Wednesday night, the Knox College Republicans hosted a speech by Jonah Goldberg, a conservative journalist and author. His talk was named after his book, Liberal Fascism, and he spent much of the speech discussing why it is that liberals think they are so far removed from fascism.
“Fascism, rather than being this grand outlier, was simply part of the collectivist age,” Goldberg said. “It was not the opposite of communism. It was related to communism.”
One of his focal points was that liberals and the left in general only use the term “fascist” to describe those with an opposite ideology from their own.
“The left has a monopoly on the concept of political virtue,” Goldberg said. “The left gets to decide what’s politically virtuous and their frame of reference is themselves lately.”
“We’ve all been taught that Nazism and communism are opposites,” Goldberg said. “My big beef and central point of what unifies the entire left is this cult of unity … the fundamental idea that it’s better to be wrong and together than right and alone.”
He did also say, however, that he does not have bad feelings toward the world of liberal arts colleges and that liberal arts are not inherently “liberal” institutions but instead aim for students to get a wide range of skills from their college education.
He has gone to many colleges and spoken to many students on the topic of fascism and admits that he has been called a Nazi several times.
To this he would often say, “I would be on college campuses and I’d talk to kids and I’d ask, ‘except for the murder, bigotry, genocide and war, what exactly is it about Nazis you don’t like?’”
“People only say that they believe in unity when they want you to shut up and get with their program … The idea that unity is a political virtue is transparently untrue. Where do you find unity? The mafia,” said Goldberg.
Goldberg’s speech did not, however, lead to much rowdiness or dissent from students in the crowd like other speakers that have been brought in by the Knox College Republicans.
At the end of the speech, there were four questions asked. Professor of computer science, Don Blaheta asked Goldberg to clarify his definition of fascism.
“There is no definition of fascism that you can come up with that will describe Hitler’s regime or Mussolini’s regime that won’t define Fidel Castro’s regime,” Goldberg said. “The way the left uses this ‘fascist talk’ is that, if you disagree with them, you’re a fascist.”
The former Vice President of the Knox College Republicans, senior Marc Dreyfuss, who introduced Goldberg’s speech, said, “I thought that he gave a very good and well-detailed talk about his argument about the philosophies of modern American liberalism.”
In regards to the lack of controversy that some might have expected at this event, Dreyfuss said at the speeches of two of the last major speakers that the Knox College Republicans sponsored, circumstances were different.
In the case of John Ashcroft, Dreyfuss said, “It was somebody that worked for President Bush that drew protest.” As for last year’s speaker, David Horowitz, Dreyfuss thought that there was not much opposition or dissent at all.
Senior Paige Barnum thought similarly about the Ashcroft lecture.
“[Ashcroft] speaks very directly; speaks for a particular administration, but Jonah Goldberg isn’t affiliated with any administration,” she said.
She also said that there should be more speakers brought to Knox who are not so far left or so far right on the political spectrum.
“I feel like we have this tendency lately to bring speakers on one extreme or another and they tend to speak more to narrow groups of people,” Barnum said. She said that the term “intellectual diversity” as it is related to the Intellectual Diversity Foundation that also sponsored Goldberg’s speech, would be more diverse if they brought speakers that were actually more diverse.
Junior Noel Sherrard said he does not know anyone who does argue that fascism and communism do not have a lot in common.
“I think he was making a controversy out of nothing,” Sherrard said. “In general, I thought that he had valid arguments, but the underlying assumptions of those arguments are things I would take issue with.”
Sherrard also said he thought Goldberg was smart about the line he walked between what he could and could not say.
“He wasn’t fiery. He wasn’t overtly unfair,” Sherrard said.
Goldberg has a column in the Los Angeles Times and a twice-weekly column at National Review Online, which is syndicated to numerous papers across the United States.