Judging This Book by its Cover

|

Not long ago I highlighted Christopher Hitchens' "dubious … rhetorical achievement" of coining the term Islamo-fascism, which, I argued, was a

violate-Godwin's-Law-for-free card, which a grateful pro-war nation has embraced, providing yet more evidence that there is no Lefty rhetorical trope the Right will despise enough to avoid co-opting completely.

The fruit of his labors? This book.

I wonder if Amazon has a computer program, so that when a political hatchet-job title first gets leaked it automatically generates its reverse & spits it out in an e-mail to the relevant partisan publisher. What brave hack will now write Conservative Communism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Adolph Hitler to George W. Bush?

UPDATE: Commenters point out that the better alternative-universe title would substitute Stalin for Hitler. Or maybe one of those smaller-country inter-war totalitarians … nominations welcome.

Advertisement

NEXT: Missed it by That Much

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. shouldn?t it be ?from Josef Stalin to George W. Bush??

  2. *mg clicks link to amazon*

    *mg notes the book is written by Jonah Goldberg*

    *mg closes Firefox tab*

    Judging a book by it’s cover?
    Nah. Just it’s author.

  3. That is the greatest cover art of all time.

  4. Good point, uncle moe, Stalin kinda was a conservative communist!

  5. Rich Ard,

    That smiley Hitler motif suddenly has legs, what with the Prussian Blue gals wearing t-shirts with it.

    Only their shirts didn’t have a red background!

  6. fyodor,

    Like mnay American conservatives of a certain stripe, Stalin’s regime despised jazz (and therefor persecuted its practitioners). The Nazis were of the same mind of course.

  7. Hakluyt — My rough draft of this post originally included a link to Josef Skvorecky….

  8. Hmmm, what music would the liberal fascists suppress?

    Maybe country & western?? Well, except for the Dixie Chicks, of course…

  9. Matt Welch,

    Any culture which persecutes jazz isn’t fit to exist.

  10. fyodor,

    Don’t forget Michelle Shocked. 🙂

  11. Maybe if Goldberg’s book was about the totalitarian tendencies of both “liberals” and “conservatives”, it would be readable and relevant. As it stands, it another Coulteresque “people with different political values from mine are the enemy of all that is good” book.

  12. Take a trip to your local Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, or whatever and head to the Current Events sections. Take a look at the titles:

    “GENOCIDE! How George W. Bush And The Republicans Are Going To Murder Your Grandmother”

    “SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS: Why The Democrats Want To Cook And Eat Your Newborn Children”

    OK, neither of these are actually titles, but you get my point.

  13. fyodor,

    Of course Schocked is more eclectic than anything, though many of her songs have a C&W feeling to them.

    K.D. Lang used to be a ‘true’ C&W artist of course. I have her early CDs, and they are all quite good – better than her mega-hit “Constant Craving” certainly.

  14. I don’t get Goldberg. He actually makes sense sometimes. Why go all Coulteresque?

    Oh, yeah. Money.

  15. Did Hitchens ever respond to your article Matt? I would expect that he would be able to account for his use of the term he created. Jonah Goldberg on the other hand..

    I guess you can ask him at the Vegas thing.

  16. mk — Wasn’t an article, just an off-hand comment, and he rarely either reads weblogs or responds to criticism (unless you call him a Holocaust-denier, or a gin-soaked popinjay).

  17. Hakluyt,

    At the risk of having another FUN debate over nothing, I would have thought of Shocked more as folk than C&W. Then I looked her up on allmusic.com and this was her list of styles:

    Rock
    Urban Folk
    Singer/ Songwriter
    Alternative Pop/ Rock
    Anti-Folk
    Alternative Folk
    College Rock

    I would say that coroborates my original feeling. Maybe she sounds C&W sometimes, but then, the fact that lefties like her more than righties probably keeps her as C&W. That doesn’t make sense you say? Well I’ve long thought that genre identification was as much a social phenomenon as a strictly musical one, anyway. Back in the 70’s when it was being questioned “What exactly is or is not jazz?” I came to the conclusion that it was what people who listened to jazz called it, rather than some mathematically analysis of the rhythm or something.

    But I agree about KD Lang!

  18. Should be:

    “the fact that lefties like her more than righties probably keeps her from being C&W”

    But you probably already figured that out.

