Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I'm serious, man, I'm so sincere:
Jonah seems not to understand that the headline of Matt's post is, um, a reference to a piece of spectacular buffoonery. The big question -- "How clueless is Jonah Goldberg?" -- is now laid to rest.
--Spencer Ackerman
Dear Spencer:

Longtime reader, first-time poster, megadittoes and such:

So I went to the Jonah Goldberg talk at Borders on 18th and L last night, all prepared to try out some dumb stunt like ask him to sign my Hillary/Hitler picture or ask a question like "If liberals are fascists, does that mean David Brooks is Neville Chamberlain?" I wound up not doing that, because he's obviously too slippery for it, but I did come away from the talk surprised and pleased at how defensive his argument is.

I didn’t know it beforehand, but Goldberg's history is the opposite of normal conservative revisionism. I was expecting him to try to reclaim liberal heroes from liberalism, arguing something along the lines that the noble JFK would hate the fascist Teddy Kennedy, or that Truman would have voted for Reagan, or that MLK would have distanced himself from today’s civil rights movement and was secretly a conservative, etc. Basically I was expecting something along the lines of “the Democrats used to be great, but they’re all way more liberal and fascisty now than they used to be, and the party left me.” I think Victor Davis Hanson says something like this. Instead, Jonah lumps the entire mainstream bipartisan consensus form of 20th century American government from FDR to Nixon under 'liberal fascism,' which is the opposite approach, and which is fine by me, a Galbraith Democrat. I’ll certainly take credit for Ike’s domestic policy if the conservatives don’t want it. Fascism to Goldberg means pretty much any federal activity, it turns out, but what does that mean conservatives get credit for? Tax cuts? Deregulation? Opposing lots of popular stuff?

Conceding all the major successes of 20th century government to liberalism only heightens the isolation of conservatism historically and ideologically from mainstream America. Given that conservatives look like they'll be punished again this November, Goldberg calling the rest of America fascist seems like a confirmation of conservatism's increasing ideological, historical, and electoral marginalization.

And Jonah did mention Matt Yglesias, calling yesterday’s post "lame" and saying something along the lines of "he felt he had to read my book, but I won't read his, and doesn’t that really sum it all up, ladies and gentlemen?" So Goldberg seems defensive and off-kilter all around, which I take as a good sign for those of us who would like to see conservatism retreat back into the basement of American politics whence it came.
Blogger Dr. Anatole Gavage-Huskanoy | 9:38 AM

I've really enjoyed watching Jonah's response to criticisms, because he always begins by saying "I have to take a conference call," or "I'm having cocktails" and goes on to say that he'll get to the complaint later. Then he comes back with a bunch of arguments that often sound like they were hastily dug up through Wikipedia.

It reminds me of the episode of the BBC version of The Office where David Brent keeps going back to his office to learn more about Dostoyevsky so he can stick it to the new young college grad in the office.
Blogger Owen | 12:52 PM

At his talk he literally accused others of that specific offense, Owen. To hear him tell it, he's the one who really knows the history of interactions between Herbert Croly and Mussolini, and the Air America radio dudes/Matt Yglesiases of the world are the ones scrambling to get their facts straight from superficial google searches. Of course, Jonah neglects to mention whatsoever the relationship between conservatives and actual fascists -- his chapter on how "everyone's a fascist" ascribes conservative dalliances with fascism to their compromising with liberals, rather than their actual direct support of people like Franco, for example.
Blogger Dr. Anatole Gavage-Huskanoy | 1:28 PM