Jonah Goldberg’s Very Small Penis : How One NRO Correspondent Plans to Kill Your Children, Eat Your Puppies & Sodomize Your Kittens

I should probably start off by saying that as far as I know Jonah Goldberg has a fine and average sized (or bigger!) penis, and that to my knowledge he has never advocated any harm to your children. And for all I know he’s a vegetarian. But in this NPR interview (h/t Burt), he calls for a more openly argumentative society, and says that’s why he followed a book with the needlessly inflammatory title Liberal Fascism:The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning with one that had the needlessly inflammatory title The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. So I hope, on the extremely small chance he should he ever read this, he knows I have his back with this post’s title.

Goldberg’s latest tome is a cry for liberals to stop using heart-string plucking cliches in place of well thought out, rational arguments when debating serious policy issues. As anyone who can recall when I was still a guest poster here knows, it’s a battle cry with which I am only too happy to join in chorus. Unfortunately, the new book is a hard one to get in a froth over either for or against, if only because I suspect he doesn’t take its thesis all that seriously himself. The NPR interview gives this away, I think. When the interviewer concedes that liberals often use cliches over rational arguments but points out that conservatives do this as well, he laughs and agrees, saying basically, “yeah, but I wanted to write about liberals doing it.” Also, when he talks about where he most runs into this phenomenon, he cites his visits to college campuses and interactions with students. I’m hoping this is just him tossing a little complimentary anti-college red meat to the Red State crowd, because otherwise it’s a little sad. Even if Goldberg is not my cup of tea policy wise, he is both an excellent writer and an obviously intelligent guy. So hearing war stories of him intellectually destroying a bunch of 18 year olds freshly away from living with Mom and Dad strikes me as similar to me thumping my chest after dominating my youngest son when we play one-on-one hoops.

So I get the impression that when Goldberg wrote this book, it was less a “powerful story that needed to be told,” and more of an “I’ve thought of aJonah Goldberg’s Very Small Penis : How One NRO Correspondent Plans to Kill Your Children, Eat Your Puppies & Sodomize Your Kittens new way I can package my blog posts and make a butt-load of money.” If so, my hat’s off to him. The only thing that keeps me from repackaging my blog posts into million dollar royalty checks is that tricky bitch, The Marketplace. And as I said I do agree with the book’s general thesis, if not the narrow scope of it. Tom, mensch that he is, listed Goldberg’s Top 5 example’s of liberal cliches that may or may not be true, but are just accepted as an argument stopper in and of themselves. They are:

1. Diversity is Strength
2. Violence Never Solved Anything
3. The Living Constitution
4. Social Darwinism
5. Better to let 10 Guilty Men Go Free…

And to whatever degree these are used as arguments rather than points to argue about, I agree with Goldberg. Violence obviously solves lots of things, like… (wait for it)… Hitler! Or British rule over the American colonies. Or genocidal tin-pot dictators. Mind you, it has also historically been used to solve pesky issues like blacks wanting to vote, women back talking to their husbands and Treyvon Martin’s perpetual school discipline issues, so Goldberg is obviously correct that we should do our best to look both morally and rationally on a case by case basis where we are willing to accept destructive forces. The whole Social Darwinism meme was eye-rolling enough that even I wrote about it. And the blanket statement “Diversity is Strength” is as vapid and meaningless as “Any Attempt to Diversify Anything is Political Correctness.”

Unfortunately, the inclusion of only liberal transgressions – with the presumption that this is a singularly liberal problem – adds to the white noise rather than dampening it. Also, I would argue, it keeps the right in its current pattern of “gear everything toward media sales and rating over governance” that is keeping it from being the meaningful voice of fiscal conservatism this country really needs these days. And so in the spirit that Goldberg himself evokes (as well as my constant need to come up with blog post ideas), let me present – in no particular order – my Top 5 Cliches Used By the Right In Their War On Ideas:

1. Gay People Marrying Destroys the Sanctity of My Own Marriage: I think of this as the perfect example of an emotional “argument” for people that are anti-gay that doesn’t actually mean anything in any kind of rational sense. Gay marriage has zero effect on my own (or anyone’s) straight marriage, and yet this meme is passionately embraced by the right as a reason so powerful as to negate the need to actually debate same-sex marriage. It’s the kind of focus-group tested statement that allows people to be bigoted while simultaneously playing the victim card that the right so excels at these days. Also, it’s often championed by public figures that are divorced or caught in scandals outside their marriage bed; the lack of concern about this among its supporters has always seemed a tell-tale sign of its inherent lack of seriousness.

