Hoover Vs. Pantload (Commentaries on Fascism, Part 1)

Doughy Pantload’s spectacularly stupid and dishonest effort at redefining ‘fascism’ jarred a memory of an essay I’d read not too long ago, an essay by the (sadly forgotten) Leftwing historian, William Appleman Williams.

Since Pantload, ostensibly a conservative but in reality a hyper-reactionary nincompoop whose deviousness and chutzpah would inspire awe if his theses were not so transparently idiotic, wants to consign fascism to the left side of the ideological aisle, I thought it might be useful to reprint a large part of Williams’s essay which shows what a true conservative, Herbert Hoover, thought of fascism.

Above: ‘Achtung, Doughy!’

But I don’t mean to copy all this out as an exercise in historical wankery. Neither is it (I promise, Mikey) a tedious poli-sci discourse on ‘isms.’ Nor is it done just for the noble aim of kicking Pantload in his Cheetos-stained teeth. Williams contrasts the honest if inept Hoover to the odious Richard Nixon, thus demonstrating the degradation of the wingnuts in his lifetime: from archaic and obsolete quasi-libertarianism to the politics of resentment in a few decades. I mean to use this to set up a second post to show that the degradation has gone that much farther in my own lifetime: how Nixon and Ford, in turn, look thoroughly moderate in comparison to the — yes, crypto- or quasi- or proto-fascist wingnut movement of which Jonah Goldberg is a war-cheerleading, Funyuns-inhaling, goose-steppingwaddling, brown-with-flop-sweat-shirted member.

First, a few words on Williams. In the 60s and 70s, our kind read him while the Drum-, Yglesias-, Chait-, and Ezra Klein-types read.. oh, let’s say, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Williams was a DFH, hated by the Sensible Liberals just as much as by the wingnuts. Why? From Henry W. Berger’s excellent and fair-minded introduction to the William Appleman Willams Reader:

[Williams] was, when it came down to it, intensely American in wishing the United States to honor cherished ideals which he believed the nation had not fulfilled for much of its history and could not achieve as an imperial capitalistic society. Throughout all his writings, none excepted, Williams asked why America had behaved as it had, whether its actions had truly been necessary, whether earlier policy conceptions — whatever their merits or success — were any longer realistic, beneficial, and, above all, morally justified. He passionately reaffirmed his dedication, as a historian and as a citizen, to “freedom and equality within a community” and unequivocally rejected the idea “that such a commitment can only be established by perpetual outrage against the faults of other societies…I do not approve of imperial actions by Russia or by Israel, and I do not approve of repression in Brazil or in France; but,” he maintained, “most of all I like them least by and in my own America.”

His concerns were thus for his own country. Most threats to America were exaggerated, he contended, and replies to them were far more dangerous and costly to America than the threats themselves. More fundamentally, he rejected the “imperial way of life” which had given rise to perceived interests abroad. A definition of democracy and freedom that relied on empire for its success was simply unrealistic and unacceptable to him[…]

Sound familiar? It should: the first paragraph could be about Noam Chomsky, and the second about Gore Vidal — not coincidentally two DFH old-skoolers at whom spittle and bile have been spewed for years by Sensible Liberals and wingnuts alike, the former for allegedly ‘hating America’ and engaging in ‘intellectual totalitarianism‘, the latter (especially by ex-Trotskyist types like C. Hitchens, M. Decter, and N. Podhoretz) for allegedly harboring a conservative and parochial bias. Anyway, now that you know where Williams is coming from, you’ll know where he’s going with the essay:

…Hoover was not a revolutionary. He was not even a modern liberal. And he does not deserve uncritical acclaim. But he was an unusually intelligent, and often perceptive, conservative who understood that the system was a system; that it was based on certain clear and not wholly absurd axioms, and that it would work only if the people acted in ways that honored those principles.

“I want to live in a community that governs itself,” Hoover explained very simply, “that neither wishes its responsibilities onto a centralized bureaucracy nor allows a centralized bureaucracy to dictate to that local government.” “It is not the function of government,” he continued, “to relieve individuals of their responsibilities to the public.” “You cannot extend the mastery of the government over the daily working life of the people,” he warned, “without at the same time making it the master of the people’s souls and thoughts.”

If you are Hoover, that is to say, then your moral imperative demands that you let the system come apart at the seams rather than violate the principles by saving the system for the people. One of your principles is that the system is their system, and hence the moment you save it for them you kill the dream. For when you do that you rule the people instead of serving the people.

I’ll pause here to note that Williams is describing Hoover’s small-c conservatism, his spirit of Jeffersonian libertarianism. Now this sort of political belief can be disastrous — even genocidal — but even at its worst it is still preferable to the “conservatism” and glibertarianism that wholly informs the modern rightwing. Hoover’s beliefs allowed him to tolerate, at great personal cost, the people’s suffering for the sake of principle; the modern right takes joy in the people’s suffering while it mouths principles it does not believe. The modern right views the poor as a commodity to use; but since only so many can be exploited, the remainder are used for two other purposes which would have horrified Hoover as much as it sickens us: to prove the poor’s inferiority (and wingnuts’ ultimate superiority) by perishing as per social Darwinist dictates (this is the Randroid preference), or to provide the coddled elite with an entertaining morality play (as per David Frum).

Isn’t it sort of refreshing to see someone assert conservative principles in good faith? Hoover believed in the principles espoused by the Cato Institute; yet unlike the goons at Cato, he didn’t ‘believe’ and proselytize it because he was paid to put a philosophical veneer on the Koch family’s simple wish to be as destructively greedy as fuck-all and get away with it. But then we see that Hoover at least believed there is a such thing as society; modern wingnuts, from Thatcher to Uncle Miltie, famously believe the contrary.

