Thursday, January 17, 2008

But Seriously, Folks

Matt Yglesias:

One major problem with the book is that Goldberg has no ability whatsoever to stick to a coherent line of argument. You might call this book "disparate essays about fascism and American liberalism designed to annoy liberals." He doesn't seem to care about what his various claims amount to or even whether or not they're inconsistent. Thus, sometimes liberals are too mean to the non-Hitler fascists of the world. Other times, the problem is that people on the left in the 1920s were, at the time, unduly soft on fascism. But other times the problem is that people on the left now have views on some subjects (e.g., the importance of public health) that are similar to views fascists had back in the day....

Beyond specific errors, lapses in logic, etc. the biggest problem with Goldberg's book is actually that Goldberg himself has the wrong ideology.....[Goldberg is] a steadfast supporter of the political party representing the dominant ethnocultural group in the United States, the party that supports torture and unlimited surveillance, the party that supports a larger and more aggressively employed military, the party that supports a more punitive criminal justice system at home, the party whose backers are prone to fretting about low birthrates, the need to police gender roles more rigidly, etc....[N]obody with allegiances like that can seriously turn around, point at the other ideological camp, at start yelling "fascism" at the slightest whiff of collectivism.

But of course that just gets us back to the fact that there's no real coherent argument to be extracted here at all. Nor does there seem to have been any real intention of producing one. Rather, Adam "In Defense of Nepotism" Bellow's basic idea was, basically, let's slap a bunch of shit together that'll piss off liberals, generate buzz, and then maybe conservatives will buy the book. It's cynicism, pure and true, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense. The funny thing about it is that as best one could tell, Goldberg is actually slow-witted enough that he doesn't understand what's happening and is apparently genuinely upset that liberals aren't seriously debating his ideas the way one goes back-and-forth against an antagonist whose thinking you respect despite your differing perspectives.
Jonah responds:
Matt Yglesias tries a serious critique, or so several emailers tell me....

Update: Oh. Sorry. It's not very serious at all.
The difference between Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg is that Coulter knows what she is: a clown, a provocateur, an entertainer. As Matt observes, Goldberg doesn't have a clue.

Bonus Jonah-ism: "Nor do I believe that [Matt]'s anti-Semitic. I think he writes dumb things about Jews..."