2. Terrorists Attack Us Because They Hate Our Freedom: … and also, I suspect, because they hate baby seals, the syndication of Family Circus, and those posters with the kitten clinging to a branch that says “Hang In There, Baby!” There are a actually a lot of reasons terrorists might hate us: we occupy and/or keep forces in other countries, our corporations will take their natural resources in a way that makes us richer than them, and we do have a history of being willing to prop up corrupt and evil governments if it suits our economic and security needs. And I will be the first to say that it may well be that in some (or many) of those circumstances it is best that we do so. It’s the kind of difficult argument that, as Goldberg might say, is well worth having: what are we really willing to do to be the country we want to be? Of all the potential foreign policy debates we might choose to have, I’d be hard pressed to think of a more important one. But the “They Hate Our Freedom” line isn’t meant to be a defendable argument; it’s meant to shut arguments down before they start.

3. Government Regulation is Bad: It certainly can be, and it often is. But it can (and often does) also protect us from corporate malfeasance in all kinds of forms. As I’ve noted here before, I work in risk management that among other things deals with employee safety issues. And one of the things we recognize is that around the time I was born the rule of thumb when building a skyscraper was if you could limit yourself to one death or catastrophic injury per story, you were doing pretty good. Such tragedies are almost unheard of these days, and the reason is entirely based upon governmental regulations and a mandatory workers comp system that made it less expensive for employers to be safe than to treat workers as cheap and disposable units. Does this mean all safety regulation is good? No, a lot of it is a joke. So arguing the merits of any particular piece of regulation is a good thing. But using the knee jerk argument “government regulation is bad” is lazy.

4. “Socialist:” Think of this as the counterpoint to Goldberg’s Social Darwinism cliche. As I have noted before, either the right has to use a definition of “socialist” so broad (e.g.: someone that uses the government to subsidize costs) that the whole of the GOP falls under its rubric, or it’s just an inflammatory piece of propaganda used to avoid actual debate.

5. Government Can’t Do Anything Right: There is a tremendous amount that government does very poorly, and I think there are a variety of reasons for this. One of those reasons is that government doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have the ability to service only those that are most profitable, the way my own business can. And for some services, this is probably a good thing. The military, for example, does not cut costs by only choosing to defend only those parts of the country that are either easily defendable or that provide the most tax revenue. Also, the size of it may (or may not) necessitate a level of bureaucracy that is incredibly inefficient. (Though, as I noted here, the idea that large private companies escape this same fate is largely a myth.) But we do have an infrastructure, and parks, and libraries, and live our lives amazingly (historically speaking) unafraid of military invasion from others who might covet our natural resources. Earlier this year a lot of conservatives including those at NRO pointed to a study that said after decade of New Deal liberalism, poverty didn’t really exist in America any longer and so safety nets were no longer necessary. I didn’t really agree with this argument, but those that did turned a pretty purposeful blind eye to the obvious conclusion of the argument they were citing: Roosevelt and his ideological progeny had created a system that eliminated poverty while simultaneously building one of the greatest economic forces the world has ever known. Again, I did not agree with the argument put forth by the right, but I recognized that if it were true it was the best argument for government intervention I had ever seen.

Honorable Mention: Thinking Simply Saying the Acronym “PC” Out Loud Is An Actual Argument*

So there are my five cliches for the right. I might quibble with Goldberg’s choices for the left, but not because I think he’s wrong; there are just a few I find more eye-rolling than his specific choices. (Hello, We’re Doing It For the Children!) What would be amazingly, astoundingly awesome is if Goldberg or any of his bloggy brethren passed these along (or cited some of their own) to make an actual attempt to change and improve the way we talk about public policy in this country.  To really try to discard tired cliches that keep us from thinking, and instead engage in real and meaningful arguments about the people we want to be as we push farther into the 21st century.

But I’m not holding my breath.

 

*(Note: I am purposefully not including the War on Christmas, despite it’s being the very worst offender on either side, because it’s such an awesomely entertaining piece of crap meme I’m genuinely going to miss it when it finally peters out.)

