Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Jonah Goldberg Loses

In his latest article, Jonah Goldberg's subject matter matches closely with this blog's focus. He hits on some of the same targets I've already mentioned, as well as many others including Jane Smiley, Paul Krugman, and Bill Maher. These people do definitely lose. Jane Smiley, in an article subtitled "The unteachable ignorance of the red states", writes:

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That's what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don't need much encouragement—you've put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won't even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.

The whole article reads that way. And this comes after some accusations that leave me scratching my head: she talks about "classic Republican feelings of superiority", and then in the next sentence talks about how the 'red state' vs 'blue state' divide can be traced back to the Civil War era, when blue-staters opposed slavery while red-staters defended it. Last I checked, the Democratic party was the party of slavery, while the Republican Party began as a single-issue third party, the single issue being the abolition of slavery. If the red vs blue divide began then, according to Smiley Republicans must have been the enlightened blue-staters, while Democrats werethe red-staters. Doesn't that put the lie to the "classic Republican feelings of superiority" screed?

Anyways, the title of this post is not "Jane Smiley Loses", but "Jonah Goldberg Loses". That's because, while Goldberg appropriately points out these examples of unfair and demeaning attacks, he engages in this behavior himself:

There are other complaints as well. Take the two leading liberal columnists at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman. As we all know, one's a whining self-parody of a hysterical liberal who lets feminine emotion and fear defeat reason and fact in almost every column. The other used to date Michael Douglas. But both of them have been writing a string of columns insisting that the Bushies ran a campaign of "divisiveness," "primitivism," and "fear." To be fair, and to everyone's surprise, Krugman's post-drubbing column wasn't a whine-fest so much as a cri de coeur about how his whininess was justified all along. The column read like a quickly dashed-off buck-up memo about how Democrats should keep fighting. Conveniently Krugman is now going into hiding for a few months to work on an economics textbook. (Nothing like telling the troops to tough it out in the trenches as you head to the bunker.) Thank goodness Dowd has picked up the slack. Her columns of late aren't the clever highbrow snarks they once were; once she knew how to sweeten the bile. Now her op-ed page real estate hits your desk like a bucket of vomit with some Body Shop potpourri sprinkled across the surface.

And later:

But even worse was [Bill] Maher's mindless righteousness about his own atheism. For years Maher has been auditioning for his Profile in Courage award by saying "brave" things about the unreality of Jesus and the silliness of religion. Every mention of religion causes a dirty smile and joyful sneer to spawn across his face. The other night he was pounding the table with great satisfaction for having the courage to be a "rational" person and hence an unbeliever — and of course the audience was applauding like so many toy monkeys.

I vehemently disagree with Dowd, Smiley, Krugman, and especially Maher, but fighting bile with bile isn't the answer. Goldberg should leave this type of attack out of his work, and instead focus on a rational deconstruction of the left's accusations, as he does later in the story:

Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.


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