Also notice that Pantload — as I predicted — takes any deviation from laissez-faire to be “fascist;” Pantload is just putting extra salsa on the tired formulation of countless internet Hayekbots: food stamps=totalitarianism. Only Pantload substituted “fascism” for the t-word. Hoover himself disagrees with Pantload, but I am getting ahead of myself..

And the commitments to honoring principles, and to service, are Quaker creed. Perhaps, even, the Quaker faith. And Hoover was a Quaker.

So is Nixon. Of course. So there we have a case of no difference with a fantastic distinction. For Hoover held the dream as if it were the Holy Grail, while Nixon has the Holy Grail carried around in a black box by an aide as if it were the daily code for Armageddon.

[…]Hoover did not dream that the system would always function properly; or that, in the crisis of the Great Depression, it would right itself automatically and roll on beyond poverty. Hoover’s dream was that the people — the farmers, the workers, the businessmen, and the politicians — would pull themselves together and then join together to meet their needs and fulfill their potential by honoring the principles of the system.

That dream defined both the basis and the nature of his anti-depression program. In his view, the government could

…best serve the community by bringing about co-operation in the large sense between groups. It is the failure of groups to respond to their responsibilities to others that drives government more and more into the lives of the people

Thus he offered ideas, his own influence, the services of the national government, and increasing monetary help short of massive federal intervention. But he could not go beyond his commitment to the principle that the people were responsible — “this is the people’s problem” — and embark upon what he considered the disastrous course” of centralized, irresponsible, and increasingly irresponsive and manipulatory bureaucracy.

As it happened, he did provide more federal aid than had been offered in any other depression, and would have supplied far more if the Democrats had not defeated or spiked a long list of proposals after their victory in the 1930 Congressional elections. And he did in truth block out the basic shape of the New Deal. But he simply could not give over and admit through his actions that he had abandoned his commitment to an American community and to the spirit and the will of the people.

And that faith had its useful side. Led by Gerard Swope of General Electric, some corporation giants pushed him to endorse a plan, presented as a cure for the Depression, that would have given them official sanction to exercise vast powers over the entire political economy. Hoover erupted in angry opposition. It was “the most gigantic proposal of monopoly ever made in history” and “a clock for conspiracy against the public interest” — a long step toward fascism. It later became, of course, the blueprint for the New Deal.

This is about where Pantload says, “Aha! Gotcha, Liberal Fascists!” And then crickets chirp, and an empty Cheetos bag slowly, silently bounces by like a tumbleweed — because what Hoover feared, corporatism or big business welded with the state, was not a liberal phenomenon, but rather a symbiotic tendency, already long in the process by Hoover’s time, of reactionary entities. While it’s true that the New Deal had its bargains with Big Business, these were largely peripheral or incidental; more often Big Business felt assaulted by the New Deal, and its leaders — betraying their right-wing sympathies — were those who more or less openly conspired against “that Jew Franklin D. Rosenfeld.” But let’s read on:

You have to take Hoover whole. He should have given more direct relief and he should have blocked Swope and his cronies. He should have offered more of himself sooner to the people and he should have held fast to that beautiful faith in the people. The visceral truth of it all is that Hoover was done in by his faith in the dream of a cooperative American community, and by his ruthless intellectual analysis of what would happen if the dream was not honored.

Either the people save their country or it does not get saved. It may get stuck back together. It may get managed well enough to remain operational. It may even get shoved into the next historical epoch. But it does not get saved. Meaning it does not get purified by the people demanding that it operate according to its principles.

Hoover was traumatized by the failure of the people to take charge of their immediate lives and then join together in cooperative action, and by his terrifying insight into what the future would be if the people continued to duck their obligation — or if they settled for less.

Do not laugh. Hoover outlined our future in 1923. We are living in it now. We do not like it. And even yet we have not taken charge of our immediate lives so that we can then come together and create an American community. We have let the future that Hoover foresaw in 1923 happen to us. Hoover did not do it to us.

To fully comprehend this, we must understand that Hoover knew modern American industrial society better than any other President. It takes one to know one. And he had been one.
And had become increasingly disturbed and concerned. Let us begin in 1909, with the chapter on labor in his famous (and still used) exposition of the Principles of Mining. “The time when the employer could run roughshod over his labor is disappearing with the doctrine of ”laissez-faire,’ on which it was founded.” Indeed, unions were “normal and proper antidotes for unlimited capitalistic organization.” The good engineer “never begrudges a division with his men of the increased profit arising from increased efficiency.” And the good engineer took an honest “friendly interest in the welfare of the men”; and further understood that

…inspiration to increase exertion is created less by “driving” than by recognition of individual effort, in larger pay, and by extending justifiable hope of promotion.

Of course it is capitalistic. And of course it has a tinge of paternalism. But it is personal, it is moral, and it reveals an awareness that the past is past — and that the corporation poses a serious danger to the community.

Thus Herbert Hoover, the conservative’s conservative, extends his middle finger to the J.P. Morgans and Jay Goulds who came before him, and to the various and sundry Friedmanites, glibertarians, Randroids, fusionists, and “conservatives” who came after — and in the process revealed himself, by Pantload’s definition, as a “fascist.” And really: though Hoover was overtaken by events, and did nowhere near enough to help the suffering, the fact that the people suffered hurt the man — he had the conscience, at least, of a liberal. A true fascist would have snickered that the Okies suffering in the Dust Bowl ought to grow water hoses and buy some fuckin’ air conditioners; Hoover of course did no such thing. On the other hand, when Hurricane Katrina loomed over the New Orleans, Jonah Goldberg, hand slapping his thigh at the joyous thought of death and misery to come (to those untermenschen who deserved it) advised its (poor) residents that it was time to “grow gills”.