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151 thoughts on “Jonah Goldberg’s Very Small Penis : How One NRO Correspondent Plans to Kill Your Children, Eat Your Puppies & Sodomize Your Kittens

    • This amuses me because in Canada we have the same thing, but by the left and with the phrase “American-style”.  If you want to rally opinion against a policy, just call it “American-style”.  (Granted, sometimes the phrase describes things we should be avoiding – like our government’s support for mandatory minimum sentencing despite the serious problems the US has had with it – but it’s also an easy cliché and a fast way to appeal to emotion.)

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  1. FTR: “Liberal Fascism” was the publisher’s provocative title, and sold a lot of books.

    Also, Goldberg’s complaints are left-specific, and it would be facile to dismiss them out of hand.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/top-five-cliches-liberals-use-to-avoid-real-arguments/2012/04/27/gIQAFR1zlT_story.html

    And certainly, it would do for the right to locate its own cliches.  We should probably bash the right around here more often.  Oh, and the libertarians too, who do not want government roads, water or police.

    Q: How many Libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: None. The invisible hand of the market will take care of it. What are you, a socialist?

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  2. What would be amazingly, astoundingly awesome is if Goldberg or any of his bloggy brethren passed these along (or cited some of their own) to make an actual attempt to change and improve the way we talk about public policy in this country.  To really try to discard tired cliches that keep us from thinking, and instead engage is real and meaningful arguments about the people we want to be as we push farther into the 21st century.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

    Trouble, at least as I see it, is that people in general don’t want to think about policy.  Political candidates and parties are flags to rally around, and policies are just devices to put on the flag.  And it even makes sense for things to be this way.  How much sense does it make to be an informed voter when the mass of uninformed voters will drown out your contribution?  People like me and Jason, we’re paid to know this stuff.  For everyone else, unless you find discussing these matters inherently pleasurable (and I’m assuming that’s the majority of the League’s readership) then it’s a waste of your time.

    This is where pessimism about democracy comes from, and whils I minght not be willing to go with Murali’s solution, I think it would be healthy to develop a set of cultural norms where more deference to experts (on matters covered by their expertise) was considered appropriate; and that voting was not treated as so important that everyone should do it, but rather as so important that people should only do it if they’ve put enough effort in to understand the decision they’re going to make.

    How to create those norms?  Alas, I have no idea.

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    • For everyone else, unless you find discussing these matters inherently pleasurable (and I’m assuming that’s the majority of the League’s readership) then it’s a waste of your time.

      This is a point that is not made nearly enough, though I think you don’t go quite far enough in explaining why it’s a waste of most people’s time.  It’s not just that the marginal impact of one vote is so small; it’s also that, in a reasonably stable democracy, political debate has comparatively little potential to dramatically affect the average person’s life.  In such a democracy, you’re only very rarely going to get truly radical swings in policy from one government to the next, affecting all areas of life. And even when this is a possibility, accurate prediction of the short and medium term effects of major policy changes is pretty much impossible because there are so many variables involved that are completely out of the government’s control in all but the most closed societies.

       

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      • It is also a function of a government that governs, with small variations, both to and from the center. A frequent complaint made about the spectrum of viable political choices available to the U.S. voter is that they can choose between a center-right party and a centrist party; both are beholden to and servants of their big business donors; the policies they produce are functionally the same and differ from one another only in degree and rhetorical packaging. Both parties liked NAFTA, except for the elements of both parties that didn’t. Clinton cut welfare. Bush adopted Medicare Part D. Bush and Obama pushed for TARP and financial bailouts. Obama kept Guantanamo Bay open.

        I’m not entirely sure I personal agree with this sentiment, outside of the realm of foreign policy where I really do percieve no substantial difference between what Democratic and Republican Presidents do. The disparity in the timbre of judical nominees from Presidents of the different parties is dramatic, and important. And it seems to me that partisan control of government at the state level can produce some dramatic differences. But if you were one to perceive that there is only going to be a marginal, incremental difference in the policies the government will adopt regardless of which party is in power, then politics in general becomes a fool’s debate, full of sound and fury yet resulting in no real impact upon one’s own life.

