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Last Spring…

David Neiwert's The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, which sliced and diced the preposterous right wing revisionism of Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism," got a fair amount of attention in the press. Here's a brief taste of it:

And yet, here we are two years later, and it turns out that many people indeed have taken Goldberg’s book seriously.  Not only was Liberal Fascism a national bestseller, but its core thesis – that, "properly understood, fascism is not a phenomenon of the right at all.  Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left” – has become widely accepted conventional wisdom among American conservatives, and has played a significant role in the national discourse. 

Nowhere is this more evident than at gatherings of the Tea Party movement, the right-wing populist phenomenon that has sprung up in opposition to the policies for which Barack Obama was elected president.  It is common at Tea Party rallies to see signs equating Obama with Hitler, and declaring the current regime “fascist.”

The proof that it got such attention…

Can be seen here in this Google search.

But THAT was then…

And since that time, you can find very little substantive attention to either his book, or the revisionist memes that Goldberg has created among conservatives and the growing, quasi-fascist Teaparty movement (and I'm using the real meaning of fascism here).

His screed has literally rewritten history for much of the country, and much of the Left is simply letting it happen. There is no ongoing push-back to remind scholars, historians, the media, and the public, that his screed was almost universally debunked by credible academics and pundits. It doesn't matter that two years ago, or last spring, this issue came to light again. What does matter is that the light faded far too fast.

This wasn't some minor tweaked view of an historical event. It's a major rewrite and falsification of one of the most destructive political phenomena in the history of civilization.  To allow such a false history to prevail is analogous to winking at claims that the holocaust never happened, or the Apollo 11 lunar landing was staged. It's a slap in the face to all of humanity when such lies are institutionalized, not so much because the lie has all that much strength or appeal, but because people who know better did so little to adequately redress the lies in a focused, organized manner.

To my knowledge, my "American Fascism" post/debunker, here on this site, is one of the only examples of such focused attention that I can find. And that's patently absurd–and dangerous.

If Left leaning and centrist-publishers don't step up and keep denouncing phony histories on a continuing basis, they WILL soon become the official versions, taught in our nation's schools. Why? Because school boards are now heavily infiltrated by far-right ideologues in Texas and other influential school districts.

And these hyper-politicized, Uber-partisan boards have no interest in curriculums which don't support or reinforce the political or religious views of their more vocal or authoritative members.  If Goldberg's view of Fascism is not adequately discredited, nationally and globally, and very soon, it might well become the only definition school children, and future generations ever see.

And even if it never gets quite that bad, the damage it does do will be seen almost daily in among conservative news outlets like Fox News,,, or countless right wing blogs and hyper-locals. And all of those meme makers matter–a lot. There is already a vast network of them, and all repeating the same bad information. There is no mechanism on the left which can rival that bullshit echo chamber. There is no organized truth machinery tasked with balancing the vast right wing lie-machinery.

This situation cannot be allowed to stand

The only solution is for TheNation, Salon, Slate, The New Republic, DailyKos, Alternet, ThinkProgress, and all the other major Progressive publications to use recent teaparty successes, and the deliberate obstructionism of the Republicans, as a pretext to resurface and revisit Goldberg's Lie, and ensure that everyone knows it's not just lie, but a massive whopper of a lie. And they must infuse the debunking into stories whenever they can, so that present and future students of history are continuously reminded of the dualism that now exists between the right wing's portrayal of fascism, and its historical reality.

If they do not, they will only have themselves to blame as this—and other false memes—are allowed to become our collective "truths."


In an inadequately brief, but crucially important review or what is sure to be an even more important and discussed book, Ellen Ullman, asks, "is the wisdom of  the crowd, actually a lie?" 

A self-confessed "humanistic softie," Jaron Lanier is fighting to wrest control of technology from the "ascendant tribe" of technologists who believe that wisdom emerges from vast crowds, rather than from distinct, individual human beings. According to Lanier, the Internet designs made by that "winning subculture" degrade the very definition of humanness. The saddest example comes from young people who brag of their thousands of friends on Facebook. To them, Lanier replies that this "can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced." 

Having been in information technology since the early 1980s, I have watched this "crowd wisdom" legend grow and grow, and the almost automatic assumption that the wisdom of the crowd is always right or will bear fruit not only terrifies me, but I can see the mob mentality it often encourages in the web sites and social networks empowering the  Tea Party movement that is so actively gnawing at our national fabric.

I am a big fan of social networks, and some useful methods and mechanisms that come from crowd wisdom. But they all have limits. They can lower the cost of producing information and  knowledge, but they cannot replace the value of a single human mind, with sufficient understanding of the coincident facts and issues, which can analyze the information and put it to good use in ways that will extend, enhance or illuminate our human condition. 

This is the very reason why my own interests and career have focused on developing techniques and applications  which human beings can use to more easily do what they want to do naturally and intuitively. And that is to organize information in cohesive structures which make understanding anything—and sharing that understanding—a whole lot easier.  You know, kinda like a next-gen version of… of… a book?

I'd love to write more on this, but as the related article below predicts, my fragmented attention span is already diverted to Twitter, the Olympics, bitching about David Gregory's toolism,  and.. wait for it… some productive work.

Rebuttal & Commentary

What to reject when you're rejecting… the wisdom of crowds — @JayRosen_NYU writes an excellent (and snarky) rebuttal to many of Lanier's concerns and premises.


Jaron Lanier says Internet has fallen short

Is  Google Making Us Stupid? — by Nicholas Carr —  What the Internet is doing to our brains" is a magazine article by Carr which is highly critical of the Internet's effect on cognition.