The Bolshevik Revolution extended Hoover’s awareness of such matters; in part because, as he noted, it “was a specter which wandered into the [Versailles] Peace Conference almost daily,” and he dealt with it as an adviser to President Wilson. He naturally opposed communism as being destructive of individuality and true cooperation among individuals and groups. But he did understand that the revolution was the work of men and women striving to realize their potential. Misguided as they might be, he acknowledged that they, too, were reaching for the dream.

Even more important, perhaps, Hoover saw and understood the rise of fascism long before most other American leaders. During those same years of the early 1920s, moreover, he extended his awareness of what the corporation was threatening to do to America. The

…congestion of population is producing subnormal conditions of life. The vast repetitive operations are dulling the human mind….The aggregation of great wealth with its power to economic domination presents social and economic ills which we are constantly struggling to remedy.

He then pulled it all together in a perceptive (though horribly mistitled) essay American Individualism that he wrote as he entered upon his long service as Secretary of Commerce (1921-1928). From experience and observation, Hoover concluded that capitalistic industrial society (and specifically America) has become functionally divided into three major units, and that the society was poised on the threshold of becoming a syndicalist system. One group was composed of capitalists, including agricultural entrepreneurs as well as industrial, banking, and commercial operators. The second functional bloc was labor. The third was defined by a rather tricky concept, that of the public per se. It was in substance, though neither in form nor in rhetoric, a class. That is, it was all the small and middle-sized independents and their dependents — along with labor. Meaning most of us. Hoover was in effect making an analysis of the giants, on the one hand, and the rest of society, on the other: those with national power and those who had to cooperate if they were to avoid manipulation.

The American people from bitter experience have a rightful fear that great business units might be used to dominate our industrial life and by illegal and unethical practices destroy equality of opportunity.

From this it followed that two criteria had to be met if the dream was to be fulfilled. First: the government had to act, simultaneously, as umpire of the actions of the three groups and as leader of the public in coming together in cooperative action.

Beautiful. And damnably difficult.

It is beautiful because it perfectly describes the dilemma of trying to govern a continent without a social movement that represents the common interest of various special interests, and that it engaged in the process of redefining those separate groups as equal elements of a commonwealth. Honest and intelligent public servants offer the only hope under such circumstances. But Hoover also knew that such government from the top down was difficult because bargains between market place interest groups that were arranged or regulated by the government did not define the true common interest, and because the procedure could so easily slide into manipulation by the government and the strongest interest groups.

Even so, Hoover maneuvered some of it almost beyond belief: As in his successful battle to define broadcasting as a public forum. And as in his use of brain power and moral power to keep wages high in 1929 and 1930.

Compare that with Nixon.

No problem. Nixon has no moral power.

On with Hoover’s second imperative: the people had to accept and discharge their responsibility to come together in cooperative action to create “a community that governs itself.” Then came the eerie part. The future map. What would happen if the people gave up on the dream? If the corporations took over — fascism. If job-oriented labor leaders took over — a mutant, mundane and elitist corruption of socialism. If government per se took over — an elitist, bureaucratic, and community-destroying hell-on-earth.

So right it shakes you.

This shrewd bit of differentiation, from a conservative, also shakes the shit out of Pantload’s liberalism=fascism premise.

It is easy to say that Hoover’s dream involves an unresolvable contradiction: that a people’s capitalism of the kind he envisioned is like a round square. And the criticism is deadly if you see Hoover as nothing more than a Quaker Rockefeller. But when a man talks seriously about the need for grass-roots cooperation in order to secure and maintain the opportunity for individual fulfillment, then he is not discussing orthodox capitalism. He is headed, however cautiously and even unknowingly, toward a transitional kind of political economy. It might indeed be impossible to realize that kind of society, and certainly we have not created it, but Hoover was correct about the other options if we did not break out of our traditional Weltanschauung.

If the people abdicated their responsibility for realizing the dream, and instead relied on the government, Hoover projected a period of increasingly unsuccessful bureaucratic pseudo-socialism. And then, “in the United States the reaction from such chaos will not be more socialism but will be toward Fascism.”

This is remarkably prescient. Hoover, in the 1920s, anticipated the defining trait of all varieties of fascism: that it is always a furious and irrational reaction to some variety of socialism. And he of course was right. The New Deal was a weak sort of socialism; the reaction to the New Deal was baroquely fascist and when this reactionary element combined with others — chiefly, the anti-communists, the McCarthyites, the Birchers, and, eventually, the Goldwaterites — the crypto-fascist movement we know as “modern conservatism” was born. It’s no accident that Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley, Jr. were admirers of Phalangist Fascism as well as ardent McCarthyites. Yet — and this is where Pantload is especially slippery — fascism, because it is jealous of the power of socialist governments, often appropriates or parodies its administering traits; it admires socialism’s control, but not its aims. In the worst form of socialism, the aim was still to uplift a suffering class; enemies of this project were ‘liquidated’ of course, but the point is that the enemies were a secondary concern to the first which was, at least (and often, only) in theory, positive. But in fascism this is flipped: the primary concern is eradicating the enemy within — or without. Anyway, I reiterate: fascism is a reaction to — not the same thing as, a mutation of, the extention of, or the heir to — socialism. Fascism is socialism’s opposite. (And what is modern Liberalism? Social(ist) democracy; such an extremely tepid version of it that it barely deserves the label to be sure, but technically it’s socialism. Therefore contra Jonah, it can’t, by definition, be fascist. What opposes Liberalism from the right, however….)

Some of this reaction even bubbled up in Hoover’s day (a harbinger of things to come), and sad to say, his response was a fuck-up. Williams goes into Hoover’s treatment of the Bonus Army, shows how he panicked and let the proto-wingnuts control everything:

..[B]y 1932 the people had not taken charge of their immediate lives and begun to come together to create a community. Instead, they had begun to petition the government for salvation.

