If you're like me, you probably watch Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." If you're like me, you probably also turn to reruns of "Scrubs" or "Seinfeld" when the newsmaker interview comes on. If that's the case, you probably missed me and Jon Stewart playing Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots last week.
It started civilly enough, discussing my new book, "Liberal Fascism." But things got sufficiently testy that we spent nearly 20 minutes swearing and sparring, and only six minutes aired. The result was "choppy as hell," Stewart conceded.
Largely left on the cutting-room floor were some important points that might have made my book seem a bit more nuanced. When he railed about conservatives and gay marriage, I pointed out that in my book, I'm sympathetic to it. When he took shots at Republicans, I noted that I criticize the likes of President Bush and Pat Buchanan for being "right-wing progressives."
Viewers in search of more than disjointed, stuttering cross talk would be disappointed if they caught the whole exchange - it was all like that. Stewart, try as he might, could not understand where I'm coming from.
His stated problem, in a nutshell, was that he didn't like the book's title or its cover (bright red with a smiley face - oh, and the smiley face has a little Hitler mustache). Stewart's complaint, echoed all over the Web, radio and TV by other critics, is that a book can indeed be judged by the cover. And because the title and cover amount to a giant insult to liberals (only Stewart didn't use the word "insult"), it can be dismissed out of hand.
I tried to explain, for those whose feelings were so hurt they didn't even crack the spine, that the title "Liberal Fascism" comes from a speech delivered by H.G. Wells, one of the most important and influential progressive and socialist intellectuals of the 20th century. He wanted to re-brand liberalism as "liberal fascism" and even "enlightened Nazism." He believed these terms best described his own political views - views that deeply informed American progressivism and New Deal liberalism.
As for the smiley face, that's a reference to comedian and social commentator George Carlin, who explained on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" that "when fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts. Smiley-smiley."