  19. Goldberg can be entertaining, if not too terribly insightful. I lean towards the right, and am sick to death of people equating republicans with nazis. Of course I wouldn’t equate liberals or democrats to nazis either. One of Goldbergs points in one of his older columns was, and I am paraphrasing, “unless one is advocating the deliberate mass murder of an entire enthnic group, they shouldn’t be compared to the nazis/Hitler.”

    Oh well, money to be made, I suppose.

  20. Man, hacksawing someone like Hitchens. I guess that answers the questions “who is contrary to the contrarians?”

  21. I don’t think I disagree with Jonah on what he says. I have long believed that liberalism resembles nazism.

    I would just say that going from Nevada to Virginia, two very different red states, I would also have to agree with David, in some cases conservatism can also resmble Stalinism. (in the case of VA not NV).

    The only benefit that conservative stalinism has over liberal nazism is that the former is less effective at achieving what it tries.

  22. The only benefit that conservative stalinism has over liberal nazism is that the former is less effective at achieving what it tries.

    Maybe in your United States…

  23. fyodor,

    Well, she’s rather eclectic. Of course, where C&W becomes folk, and vice versa is hard to tell. If you asked my Dad (a social conservative) about the music on the Oh Borther Where Art Thou? soundtrack, he’d say it was C&W I’d expect. If you asked my liberal sister, well, she’d say it was folk music I suspect.

    Of course, I happen to like much of C&W music (well, the modern, gotta be able to country-line dance to it variety sucks, as does Alan Jackson), so I don’t have to label something as folk, etc. to be politically correct.

  24. “If you asked my Dad (a social conservative) about the music on the Oh Borther Where Art Thou? soundtrack, he’d say it was C&W I’d expect. If you asked my liberal sister, well, she’d say it was folk music I suspect.”

    It’s bluegrass.

  25. JDM,

    That too. 🙂

  26. Or maybe one of those smaller-country inter-war totalitarians … nominations welcome.

    Ooh, Ceau&#351escu! Is it Ceau?escu? It’s Ceau?escu, isn’t it?

  27. Huey Long was once asked if America would ever see fascism, and he said, ?Yes, but we will call it anti-fascism?

  28. Wake me when there’s a book called The Two-Party System which features Lady Liberty bent over a table taking it in the ass and mouth by a donkey and an elephant.

    Debating whether the left or the right is “less fascist” is pretty damned futile.

  29. I thought he meant the fascist government of the Poles or the Hungarians?

    Ceau?escu wasn’t an inter-war dictator.

  30. I’m feeling quixotic enough to point out that Godwin’s Law is as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. It’s not a prescriptive code of conduct, it’s a descriptive principle. You can’t “break” it.

  31. Hmmm, what music would the liberal fascists suppress?

    Maybe country & western?? Well, except for the Dixie Chicks, of course…

    First, they came for Alan Jackson …

  32. We can only pray that SOMEONE comes for Alan Jackson…

  33. Eric — In that case I think you’ll need a capital Q. Grammar-fascist.

  34. I’ve never used the term “islamo-fascist” because I actually know something about fascism, the political-economic program enacted in the early 20th century by Benito Mussolini with fans ranging from Hitler to FDR.

    Nonetheless, the term “Islamo-Nazi” does fit the extremist Jihadis, not only because of the alliance between Hitler and Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, but because the Madrasas and other Islamic extremist propaganda are brainwashing Muslim children with an Islamic variation of the Hitler Youth’s anti-Jewish-hatred, and because radical Islam’s position that any non-Muslim can be sold into slavery or killed at will equals the Nazi contempt for anyone not fitting their approved racial profile.

    Regardless of how badly anyone thinks the U.S. and the U.K. may be at prosecuting the war on terror, it would be a fatal error to think that anything short of marginalizing their ability to launch effective attacks can save modern civilization from these evil psychopaths.

  35. Actually, the music from O Brother Where Art Thou is of the genre known as “Old-Timey”. Ask some bluegrass musicians about it sometime. They’ll tell you. “A Man of Constant Sorrow” was probably bluegrass, but the rest was Old-Timey.

  36. Michelle Shocked has recorded in a wide range of styles, but some of her work is definitely country, especially on Arkansas Traveler. As for her politics … isn’t she some sort of anarchist? I know she was part of the squat scene back in the ’80s.

