No. 32

It is a nice cover. Good job on the cover.

It is a nice cover. Good job on the cover.

Be a more polite version of Fox News.

When I started listening to NPR, the hosts of Morning Edition would have Cokie Roberts come on the show once a week to talk about politics. She offered a centrist take on whatever political nonsense was in the news at the time. A couple years ago, maybe—it feels like forever but hasn't been all that long—they added Jonah Goldberg to the mix, presumably in the interest of "balance." If you are at all familiar with American journalism, you won't be surprised to hear that Goldberg, a professional conservative who writes for National Review and does other conservative-themed stuff, is farther to the right than Roberts is to the left, assuming that Roberts is any degree to the left. I'm not trying to knock NPR or its staff, but that's what too many journalists, ever on the defensive against the incessant cry of "liberal bias," see as balance. I haven't read much of Goldberg's work. He wrote a book called Liberal Fascism, which is probably all we need to know about him. I hear him talk on the radio every week; he gets more time now that Cokie Roberts has switched from commentary and analysis to answering questions about the history of American politics in a segment called "Ask Cokie." The one thing I like about Jonah Goldberg is that every time he talks I see and hear Jonah from Veep.

Aside from that he doesn't have much to offer. He's anti-Trump, which is enough to make some people who would disagree with him on policy issues respect him, but he doesn't deserve that kind of respect. We should respect him as we should respect all humans; we should respect his right to express weak ideas, but we should not respect those ideas just because we share a common enemy. When Trump is out of power Goldberg will be just another liberal-baiting/bashing/scapegoating culture warrior. He's probably a decent person, he clearly wants to think of himself as an objective, reasoned thinker, but he's still a basic ideologue. There are some things we'd agree on in theory, but Goldberg views everything through the lens of conservatism, which seems to hinder his ability to see beyond his own identity politics, and even if he claims to despise tribalism, he engages in it. (I tend to view a lot of things through the lens of despising conservatism.) He's not as screamy as Hannity, and that's the only standard you have to meet to be regarded as a conservative intellectual. He uses the same tricks—mischaracterization and lack of self-awareness—as the Fox Newsers, but he's less extreme. If someone wants to pay me to write an essay I'll work this out further and provide ample evidence; or just listen to the interview I'm about to link to. Fine, I'll include one example: in the interview, he claims that "Our colleges teach people that they should simply think of themselves in racial categories or gender categories." The statement is untrue, based on generalization; it's a perpetuation of a common right-wing narrative about American colleges and universities that is simply not accurate. Conservatives have this fantasy about what colleges are like, and they hear this fantasy treated as reality in their tribally bubbles and they accept it as reality.

I respect Steve Inskeep, and I think he asks some good questions in the interview, but I do have to make one point: "His critics suggest Goldberg was part of the problem," Inskeep says as he's introducing the big author (the problem referred to there being tribalism), "yet his dismay over tribalism—and many conservatives' embrace of President Trump—led him to a different approach. His new book avoids partisan labels and—" Hold up, sorry, Steve Inskeep, but if Jonah's new book avoids partisan labels why is the title of his previous book, Liberal Fascism, displayed so prominently on the cover? Seems like he wants to play the role of nonpartisan bridge-building deep thinker while also appealing to the Dinesh D'Souza crowd.

Anyway, in preparation for his new book, Suicide of the West*: The Blibbety Blah Blah of the Hoopty-Doo, Goldberg went on Morning Edition in the role not of token conservative political commentator but as author and got to talk to Steve Inskeep for seven whole big boy minutes! Here's a link to the interview. I guess I could say more, but all you need to know is Mr. Tribally Professional Liberal-Scapegoating Conservative thinks tribalism and identity politics are bad and, well, we have to keep in mind that you're not automatically wrong about something just because you're a fucking hypocrite.

*Not to be confused with another book written by another conservative back in the sixties.

©Alan Good 2018