Monday, January 14, 2008

Jonah Goldberg and an Ignorance of Fascism

Jonah Goldberg has never been shy about embarrassing himself in public. His most recent book, which we'll decline to mention outright or link to because it should die a horrible, screaming death, has been examined by a number of commenters. Allow me to take it into another area of American history that not a lot of people know about to show that Goldberg is a raving lunatic who knows nothing of American history.

From Media Matters - an interview between Joe Scarborough and Jonah Goldberg:

SCARBOROUGH: So explain your theory, because obviously, we've always heard that communism and socialism were the precursors to modern American liberalism post-war. How do you tie Mussolini to the liberal movement?

GOLDBERG: Sure. Well, part of the problem is that we now believe that fascism and communism are opposites, that they lie on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and that's essentially the product of Soviet propaganda. Mussolini was a socialist. He said he was going to live to the end of his days as a socialist. He earned the label "Il Duce" as a socialist. The Nazis were the National Socialists. They ran as socialists. They said over and over again, "We are socialists." And what the reality is, is that fascism and bolshevism, which led to the Soviet Union, were both heresies of socialism. They were different kinds of socialism. One was international socialism, one was National Socialism.

And in the 1920s, American progressives like at The New Republic, still around today, were objectively pro-Mussolini. You had the founder of The New Republic defending Mussolini against his critics. You had Lincoln Steffens, you know, the famous muckraker, who goes to the Soviet Union and says, "I've seen the future, and it works." The year before, he went to Mussolini's Italy and said, "That place was the cat's meow." They did not see at the time that what Lincoln Steffens called "the Russian method and the Italian method," they called them the Russian-Italian method as if they were part and parcel of the same thing.

SCARBOROUGH: But you're not suggesting in this book, though, that you can draw a line from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton or Mussolini to Barack Obama, are you?

GOLDBERG: Well, I'm saying you can draw a line, but it's not a straight one. It goes all sorts of different places. I'm not saying that today's liberalism is the son of Nazism or the son of Italian fascism. I'm saying it's sort of like the great-grandniece once removed.

Here begins the history lesson. That wiggly-assed broken line? Yeah, it goes through General Douglas MacArthur, Jonah. It deviates sharply from what you claim to be a "liberal" tendency and has its teeth sunk clearly into the backside of modern conservatism, NOT liberalism.

You all remember the good General, don't you? The man who was basically in the employ of the conservative Republican right wing of this country for the majority of his military career, right? The man who did the bidding of the most rabid conservative elements in this country without regard for the chain of command, regardless of the truth?

Here's why I bring this up:

1932 - Herbert Hoover forcibly evicts bonus marchers from their encampment. Two killed when U.S. Army attacks encampment of 20,000 World War I veterans gathered in Washington D.C. to demand their bonus benefit payments. As the flames destroy the shantytown, people stream into Maryland.

Fighting broke out between the Bonus Army & police and on July 28 federal troops attack led by Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur and his subordinates Majors George S. Patton, Jr. & Dwight D. Eisenhower. MacArthur opted to use force over the protests of Patton and Eisenhower.

Using tear gas, cavalry with sabers drawn and tanks, the Bonus Army was driven out of their encampments in the abandoned buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue. The tanks then leveled the Bonus Army's "Camp Marks" on the Anacostia River. The casualty toll was four dead (including two infants) & 66 injured.

The smoke lingered over Washington for two days. Armed police from Maryland and Virginia had blocked all roads out of the District of Columbia until Pennsylvania offered asylum to the marchers in Johnstown.

As Hoover begins traveling the country for his re-election campaign, he is met with unexpected hatred. In St. Paul when he tells the audience, "Thank God we still have a government that knows how to deal with the mob," angry murmurs begin to roll up from the crowd in front of him. The Secret Service men guarding Hoover become alarmed. The President loses his place in the speech he is giving, nearly collapses, and retreats from the auditorium badly shaken.

That's right--General MacArthur ignores his own subordinates and orders American troops to put down a (mostly) peaceful and (mostly) harmless protest by World War I Veterans in Washington DC.

I'd appreciate it if someone could explain to me how using the US Army to drive US Army Veterans out of the District of Columbia by force wasn't a "fascist" act and how the tendencies of Douglas MacArthur to regard his own "ideas" and "opinions" as equal to the word of God and above those of the civilian leadership wasn't a "cult of personality" almost equal to anything "fascist."

Draw your own opinion as to whether this looks like fascism to you

Hoover told Ralph Furley, the Secretary of War, to tell General Douglas MacArthur, then the Army Chief of Staff, that he wished the Bonus Army Marchers evicted from Washington. Troops from nearby Forts Myer and Washington were ordered in to remove the Bonus Army Marchers from the streets by force.

One battalion from the 12th Infantry Regiment and two squadrons of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, under the command of Major George S. Patton, who had taken over as second in command of the Regiment less than three weeks earlier, concentrated at the Ellipse just west of the White House. At 4:00 p.m. the infantrymen donned gas masks and fixed bayonets, the cavalry drew sabers, and the whole force, followed by several light tanks, moved down Pennsylvania Avenue to clear it of people.

Against the advice of his assistant, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, MacArthur had taken personal command of the operation. President Hoover had ordered MacArthur to clear Pennsylvania Avenue only, but MacArthur immediately began to clear all of downtown Washington, herding the Marchers out and torching their huts and tents. Tear gas was used liberally and many bricks were thrown, but no shots were fired during the entire operation. By 8:00 p.m. the downtown area had been cleared and the bridge across the Anacostia River, leading to the Hooverville where most of the Marchers lived, was blocked by several tanks.

That evening Hoover sent duplicate orders via two officers to MacArthur forbidding him to cross the Anacostia to clear the Marchers' camp, but MacArthur flatly ignored the President's orders, saying that he was 'too busy' and could not be 'bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders'.

MacArthur crossed the Anacostia at 11:00 p.m., routed the marchers along with 600 of their wives and children out of the camp, and burned it to the ground. Then, incredibly, he called a press conference at midnight where he praised Hoover for taking the responsibility for giving the order to clear the camp.

He said,"Had the President not acted within 24 hours, he would have been faced with a very grave situation, which would have caused a real battle. Had he waited another week, I believe the institutions of our government would have been threatened."

You can examine the career of MacArthur all you want--there's good and there's bad. He was, at one time, a legitimate American hero. But something in him had a tendency to be "fascist" and this tendency took root in the conservative movement that gave birth to the likes of Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. When MacArthur was allowed to intimate that it was "liberals" who were responsible for the loss of mainland China to the Communists, and was allowed to be critical and dismissive of the civilian control of the military, it opened the door to the "fascist" tendencies of the right wing in this country to rewrite (or ignore) history to suit their own narratives. So draw a straight line from THAT to things like this:

On the June 1 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann noted that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely accused American troops of committing the massacre at Malmédy, Belgium, during World War II. During a discussion with former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark on the May 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly attempted to compare the incident at Malmédy to the alleged killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. soldiers in Haditha, Iraq. O'Reilly stated: "In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That's on the record. Been documented." In fact, the result of the massacre was reversed -- 84 American bodies were found at Malmédy, murdered by SS troops. O'Reilly had made the mistake before, during an October 3, 2005, interview with Clark. Olbermann called attention to O'Reilly's falsehoods, saying, "the victims at Malmédy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed."

Witness this outburst of insanity:

"The portrayal of Senator Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't cowering in fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis."
-- Ann Coulter

And take note that Fred Fielding is still working in the White House.

I know, I know. Jonah's never wrong, and he sure looks good in a tight shirt. But what are you gonna do?

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