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      • “It’s not just that the marginal impact of one vote is so small; it’s also that, in a reasonably stable democracy, political debate has comparatively little potential to dramatically affect the average person’s life. ”

        That’s certainly true.  There wasn’t much public input into CPSIA, DMCA, SOPA, the Patriot Act, DOT and FAA regulations on the design of vehicles and their employment, DHS decisions on what level of screening is appropriate for air travel, FDA determination that doctors should be the gatekeepers to medical care, BATF determination that marijuana is a felony-crime illegal drug…

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      • Mark –

        But, trajectory of policy matters, doesn’t it? I’d agree that the marginal impacts of single policies are rarely impactful, but the cumulative effects often are.  The path the US has followed over the last 30 years is dramatically different than the course it was on before then.

        This suggests to me that policy debates are in some respects more important than the legislation they lead to. It is in the debates that the philosophical terms are set.  Obama was correct when he stated that Reagan was transformative. He defined the playing field for the decades that have followed.

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        • I think I need to make a pretty big clarification here.  I’m not saying there’s no substantial difference between the parties.  Nor am I saying that politics is completely unimportant, particularly in the long run.  For that matter, I’m not even necessarily saying that the majority of uninformed voters really believe that there’s no difference.

          I’m saying something much more nuanced: day-to-day life in stable democracies is, well, stable for most people. This is a good thing, and one that just about everyone implicitly accepts, much as we might complain about any number of things or say otherwise.    There are far more aspects of life that we’re basically not debating than are subject to debate, and for the overwhelming majority of people, those aspects of life constitute the most personally significant portions of our lives.

          And while trajectory surely matters in the long run: 1.  no one actually knows for a fact what the effects of that trajectory will be, even though we all surely have our own strong opinions – there’s just too many variables at play; 2. the good thing about slow trajectories is that it’s usually possible to reverse them if it REALLY starts screwing with people’s lives; and 3. “in the long run, we’re all dead,” so making sure that there’s still going to be a relatively stable life tomorrow is going to take precedence for most of us over making sure that our long run trajectory is in line with our ideological preferences.  In other words, while the stuff we debate matters, we’re not going to debate policies that will have comprehensive and far-reaching short-term effects on most of our lives.

          Put it this way: I have a hard time thinking of a situation where a stable democracy would consider debating the rapid and complete abolition of private property.

          Look at Hollande in France, who is a proud Socialist running against an unpopular center-right incumbent while his country teeters on the brink of recession.  If ever there was a situation where a stable democracy would be open to a bout of truly radical proposals, it would be that.  Yet the cornerstone of Hollande’s campaign is that he’d like to increase government spending by 1.5 to 2 percent of GDP and pay for this by repealing tax breaks that would result in less than 2 percent more tax revenue as a percentage of GDP.   That, and he’d like banks to have to separate their retail and investment operations.  In other words, he’s not looking to do anything that would completely transform the life of the average person.

          Or, if you’d prefer, think about the average day for the average American: you get up, turn the TV on, maybe take the kids to school, go to work, go home, hang out with the wife and kids for a bit, eat dinner, hang out some more with the wife and kids, put the kids to bed, maybe watch the end of the ballgame, then go to bed.  To do that, you make use of government-funded infrastructure that almost no one wants to get rid of, you go to a job made possible by something approaching a predictable rule of law that no one wants to completely upend, etc., etc.

           

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          • I don’t disagree with any of this. Yes, in stable democracies truly radical proposals are rare and therefore people can keep on keeping on with the most personally significant portions of their lives. In stable democracies change is mostly incremental.

            I guess I’m urging caution for radical change that occurs incrementally and hoping for greater due diligence in our policy debates. Like in the metaphor where the frog boils to death in the pot where the heat is turned up very gradually, we have to be watchful of the long trajectory radical change if we are ever to course correct. We started on the course that leaves us currently with the FIRE sector wielding remarkable power to privatize power and socialize risk a long time ago.

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      • It’s not just that the marginal impact of one vote is so small; it’s also that, in a reasonably stable democracy, political debate has comparatively little potential to dramatically affect the average person’s life.  In such a democracy, you’re only very rarely going to get truly radical swings in policy from one government to the next, affecting all areas of life.

        True, but the reason it’s true is that the political system is already in equilibrium.  If a large number of voters radically changed their minds about a policy issue I’d expect the major parties to change tack on that issue pretty quickly.

