Three months ago, I speculated that Jonah Goldberg’s forthcoming book, then titled Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, was the victim of a swift and violent paradigm shift. The 2006 elections and the right’s critical drubbing of Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11—which proposed a strategic alliance between Muslim theocrats and the American right against the degenerate American left—had rendered conservatism’s lunatic fringe suddenly unfashionable. This couldn’t, I thought, be good news for a book that portrayed Hillary Clinton as a goose-stepping brownshirt. One hint that Doubleday might be feeling nervous was that the book’s publication date, originally planned for 2005, had been delayed repeatedly, and had just been delayed once more, to Dec. 26, 2007. Goldberg’s publisher, Adam Bellow, insisted that the book’s delays were attributable entirely to the extreme care being taken to get the history just right, and Goldberg himself, after stating on National Review’s online chat-fest “The Corner” that he found me to be “a bore and a fairly nasty and humorless fellow,” said the book was delayed only because “it’s not done yet.” My “assertion that the book’s delayed for marketing reasons would be a flat-out lie if it weren’t flat-out conjecture,” Goldberg thundered.
What Bellow and Goldberg said didn’t strike me as necessarily inconsistent with what I’d written. I could well envision that the extreme care to which Bellow referred might include frantic tweaking of tone to make Goldberg sound less like Ann Coulter and more like David Brooks. But whatever the reason for the delay, the marketing plan for Goldberg’s book has been altered since I last wrote, and the direction has been away from Coulterism. A book’s subtitle is part of a book’s marketing, is it not? Ladies and gentlemen, the subtitle has been changed.
Gone is The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Now the subtitle is The Totalitarian Temptation From Hegel to Whole Foods. This is undeniably kinder, gentler, and less political. But it isn’t necessarily more truthful. As liberal blogger Ezra Klein points out, John Mackey, founder and chief executive of Whole Foods, is a libertarian. In a recent speech, Mackey said, “The Left’s goal remains either to cripple or to destroy capitalism.” That doesn’t sound very liberal to me. Perhaps Goldberg has found a way to write around Mackey’s inconvenient politics. Or perhaps he’ll have to go back to the drawing board. One option might be for Goldberg to change the title to The Road to Serfdom, which is what F.A. Hayek called this book when he published it 50-odd years ago. Goldberg should know, though, that a cartoon version of Hayek’s most famous work is already in circulation.