Radio yakker Dennis Prager, having been shellacked by the responses to his disingenuous column regarding those conservatives who still occasionally criticize Pres. Trump, has drafted a reply. Breaking the first rule of holes, Prager’s attempted rejoinder is worse than his original column in at least two respects.
First, Prager doubles down on his hysterical “civil war” metaphor. As I previously noted, his apocalyptic view of today’s politics — shared by the “Flight 93 election” crowd — is simply the mirror image of the anti-Trump resistance that Prager characterizes as fascism.
Prager seems baffled that Jonah Goldberg doesn’t get the civil war analogy, given that Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism. Prager claims to consider this book a “modern classic,” but I wonder whether he’s actually read it.
In Liberal Fascism, Goldberg wrote several passages like this:
“The core value of original Fascism, in the eyes of most observers, was its imposition of war values on society. (This perception — or misperception, depending on how it is articulated — is so fundamental to the popular understanding of fascism that I must return to it several times in this book.) The chief appeal of war to social planners isn’t conquest or death but mobilization. Free societies are disorganized. People do their own thing, more or less, and that can be downright inconvenient if you’re trying to plan the entire economy from a boardroom somewhere. War brings conformity and unity of purpose. The ordinary rules of behavior are mothballed. You can get things done: build roads, hospitals, houses. Domestic populations and institutions were required to ‘do their part.’
“Many Progressives probably would have preferred a different organizing principle, which is why William James spoke of the moral equivalent of war. He wanted all the benefits — Dewey’s ‘social possibilities’ of war — without the costs. Hence, in more recent times, the left has looked to everything from environmentalism and global warming to public health and ‘diversity’ as war equivalents to cajole the public into expert-driven unity. But at the time the Progressives just couldn’t think of anything else that did the trick. ‘Martial virtues,’ James famously wrote, ‘must be the enduring cement’ of American society: ‘intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built.’ “
In short, demanding the observation of “war values” in the service of political unity, and discouraging certain freedoms (e.g., the freedom to criticize the government) through the mobilization of bias, is a page right out of the playbook of liberal fascists. Prager’s attempt to claim an anti-fascist position here is vaguely amusing; that he directed this argument to Goldberg of all people is outright comical.
Second, I cannot help but note that Prager’s reply opens with him detailing how his original column went viral and was published on “almost every conservative website,” as well as Newsweek. It was quoted in the New York Times, he adds, and “many major conservative writers” responded to it.
Remember when Trump opened all his rallies with a recitation of his poll numbers? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and I was reminded of it by Prager’s introduction. And then Prager segued into his hyperbolic rhetoric, just like at a Trump rally.
Apparently, trying to get people to support Trump causes people to wind up sounding and acting like Trump. That’s kind of an argument against Prager’s position, isn’t it?
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