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    • The most illuminating thing about a policy degree is just how little the debates you have with your colleagues have any bearing on the political debates held in public. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing, given the sometimes byzantine depths we dive into, but I’m not so sure a culture of experts is where we want to. There’s far too many cases of extreme failures from the Great Depression to Vietnam where policy experts got it absurdly wrong.

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      • The most illuminating thing about a policy degree is just how little the debates you have with your colleagues have any bearing on the political debates held in public.

        Having policy debates with my colleagues left a similar impression on me.

        I’m not so sure a culture of experts is where we want to. There’s far too many cases of extreme failures from the Great Depression to Vietnam where policy experts got it absurdly wrong.

        But the real question is, would regular people have done any better?  I find that very difficult to believe.

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            • We may have to agree to disagree on that. One thing I’ve learned about people who are paid to be ‘smart’ is that many of them also think they’re right. So the disputes, and the squabbles, and the likelihood of disaster if only those people were left in charge is just as likely.

               

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                • I guess. Not quite sure. My point was more along the lines of Kissinger’s saying that academic disputes are so bitter because the stakes are so low. And to be clear, it’s not that I think that the stakes are low, but that smart people in an academic setting get hung up minor details which are more or less inconsequential to the over all purpose or result. Mole-hills become mountains. And that’s what I imagine James’ world of smart people determining policy looking like.

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              • This isn’t about intelligence, it’s about expertise i.e. domain-relevant education and experience.  Mere intelligence is like having a fast car and a bad map, you just get lost faster.

                And on experts are right (on questions of their expertise) more often than non-experts.  Sure, experts make mistakes, but beware of committing the Nirvana Fallacy.  The question is not, are experts infallible, but who is more likely to cock up.

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        • I think at least the Vietnam question seems to have been a problem of experts being too certain of their own assessments. Admittedly I don’t know if it was possible to come to a different conclusion. I remember an interesting run through where we formulated a policy solution based on what the principals knew at the time and the outcome wasn’t very different from history.

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  3. Oh joy!  Another entry in the “False Equivalency” game.

    I have zero respect for Goldberg.  I find him mean, crass and useless.  I have even less for his “cliches of the left” when EVERY argument from the right gets reduced to foolishness like “death panels” or “socialist”.

    On the other hand, TVD is wrong about “better to let 10 guilty men go free…” — it doesn’t shut down argument, but allows us to say, but what about…   Moreover, when you jail the innocent man, you let the guilty go free so you’ve defeated yourself.

    Can you tell I’m really, really tired of this game?

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    • +1

      I waded through enough of Liberal Fascism to realize that Goldberg was just a step or two above Beck and Limbaugh in his attempt at “serious” political commentary. To me, he’s just another right-wing shill out to skewer the left and adding nothing to the quality of political debate in this country.

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      • On the contrary, Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” thesis holds up quite well, mostly because it’s true.  Today’s leftism has very authoritarian roots, and its goals not achievable without coercion..  Mussolini’s Fascist Italy was not seen as a bad thing at the time; that was to come later, with its alliance with Nazism [or at least the invasion of Ethiopia].  Fascism was not yet the dirty word that it is today.

        http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/3682351/Hillary_Clinton_and_the_liberal_fascists/

        Liberal Fascism is littered with quotations from everyone from Che Guevara to Hillary Clinton in which all the customary liberal-leftist buzzwords tell their own story: ‘experiment,’ ‘experimentation,’ ‘perfected,’ ‘laboratory school,’ ‘greatest social experiment in history,’ ‘fix the people,’ ‘a living laboratory for experiment,’ ‘efficiently operating piece of machinery,’ ‘bold, persistent experimentation,’ ‘human reconstruction,’ ‘action, action, action!’

        Hillary talks of her desire to be ‘a town prodder’; Che’s motto was ‘If in doubt, kill him.’ Goldberg is not saying Hitler and Auschwitz could happen in America, but he does fear fascism with a smiley face; a caring fascism, a feminine fascism, a fascism of feelings and feeling your pain, a fascism in which you can host ‘baby showers with a safety theme (Hillary’s suggestion) and where the ‘sensitive, caring government’ (Hillary’s guru’s phrase) is never not there to ‘help’ and ‘improve’ and ‘fix’ and ‘prod’ and ‘perfect’ all of which were the core hallmarks of Hitler’s fascist project.”

