Unseriousness: A Guide for the Perplexed

With all due respect (which is to say very little), Jonah Goldberg seems confused as to why liberals aren’t attempting to offer well-informed, soberly-reasoned critiques of his “very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.” The reason is this: The book is in no way intended to be a serious commentary deserving of serious responses from serious liberals.

Consider: The cover image is a smiley face with a Hitler moustache drawn on it. The subtitle is The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. The publicity material states clearly that “LIBERAL FASCISM will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment–and rousing cheers from the Right.” Everything about the book, in short, suggests that it’s just meant to poke liberals in the eye in order to provoke howls of rage that will, thereby, garner higher sales on the theory that all conservatives really care about is pissing off liberals. Which is fine, if that’s what Goldberg wants to do. But, obviously, if you make it clear that you’re not interested in a serious discussion of the issues at hand you’re not going to generate a serious discussion of the issues at hand. I’ll note for the record that Sherri Berman makes a provocative argument about the relationship of fascism to contemporary social democracy in The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century, although she does so specifically in the context of arguing for what I would regard is an exaggerated account of the distinctiveness of social democracy from liberalism.