[…Hoover’s] dream was crumbling, dribbling down into Washington by ones and twos. Then by thousands And he drew the traditional American civilian conclusion. People marching pose a military problem. The explanation for that response is basically simple: the people have done little serious marching except on the way to war.

Now the American military have the patience that begets great power: wait for the civvies to come to us and then we are in charge. And so they were. MacArthur and his minions. The third-person types. MacArthur to an aide: “MacArthur has decided to go into active command on the field.”

But the key was Hoover’s trauma. That shut him off: confused the desperation of the people with the willful intent of the people. He mistakenly thought they wanted what we have today. So he gave over to MacArthur. And Douglas did his thing. Bayonets, sword-drawn cavalry, tear gas (a baby died), and fire. (And then another failure. For MacArthur usurped power, went beyond his orders, and Hoover did not strike him down.)

And thus we come to how American conservatism transformed from conservative to proto- or crypto-fascist wingnuttery. The reaction, the extremism, the paranoia, the greed and corruption and racism were all there — all that remained were militarism and empire, and ironically, given that WWII was fought by the United States as a defensive war, the American conservative movement, after some resistance (being naturally hesitant to make war on fellow fascists), embraced and expanded FDR’s mostly necessary war-time structures for peacetime.

I’ll discuss the Empire, the conservative transformation (Freikorpsization, really), Nixon, Pantload, David Neiwart’s definition of fascism, and have the conclusion of Williams’s essay on Hoover in the next part of the series.


Comments: 76


The fact is, your bias against reality will cost you readers. Here in the Heartland, we love freedom our president and our troops, unlike you traiters.

Hemlock for Gadflies

Um, “sadly forgotten” William Appleman Williams?

Sadly, no.

Aside from the fact that many of Williams’ students are still practicing historians (see Lloyd Gardner, Walter LaFeber, Thomas McCormick and _their_ graduate students), Williams’ work (and that of the Wisconsin School, aka “revisionist,” history generally) is a recurring subject of discussion in the journals, _Diplomatic History_ and _Journal of Cold War Studies_.

Williams’ classic book, _The Tragedy of American Diplomacy_, first published in 1959, is still in print (with a Google Scholar citation count of 194 — a crude measure, to be sure, but one hardly consonant with a “sadly forgotten” work.

See also, _Redefining the Past: Essays in Honor of William Appleman WIlliams_, ed. Lloyd C. Gardner, 1989;

_A William Appleman Williams Reader: Selections from his Major Historical Writings,” ed. Henry W. Berger, 1994;

“Excerpts from a Conference to Honor William Appleman Williams,” _Radical History Review_ 50 (Spring 1991).

Hemlock for Gadflies

And in re: Jonah, he professes to idolize Calvin Coolidge. Now in my thrice-weekly self-flagellation, wherein I drive to the Big City whilst listening to the denizens of AM radio, I hear Silent Cal invoked by Michael Medved, Sean Hannity (as if he knew there HAD BEEN a president named “Coolidge!”), and Dennis Prager invoke St. Cal as an icon of conservatism.

If only they actually knew what Silent Cal’s politics were… In a word, McCainian.

And we all know that slap-dick mother isn’t a “Real Conservative” ™.


OK, enough fucking around. Der LœdedHösen whined that he at least wanted get people to talk about the subject so he has only a 99.99% Fail rate.

Of course it is clear by now that debating with Doughblob is as effective as engaging in debate with an inflatable doll. You can launch carefully argued point after point his way and he just lays there, mouth open, while your hypotheses bounce off his life-like latex skin. If you hit him hard enough it might trigger the one of the five pre-programmed responses: “You’re a doody head!” “You’re wrong! I’m right!” “Ad Hominem!”

Not very satisfying.

However, my education wasn’t too shabby (or at least cheap) and I’ve learned a lot just by reading the rebuttals of the Das Buttlöad’s Big Book of “I Know UR But Whut Am I?”

I’m serious. It is time for people much smarter than me [looks at all of you & Mr. Neiwert] to sit down, pull all of this together in book form, and unleash it on the DoughyMasses.


Thus Herbert Hoover, the conservative’s conservative, extends his middle finger to the J.P. Morgans and Jay Goulds who came before him, and to the various and sundry Friedmanites, glibertarians, Randroids, fusionists, and “conservatives” who came after — and in the process revealed himself, by Pantload’s definition, as a “fascist.”

D00d also made some nice vacuum cleaners while he was busy with all that.


I’ll have you know that Herbert H. Hoover was a great Amercan and a great Iowan. Damn it. There are schools named after him!!11eleventy!!


Hemlock — sadly forgotten by the liberal blogosphere. Recall that there are many a-list “liberal” bloggers I loathe, and am bitter at the movement — allegedly a DFH hippie movement — that allows these centrist/imperialist idiots to retain their place at the top. It’s safe to say these geniuses have never heard of Williams nor would they like him if they had. Remember that the most Leftist FP personage these people can think of is Zbigniew Brzezinski — for them, anyone more DFH than Zbig is irrelevant. Finally, you don’t learn about Williams by reading Ivo Daalder.

Now do ya catch my drift? 😉


debating with Doughblob is as effective as engaging in debate with an inflatable doll. You can launch carefully argued point after point his way and he just lays there, mouth open, while your hypotheses bounce off his life-like latex skin.

You missed out the tactics of unaccountability.
“I’m not responsible for the cover art — the publisher chose it.”
“I’m not responsible for the name — it was the publisher’s idea / a term coined by H. G. Wells to mean something else entirely. Clever, isn’t it?”
“I will now list the various forms of doody-headedness that I’m not accusing liberals of!”

He reminds me of the Great Boyg in Peer Gynt, who conquers everything by sheer passive-aggressive obstructiveness, and fades away in front of Gynt’s sword-strokes.