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    • Yeah, “10 innocents and one guilty man” made me think of this story:  It’s almost a cliche at this point:

      • The police focus on a single (innocent) suspect
      • they don’t follow up on leads that point to it being someone else
      • the prosecution hides exculpatory evidence
      • an innocent man is sent to prison
      • the DA’s office refuses to DNA-test new evidence until finally ordered to do so by  a court
      • The man is finally freed, and gets nothing from the system but a precautionary apology and a denial of any wrongdoing
      • And it’s in Texas, of course

      But in this case, there’s something additional: the actual murderer killed at least once more, which might have been prevented if the police and prosecutors had cared enough about not convicting the wrong guy.

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  4. 3 and 5 are shorthand for entire argument sectors. (like “the living constitution” on the other side)

    Socialist is still dogwhistling. Social Darwinism is basically saying “but you don’t CAAAARE” about the poor. But it’s at least saying that honestly.

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  5. Some time ago, one of my best friends and I were discussing the whole “terrorists hate our freedom” idea.  As it happens, she one of those brown-skinned people of a different religion from a different part of the world.  She said to me “I hate your freedom.  Your freedom costs the rest of us an awful lot.”

    It was rather an illuminating moment.

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  6. My favorite part of this is that number 3 is in direct contradiction to numbers 1 and 2.  Government regulation is bad!!!!!!…. UNLESS it is used to regulate marriage in such a way as to exclude folks we think are icky OR it is used to keep us safe from the hordes of freedom hating terrorists just outside the gates.

     

    WHOOPS!

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  7. But Tod, you haven’t made any caveats for the helpless sodomized kittenz!    The Internet is just full of that sort of thing.

    Liberalz are easily fooled.   It’s like Hyp-mo-tizing a  Chicken.   Just gently push its beak against the ground and draw a straight line out from its beakie.   In the same manner, push the Librul’s head down and tell him to Be Fair.   See, Librulz are suckers for the word Fair.   And Compromise.  The Paradox of Zeno’s Chicken, no matter how much of a head start you give the Conservatives, they want a bigger head start so’z they can cross the finish line first.

    Goldberg’s a ninny.   The Conservatives managed to blow the world up with their Deregulatory Bullshit.   Four thousand dead troops and untold Iraqi casualties in a war based on a pack of lies, wore out our military, blew up the deficits, elected and re-elected the stupidest man of his generation… and there they stand like a bunch of egg eating dogs — without even the dignity to whimper and grovel like the dogs would when they’ve been caught.

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  8. If Goldberg were truly interested in writing a book about political cliches and how they damage discourse, he would have delved into the sins of both sides. He might also have looked at how our current  media culture encourages cliches, soundbites that can be easily disseminated without much thought and without having to delve into their actual veracity. He might have even sat and counted the number of cliches mouthed each week on both Fox News and MSNBC to show how both sides do it. And finally, he might have examined how relying so increasingly on cliches as opposed to any kind of genuine conversation allows both sides to talk past each other and avoid discussing the very real choices and issues that confront our country.

    But, of course, that’s not what Goldberg set out to do.  A serious book, as opposed to yet another left-bashing tome, likely wouldn’t sell nearly as well and would probably tax Goldberg’s limited intellectual capabilities to their limits.

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    • “If Goldberg were truly interested in writing a book about political cliches and how they damage discourse, he would have delved into the sins of both sides. ”

      So you accept the truth of what Goldberg wrote, then?

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      • Do I think liberals use political cliches? Of course, although not to the degree nor with the same amount of success that the right has done over the last couple of decades. Moreover, pretending that liberals are the ones who are cheating in the “war of ideas” is nonsense as it infers that conservatives either play fairly or have actually come up with some new ideas since Reagan.

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        • Well, the very title of Tod’s post nails one unassailable difference: the unimaginative left’s egregious and execrable overuse of—addiction to!— ultrahyperbolic pejoratives, demonizations, slanders, psychological projection, and even outright hallucinations.

          It’s become such a rhetorical banality that mocking it is an established literary form, like haiku or the knock-knock joke. Come to think of it…

          Knock Knock, who is there

          A conservative, Romney?

          Quick, check on grandma

           

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        • “Do I think liberals use political cliches? Of course, although not to the degree nor with the same amount of success that the right has done over the last couple of decades.”

