March 4, 2013

Romney v. the cultural politics of “Mean”

WSJ cover art March 2-3

WSJ cover art March 2-3

Fox News Sunday, March 3, 2013, ran a long interview with Mitt Romney and Ann Romney. I was struck once again by how nice the Romneys were, and how “gentlemanly” were Mitt’s opinions and demeanor.

Everyone has an opinion on why Obama defeated Romney, but no one has commented, to my knowledge, on the cultural politics of “Mean.” For instance, Seth MacFarlane was ostentatiously mean during his Oscars hosting, yet he is being defended by feminists and conservatives for nailing Hollywood actresses for adding to the dread “hyper-sexualization” that those strange bedfellows (feminists and cultural warriors of the Right) laud in the song “Boobs” that outed all those actresses who had bared their breasts for the [white slavers of Jew-controlled Hollywood]. (See Andrew Klavan’s new piece http://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/2013/03/03/conservatives-are-boobs-when-it-comes-to-pop-culture/. Then compare Klavan’s defense of MacFarlane with my own analysis: https://clarespark.com/2013/02/25/potus-michelle-and-the-end-of-the-democratic-republic/.)

Similarly, conservatives are on board with the obviously misogynistic insult to mothers when they call the paternalistic welfare state “the nanny state”.  Or take the impressively educated actor David Duchovny, interviewed on NPR last week, who explained why he could watch The Godfather over and over, for he was captivated by Marlon Brando’s transition from Mafia don to murderer, which is Duchovny’s idea of fatherhood, a point he made quite clearly.

Or take yet another example from the hip media: the much-admired series The Good Wife seems to celebrating opportunism over the moral quandaries it had previously explored in a successful Chicago law firm. “Alicia” (played by Julianna Margulies) has made the transition from self-torturing moralist to opportunist, and is demonstrably mean to the (exploited) associates in her new role as “equity partner.” Will the writers take her down in future episodes? I doubt it, because I suspect that “mean” is the new “cool,” and the chic Margulies, dressed to the nines with very high heels, is the role model du jour. Nice guys and gals finish last, and Alicia will go with the winner.

Freud and his ever dwindling followers warned about the brutalization of culture during and after the Great War. Even that outpost of balance and moderation the Wall Street Journal ran a story about female executives persecuting their female underlings, illustrating their piece with a gigantic spike heeled black shoe, the very symbol of sadism and masochism. See the first page of Section C, March 2-3, 2013: “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee: Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.”

queenbee2

“Mean Streets,” the continued coolness of that train wreck Lindsay Lohan, the viewer interest in The Following, all point to a culture where cruelty is celebrated, and niceness is wimpy and old hat, something our grandparents wear, like sensible shoes. (Note that the dimunitive female mentee above is wearing flat shoes.)

Louboutin "Fetish Ballerine"

Louboutin “Fetish Ballerine”

Underneath all this sadism is the lesson the professoriate failed to spot in analyzing classic American literature. For instance, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Man of the Crowd” gives the game away. This symbol of the urban mob is revealed as Pierrot, as the Wandering Jew, as the murderer Cain with hairy hands. As the story line of The Following plays out, expect to see the charismatic serial killer (James Purefoy) and his hunter (Kevin Bacon) meld into one fearsome intertwined specter. Both will be heartless and mean, the very embodiment of the barbarism that Freud detected in 1915, for we are not civilized yet.

The too civilized, too nice Mitt Romney, looking at his wife with adoring eyes, never had a chance.

Romneys

November 25, 2012

The Tea Party and the Greens

American Progress, 1872

This blog responds to a blog on Pajamas Media, that has been revived today: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/10/16/6-green-lies-threatening-to-starve-you/

Tea Party activist, Walter Hudson, has written a blog for Pajamas Media that asserts this provocative claim: “Government owns much of the land in the United States and therefore controls its use. However, government should only own that which it needs to execute its proper function, which is the protection of individual rights. Public parks and wildlife reserves do not protect rights, and the land which constitutes them ought to be sold to private interests.”  Moreover, Hudson makes it explicit that the protection of the wilderness by the national government, is the rule that makes all his other scenarios abhorrent, even threatening as the road to mass starvation.

