At a fundraiser for President Obama, Academy-Award-winning actress and multimillionaire (net worth $60 million) Gwyneth Paltrow said of President Obama, who was present at the event of the one-percenters, “It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass.”
No, she was not rehearsing lines for an upcoming movie about how famous people, “useful idiots” as Vladimir Lenin is said to have described them, who get behind smooth-talking dictators to get them elected but later find out that their messianic hopes are dashed when the guy turns on them and ends up impoverishing them as well.
Paltrow wants a fascist government that will do her kind of good. All fascists argue that if they are given enough power, they will make life better for everybody. It’s a view like Paltrow’s that got Adolf Hitler elected to power.
We don’t have to go abroad to find examples of fascism. The political philosophies of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are textbook examples of fascism in action. See Joel McDurmon’s short eBook American Fascist: The Real Theodore Roosevelt.
Do you find this hard to believe? Here’s what Jonah Goldberg says on the subject in his book Liberal Fascism (2007):
“Wilson revered [Otto von] Bismarck as much as Teddy Roosevelt or any of the other progressives did. . . . Bismarck’s motive was to forestall demands for more democracy by giving people the sort of thing they might ask for at the polls. His top-down socialism was a Machiavellian masterstroke because it made the middle class dependent upon the state. The middle class took away from this the lesson that enlightened government was not the product of democracy but an alternative. . . . As Wilson put it, the essence of progressivism was that the individual “marry his interests to the state.”1
The type of fascism that was being promoted by these early American “Progressives” is what we might call today “smiley-face-fascism” in that there are no jack-booted troops marching through the streets.
Fascism relies on an evolving moral order and an evolving Constitution. “On the campaign trail in 1912, Wilson explained that ‘living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of Life . . . it must develop.’”2 This is the politics of “change” for the sake of change, which in reality becomes a top-down power grab “All that progressives ask or desire,” Wilson argued, “is permission—in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the constitution according to the Darwinian principle.”3
To use Hegel’s phrase, “the State is god walking on earth.” William L. Shirer, in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, writes that German chancellor Otto Von Bismarck’s policies gradually made the German people “value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.”4 Between 1883 and 1889 Bismark put through a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries at the time. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though it was organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. Sound familiar?
Hitler took full advantage of the German state of mind and Bismarck’s early progress in turning the nation into a model of socialist reform. Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf, “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.”5 It was Hitler’s social security policies and promises that got him elected to office.
In Edward Bellamy’s widely read socialist fantasy novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887, a Rip Van Winkle character goes to sleep in the year 1887 and awakens in the year 2000 to discover a changed world. His twenty‑first century companions explain to him how the utopia that astonishes him emerged in the 1930s from the hell of the 1880s. “That utopia involved the promise of security ‘from cradle to grave’—the first use of the that phrase we have come across—as well as detailed government planning, including compulsory national service by all persons over an extended period.”6
Bellamy’s fiction became much of the world’s reality in twentieth‑century socialism. Bellamy believed that “human nature is naturally good and people are ‘god‑like in aspirations . . . with divinest impulses of tenderness and self‑sacrifice.’ Therefore, once external conditions are made acceptable, the Ten Commandments become ‘well‑nigh obsolete,’ bringing us a ‘second birth of the human race.’”7 Bellamy managed to mix the perversions of socialism, secularism, and New Age philosophy into one impossible world.
Consider President Wilson (1856–1924). His two political heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Bismarck. His choice of Lincoln was not because of the 16th president’s racial policies. In fact, Wilson “fervently believed that giving blacks the right to vote was ‘the foundation of every evil in this country.’”8 The pro-Ku Klux Klan Birth of a Nation (1915) was the first film shown in the White House during Wilson’s administration.9
Wilson’s 1902 History of the American People, which praised the Ku Klux Klan of the post Civil War era, is quoted extensively throughout the film. Many of the movie’s title cards were excerpts from Wilson’s book.
What Wilson admired about Lincoln was his “ability to impose his will on the entire country. Lincoln was a centralizer, a modernizer who used his power to forge a new, united nation. . . . Wilson admired Lincoln’s means—suspension of habeas corpus, the draft, and the campaigns of the radical Republicans after the war—far more than he liked his ends.”10
Wilson “loved, craved, and in a sense glorified power.”11 In the hands of good people, it is believed, power is incorruptible. In his book Congressional Government, Wilson admitted, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.”12 Of course, he believed that with his good intentions, the use of unbridled power was a good thing for everyone. Power is often most dangerous in the hands of those who want to do “good,” because they believe their intentions to help the less fortunate are righteous and just, and as a result will do anything they believe is necessary to bring about those “good” results.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring is not something to be desired even by good people. The goal is to destroy it. When Boromir fails to avoid the ring’s power, he dies. Even Gandalf and the elves shun the power of the ring. Tolkien is doubtful that any person has the ability to resist the temptation of absolute power promised by the ring, even if that power is used for good. That is one of the great themes of the series.
People like Gwyneth Paltrow are dangerous. They empower world-be dictators with their notoriety, influence, and money. They are entranced with the specter of power and blind to its destructive consequences. What fascist ever said that he was going to make life worse for people?
- Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Random House, 2007), 96. [↩]
- Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 88. [↩]
- Quoted in John G. West, Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest (Seattle, WA: Center for Science and Culture, 2006), 61. [↩]
- William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 96, note. [↩]
- Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 96, note. [↩]
- Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), 93. [↩]
- Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Washington, DC: Regnery/Gateway,  1989), 190. [↩]
- Quoted in Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [↩]
- “Three closely related events sparked a KKK resurgence in 1915: The film The Birth of a Nation was released, mythologizing and glorifying the first Klan. Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of the rape and murder of a young white girl named Mary Phagan, was tried, convicted and lynched near Atlanta against a backdrop of media frenzy. The new Ku Klux Klan was founded in Atlanta with a new anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic agenda. The bulk of the founders were from an Atlanta-area organization calling itself the Knights of Mary Phagan that had organized around the Frank trial. The new organization emulated the fictionalized version of the Klan presented in The Birth of a Nation.” [↩]
- Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [↩]
- Walter McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 128. Quoted in Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, 84. [↩]
- Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers,  2002), 105–106. [↩]