Thursday, July 02, 2009

AN APPLE THAT STAYED ON THE TREE AND ROTTED. I, and you, have Harry Hutton to thank for this Jonah Goldberg jackpot that had escaped my notice, in which a reader complains to the author of Liberal Fascism of "the creeping leftism of something as supposedly benign as a thesaurus." Yes, the correspondent looked up the entries for "liberal" and "progressive" in Roget's and found them too positive. Goldberg can't leave mad enough alone:
While annoying, none of this surprises me. I can't tell you how many people have told me that my book is idiotic on its face because the dictionary says so.
I must pause here to revisit a previous Goldberg entry:
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank quoted me as saying Harriet Miers fits the dictionary definition of "crony," as if it was a stinging rebuke of the White House. In reality, it was merely a factual statement. According to the dictionary, a crony is a longtime close friend or companion. Historically it didn't have a negative connotation. It derives from the Greek chronos (time)...
This happily spares me the effort of making up an instance of Goldberg doing something like it -- for example, "The dictionary defines 'ass' as 'any wild species of the genus Equus,' so you're really calling me a mustang which is a compliment actually."

He goes on:
By the way, my dad wrote about the deep-seated bias of dictionaries for the Wall Street Journal a few years ago.
Oh no, you think, it can't be -- but it is:
This is not the only instance of labeling-hesitation in Webster's New World--at least when the "leader" in question belongs to the "revolutionary" left. The dictionary can call Hitler the "Nazi dictator of Germany" but Stalin merely the "Soviet premier, general secretary of the Communist party of the U.S.S.R." Mussolini is an "Italian dictator," but Tito is "Yugoslav Communist Party leader, prime minister and president of Yugoslavia." Franco is "dictator of Spain" and Salazar "prime minister and dictator of Portugal," but Mao Tse-tung is "Chinese Communist leader, chairman of the People's Republic of China and of its Communist Party"...

Reference works carry with them, inherently, an air of authority, as if their contents are handed down from the heights of scholarship and learned precision. No one can feel right about error and tendentiousness slipping into the culture under such a guise.
So it's congenital! It also makes me think of: "Why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream." It's easy to forget, amid all the crazy sifting of signs and portents to which conservatives have resorted in the Obama era, that they don't have to be in defeat to think this way; Sidney Goldberg's article is from 2002. Something in them senses an unfair conspiracy in every nook and cranny of everyday life, even when they run the works,

Say what you will about liberals, at least when some of them get on about "heteronormativity," they're usually from the academic world, where such things are expected. Besides, conservatives will pick it up too when it suits them.

UPDATE. Commenter bleikker picks up something I'd missed: Goldberg pere complains about the preferential treatment given "when the 'leader' in question belongs to the 'revolutionary' left," as if other dictators e.g. Hitler and Mussolini were not leftists. It seems old Goldberg accepted the usual classification of fascists as rightists. I wonder: when the younger Goldberg started babbling to Dad his thesis that Hitler, along with everything else bad, was attributable to liberals, was Sidney proud that that his boy had amplified on his own "Infinity" with "Double Infinity"? Or did was the realization that Jonah represented his intellectual legacy the thing that finally killed him?

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