(Hudson was first motivated to write his blog by an LA Times article that transmitted the agenda of the National Resources Defense Council, as follows:  Curbing global warming, creating the clean energy future, reviving the world’s oceans, defending endangered wildlife and wild places, protecting our health by preventing pollution, ensuring safe and sufficient water, and fostering sustainable communities, but Hudson foregrounds the wilderness as [non-sacred] space to be sold to private interests.)

While it is true that the Green movement of the 1960s and 1970s was taken up by hard leftists as a rational entry into apparently unrelated social movements, the wholesale rejection of basic science that Hudson’s blog and many of the ensuing comments demonstrates, is not only alarming to me, but if representative of the new direction of the Republican Party, would likely result in a permanent statist regime in the United States, for we defy the immutable laws of science at our peril.  Sadly, most of us do not even know what they are, and yet we vote for, or oppose, environmental legislation that will determine the future of our species and all of life on Earth, and the journalists and bloggers we read are rarely trained in the relevant sciences, but they do abhor the “nanny state” as an unmerited intrusion on individual rights.

I have long criticized the term “nanny state” as absurd and sexist, proposing instead the term “watchbird state” (see https://clarespark.com/2011/01/02/the-watchbird-state/). No one has been more critical of illegitimate state power than I have been.  However, it is also true that American power was initially built on 1. Relatively unspoiled Nature that would be ruthlessly exploited and abused by many settlers as they industrialized and moved on West; and, later 2. The European wars of the 20th century that left America as the only great power still standing.

Thus “American exceptionalism,”so defended by segments of the Right, has the possibility of arrogance attached, unless it refers solely to a rational Constitution that encouraged a meritocracy (along with protection of the general welfare), but keep in mind that the “self-made” millionaires in finance and industry of the 19th century benefited from the virgin land, a rapidly expanding population of immigrants,  and during and after the Great War, from the errors of American rivals in Europe and elsewhere.

There are branches of “ecology” that appeal to mystics and to the counter-culture, for the promise of interdependence and harmony that some ecologists, especially deep ecologists (Kirkpatrick Sale was one such popular publicist), is attractive to those who imagine Nature as an inexhaustible source of nourishment, with adherence to “deep ecology” as a permanent return to the Breast or Womb. These constituents will not agree with Herman Melville, who famously described beauteous Nature as concealing “the charnel house within.” Similarly, there have been upper-class primitivists who idealized the social relations of indigenous peoples everywhere, imagining, with Diderot, that their preferred natives enjoyed freedom from puritanical (i.e. mother-imposed) strictures that excessively restricted sex and aggression. The point is to avoid “splitting” the conception of Nature as either entirely benign or entirely threatening, for Melville was possibly influenced by his resentment of a domineering mother.

I have been reading right-wing publications for many years now, and sense that many of its constituents do not possess a rational assessment of any authority whatsoever. It seems that some don’t want to be pushed around, even if the pushing is for their own good and that of their children.  This is infantile conduct.

Reasonable persons can differ on the role of the federal government versus more local entities versus individual choices, or even on whether or not global warming is man-made and reparable,  but what cannot be neglected is a rigorous education in the sciences, starting from the first grades onward.  As long as education is held hostage to persons with an anti-science agenda, we are digging our own graves.

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2010/01/03/this-witch-is-not-for-burning-science-as-magic/.

March 3, 2012

Limbaugh v. Fluke

Hot tempers flashed yesterday on my Facebook page: the subject was whether or not Rush Limbaugh’s description of Sandra Fluke’s testimony to Congress on the subject of the government’s paying for her contraception was destructive and obnoxious. In short, Rush called her a “slut,” and walked right into a political trap (the distraction of culture war talk instead of focus on statist social policy) from which there was no escape. No consensus was reached on my FB page and we retired to our respective corners, each side perhaps feeling abused by the other.

