Better Title: On Fascism I Disagree With. In this text, MacWilliams does something I’ve literally never seen before, at least not this blatantly. He takes the concept of “prooftexting” from Christian nonfiction/ preaching, wherein the speaker (or writer) selectively quotes particular passages in “proof” of whatever point they are making, and uses the same technique using American History itself as his “inerrant” source. And as with all prooftexters, MacWilliams does indeed make a solid point here or there, but specifically in relation to the other St Martin’s Press title whose review spurred this one – Divided We Fall by David French – this book is but a pale comparison at best. To the level that if one can *only* read one of the two, go with French’s text over this one. Yes, it is longer, and yes, it still comes from a particular ideological background. But it is also *far* more balanced, nuanced, and I daresay insightful. Here, MacWilliams blatantly ignores virtually all authoritarianism from the left, including from current Presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden while consistently railing against that of the current President of the United States, Donald J Trump. He further has a very narrow definition of “democratic” and claims that anyone who doesn’t meet that definition for any reason whatsoever is “authoritarian”, seemingly completely unaware that Anarchists exist and fight “democracy” as nothing more than the iron fist of authoritarianism in the velvet glove of being benevolent to the chosen few.
Finally, in an irony that cannot be ignored by myself in particular – as I run a Facebook page called “He Didn’t F*cking Say That” – MacWilliams begins and ends the text referencing Benjamin Franklin’s “a republic, if you can keep it” line… which didn’t appear in the American lexicon until 1906 according to the Yale Book of Quotations, over a century after Franklin’s death. And yet despite this (or seemingly ignorant of the quote being apocryphal), MacWilliams seems to be unaware of his hypocrisy as he decries McCarthy’s butchering of some of Lincoln’s lines during his own quest for power.
On the whole, this was an interesting and at least quick read. But if one is looking for a complete – or even moderately adequate – takedown of fascism and an exploration of its history in America, sadly this is not such a text. Recommended if only for the few salient points it does make and its brevity.
This review of On Fascism by Matthew C MacWiliams was originally written on September 2, 2020.