Fascist Food for Thought

"Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or 'natural' categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.  Or as the line goes in The Da Vinci Code, 'So Dark, the Con of Man.'

"The 'con' in question is, in effect, a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to deceive the world about Jesus' true nature and his marriage to Mary Magdalene.  The book has sold some sixty million copies worldwide.  The novel, and movie, have generated debates, documentaries, companion books, and the like.  But few have called attention to the ominous roots and parallels with Nazi thought.

"Dan Brown should have dedicated his book to 'Madame' Helena Blavatsky, the theosophist guru who is widely considered the 'mother' of New Age spirituality as well as a touchstone in the development of Nazi paganism and the chief popularizer of the swastika as a mystical symbol.  Her theosophy included a grab bag of cultish notions, from astrology to the belief that Christianity was a grand conspiracy designed to conceal the true meaning and history of the supernatural.  Her 1888 book, The Secret Doctrine, attempted to prove the full extent of the grotesque Western conspiracy that The Da Vinci Code only partially illuminates.  Christianity was to blame for all the modern horrors of capitalism and inauthentic living, not to mention the destruction of Atlantis.

"Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century, the second most important book in the Nazi canon, borrowed ideas wholesale from Blavatsky.  Rosenberg lays out one Christian conspiracy after another.  'Before it could fully blossom, the joyous message of German mysticism was strangled by the anti-European church with all the means in its power,' he insists.  Like Blavatsky and Brown, he suggests the existence of secret Gospels, which, had they not been concealed by the Church, would debunk the 'counterfeit of the great image of Christ' found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  'Christianity,' writes Hitler in Mein Kampf, 'was not content with erecting an altar of its own.  It had first to destroy the pagan altars.'  It was 'the advent of Christianity' that first unleashed the 'spiritual terror' upon 'the much freer ancient world.'

"Large segments of the cultural left today subscribe to similar notions.  For example, Wicca and paganism constitute the fastest-growing religion and religious category in America, with adherents numbering anywhere from 500,000 to 5 million depending on whose numbers you accept.  If you add 'New Age spirituality,' the number of Americans involved in such avocations reaches 20 million and growing.  Feminists in particular have co-opted Wicca as a religion perfectly suited to their politics.  Gloria Steinem is rhapsodic about the superior political and spiritual qualities of 'pre-Christian' and 'matriarchal' paganism.  In Revolution from Within she laments in all earnestness the 'killing of nine million women healers and other pagan or nonconforming women during the centuries of change-over to Christianity.'

"The SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, was convinced that the anti-witch craze was an anti-German plot concocted in large part by the Catholic Church: 'The witch-hunting cost the German people hundreds of thousands of mothers and women, cruelly tortured and executed.'  He dedicated considerable resources for the SS to investigate the witch hunts and prove they were attempts to crush Aryan civilization and the true German faith.  The SS put together what amounted to their own X-files unit--dubbed Special Unit H (for Hexen, or 'witches')--to ferret out the truth of over thirty-three thousand cases of witch burning, in countries as far away as India and Mexico.

"Indeed, most of the founders of National Socialism would be far more comfortable talking witchcraft and astrology with a bunch of crystal-worshipping vegans than attending a church social...."

--Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

Hat tip to Prof. Mondo for introducing me to Goldberg's writing.  It's your fault if I lose what is left of my liberal leanings.  Just so you know.

Comments

  1. Goldberg offers the worst kind of ad hominem argument in the passages you quote. The fact that Nazis believed something (call it X), or found a public proclamation of belief in X to be politically useful in 1930s Germany (especially when combined with their own noxious racialist ideology), doesn't invalidate X, nor necessarily smear anyone else who believed X. The Nazis believed that cigarette smoking causes cancer, and developed public campaigns against it. Does that mean that we should all be puffing two packs a day, just to prove we're not Nazis?

    Goldberg's polemic has no more validity than the counter-polemic that holds that the Evangelists, Paul, and the pre-Nicene Fathers are responsible for the Spanish Inquisition, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and other atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity. Indeed, it has far less, given that one can find orthodox Christian theologians (Augustine, for example) who offer justifications for the violent suppression of heresy; contrariwise, it's just plain silly to accuse Madame Blavatsky and her ilk of somehow being responsible for the wholesale murder of millions of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and others.

    I mean, really: do Wiccans pose some kind of existential threat to western civilization? Unitarians, of all people, are more organized than the Wiccans I know. And Dan Brown, a closet Nazi? He's a terrible writer, but it's a long step from that to imagining him at Wannsee.

    Besides, Goldberg is starting from a false premise: those who reject an absolute source of moral truth must therefore lack a moral compass and be willing to condone any enormity. History falsifies this easily.

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    1. Goldberg addresses the counter-polemic that you cite in The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in their War of Ideas (New York: Penguin, 2012), esp. chap. 21. His argument in Liberal Fascism is not "because the Nazis believed X, it is invalid," but rather to point to the unmarked similarities between fascism and modern liberal thought generally so as to clarify the genealogy of the label "fascist" so often thrown about in contemporary polemics. The whole book is worth a read, if you're curious. What interested me in this passage was the emphasis that the Nazis gave to the witch-burnings as repeated (albeit, unconsciously) in feminist arguments like Steinem's.

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  2. When you're done, try Mark Steyn's "After America." If he doesn't get you run out of the academy for apostasy you'll be fortunate indeed.

    What does Mr. Bear think of your latest readings? They don't seem to be the sort of thing he'd cotton to.

    --your favorite gadfly

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    1. Already in the middle of it! It is going to be a good test of how "liberal" my colleagues actually are, whether they will tolerate the diversity that Fencing Bear has lured me into with her latest reading. Mr. Bear? Ah, well... Let's just say there was a long conversation on Saturday.

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  3. Remember where Socrates curiousity took him and do be careful (unless you like the taste of hemlock!) We live in an increasingly intolerant age. Some experiments are best made in thought. I can tell you that my brother's musing along these lines--despite the supposed influence of Leo Strauss around those parts--were not particularly smiled upon at your institution. If nothing else, you may find yourself with fewer companions for lunch (but I suppose you could always "check a box" a la Elizabeth Warren, if you want for luncheon invitations; this crazy Indian will claim you!)

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    1. Ah, I already usually lunch alone. I am starting to suspect that this is why. I have been at odds with my colleagues on all sorts of things over the years, but I never put two and two together about why we just couldn't see eye to eye. Now, at least, I think I understand a bit better what my default position really is, so I hope I won't get trapped into agreeing with things that I don't.

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  4. Also, if you're dead set on reading these heretics, you might add Victor Davis Hanson to your list.

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    1. Hmmm, I am pretty sure I have seen that name, too. Oh, yes, Hugh Hewitt was quoting him. It has been a roller coaster of a week!

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  5. You also may find some resonance in Whitaker Chambers's autobio, _Witness_.

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  6. Also James Taranto's daily column in the WSJ. Might as well giggle at the madness.

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  7. ..and just about anything by Thomas Sowell, but "Vision of the Annointed" is not a bad place to start.

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    1. Woohoo! More bibliography! Thanks!

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    2. +1 on this one. The Spawn read it and found it agreeable, if wordy.

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