In this short blog, I want to restate my position about how we fight, or, the rules of engagement in public space. (For a longer essay see https://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/, one of my first blogs, that will be of special interest to artists and writers.) During the rise of the second wave of feminism (during the 60s and 70s), many feminists angrily denounced men (the collective object of their wrath) as “male chauvinist pigs.” Outraged males returned the compliment with such terms as “feminazis” or, more recently, the proponents of the welfare state as avatars of the “nanny state,” the latter a bossy maternal entity that was also linked to fascism. Still other “true conservatives” are angry with such “RINO’s” as George W. Bush, Chris Christie, John Boehner, John McCain, and Olympia Snowe, all of whom are tied to the “Massachusetts moderate” Mitt Romney, hence are beyond the pale of decency.

One of Alexander Hamilton’s lesser known contributions to government in a representative republic is his connecting “truth” with the defense against libel and slander. I.e., it was neither libel nor slander if the speaker being sued for defamation was accurate in his or her characterization of the plaintiff. (For a valuable and accessible discussion of the free press question, see Ron Chernow’s biography of AH, pp. 668-71. It does much to answer those who associate Hamilton with the Alien and Sedition Act.) Such a rule clarifies the limits of free speech and fills out what he might have meant by “popular sovereignty” (see Federalist #22, specifically the voice of the people as the source of legitimate authority). It is impossible to deliberate over what is to be done in controverted questions of public policy if either side in the battle resorts to the shorthand of personal insults and malicious intent. It is repulsive and counter-productive when any participant in a conflict muddies the waters with ad hominem attacks, as opposed to clarifying the question at hand with facts and reasonable arguments. The appeal to reason is our best defense against the sadists who withhold the details of their own conduct from would be knowledgeable voters, all the while resorting to the mind-management I have constantly condemned on this website.

Hamilton’s summation of his six-hour speech in the Croswell case brings tears to my eyes: [Hamilton speaks, in Chernow, p. 670:… “I never did think the truth was a crime. I am glad the day is come in which it is to be decided, for my soul has ever abhorred the thought that a free man dared not speak the truth.” The issue of press freedom was all the more important because the spirit of faction, “that mortal poison to our land,”  had spread through America. He worried that a certain unnamed party might impose despotism: “To watch the progress of such endeavours is the office of a free press. To give us early alarm and put us on our guard against the encroachments of power. This then is a right of the utmost importance, one for which, instead of yielding it up, we ought rather to spill our blood.” [end, Chernow excerpt]

The internet and talk radio potentially offer much to the mob: anonymity; distance from the frowns, screams, and daggers of enemies; catharsis as a way of life: all in all, reinforcement to our most antisocial impulses. I abhor such conduct whether it comes from revolutionary socialists, or from “liberals,” or from “conservatives.” The persistence of such violence at a distance will destroy the sense of safety that serious citizens require to speak their minds, often in dissent from fashionable ideas in any particular partisan camp.

Conversation on the internet is priceless when we consider the positive effect it could have in building community, consensus where possible, and in educating each other about subjects that are often mystified or hidden by various elites—elites who are also gatekeepers who discourage fact-finding, and who cannot withstand close examination by “hoi polloi.”

For many, it is a pleasurable relief to discharge rage to a distant crowd. But the thrill wears off quickly, only to leave the enragé depressed, and finally without any friends at all.

June 11, 2011

Coulter, Weiner, Goldberg and the Liberal Mob

Two events in the last several weeks are worthy of comment by a historian.  First, the still brewing scandal of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s tweets, and second, the release of Ann Coulter’s latest book, this one entitled Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America.

Yesterday on my Facebook page, I wondered why the thrust of “Weinergate” was a mob-like assault on Weiner, tantamount to a witch hunt. Pundits did have the option to talk about male sexuality [and its drive toward multiple partners], instead of piling on Weiner. As this was a bit abstract and possibly dangerous territory,  I tried to direct the discussion into the hyper-sexualization of adolescence in the popular television show Glee, going so far as to suggest that adolescent boys and girls might be better off separated in single-gender schools so that they might be free of the biologically based preoccupation with snaring love-objects.  As a feminist, I was especially concerned with the emotional manipulation learned by girls that caters to male fetishes. This latter suggestion prompted some responses and lots of wandering off topic. Sex is apparently too hot to handle especially in a public forum. One very religious right-wing commentator on my list was furious that Weiner had lied. I replied (roughly) that the lying that goes on in both private and public life was so pervasive as to be the norm, and that powerful persons will do and say anything to retain power, that the problem is with a culture that rewards status-preservation above the truth.

