Interview: Fred Siegel on The Revolt Against the Masses


In the wake of World War I, there was a “tremendous intellectual upheaval,” Fred Siegel tells me, talking about his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. American intellectuals, led by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis and heavily influenced by H.G. Wells, came to see "the American middle class as their enemy.” It’s “the beginning of the Europeanization of American politics.  And what these writers want, they want to be more like Europe.  They want a more stratified, more hierarchical society.  They dislike American small-d-democracy.  And they talk about this at great length.  This is not a conjecture.”

But it’s been largely forgotten, since in both academia and the media, the left has largely written the story of American history of the 20th century. Fortunately, Fred has done yeoman archeological work, bringing the early history of the American left to light once again, in a book that anyone who was enlightened by Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism will also find absolutely intriguing.

During our interview, we’ll discuss:

● The largely forgotten racism of H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson.

● Sinclair Lewis’s absurd yet highly influential It Can’t Happen Here, and its paranoid vision of American fascism rising up from the benign members of the all-American Rotary Clubs and Elks and Moose Lodges.

● When did “Progressivism” become “Liberalism,” and why?

● What really happened during the Scopes Trial?

● Why H.L. Mencken rooted for the Germans to win World War I.

● What were the three legal trials that shaped the American left of the 1920s?

● How did the Kennedy assassination unhinge American liberals?

● What shaped the radical environmentalism of Al Gore and other American leftists?

● How much of the tradition and the excesses of the early progressives was inherited by Barack Obama?

And much more. Click here to listen:

(24 minutes and 34 seconds long; 22.5 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 4.21 MB lo-fi edition.)

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.