PEER [groping around]: Not dead, not living; all slimy; misty.
Not so much as a shape! It’s as bad as to battle
in a cluster of snarling, half-wakened bears!


He’s sticking the cover on his publisher now? He said he got the idea for the cover idea from something George Carlin said and didn’t mention his publisher at all when discussing the title. He did attribute it to Wells. Pity the ideas in the book are 95.9% LœdedHösen.

Tim (the other one)

This is pretty wonky for a Friday night. My head hurts. Let’s play Candyland !



Tim (the other one)

I’m good with that !


Great post, man. I’ve got nothing else to say, really — I just thought you deserved some kudos.


Well, Dough Wad has accomplished one thing anyway. All the slap downs on his pantload of a book has taught me a lot, as well as being great entertainment. He (Loadypants) truly earns his status as “America’s dumbest intellectual.”

Tim (the other one)

Okay, it IS a great post, but I’m just gonna drag this thread down into the Friday night mud, and you all can yell at me:


Without question, Jonah is a poster-boy for the ongoing decay of conservatism. But I believe that conservatism was always pretty rotten and I tend to be skeptical when conservatives from days-gone-by are presented as rock-ribbed men of principle.

As for Herbert Hoover, here’s an interesting account that claims he originally made his fortune through sleazy dealings in China and that his later reputation for probity was largely the result of careful manipulation of public opinion. I don’t know enough about Hoover to know whether the piece is accurate or not.


I’m ashamed to ask, but is there a Coles Notes edition of HTML’s entries?


in my family, williams was matched by izzy stone, another DFH who no one serious ever listened to and whose essays, when read today, are FUCKING RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!!!


but then we were for Fred Harris in 1976, so what the fuck did we know?


“so what the fuck did we know?”

Dood, I’m playing Candybongland–please don’t make me think and stuff.


izzy stone, another DFH who no one serious ever listened to and whose essays, when read today, are FUCKING RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!!!

He was not only a Dirty Fucking Hippie, but damn proud to be one. I get the impression that part of what kept him going was the pleasure of knowing that he was running circles around the mainstream press.


Can anyone explain what the fuck any of this means?


Can anyone explain what the fuck ANY of this means?:


The one area where the Nazis were closer to contemporary American conservatives than they are to contemporary American liberals is in the area of nationalism. One can fairly argue that the American right is decidedly more nationalistic than the American left (though I think Michael Ledeen’s point that Americans aren’t nationalistic so much as patriotic, has merit). Nonetheless, I concede the nationalism point (and I criticize “national greatness conservatism” in the book and elsewhere), but I just don’t think it takes you nearly as far as some claim. After all, a little nationalism is different than hyper-nationalism. Moreover classical liberalism is a dogmatic check on letting nationalism get out of control in the area of public policy.

Liberalism has its own dogmatic check in its love of multiculturalism. But all that does is lead Democrats to argue for all-inclusive nationalistic or socialistic policies which don’t demonize ethnic minorities (religious and class minorities are a slightly different issue). This points to one reason why I say contemporary liberalism, to the extent it can be called a relative of classical fascism, is a nice form of fascism.”

Thank you.


really interesting post, HTML, thank you

I treasure your words: Hoover’s beliefs allowed him to tolerate, at great personal cost, the people’s suffering for the sake of principle; the modern right takes joy in the people’s suffering while it mouths principles it does not believe.

TBogg’s post tonight on Megan McCurdled is a perfect example.


Awsome post Retardo Mencken. It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming here.


robert green- except Socrates. His book on S is a huge steaming pile of wrongnacity with wrongy wrongness.


Totally about a stupid fucker with his head up his ass that isn’t Jonah.



Perceptive stuff. Appreciated.

Much of the recent writing on Fascism by yourselves, DN and Co. have been useful for those of us who have to deal with the “Nazi Party has ‘Socialist’ in its name!” crowd.


After all, a little nationalism is different than hyper-nationalism.
Indeed. The chasm between mild patriotism and hyper-nationalism is an unbridgeable discontinuity. To treat them as two aspects or manifestations of a single underlying phenomenon would be intellectual dishonesty.

Hemlock for Gadflies

HTML: I don’t know that Williams is “forgotten” by the liberal blogosphere — can you forget something you never knew? The larger challenge is, I think, that the progressive us-o-sphere generally doesn’t know much about the history of progressive ideas — which is why there’s _Liberal Fascism_ but not _Liberal Liberalism_ or a counter-punching _Conservative Stupidsm_…..

That would actually be kind of a cool project — define the Liberal Canon.

Of course, the way we roll, it would immediately degenerate into a Mortal Kombat over exclusion, inclusion, why isn’t My Favorite on this list….


Traiter traiter traiter. I learned me a knew wurd tooday.


Oh ‘tardo, not you too. I mean, great post, seriously. But now even you have been sucked into the Johah vortex.

I lurves me some S,N! – I really do. But I have to say I’m getting Johahed out. I have an idea – why not do a spin-off blog? I’m sure there’s plenty more to mine out of the Doughy seam (ok, please forgive that image). Hows about “Sadly, Johah!” – a sub blog, if you will. Then all those who are wont to follow the trigic downward spiral of the world’s tiniest intellect can watch you guys do what you do best, and leave the original S,N! for the beautiful takedowns of Marie, Bobo, Pastor Swankie, A.Juggs et al.

I’m not a complainer, but I can’t take much more. I click on this lovely blog daily in the great hope of seeing Confederate Yankee or Jeff Godlstein get what they deserve, what I get is (more or less) all I get is all Johan, all the time (or at least a daily dose – WAY more than my system can handle).

Just my humble opinion…



“Sadly, Dough!”?


In a just world HTML would be the one on the teevee promoting his new book.

