Thursday, November 10, 2005

CLUCKS. Jonah Goldberg has been writing a book, in the course of which exercise he apparently learned the names John Dewey, Charles Peirce, and William James, which he now uses to ornament his usual bullshit. Confronted by Louis Menand's clever parable of Peircean pragmatism ("The chicken that makes a special cluck every time it pushes the lever and opens the door may 'believe' the cluck is an indispensable element in the sequence of actions producing the desired outcome, but to the human observer the cluck is meaningless and belief in its efficacy is a superstition"), Goldberg unwisely tries to turn the tables to his advantage, but winds up spilling gravy on his pants:
Not every notion is a useless appendix even if it looks like one at first, particularly to an atheistic sophisticate with no time for concepts of the supernatural. And while the chicken may be stupid to believe his clucking causes the door to open, human beings are more complex and what may appear to be mere clucks may in fact be very important and useful organizing principles or symbolic concepts that hold civilization together.
It takes a special kind of ineptitude to defend tradition and ritual by pointing out their resemblance to chicken squawks.

But I can see why Goldberg was attracted to this unfortunate metaphor. As fans of his lumpy prose can attest, Goldberg himself clucks quite loudly and frequently during intellectual endeavors, never more so than when he is clearly full of shit, and seems to think this clucking holds said shit together.

For example, in this 2004 defense of our bogus Iraq policy, Goldberg starts, as one might expect him to do in physical combat, with an unconvincing feint ("On this I agree with the Bush bashers: I don't think it's true that we're safer today"). You might expect him to get around to a point eventually, in which case you would be disappointed. We are not safer, because we were not expected to be safer -- "First of all, since when are we supposed to be 'safer' according to the timetables of the presidential-election cycle? I mean seriously, how is that supposed to work?" But going to war not only was a great idea -- it's still a great idea, notwithstanding that it hasn't achieved anything ("So do you fix the problem at the source or do you use our tallest buildings, greatest monuments, and most populated cities as bug-zappers for jihadists. I say: Go to the source").

Goldberg thereafter strews specious stubs of arguments and wretchedly inapposite and unsuccessful similes ("so many 'international community' aristocrats that if they all got together for a group photo they'd look like a re-staging of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover with better suits"), and then vanishes in a cloud of fart.

Despite all the recent yapping about a bold conservative intellectual tradition, these are the worst times ever for conservative commentators (as far as quality goes, anyway; financially I'm sure things are great). The crooks and imbeciles these commentators wished into office are daily getting away with incredible fraud, incompetence and deception, yet answer any objection with the rhetorical equivalent of So What, because they know they can get away with it (talk about a Pragmatic "razor"!). In this environment, Goldberg and his fellows know, there is no reason to sweat out a line of reasoning when you can just do the hokey-pokey, turn yourself around, and defiantly finish, "That's what it's all about" -- or an alternate version such as Goldberg's today: "Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Now, it's time for a sandwich."

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