  37. Eric — In that case I think you’ll need a capital Q. Grammar-fascist.

    No more so than I’d need a capital C for chauvinism.

  38. I know for a fact that the reality of the “squat scene” and the image that forms in my head are very different…

  39. I once hung out with Michelle Shocked after she performed at a Ralph Nader rally in Long Beach. She struck me as very sweet and gracious.

  40. There also is a difference between “Fascist” and “Nazi” to some extent. The Nazis were fascist, but their genocidal racism wasn’t found in Mussolini’s fascism that I know of. I’m sure Mussolini persecuted different groups and whatnot, but he wasn’t interested in eradicating whole groups of people, was he? I admit to not knowing that much about him.
    This book, by only focusing on liberalism, is not interested in examining the fascistic tendencies of the Bush Administration, so I’d say it’s most likely lacking.
    But I see nothing inappropriate in doing what I did the other day: My liberal friend called me a fascist (basically jokingly), and I reminded her that of the two of us — she the champion of big government and me the advocate of libertarianism — it is she who is closer to a fascistic viewpoint. Obviously, that doesn’t mean she’s a fascist or that any liberal is a fascist, but faith in big government is a prerequisite for being one. Much more so than faith in limited government and individualism.
    And now that we have big government conservatives running the country, it’s dishonest to only focus on big government liberals when you’re discussing similarities to fascism.

  41. A minor quibble,

    I’m pretty sure Hitchens never actually used the phrase, “islamo-fascism.” Whatever one thinks of Hitch’s politics, he’s a great writer, and “islamo-fascism” lacks style. The phrase he used was “fascism with an islamic face,” which is better. Of course, that doesn’t get him off the hook for using the f-word in the first place. I agree with Matt that it’s too much of a stretch.

  42. The Nazis were fascist, but their genocidal racism wasn’t found in Mussolini’s fascism that I know of.

    Mussolini actually denounced anti-semitism in the beginning, but as he became more dependent on Hitler to stay in power he readily cooperated with the nazis. I don’t know when but by 1941 or thereabouts Italian Jews who had thought themselves safe were being rounded up and shipped to concentration camps.

    Hitler also rejected the word fascism as a description of his politics. He presumably felt that Nazism was superior and unique.

  43. Hey, J. Neil Schulman stopped by! Cool!

    I enjoyed your books Alongside Night and Stopping Power. And The Rainbow Cadenza (not credenza!) is in the hopper.

  44. One of Goldbergs points in one of his older columns was, and I am paraphrasing, “unless one is advocating the deliberate mass murder of an entire enthnic group, they shouldn’t be compared to the nazis/Hitler.”

    Everyone who advocates genocide should be sent to the gas chamber!

  45. RE. Goldberg,

    I like him sometimes, but he has this bad habit of arguing via far-flung analogy:

    ** If my sofa were a blueberry muffin, i’d be sitting on my breakfast. Therefore, conservatism rocks. **

    …or mabey I exagerate.

    Anyway, I have a feeling “Liberal Fascism” may stem from that habit.

  46. Whether you like him or not, Michael Savage coined the term “islamo-fascism”.

  47. Everyone who advocates genocide should be sent to the gas chamber!

    does… not… compute…

  48. Rhywun – that came from Stevo. I think he had his tongue surgically implanted in his cheek. 🙂

  49. Michael Savage coined the term “islamo-fascism”

    Figures. Was he behind “homicide bomber”, too?

  50. I think he had his tongue surgically implanted in his cheek. 🙂

    For a moment there, I felt as if Capt. Kirk had blown my logic circuits.

  51. “OK, neither of these are actually titles, but you get my point.”

    The point I get, Akira, is that you can’t actually come up with any real world examples for your little “pox on both houses” argument.

    I don’t think the jihadis are fond enough of mass politics, or of material progress, to be considered fascists. And they certainly aren’t a reaction to the liberalizing influence of parliamentary government. It’s just a slur, no real meaning behind it. They might as well be using the term “Islamo-poopie heads.”

  52. “The point I get, Akira, is that you can’t actually come up with any real world examples for your little “pox on both houses” argument.”

    WTF, you live in a cave?

    gimme a break.

    nmg

  53. OK, I guess I’ll be seeing books from well-known liberals based on a Bush/nazi conceit posted to refute me any time now. nmg.

    Yup, any minute now.