Earlier in the week, one Christian Toto, a writer for Pajamas Media, puffed Coulter’s latest outpouring against the Democratic Party, adding to his praise a mention of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.  Both works see the Jacobin mob and its Reign of Terror as precursor to everything that conservatives Coulter and Goldberg reject in progressive America.  I objected to this ahistoric and irresponsible  line of reasoning in a comment, and the comment was censored. I also remarked that venting on the internet was not constructive. I had crossed a line, at least for whoever moderated the comments.

It is very strange to me that Anthony Weiner’s lying should be universally condemned, while Coulter’s and  Goldberg’s lying and hysterical demonization of the opposition, is not. It is one thing for conservative journalists to condemn statism through criticism of specific social policies, but to take the moral high ground while highly vulnerable themselves is hypocrisy. Ann Coulter agrees with Jonah Goldberg that we are in the grip of a “nanny state.” (Coulter notoriously suggested –jokingly–that women not be allowed to vote, for their compassionate nature overcomes sound economic policy.)

I have worked over Jonah Goldberg’s awful book here: https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/. I have not written previously about Ann Coulter, but I recommend another blog  https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/.  If Ann Coulter does not fit the dominatrix archetype, then no one does. Her popularity (on the Right) as a polemicist is a symptom of a pathological and hyper-polarized political culture. It is also a reminder that conservatives and classical liberals have little to say to each other.

[Added later 6-11-2011:] I have been asked to specify how Goldberg and Coulter were lying.  In my blog on Liberal Fascism, I pointed out that Goldberg had mischaracterized Walter Lippmann. [I just reread my blog: I criticized Goldberg on Lippmann elsewhere on the website, here: https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.] In both cases (Goldberg and Coulter), there is no genealogy that links the [godless]  Jacobin terror with modern social democracy and its alleged mob psychology. It is a violation of historical method to do that. The precursors to social democracy were religious conservatives fending off materialist ideologies (e.g. materialists doing history without taking into account divine intervention in human affairs). They include Christian Socialism, Bismarck, the Social Gospel, the distributionism of Rerum Novarum, and of the Progressive movement in general. Social democrats have been strong anticommunists, offering their own piecemeal reform as the antidote to godless materialism.

January 4, 2011

The Nanny State

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:19 pm
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Eric Gill

[This was originally a comment on Pajamas Media, “Liberal Fascism: The Font,” by Ed Driscoll. I reread my comment and liked it enough to post the whole thing here: ( note that Ayn Rand lived in a Richard Neutra house in Chatworth, CA  for seven years)]

To call everything spawned by the Bauhaus an example of “liberal fascism” is absurd. Please see my blog on Jonah Goldberg’s awful book here: https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/. I don’t like the sexist phrase “nanny state” either. How did paternalistic social democracy get to be associated with mommy or surrogate mothers? Anyone who looks at the working class housing in Germany between the wars would have to be impressed by the beauty of its design. And women architects were designing elsewhere interiors that required less housework. Do these anti-modernists also condemn the spare simplicity of Japanese gardens? Do they have any idea how many servants are required to keep up the Victorian or even Georgian styles of architecture and decor? And early America also produced furniture we now prize as proto-modernist. Order and authority? Only to someone who still resents his mother and wishes that she keep that polishing cloth in her hand instead of hassling her slob of a son. Now if you want to see clear cut perverted classicism, check out Eric Gill whose designs celebrated the most reactionary forms of Catholicism.

