Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A NEW LOW. It is traditional at alicublog, when we treat a piece of writing by Jonah Goldberg, to close with the phrase, "This is the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else." But his latest essay will be hard even for Goldberg to top.

The theme is religious certainty. Here is the intellectual highlight:
The rot, not surprisingly, has reached Hollywood. For example, in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas caved to the fashionable anti-absolutism that comes with Bush hatred by having a young Obi-Wan Kenobi proclaim, “Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes!” Translation: Only evil people see the world as black-and-white. This signaled that Lucas’s descent into hackery was complete, since it was Lucas himself who originally explained that the entire universe is divided into light and dark sides.
I don't even know what to say to this. I tried out three jokes here, and they were pretty good jokes (two involved bongs and poop), but they just seemed so... puny compared to the breathtaking scale of this idiocy. That the editor of a major magazine would present such dorm-room sci-fi drivel without a blink of embarrassment! Somewhere the shades of Addison and Steele are tearing one another's hair out and screaming God-a-mercy.

And how about this:
Whenever I hear people say such things, I like to ask them, “Are you sure about that?” When they say yes, which they always do, I follow up by asking, “No, no: Are you really, really certain that certainty is bad?” At some point even the irony-deficient get the joke.
Next week, Goldberg discourses on the use of "why are you hitting yourself?" as a rhetorical tool.

Goldberg would not roll so often into such ripe patches of intellectual manure if he were not so addicted to willful misunderstandings. Liberals worry about the influence on our governance of religious dogmatists, and Goldberg absurdly interprets this as an anathema on "certainty." Then he makes a great show of revealing that "they aren’t offended by conviction per se, but by convictions they do not hold." In other words, if you like Rosa Parks but don't like Osama Bin Laden, you're a liberal hypocrite for whom "'Closed-minded' has come to mean 'people who disagree with me.'" Plus Hitler was a vegetarian. Psych!

I do advise you follow the link and find your own favorite bits. But I call dibs on "As Chesterton teaches, a dogmatic conviction can also be morally praiseworthy and socially valuable." And, as Shakespeare said, white wine goes with fish, and an open box of baking soda will help keep your fridge smelling sweet. Sweet Christ, the Argument from Authority itself must feel unclean after such a use.

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