    I’ll say this: I believe that YOU believe it’s true.

  54. Yup, any minute now, we’ll see a book by Maureen Down, or Jim Hightower, or Matthew Ygliesius, or Robert Reich that accused Republicans of being fascists.

    Akira and nmg are so certain they’re out there.

    Boy, are they going to look like tools if they can’t find any.

  55. I’m feeling quixotic enough to point out that Godwin’s Law is as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. It’s not a prescriptive code of conduct, it’s a descriptive principle. You can’t “break” it.

    Yeah, what Eric the.5b said.

  56. jeff p at 2:20

    i would wear that t-shirt

  57. re: O Brother

    It’s bluegrass

    Wrongo, buddy. It’s really more of a pre-bluegrass, string band thing (sometimes called old-timey) as played by bluegrass musicians. The kind of stuff they were playing 20 years before Monroe’s great 1946 Bluegrass Boys got going.

  58. re: O Brother

    It’s bluegrass

    Wrongo, buddy. It’s really more of a pre-bluegrass, string band thing (sometimes called old-timey) as played by bluegrass musicians. The kind of stuff they were playing 20 years before Monroe’s great 1946 Bluegrass Boys got going.

  59. I’m not so sure they were saying there were books calling W and conservatives fascist (though there is no lack of websites doing so), but rather observing that there are plenty of books on both sides decrying the other.

    I found at least one that says it fairly explicitly:

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in his book Crimes Against Nature:

    “While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business […?]My American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as ‘a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership together with belligerent nationalism.’ Sound familiar?”

    He quotes Hitler’s propaganda chief Herman Goerring: “It is always simply a matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

    “The White House has clearly grasped the lesson.”

  60. Douglas Fletcher,

    Ok, but I’m no musical historian. If it sounds like a quack, and is coming out of duck, it’s a quack.

    (We should have a daily contest for the most tortured and hackneyed metaphor of the day on H+R. I win for today.)

  61. ummm, Akira’s two tongue in cheek examples were:

    “GENOCIDE! How George W. Bush And The Republicans Are Going To Murder Your Grandmother”

    “SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS: Why The Democrats Want To Cook And Eat Your Newborn Children”

    Where is fascism in there? The “pox on both houses” he implies is absolutely fair. Both sides of the punditry ailes publish nonsense that fall under Davids’ similar comment: “As it stands, it another Coulteresque “people with different political values from mine are the enemy of all that is good” book.”

    That is not only the norm, it’s hard to find anything different.

    A pox on both their houses.

    nmg

  62. test test.

    john rawls…

  63. nmg, joe:

    i had a post that got eaten with two silly amazon titles (one was on “Modern Phrenology” and the other was Garfield’s “Water Utility Rates”). sorry it got eaten.

    joe: while the ‘fascist’ part isn’t there, i didn’t like the parts of Al Franken’s book i read, nor did i like Jon Stewart’s book – factual problems got to me, as did the heavy handed partisanship. where would those ideology-heavy tomes find their right-wing counterparts?

    or would michael moore’s work be the left wing analogue?

    jest throwing out some thoughts.

    and why is the bus scene in Star Trek IV in my head “you’ll see it in the literature of the day…” “Ah, the Giants”.

    hrumph.

  64. Heavy handed partisanship is one thing, drf.

    The book is titled “Liberal Fascists,” and the cover shows a little Hitler graphic. That goes quite a ways beyond partisanship.

  65. Rhywun:

    I’m lying.

  66. joe,

    Are you trying to convince us that conservatives’ shit stinks worse than liberals’ again? Tim C’s originating post already made fun of Goldberg’s book, and several others here chimed in with unabashed insults hurled at Goldberg. What more do you want from us?? MAYBE you’re right that liberals’ book titles don’t scream as loudly or stupidly, as Akira’s joke implied. So what? That only proves (IF true) that screaming book titles isn’t their style of “heavy-handed partisanship.” When H&R commenters bitch and moan about liberal partisanship, I often point out that conservatives are no different. Partisanship is NOT a partisan disease! (Ah, I like saying that…)