Dude,you should teach,you make this stuff easy to digest and understand.


I’m ashamed to ask, but is there a Coles Notes edition of HTML’s entries?

Here you go: Jonah LœdedHösen is WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING.


And … celticgirl wins the Internons and a lifetime supply of snark.


I like the Pantload posts–you can never mock him enough–and I’m learning a lot about fascism, liberalism and conservatism. You’re doing great. If I didn’t want to think and learn I”d be a conservative. The Pastorbator will still be there when Jonah goes running to mommy telling her to make the mean kids stop.


Ack–no offense meant, celticgirl!


I swoon appreciatively in your general direction, sir.

Great stuff, this. I’ve be meaning to get around to reading more Williams for a while.

“Nixon has no moral power.”

Post-Nixon “conservatism” is sort of the dark energy of moral power. It drives what bits of morality are out there farther and farther apart with increasing acceleration.


A real treat on a Saturday morning to find a new essay by you. Glad you are writing again.


I wish there were an easy to find compendium of George Seldes’ “In Fact” newsletter. As an independent journalist he published it from 1940 to 1950 or so. Strangely enough, like so many writers’ ‘forgotten’ periods, he did not need 20 years’ worth of reflection to accurately gauge the times. It’s not so much the individual articles I’m looking for, but an active train of thought like you get from Collected Essays, Letters, And Journalism of George Orwell.

After all, it was his interview with Hindenburg admitting that the entrance of the U.S. overwhelmed the Germans in WW1 which was suppressed by U.S. authorities (Seldes was court-martialed for breaking the armistice) which might have killed the Dolchstoßlegende and helped avoid the rise of the Freikorps and blackshirts and the other jerks that built German fascism. Actual fascism, not the Jo’berg type.

It’s kind of funny how the people who accurately notice things as they are happening are derided as unserious fringe nuts, yet their analyses are often later adopted as the norm but only in retrospect.

Like Michael Parenti once said, more or less, “It’s amazing how often important stories go from being dismissed as leftist conspiracy theories to commonly accepted facts that we don’t need to stir up things by discussing, all without ever having hit the front page.”


I like the Pantload posts… I’m learning a lot about fascism, liberalism and conservatism.

And there’s the irony of Jonah’s masterwork. In drawing people’s attention to fascism, he’s drawing their attention to how fascistic the American right is becoming.


Nor is it done just for the noble aim of kicking Pantload in his Cheetos-stained teeth.

But it could have been.

I’m in the kick-him-all-you-can group.


Susan: none taken. I guess I just have a low Doughy Pantload tolerence level. I’ll adjust my blog activities accordingly – I don’t have to read them.

Carry on then…


There’s nothing more irritating than a 38-year-old adolescent, ignorant know-it-all. He’s nothing but a well-paid troll.

It’s the eternal question–do you ignore trolls or slay them?

Smiling Mortician

It’s kind of funny how the people who accurately notice things as they are happening are derided as unserious fringe nuts, yet their analyses are often later adopted as the norm but only in retrospect.

I agree, El Cid, if what you mean by “funny” is “unutterably sad and destructive and more depressing than pretty much anything else on the planet.” That’s what you meant, right?

HTML, this is a great post. All the depth and insight of some of your earlier Big Takedowns but leaner, sharper. Please don’t take that as a slam at any other posts — it’s just that I remember you saying you were unhappy with your tendency as a writer to let your stuff get beyond your control. If you’re still concerned about that, you really ought to stop now. This is brilliant.

And I agree with Arky — it’s time for a book.


El Cid, I have a copy of George Seldes’ autobiography Witness to a Century. Sometimes you can find them at Goodwill-type book sales. If you do dive on it like a hawk.


It’s the eternal question–do you ignore trolls or slay them?

I wouldn’t worry too much about Doughy. One look at his jowls tells me volumes about his cardiac arteries.


Here’s Jonah getting’ his groove thing on.

How I wish I could Photoshop.


Here’s Jonah debating Juan Cole.

Smiling Mortician

Susan, I think Jonah transcends Photoshop. I mean, how could one improve upon that “Achtung, Doughy” shot? Except perhaps by posting it on a Wikipedia entry for “Fat, stupid and drunk is no way to go through life, son.”


“or a counter-punching _Conservative Stupidsm_…..”
Got plenty of that, already.


HTML I think it would be a good thing for you to re-run your essay on Goldberg and his obsession with ‘cock slapping’ and so on. To remind people how truly horrible this person is.


One good intellectual question about the whole Jo’berg exercise has to do with the impact of a historical argument.

Why, for example, does Jo’butt concentrate so much time and energy alleging that everything bad — like fascism and socialism and uptight people who talk about organic food — is “of the left”, while in the end suggesting that anyone who ever cared about distinguishing “right” from “left” is wasting their time?

If it doesn’t matter what has been previously considered to be “left” or “right”, but everything bad is left, it doesn’t matter whether fascism is “of the left” or not, and your whole book is rendered a priori useless — YOU’VE JUST DECLARED THAT EVERYTHING BAD IS “OF THE LEFT”, RENDERING THE TERM “LEFT” REDUNDANT AND REPETITIVE AND ALSO SAYING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER WITHOUT DIFFERENCES.

(1) If false, Jo’berg’s “thesis”* that fascism is “of the left” is of course irrelevant.

(2) If true, Jo’berg’s “thesis”* that fascism is “of the left” is also irrelevant, because then there is no substantive difference between definitions of “left” and “bad” and definitions of “right” and “good”.

Therefore, Jo’berg’s “thesis”* is irrelevant.

* It is not a “thesis”. It more resembles a waxy secretion.

Smiling Mortician

Don’t look into its eyes, El Cid. Just reach back and grab my hand. You can do it.


The Jonah Paradox: Nothing matters and so what if it does.


