Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism, isn’t too alarmed with the reach or scale of Arizona’s new immigration law:

I support the Arizona law, but I’m also worried that it could lead to civil rights abuses.

It seems that whenever government expands either its powers or its enforcement efforts, you should be worried that it could go too far. But such worries have to be balanced against necessity.

I agree that there’s something ugly about the police, even local police, asking citizens for their “papers.” There’s also something ugly about American citizens being physically searched at airports. There’s something ugly about IRS agents prying into nearly all of your personal financial transactions or, thanks to the passage of Obamacare, serving as health insurance enforcers.

In other words, there are many government functions that are unappealing to one extent or another. That is not in itself an argument against them. The Patriot Act was ugly — and necessary.

I honestly don’t see how you could analogize the government’s ability to collect taxes with the government’s ability to demand papers and indefinitely detain immigrants. But then again, my name isn’t Jonah Goldberg and I’m not stunningly incoherent.

You would think that after having researched and written a revisionist 400-word history of fascism, Goldberg would be equipped to identify authoritarian laws and impulses at first glance. But you would be mistaken. Goldberg sees nothing conceptually wrong with a government empowered to arbitrarily stop anyone and demand their identification papers. It is “ugly,” he concedes, but ultimately necessary. Which seems to be a common sentiment for Goldberg. Whenever the government deems necessary an expansion of police power, you can usually find Goldberg near the bleachers, cheering along. Warrantless wiretapping? Goldberg says yes! Waterboarding? Goldberg says why not! Aggressive wars? Goldberg can’t wait to get started!

Of course, when it comes time to raise taxes — or when Democrats want to expand the safety net — Goldberg gravely intones against the perils of government influence and the dangers of fascism, “This organic food movement, the whole-grain bread operation, the war on cancer, the war on smoking, that these things were as fascist as death camps and yellow stars.” Demanding identification papers from “suspected” immigrants is par for the course, but providing health care subsidies to low-income workers puts us squarely on the road to serfdom.

But this (incredibly disturbing) attitude is typical of movement conservatives. They are slavish devotees to the cult of executive power and police authority, and will embrace anything — anything — that furthers those goals, especially when if it targets the “other.” As I wrote a few days ago:

…actual abrogations of freedom — indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, torture, anti-immigration police state laws — are completely acceptable, since they target people on the margins of society. And this holds even if the measures in question are illegal, or run counter to custom. If the goal is to “stop Muslims” or send “illegals back,” then anything and everything it takes to get there is justified. For a large number of conservatives, the exception is the rule, at least for people who don’t look like them.

Jonah Goldberg is a tireless opponent of state action…on Tax Day. But when the government wants to indefinitely detain American citizens or vastly expand its police power to stop and detain anyone it suspects of “illegal immigration” (read: Hispanics), he has nothing to offer but good words and loyalty. By now, it’s more than apparent that Goldberg will support anything — anything — that punishes or pushes the “other” further to the margins of society. Which, considering his avowed anti-fascism, is more than a little ironic.

Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie

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