Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I have reduced the pace of production here at the old plant, not out of laziness but because between my God Damn Job and my daily efforts on the subscription newsletter Roy Edroso Breaks It Down (Subscribe! Cheap!), I'm very short of time anymore. Thus some of the many rightwing writers who have become stock characters in the Droll Satire of Contemporary Mores that is this site go unspanked.

One of the ones that got away is Jonah Goldberg, who has mostly retreated from his much-befouled perch at National Review to occupy the Assness Chair ("No, Asness! Asness!" Potato, potahto) in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute, and to contribute to The Dispatch, a redoubt for JustTheTip- and Never-Trumpers of the old school which is mostly subscription and thus beyond the reach of my self-punishment budget (though I did have a look-in at an early issue, which showed the Old Gasster in good form).

But someone has tipped me to a recent Goldberg white paper from the Ass Chair, and I must report, first, that it is about 4,000 words long -- not as hard a slog as his terrible books, but for readers accustomed to his short NatRev columns that he only made SEEM long an ordeal nonetheless.

It carries the Mark of Goldberg from the very start, with a quote from DeTocqueville (whom conservatives were ruining well before they ruined Orwell) followed by this...
Few students today — or their parents — saw the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger when it premiered. Like many old Bond films, it violates some modern norms, particularly of the #MeToo variety.
Neophytes would already be wondering if it's some sort of joke. But hang in there, aficionados, because Goldberg's about to uncork:
But in one respect, it remains very relevant. Its eponymous villain, Auric Goldfinger, loves only gold. The story climaxes at Fort Knox, the famous gold depository, though Goldfinger's plan is not to steal the treasure there but to irradiate it, making it unusable.This will increase the value of Goldfinger’s hoard of gold. Naturally, because it's a James Bond movie and Goldfinger is the villain, he fails. But his plot is akin to something happening in modern education and our culture, where the largely well intentioned villains are mostly succeeding in irradiating the historical gold reserve of our civic tradition and national narrative.
I assume AEI rejected Goldberg's Star Trek-themed first draft, "The Trouble with Libbles."

Thence proceeds a long, long recounting of one of the rightwing foundation myths: How earlier Bond-villain liberals like Dr. NoNukes and Ernst RainbloParty taught everyone Wrong History. See, kids today don't know their Parson Weems, as is revealed in the latest of several million polls given on the subject since the 1960s, and this is why kids like socialism and speech codes.

Why do kids today cotton to these things when they didn't in the 1980s, when they were also dumb? Because they're all politically correct snowflakes, thanks to "certain social obsessions—physical safety, college admittance, antibullying, self esteem, and so on" -- not like the intellectual hand-to-hand combat on which ruff-tuff contrarians like Jonah Goldberg were raised.

Perhaps sensing this by itself won't do for a think-tank thing, Goldberg lards in more wingnut history: How John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson made "a cultural movement that began to reject America's past" and a New Class of pointy-heads who believed "that they as a class should rule," which begat the G.I. Bill, which "created a mass market for discontent that exploded in the 1960s."

These Baby Boomers, Goldberg goes on, "turned inward to remake society," leading to Howard Zinn turning American history into "the story of victims" in which "the heroes of previous ages become villains, their ideals villainous," which foul libel on American Exceptionalism has been taken up by their wimpy kids via the New Class, which "now controls American education."

For some reason Goldberg doesn't offer as evidence of this Victim History the most obvious, pertinent and widely-known example -- namely, the toppling of Confederate statues that so distresses his Southron colleagues and neo-Nazis. Of such status anxieties are NeverTrumpers made!

Instead Goldberg gingerly pleads for some still-more-dead victims of revisionism -- "It is fine to argue that Christopher Columbus was terrible, but is that all there is to him?" -- before turning to the last refuge of a rightwing scoundrel, famous black people:
Students could learn much from [Frederick] Douglass's righteous anger. But his anger is not what is most instructive. Its righteousness matters more. For despite America's sins, Frederick Douglass did not seek its destruction. He focused on America's "hypocrisy," demanding that we live up to our ideals, not abandon them.
A century later, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke similarly. Like Douglass, King's anger was righteous...
To the trained ear, this strikes a familiar, wounded and baffled Goldbergian chord -- how is supporting the grievances of King and Douglass a retort to the kids who are also "focused on America's 'hypocrisy'"? And even if this is just an evasive rhetorical maneuver -- admitting an opponent's point to gain an advantage -- what would the advantage be? With Goldberg, we know what the result of such a gambit will be 99 times out of 100, and sure enough:
It would have been better if the founders had never been hypocrites. But we should feel deeply grateful for that hypocrisy, because it was the irritant that created the pearl.
FARRRRRRRT The pearl is FREEDOM you stupid liberals FARRRRRT stop laughing if it weren't for slavery how could you even HAVE the Emancipation Proclamation FARRRRRRRRRT

There's the old Goldberg! You just have to dig for it. Whether it's worth digging for is an open question.

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