March 10, 2010

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism

Fuseli’s precursor to Captain Ahab

Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large for the conservative-libertarian National Review Online, wrote a popular intellectual history intended to remedy the common practice on the Left of characterizing Italian Fascism and Nazism as movements primarily of the Right. He tells me that he started formulating a book proposal in 2002, partly in response to his father’s ongoing concerns, partly in response to a talk by Michael Ledeen in the 1990s. It was published with endnotes in 2008 and became a runaway best-seller, a remarkable performance in itself. Perhaps reacting to the growth of the so-called “Tea-Party” movement in 2009, in late January of this year, some professional historians and journalists strongly objected to Goldberg’s thesis that Nazism and Fascism were entirely movements of the Left.

This and subsequent blogs will try to tease out the underlying narrative in JG’s book, one that was not spotted in the symposium mounted by History News Network on January 25, 2010 (with JG’s response January 28): briefly, Liberal Fascism is not only a crusade, a critique of “progressivism” as the eugenics-inspired spur to European“ fascism” and mass death in the twentieth century, but more deeply, LF is an attack on the science and “secularism” that have invaded the cultural space previously furnished with “traditionalism” by which JG means religion and undisputed paternal authority in the family: the consequence in JG’s text is an intrusive nanny-statism TODAY that is fascistically totalitarian and seeks to impose draconian rules on all aspects of everyday life, but most awesomely, will destroy “liberty” with the same resolve as the Jacobin mob and their spawn: Blackshirts, Brownshirts, and Bolshies. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/08/hobsbawm-obama-israel/, for one possible source for the linkage between the French Revolution and the Soviet Union, particularly the first volume of Hobsbawm’s tetralogy, in which EH draws a straight line between the French Revolution and Leninism. In this he agrees with liberal Jacob Talmon or the conservative Catholic Francois Furet: see https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics/.)

    After reading the book twice, I maintain that the actual social structures and practices of the Third Reich and Italy under Mussolini (partly taken up by Robert Paxton in the HNN symposium) are of less concern to the author than “the smothering love” and feminized “niceness” of any American political faction that considers the national government to be a prospective locus for ameliorative reform and regulation. Like the most reactive Christians in history, but especially those who emerged after the Reign of Terror, JG seems to see “liberty” as the freedom for Everyman to suffer in this world, owing to (sinful) “human nature,” though I doubt that he has consciously taken his argument for “liberty” or the frictionless “pursuit of happiness” to its logical conclusion; he may simply be refuting the social engineering conception that man is infinitely malleable and that proper social organization will eliminate aggression and the will to power. That he blames Rousseau and the Jacobins for “totalitarianism” is everywhere apparent in his book. The Committee Of Public Safety has morphed into the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA—and that specter and reality is where he has put his authorial energy. He would have stood on firmer ground had he blamed the social theorists of the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries, described so well in Frank E. Manuel’s The Prophets of Paris: Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon and others who had no connection to the likes of Robespierre.* (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.)

[Added 4-4-10 and 4-6-10: Though I agree with much of what is in Liberal Fascism, it is not a work of history, for he does not reconstruct the historical context in which the various “fascisms” appeared. Ideas (e.g. “Jacobinism”) do not give birth to other ideas. JG could have, but did not, specify the class coalition with conservative nationalists that brought Hitler to power. By sticking with a left-wing genealogy for Hitler, he erases traditional right-wing support (support that was present during the Weimar Republic). Moreover, I have written extensively about “the progressives” and their role in formulating what we take to be mental health. What I found over a period of forty years is as alarming as anything in JG’s book. For instance “progressives” (who were really organic conservatives –“corporatist liberals”–adjusting to the growth of mass literacy and an industrial working class), because of their simultaneous support of “liberty” (e.g. dissent) and “community,”  could immobilize persons who sought to make an original contribution to society. Some of that research is elsewhere on this website,  but much of it can be found in my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, where I show how Melville identified the double bind in his own family, and how he was labeled insane by some in his family and in the writing of his academic revivers.  (By double bind, I do not concur with Gregory Bateson’s definition that rests on the presence of a rejecting Janus-faced mother: rather the incompatible demands to be original in one’s discoveries, but not to disturb traditional institutional arrangements; to be both loyal to one’s country of origin and a member of an international “community”, and more.) 