But the abyss is promising free refills on Angus double cheeseburgers! Want!


Fozetti —

You’re confusing Jonah w/ Jeff G***stien @ P.Wisdom.


I came today for snark. But the education was much better. Thanks for the post .And thanks to Return of the Attack etc. for the image of Doughy as an inflatable doll. Perfect.


Thank you for this post, Mr. Mencken. I’d like to add that modern Republicans have disavowed Hoover because they think of him as a loser, not because they care (or even know) of his philosophy and works. (I have sympathy for Hoover, as a fellow engineer; like his contemporary, Palchinsky, he had solid ideas about how to act in a time of great change, but his ideas were rejected, some of them with tragic results. Both cases show how formal intelligence does not equal political success, especially if the person over-estimates the rationality of his fellow men. Engineers are painfully vulnerable to this.) Hoover’s business acumen, and his belief in rationality and community, enabled him to operate a charity in revolutionary Russia, which fed ~4,000 war orphans a day, in the former Tsars’ Winter Palace. Hoover publicly proclaimed that private charity was doing what the Bolsheviks could not, and so Lenin privately despised him (while having publicly to accept the aid). Hoover well understood the threat of totalitarianism, and countered it with community aid from overseas; that Lenin ultimately won this battle foreshadowed the dark course of the next seventy years.

It’s tempting to think of how history would have flowed if Hoover had won his later battle with FDR; our modern analysis shows the New Deal as having little effect on the Depression, with economic output falling in the late 1930s. My grandmother, who had a college degree from Drexel, always credited FDR with stopping a totalitarian revolution in the United States, by giving people hope. We’ll never know, but thinking about these thinks has value. All of it derived from the doughiest pantload of a book! We mock the wingnuts best when we learn from their folly.


Hell, you could even credit the New Deal with a conservative purpose – to save capitalism.

In this regard I disagree with Appleman somewhat – the people did begin to organize to save themselves, and this self-organization scared the shit out of many members of the middle and business classes.

When I was younger and a more doctrinaire Marxist, I wrote a long paper on the Unemployed People’s movement in Seattle in the years immediately following the 1929 crash. It wasn’t spectacular, but I gleaned from my research some interesting observations on the genesis of the New Deal.

But let me state that the example of Washington can’t be extrapolated out to the rest of the country.

Each winter, beginning with 1930-31 and up into FDR’s inauguration were increasingly grim. Annoyed by the treatment (notably, that poverty was a moral failing of the individual) meted out by charity groups like the Salvation Army (or Starvation Army, as Orwell quipped) and just to get by, people began to organize in Seattle. Ex-Wobblies, members of the De Leon wing of the Socialist party, trade unionists and some Communists began to spontaneously organize neighborhood councils to deal with hunger, evictions, distribution of firewood, labour bourses and other forms of grassroots organizing.

They collected – like Food Not Bombs today – food that had been discarded by restaurants and groceries and set up food kitchens as well as rationed pantries to distribute food to the unemployed. They collected firewood, coal and other means for heating. They actively resisted evictions. They found what few jobs they could and tried to distribute them to the benefit of the maximum number of people. Eventually, the local groups federated into a city, and eventually, country-wide organization.

At first most business people were indifferent, though annoyed by the resistance to evictions as violating the sacrosanct law of property. However, in late 1931 the Unemployed Councils first captured a number of seats on the City Council, and then began to talk about opening up their own workshops and factories, by occupying abandoned factories and producing for themselves in collectives (a la Argentina post-2001). They also spoke of diverting city funds to buying food to feed the population. More troubling still, they formed alliances with hard-luck farmers east of the Cascades, to barter labor and manufactured goods from the cities, in exchange for produce. There was discussion of establishing a state-wide council of workers and farmers. Needless to say, if you were middle-class, things were starting to get scary. In 1932, the Secretary of Education (if I remember correctly) made a joke at a dinner party where he asked god to bless the 47 states and the People’s Republic of Washington.

So what happened? Well, two forces, from the radical left and the Democratic Party broke up this experiment in economic democracy.

First, Communist militants involved in the movement, who had risen to positions of influence in the largest local councils, with directions from the national executive, changed the direction of the Unemployed Councils from one of mutual aid and self-help to political protest. Less energy was invested in gathering necessities, forming alliances, or establishing parallel economic institutions, and more was directed to applying direct political pressure. The CP had had some success with this in the New York City unemployed movement. In Seattle it had the opposite effect. Moderate socialists and the anarchist-minded ex-Wobblies either quit or were purged. Large amounts of the membership followed them out of the organization. The councils were reduced to a Communist militant hardcore.

Second, by this time, New Deal funds had begun to flow into local and state coffers, and professional bureaucrats of charity took over. Money was poured into the traditional organizations like the Salvation Army and other professional and religious charities to distribute food. The government bought food from the farmers, severing the link between the councils and hard-up farmers. And of course money became available in an effort to put people back to work. The Seattle bourgeoisie was, at least at first, happy to have the government take on charity operations if it meant that councils would dissolve and the talk of revolution, and bad memories of 1919 General Strike, could be put to bed.

Anyway, that’s my little tale of the Great Depression and New Deal.

Hoover, it seemed to me, by his liberal orthodoxy was a greater danger to the continued existence of capitalism than FDR and his Keynesian willingness to fiddle around with the economy. If Hoover’s approach had persisted, things like the Seattle Unemployed Councils would have continued to grow and spread.

I always thought the problem with modern conservatism was that they had learned too much from the case of FDR and Hoover. They are much more willing to intervene in a fundamentally un-laissez faire manner – but never for the sake of helping the people, as FDR intended, but solely for the sake of preserving their almost-fetishistic belief in the infallibility of markets.


Fudgie looks drunk? Did he have to drink so he could bear to touch himself?


