Monday, October 15, 2007

What's in a name?

Putting a crimp in the holiday -- I mean Christmas -- shopping plans of millions, Doubleday has again postponed until January the publication of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism: Why Hillary Clinton Is Worse Than Hitler, the long-awaited book that reveals the hidden connections between Nazis and Democrats. Or something. I read the publisher's description over at that online bookseller -- it starts with an "A" -- and I can't decide whether this man Goldberg is a complete moron or just likes to say outrageous things to annoy people. The nut right has pretty much erased the line between true believers like Bush and cunning propagandists like Rove, and all I know about Jonah is that he sprang from the loins of professional Clinton-hater Lucianne Goldberg. Which isn't his fault.

The Goldberg premise is that the Nazis were really socialists because their full name was the National Socialist (German Workers) Party. And since socialists are liberals, then liberals are Nazis, a couple of leaps that Evel Knievel would hesitate to make. Go read it, you'll laugh. I did, and then I concluded that all this squid-inkery is intended to distract people who know nothing of history (and isn't that most Americans?) from the sordid truth: the Nazis were a more successful version of the Republicans.

As Jonah surely knows, what you call yourself often bears no relation to reality. All those unlamented people's democratic republics of Eastern Europe were nothing of the kind. The die-hard reactionaries who formed the Nazi party incorporated "socialist" and "worker" into the name to appeal to workers and socialists, although they had only contempt for the former and regularly engaged in street-brawls with the latter. Apparently you can fool some of the German people all of the time. When he became chancellor in January 1933, Hitler immediately did to all German unions what Ronald Reagan could only do to the air traffic controllers. The union leadership was marched off to the first concentration camp (built not for Jews but for political foes of the new regime), and the unions were replaced by toothless government-run organizations. This was Hitler's gift to the industrialists who had helped him to power.

Soon, most women in the workforce lost their jobs, not only to create jobs for out-of-work men but because -- Coulter and Schlafly will agree -- Nazi ideology proclaimed that woman's sphere was praying, cooking and breeding. They were especially emphatic about the last. Forget overturning Roe v. Wade -- abortion was a capital crime in the Third Reich. I know the very idea makes Pat Robertson and Antonin Scalia cream their shorts, but they aren't even close yet.
July 1934 brought the "Night of the Long Knives." No doubt many in the GOP leadership would love to dispose of Mark Foley and Larry Craig as Hitler dealt with Ernst Rohm, the flamboyantly homosexual leader of the Storm-Troopers (S.A., Jonah, not S.S.), but they think they might not get away with it. And forget about denying health insurance to a few million children: the Nazis systematically murdered all mentally and physically disabled Germans, usually by starvation. It was the first and only time they ran into public opposition from the Catholic Church. Unpleasant but true: put Hitler's enemies list beside that of the church he grew up in, and they'll match almost exactly. Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, socialists, Communists, trade unionists, intellectuals and feminists (or as the Church calls them, heretics and witches) -- give us a boy before he is seven, and he is ours forever. Isn't that what the Jesuits say? Where do you think they got the idea for the book-burnings?

No, the National Socialists were no more socialists than the Republicans are devoted to the republic established in our Constitution. They work daily to replace it with a world empire and an autocratic presidency answerable to no mere legislature or judiciary. From the Big Lies of the Swift Boaters to the unprovoked invasion of a harmless country, from the warrantless wiretaps to the shameless use of torture, it would be hard to convince anyone who had been comatose since 1944 that fascism was ever defeated. I fully understand the discomfort felt by people like Jonah Goldberg, Norman Podhoretz and William Kristol when in the privacy of their thoughts they realize who they're in bed with, but that's their problem, and they can't solve it by turning history inside-out and upside-down. The rest of us must take what comfort we can from the words of Margaret Cho: "Bush is no Hitler. He would be if he applied himself."


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