I recognize I criticized Sadly, No! rather harshly not but three days ago, so it may seem strange for me to trumpet this, but they've been putting yeoman's screws to Jonah Goldberg's insufferably stupid Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. I'm normally not one to join the gagging chorus, but this book demands mockery. I'm not sure where I should even begin, so why don't we begin where the book did:
In October of 2005, Goldberg unashamedly used his Corner pulpit to ask other people to do his research for him:
I'm working on a chapter of the book which requires me to read a lot about and by Herbert Spencer. There's simply no way I can read all of it, nor do I really need to. But if there are any real experts on Spencer out there—regardless of ideological affiliation—I'd love to ask you a few questions in case I'm missing something.
Repeat after me: "Real scholars do their own research. Real scholars do their own research." Since I was genuinely interested in what someone else had to say about Spencer, I responded to Goldberg's plea. (Why not aid a fellow Jew maintain the illusion of integrity?) He told me what he thought Spencer was up to.
I informed him (politely) he couldn't be more wrong.
He responded (haughtily) that other people said Spencer had said that.
I informed him (politely) those other people were wrong too.
He inquired (brusquely) why they wrote it then.
I said (politely) Spencer is the most misunderstood thinker of the 19th Century.
He told me (angrily) I hadn't helped him at all and not to write back.
So, without even having read the book, I can say with certainty that whatever it says about Herbert Spencer will not reflect anything Spencer himself wrote or believed. (For that you should go here.) I'll even go so far as imitate Spencer and draw a sweeping general conclusion from this particular incident:
People should not write books about things they haven't read. (That's what blogs are for.)
Two years later, Goldberg reversed tack: instead of proclaiming his intellectual irresponsibility from the mount, he claimed Liberal Fascism would be "a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care." Given my experience with him, I must ask:
By whom will this very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care be made? Certainly not by the person who rebuffed my attempt to inform him of what Spencer actually said.
That guy clearly doesn't know from care or detail when it comes to research.
That guy clearly has an agenda he won't let inconvenient truths upset.
Yet Goldberg would have us believe that these two guys are one and the same.
I say there is no universe in which the guy who begged scholars for misinformation is the same guy who will make a careful and detailed argument. (What with two objects not being able to occupy the same space at the same and all.)
III. The Title
Just because you put two words next to each other doesn't make them related. (This rule also applies to people.)
(Unless they're on an altar in the presence of some speech acts.)
IV. The Sub-Title
The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
V. The Text
The folks at Sadly, No! have spent the better part of the week taking pictures of Goldberg's words. These pictures demonstrate that Goldberg was unable to overcome his self-handicapping: for all the research he didn't do and all his protestations of care and detail, Liberal Fascism is a sublimely stupid book. Were a student to write such nonsense I'd vow to make them uncomfortable with my words and what I say. Liberal Fascism is that stupid. To wit:
Where to begin? YOU ARE A BAD JEW . (Sorry. Just slipped out.)
YOU ARE A BAD JEW. (Don't know where this is coming from. I'll stop.)
YOU ARE A ... A ... A ... PERSON WHO DOES NOT KNOW ANYTHING. (Better.)
Logic is one of the many things Goldberg does not know. Here is what he thinks it is:
All X believe Y.
All Z believe Y.
Therefore all X are Z.
I take it back: Goldberg does know logic. You can find the above syllogism in logic textbooks. Just turn to the section on the fallacy of the undistributed middle and there it is right there in your logic textbook. It is logic. Goldberg is wise to employ it:
All [animal rights activists] believe [in animal rights].
All [Nazis] believe [in animal rights].
Therefore all [animal rights activists] are [Nazis].
Logic is fun! I want to do more!
All [liberals] believe [orgasms are fun].
All [Nazis] believe [orgasms are fun].
Therefore all [liberals] are [Nazis].
You know what else is fun? Poetry! Poetry is fun!
You know what's even funner? Poetry about Goldberg! Poetry about Goldberg is even funner! Flippanter proves it:
Thirteen and a Half Ways of Looking at Jonah Goldberg
In the haunted thoughts of Jonah Goldberg
The only hallowed thing
Was the fear of the Clintons.
He was of two minds,
Like an Enterprise
On which there were two captains.
The Goldberg flailed at the keyboard,
Pantomimed the smallness of his parts.
A liberal and a fascist
A liberal and a fascist
And a schoolteacher are one.
I know which to prefer:
The beauty of the war
Is the beauty of Bush.
You'd better agree now
Or at least soon.
Nachos filled his belly
With barbaric gas.
The shadow of the liberal
And the liberal's girlfriend
Ruined his mood.
And their exclusive parties.