There was a really good Jeet Heer article over at New Republic, National Review’s Bad Conscience. It brings to mind my favorite William Buckley quote, “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'” It’s so foreign to me. It would be one thing if history were making us worse, but it is actually making us better. We are, for example, far less violent than we used to be. What Buckley spent his whole life trying to stop was allowing the weak in society to get their fair share of the fruits of society. And that’s a pretty vile thing to stand athwart.
Heer’s article discusses the long history of Buckley’s magazine National Review and its’ love of fascism. We aren’t talking Nazism here. Even they understood that was a bridge too far. But when it came to Italian fascism, the magazine was fairly apologetic. And it was downright keen for Francisco Franco — publishing two laudatory articles about him when he died. This has long been an issue for me. In modern America, fascism is now seen bad exclusively because of the Nazi’s final solution. There is relatively little knowledge of how fascism was a rotten ideology. But that’s hardly surprising in a country that supports a lot of fascist ideals.
But most of the article is dedicated to the way that National Review, while not pro-Nazi, was anti-anti-Nazi. It goes into some depth about how the magazine constantly criticized the “lurid extravaganza” of Adolf Eichmann’s trial. So the narrative was always: the Nazis were terrible, but these Jews are culpable because they can’t just forgive and forget. Really, Heer quotes one complaint about the Eichmann trial resulting in “bitterness, distrust, the refusal to forgive…”
What’s interesting is that this is the same way that National Review approached the civil rights struggle. But I think you can just use the “one generation” rule of thumb. Conservatives are always one generation behind history. It makes the whole “yelling ‘Stop!'” thing nonsense. What it looks more like is a petulant child who makes every possible excuse for not doing something. World War II ended in 1945, so it took National Review roughly until 1965 to get over its Nazi apologetics. Of course, it took Buckley two generations to apologize for all his racist publishing. And I’m not sure if National Review is even now over its fondness for non-Nazi fascism.
But the whole thing is fascinating in the sense that National Review’s past history of fascism apologetics and even love are behind it’s continued use of “fascism” to slander liberals. There is, for example, Kevin D Williamson’s recent claim in the magazine that Bernie Sander is a national socialist. And then, of course, “Jonah Goldberg authored a lengthy tome in 2008, Liberal Fascism.” But this isn’t a sign of conservatives trying to stop history. It is them being so devoid of any ideas — or intellectual integrity — that they just use their own sins and project them onto the other side. It used to be fine to call liberals socialists. But that word just doesn’t have the bite it once did. So we are fascists. Even though it was never liberals who claimed that Adolf Eichmann was being treated too harshly.