Update, 3/20/15: The link to Twitter below is incomplete due to John Zmirak deleting his Tweets. A number of them are, thankfully, archived at The Mitrailleuse here.
I am a tad bit embarrassed to say this, but “friendly fascism” — sometimes used on social media as #friendlyfascism — isn’t real. That is to say, it is not an actual tag which can be meaningfully applied to any political, social, or intellectual position that I am familiar with. Although it has been used as a gag expression before, it seems to have entered the stream of Catholic quibbling due to a tongue-in-cheek line I deployed in my Front Porch Republic piece, “Illiberal Catholicism One Year On.” I have also, jokingly, made reference to it here on Opus Publicum. Now comes John Zmirak and Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute to both treat “friendly fascism” as if it were a real thing and then, amusingly, misapply it to Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. My apologies to Ms. Stoker Bruenig. I think it is safe to say that her brand of Christian socialism is not what I had in mind when I first used the term.
Zmirak and Hilton’s inability to get a joke is secondary to the more troubling reality that Catholic neoliberals/libertarians seem largely incapable of making fundamental distinctions between principled positions which they happen to have no sympathy for. This became clear to me last night on Twitter when, after alerting me to his article, Zmirak proceeded to conflate Catholic integralists with so-called radical Catholics such as Patrick Deneen, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Artur Rosman. (Rod Dreher, despite being Eastern Orthodox, was thrown into the mix as well.) Had Zmirak taken the time to actually read my Front Porch Republic article, he would have noticed that I set forth all of the distinctions for him. Hilton should have realized it, too, though I have no evidence that she actually read anything beyond Zmirak’s article. Although it is true that integralist and radical Catholics are deeply critical of liberalism, their reasons are sometimes, maybe oftentimes, significantly different.
None of this is breaking news. In two pieces for The Josias, “A Reflection on St. Pius X and Contemporary Approaches to Catholic Social Teaching” and “Catholic Integralism and the Social Kingship of Christ,” I set forth clearly the ways in which integralists approach the Catholic Church’s social magisterium while highlighting what separates integralists from liberal and radical (socialist) Catholics. As for any attempt which might be made to paint integralists as racists, nationalists, or totalitarians, that, too, has been covered. Finally, I have also offered additional clarifying remarks about integralism on this blog.
With that noted, perhaps it is time to put to bed the “friendly fascism” gag. Had I thought it had any chance of being taken seriously, I never would have used it. Now it is being tossed around carelessly by pro-liberal Catholics. So let us speak no more of “friendly fascism” and, please, let us keep firmly in mind that integralist and radical Catholics are not the same thing.