Wednesday, January 02, 2008

objectively pro-Franco

John Holbo makes the expected case for Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism as an exercise in projection. Here he quotes Jeet Heer:

Since its founding in 1955, National Review has been a haven for writers who are, if not fascists tout court, certainly fascist fellow travellers.

Let’s put it this way: if Woodrow Wilson and Hillary Clinton are fascists then what word do we have for those who admired Francisco Franco? When the Spanish tyrant died in 1975, National Review published two effusive obituaries. F.R. Buckley (brother to National Review founder William F. Buckley) hailed Franco as “a Spaniard out of the heroic annals of the nation, a giant. He will be truly mourned by Spain because with all his heart and might and soul, he loved his country, and in the vast context of Spanish history, did well by it.” James Burnham simply argued that “Francisco Franco was our century’s most successful ruler.” (Both quotes are from the November 21, 1975 issue). Aside from F.R. Buckley and Burnham, many of the early National Reviewers were ardent admirers of Franco’s Spain, which they saw as an authentically Catholic nation free from the vices supposedly gripping the United States and the northern European countries. National Review stalwarts like Frederick Wilhelmsen, Arnold Lunn, and L. Brent Bozell, Jr. made pilgrimages to Spain, finding spiritual nourishment in the dictatorship’s seemingly steadfast Catholicism.

The really twisted side National Review’s philo-fascism came through in 1961 when Israel captured Adolph Eichmann, a leading Nazi, and tried him for crimes against humanity. National Review did everything they could editorially to offer extenuating arguments against the prosecution of Eichmann, arguing that he was being subjected to a “show trial”, that this was post facto justice, that pursuing Nazi crimes would weaken the Western alliance and further the cause of communism. As the magazine editorialized on April 22, 1961, the trial of Eichmann was a “lurid extravaganza” leading to “bitterness, distrust, the refusal to forgive, the advancement of Communist aims, [and] the cultivation of pacifism.” (The editors didn’t consider that a mere 16 years after the death camps were liberated, a “refusal to forgive” the architects of genocide might be understandable).

Not to mention National Review’s odious editorializing through the years on race, and on race and genetics, in particular. And you don't have to go back very far at all to find a wholesale defense of Pinochet from several NRO contributors.

On one level, it’s ridiculous to participate in a discussion about such a ridiculous book, lending it some quota of buzzworthiness. But for a group of people who idealize the past so thoroughly, is it too much to ask that they not whitewash their own published not-so-distant history?

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