Hell, you could even credit the New Deal with a conservative purpose – to save capitalism.

My fellow Brooklynite, Dr. Howard Zinn, does this explicitly. He also does a great job of describing “Self-Help in Hard Times”, some of which dadanarchist has also done well here.

They are much more willing to intervene in a fundamentally un-laissez faire manner – but never for the sake of helping the people, as FDR intended, but solely for the sake of preserving their almost-fetishistic belief in the infallibility of markets.

That’s the defining contradiction of the modern ‘conservative’ (i.e. nihilisticly reactionary crypto-fascist) movement. They perform all manner of economic distortions, from wasteful ‘abstinence-only education’ to ‘faith-based’ government in general, and all the way to needless war, whilst screaming about how great the ‘free’ market is when it hurts the poor. Wingnut welfare is the private expression of this economic meddling, rewarding the worthless for being closed-minded. Their production of Mr. Goldberg and his turdload of a book is the inevitable, degraded outcome of their wingnut welfare policies. This book is the perfect vehicle for us to stick it to their fascistic tendencies. Like everything else they do, it has the opposite effect of what they intended, but they lack the honesty to admit this. Modern neocon wingnuttery is ultimately self-destructive, but too destructive overall to allow us to let it burn out naturally. Flaming this bag of crap ‘book’ is a great way to go. Keep piling on the Goldberg posts!


Hell, you could even credit the New Deal with a conservative purpose – to save capitalism.

Barton Bernstein made a well-supported argument to this end in the ’60s.

And when you contrast FDR’s policies with the truly radical ones of the early 1930s — Long, Sinclair, Townsend, Coughlin, etc. etc. — it’s easier to appreciate that he humanized the laissez-faire capitalism of the 1920s and allowed it to survive, rather than have it overthrown by a revolution from below.


I dunno, but it looks to me like teh Load is doing some kind of dance in the photo, but the cropping makes it impossible to determine what dance, and with whom.

Now that I’ve gotten that witty comment off my chest, I’ll go back and actually read HTML’s latest tome. With a yellow highlighter, no less.


[…] Mencken (What a great name!) at Sadly, No! has a great post up comparing Herbert Hoover and Jonah Goldberg. As nobody has bothered to send me a review copy of […]


“wants to consign fascism to the left side of the ideological aisle”

or just needs to point out that he, personally, is such a flaming authoritarian that even fascism is not far enough to the right to suit his tastes .


Over at Whiskeyfire, they have pointed to an email to Jonah from a fan that is so ridiculous, that they seem to suggest that it isn’t real and is a parody by critics of the book. I’m not sure that I concur as conservatives are so damn thick and credulous sometimes its impossible to distinguish irony from idiocy.

However, this gave me an idea: a letter-writing campaign, in which we try to slip emails through Goldberg’s net, praising his books in the most ludicrous yet believable way possible, hoping that he publishes it, and then later, at some point, we can all take credit for contributions.

To work! May we revel in fake wingnuttitude!


This is a great post. I was pretty happy when the now neocon (but still good guy) Ron Radosh wrote in Partisan Review that if Williams were alive today, he would like The American Conservative (the magazine I edit). I tried to read Williams as a kid, but Tom Hayden and David Horowitz were easier. And then I moved on. But I’ll buy the Williams reader mentioned in the post, and maybe do a piece on him. –Scott McConnell


Whoops, heh.

Reloading before posting might be a good idea.

Sorry, Scott, if my post rankles, but it’s how I read the review. After looking a bit closer at the source, I can see that it may have been a more honest attempt to distance a somewhat more thoughtful brand of old school conservatism from the painful assault on logic that the movement has become. It still doesn’t quite work for me, but that’s hardly surprising, me being me.

I had a better post, but Firefox ate it, and my recall just ain’t what it used to be.


Thanks for your 22:35 post. Interesting stuff, which I knew nothing about.


Brilliant post, dude. dadanarchist, brilliant comment too, and so true.


“So, what’s your name again?”

“William A. Williams.”

“Cool. What’s the ‘A’ stand for?”


“You just blew my mind.”


I’ve read William A. Williams, and sadlyno is no William Applefuckingman Williams. And that that’s the least funny post I’ve read in this godforsaken excuse for a funny blog with a supersized side of Cheetos. Using WAW against the Pantload is like Amy Carter in a Peter Watkins movie. It’s mean.


sadly, tho, david neiwert is doing the yeoman’s work of deconstructing johah. but i come here for the snark.


Good post, HTML Menchen. Even if it reeks of glorification of the olden days, when things apparently were simpler. As well as that you couldn’t simply stop at explaining how fascism, in the scenario you describe, is a reaction to weak socialism – because of the mechanisms in that context, in the society we’re talking about. And instead had to proclaim that Socialism is in fact by definition the opposite of fascism (which it isn’t, unless you choose to compare them at some sort of special axis geared towards measuring the extremist totalitarian philosophies, and where conservatism and socialism without guns ends up in a tiny spot right in the middle – which really defeats the entire point of the analysis. It’s not the technical definitions Williams are referring to, after all. He’s placing them, dangerously so, in relation to the governing system in the US).

But.. so I’ve read it, and I really have only one question. Can’t you call Goldberg something else than Pantload?


“Gary Ruppert said,

January 26, 2008 at 7:13

The fact is, your bias against reality will cost you readers. Here in the Heartland, we love freedom our president and our troops, unlike you traiters.”

I don’t read the comments here very often. Is the non-spelling moron quoted above a resident troll?


Is the non-spelling moron quoted above a resident troll?

Did Carmen Miranda wear fruit?


Well, yes, if you define Libertarianism as Socialism then modern Progressives are Fascists.

Much like how, if you decided that boots are actually a type of hat, then fedora’s are actually shoes.


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