  67. Child-shooting Cannibalism: From Jean-Bedel Bokassa to George W. Bush

  68. I guess the real opposite would be a less famous politician too, actually.

    Child-murdering Cannibalism: From Jean-Bedel Bokassa to Thomas Carper

  69. This task may be nothing more than a quagmire, but out of curiousity I went to Amazon.com, entered a couple key phrases (Republican, conservative, George Bush), and tried to see if I could find any intemperate book titles from the Left side of the aisle that sounded comparable to your typical Coulter book, within the first 50 or so responses to each term:

    The I Hate Republicans Reader: Why the GOP is Totally Wrong About Everything by Clint Willis

    888 Reasons to Hate Republicans: An A to Z Guide to Everything Loathsome About the Party of the Arrogant Rich by Barbara Lagowski

    Stupid White Men : …And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! by Michael Moore

    The Republican War Against Women : An Insider’s Report from Behind the Lines by Tanya Melich

    Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party : Domestic fascist networks and their effect on U.S. cold war politics by Russ Bellant (sez anti-Soviet foreign policies were driven by a conspiracy of ex-Nazis within the Republican party)

    The I Hate Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity. . . Reader: The Hideous Truth About America’s Ugliest Conservatives by Clint Willis

    Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush by John Bonifaz

    Is George Bush The Antichrist? by R., Stephen Hanchett

    The I Hate George W. Bush Reader: Why Dubya Is Wrong About Absolutely Everything by Clint Willis
    ———–

    However, I’ve never heard of most of these guys, except Michael Moore.

    Oops, wait, the Clint Willis books are actually collections of writings by more well-known figures, edited by Willis: “Featuring a wonderful compilation of attacks by Michael Moore, Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower…”; “…this compendium can be seen as a useful introduction to the workings of some powerful and well-connected writers, such as Arianna Huffington, Paul Begala, and James Carville…”; “Included are pieces from Al Franken, Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins, Greg Palast, Joe Conanson, and Michael Moore.”

    As for the other, lesser-known writers, maybe the intelligence and wit required to write a popular book is simply more strongly correlated with Right-wing thinking than Left… 🙂

    (Sorry, but someday I had to strike back against the “college professors tend to be liberal simply because they’re smart, that’s all” contention of yore.)

  70. I’m lying.

    Yeah, I got it 🙂

    The I Hate Republicans Reader: Why the GOP is Totally Wrong About Everything

    I would not have believed that title was real, except I went over to amazon and saw it for myself. And reading some of the reader comments is yet another demonstration of how low political “debate” has sunk.

  71. ** If my sofa were a blueberry muffin, i’d be sitting on my breakfast. Therefore, conservatism rocks. **

    AKL- ROFL!

    Goldberg has always struck me as that guy who comes in and drops a bunch of quasi-obscure pop culture references in an attempt to sound hip.

    You know “Look at me! I watch The Simpsons, too!”

  72. Michelle Shocked has recorded in a wide range of styles, but some of her work is definitely country, especially on Arkansas Traveler. As for her politics … isn’t she some sort of anarchist? I know she was part of the squat scene back in the ’80s.

    Maybe she’s an anarchist, but so is Noam Chomsky. I think it can hardly be denied that she’s much more a part, you might say, of the Left than the Right, which is probably why All Music Guide doesn’t list Country as one of her styles, even if some of her music techincally sounds country to the objective ear. Because how most of society groups musicians into genre categories is as much of a sociological phenomenon involving diferential association as it is a matter of what the music actually sounds like. But thanks Jesse for the info. I mainly only know her very earliest work.

  73. Returning to Orwell, the later essay clearly doesn’t repudiate the earlier one.

    “Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are ‘objectively’ aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once.”

    Here, he’s not saying that the pacifists are not objectively aiding the Nazis, but that it’s wrong to dismiss their intentions as irrelevant–which doesn’t mean that results are irrelevant. No repudiation there. The guilt he’s claiming lies in dismissing their individual intentions, not in condemning their overall results.

    “The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the ‘objectively’ line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore ‘Trotskyism is Fascism’. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it.”

    Orwell is pretty clearly stating that the dishonesty does not lie in accusing someone of being objectively for a thing, but in then jumping from that to the conclusion that they must be intentionally for it as well. If it were true, the fact that Trotskyists are objectively pro-Hitler would not make them “active and conscious agents” of Hitler. But they would still be objectively–or effectively–pro-Hitler. He’s not recanting his former stance, simply expanding upon it. He’s moving from saying that results are what matters, to saying that intentions and results both matter. No repudiation there either.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.