Mark Shea is one of the top dogs in the Catholic blogosphere and I truly enjoy reading his take on many items and issues. I don’t always agree with him but I respect him and I like him. Lately, I have had a growing awareness that I just cannot anticipate what side of an issue Mr. Shea is likely to come down on. I attributed this solely to my lack of understanding of his philosophy. However, after reading his blog yesterday, I suspect that Mr. Shea might be in the same boat as me. He might not understand his philosophy either.

What do I mean? I mean that the reason I cannot seem to figure out which side of an issue Mr. Shea will come down, is likely that he can come down on both sides. At the same time.

Let me provide an example. On Thursday, January 18th Mark Shea has two posts in a row on his blog that a related to the same issue. Yet, he seems to have a different take in each post. The issue in question is “liberal” or “progressive” fascism. Mark heaps no small dose of ridicule upon Jonah Goldberg based on his appearance on the Jon Stewart show to promote his book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.” The interview in question is highly edited and highly questionable. Jon Stewart conducted an 18 minute interview with Mr. Goldberg and then subsequently edited it down to six minutes. The majority of what was left showed Jon Stewart ridiculing and heaping scorn on Mr. Goldberg and his premise. Whether you agree with his premise or not would be hard to determine since Jon Stewart did not allow Jonah to finish many sentences, edited or not.

The premise of Goldberg’s book is that Fascism has an intellectual pedigree and that modern progressivism and classical fascism share the same intellectual roots. He reminds us that, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler’s Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Mark Shea, joining Jon Stewart (I am not sure that is a club I would wish to join) heaps scorn on Goldberg and his premise.

I’ve always identified fascism with, oh, you know, smashing free speech and trying to centralize everything in a big centralized political economy. I thought a more noticable feature of fascism was, say, Grand Military Adventures promising an End to Evil and the inauguration of a Golden Age of earthly happiness. I’ve even tended to identify it with urging us all to hand Caesar the power to torture people and the employment of Orwellian euphemisms and groupthink pressure tactics such as “You aren’t one of us if you oppose waterboarding and other forms of torture” to punish dissenters. Indeed, I was quite sure, till I heard Jonah explain it all for me, that apologists for Salvation Through Leviathan by Any Means Necessary bore a much greater resemblance to fascists than advocates of “Small is Beautiful” thinking. I never realized that the real menace to our liberty was a taste for tofu. I’m sure glad that Jonah has broken with that silly old narrative of saying “Anything I happen to dislike is fascist.”

Fine. Mr Shea apparently is of the opinion that Goldberg’s premise holds no water. Or is he? The post just prior to the above mentioned post is a wonderful video featuring Ezra Levant. Mark Shea professes his love for Levant and calls him a “hero.” I emphatically agree with Shea’s assessment. Who is Ezra Levant and why is he a hero? Ezra Levant is a Canadian publisher and journalist who published the cartoons of Mohammad that so inflamed to Muslim world not long ago. Levant is being investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for a possible thought crime because people were offended by what he published. The video shows Levant refusing to concede one inch to these ‘thought police.’ This is why Mark Shea rightly considers Levant a hero.

However, this leads to my confusion. Mark Shea ridicules Goldberg for suggesting that modern “progressivism” is really just ‘nice’ fascism and suggests that fascism is only evident in the extremes of water-boarding and grand military adventures. In the same breath he extols Ezra Levant for essentially standing up to creeping ‘progressive’ fascism in what Shea terms “Soviet Canuckistan.” How can Shea dismiss Goldberg and love Levant?

I know now that there are very good reasons why I cannot seem to figure out Mark Shea and can only ask “Will the real Mark Shea please stand up?”

Update: Mark Shea responds that it is more about the method than the thesis.