   JG is on sounder ground when he critiques multiculturalism as derived from Herder. In my own work I trace Herder’s impact on German Romanticism and then nazism. JG should have said something about the dubious Herder-derived notions of national character and zeitgeist. He should have contrasted Herder’s rooted cosmopolitan and the rootless cosmopolitan of science and urbanity. But the possibly worst part of Liberal Fascism is the notion that some readers may absorb: that the entire Democratic Party is already entirely totalitarian, instead of incoherent, given the clashing elements inside the Democratic coalition. The Dems may be heading in that direction, but as a tactic to mobilize libertarian opposition, JG’s bleakness may create more apathy than informed resistance to illegitimate authority. And by constantly combining the word “liberal” with “fascism,” all statist activity is stigmatized, which would have amazed Hamilton, Hayek, and the Friedmans. ]

[Added 4-18-2010:] I am reading George E. Mowry’s excellent political and intellectual history of the period 1900-1912: The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America (originally published in 1958). The variability in what was considered to be “progressive” is laid out clearly. By contrast, the polemical and narrow focus of JG’s book becomes apparent. Given that Mowry and the other historians in the series of readers that Harper and Row published are writing within the progressive tradition, he (and probably they) are remarkably objective. Mowry brings the look of the period to life, and you will never read Edith Wharton again without seeing what a fatalist and traditional conservative she was.

[Added 4-23-10:] Mowry’s highly regarded account of the Republican Party contribution to progressivism certainly sees Theodore Roosevelt as a radical statist, but Mowry remains grounded in the period under study, and never calls T.R. style progressivism protofascist. I wish that journalists who write about politics today would be as attentive to detail and primary sources (and as broad in their interests) as did Mowry. This is a great book.

*Earlier critics than JG must have been comparing the welfare state to the various fascisms because Frank Manuel complained about the comparison in his The Prophets of Paris (1962): ” The specter of emotional and moral as well as scientific and industrial control hovers over the Saint-Simonian system, and Rousseau’s censor rears his ugly head. Nevertheless it seems farfetched to relate the Saint-Simonians on these grounds to the monster states of Hitler and Stalin. True, the Saint-Simonian political formulae emphasized emotion rather than reason, plus the hierarchy, an elite, the organic, and in this respect their theories bear superficial resemblance to the lucubrations of twentieth-century fascism. The ecclesiastical nonsense of the cult, however, should not obscure the fact that their image of society was founded first and foremost upon the expectation that there would be an upsurge of Eros in the world, that men would become more loving–a rather dubious assumption, though one that is not to be laughed out of court by the true skeptic. The Saint-Simonian society was founded upon relations of love among members of a hierarchy. This may be ridiculous, unfeasible, nonrational humbug, but it is totalitarian only in the sense that love may be. The Saint-Simonians were committed to the winning of converts solely through preaching and persuasion. To relate all the images of “authoritarianism” and “totalitarianism” to these tender failures of the 1830s entails driving their ideas to conclusions they never entertained. Saint-Simonians talked and quarreled far more about love, all sorts of love, than they did about authority. They never spilled a drop of blood in their lives and in middle age became respectable bourgeois. There was something unique about the German experience under the Third Reich. Remembrance of it should not be diluted by the discovery of antecedents that are of a qualitatively different character. The Saint-Simonians may be cast into liberal hell, but there they will probably encounter as many lovers and passionately fixated men as Dante did in the Christian hell.” (p.184)

[Added 4-30-2010: JG has an article on Obama’s “neosocialism” in the May issue of Commentary. The phrase “liberal fascism” does not appear there. But he still does not know about the contribution of the organic thinkers of nineteenth-century France (some of whom were reconstructing a more secular Catholicism) to Marxism and twentieth-century political thought, including the creators of the welfare state. These are Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Comte. Manuel distinguishes their organicism from that of their predecessors Turgot and Condorcet, though the latter were strong advocates of a science-driven progressive future.]

[Added 12-10-11: If JG had written about populism, I would have agreed with him about its protofascist potential. See https://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alinsky-rules-for-democratic-politicians/.]

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