Thursday, 20 December 2007

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Liberal Fascism: Two Words Next to Each Other 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: I. Composition 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.) II. Promotion 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...

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