          I’ve heard this argument plenty of times regarding all criticisms against the Left — Yes, but the Right is more narrow-minded — Yes, but the Right is more judgemental — Yes, but the Right does it more often — Yes, but the Right is more miltaristic. What I haven’t seen though are the measurements that give certain weights or quantities of badness so that we know how much worse the Right is. If the Right is like a tad worse, then that makes the two sides about equally bad. Is there some entity that keeps these measurements? Like, for instance, how many more cliches does the Right use in comparison to the Left? Is it 2 to 1, 3 to 1? Is there any area of moral, intellectual or political concern which improves the quality of life where the Right can be said to excel over the Left, or is the Left superior to the Right in all such matters? I’m just wondering, because if the Left is really that superior to the Right, then perhaps we should all just follow the Left and forget about the Right. I’m ready to let the Left show the way. The only problem is that no one can say what the Left really is. Are liberals considered Left? Are progressives and liberals the same. Are liberals the same, or are ther different forms of liberality. Do any label really do justice to those who are not-Right?

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          • MFarmer–My point was that Goldberg is being disingenuous in pretending that only the left is using cliches to “cheat” at the war on ideas. Puh-leeze. Does anybody actually believe that?  Where’s the left’s equivalent to Fox News? And don’t tell me MSNBC because it lacks both the viewership and the direct connection to the Democratic Party that Fox has to the Republican party.

            My other point is that cliches and banalities are about all you get in politics these days because of the type of culture our mainstream media engenders–where you put up a Talking Head from Side L against a Talking Head from Side C and have them battle it out, as if there were ever only two sides to any issue. Ideas have nuance and substance–cliches don’t.

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          • I’m not sure if this is helpful or not mike but here’s a recent article from right wingers in the right wing Washington Post no less pointing out that in the past several years the right/GOP has been doing it a heck of a lot more. Mind you they’re probably statists but I don’t think they’re liberals so maybe there’s some value to it for ya.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lets-just-say-it-the-republicans-are-the-problem/2012/04/27/gIQAxCVUlT_story.html

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  9. Just a little self-advertisement here, but one of my most famous tweets of all time was:

    “When @mattyglesias calls @jonahnro stupid and @jonahnro calls @mattyglesias a prick, the only winner is the truth.”

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  10. Thinking Simply Saying the Acronym “PC” Out Loud Is An Actual Argument

    To be fair, this is very often a response to the use of the words “racism,” “sexism,” and/or “offensive” as stand-alone arguments.

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  11. I’d love to talk about evidence and rational arguments in politics…ohhhhhh lets say we start with health care. I hear there are actually many examples of countries providing universal health care. Almost every one those has good results and those places don’t use ideas conservatives like.

    Thus endith the rational evidence based discussion.

    Goldberg is  a hack. He tries to sound reasonable enough to get serious people to take him seriously but is just chumming the water for right wing causes and to get book sales .

     

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  12. Serious ruminations on your five Republican memes with as little, er, few mentions of penes as possible:

    1. Gay People Marrying Destroys the Sanctity of My Own Marriage: …Also, it’s often championed by public figures that are divorced or caught in scandals outside their marriage bed; the lack of concern about this among its supporters has always seemed a tell-tale sign of its inherent lack of seriousness.

    I don’t know what things are like on the ground in the rest of the country, but this honestly feels like it’s deflating from where I sit.
    You mention the public figures and I think that that has had a huge effect on the debate. Remember the famous quip about asking which of Gingrich’s three marriages did he consider the most sacred. I mean, that’s an uppercut. Additionally, the scandals of a non-zero amount of mega-church leaders getting caught with male prostitutes hasn’t helped either.

    A million years ago, we had this thread here.

    A comment I wrote then (we were so young!) made distinctions between Marriage In The Eyes Of God (MEG) and Marriage In The Eyes Of The State (MES). It concluded:

    “…We may have the power to prevent gay folks from having a MES… but it always struck me that given the nature of a MES… you know, the manilla folder stuff…, it would eventually get really depressing to deny inheritance rights to gay folks. To deny hospital visitations. That sort of thing. These guys who do stuff like discuss which kind of hamburger helper they ought to get, who discuss their days, who discuss the kitten, who discuss the sock monkey vs. floppy teddy bear issue…

    To deny them a manila folder struck me as something that would eventually become really, really depressing and something that people who claim knowledge of the Mind of God would eventually sicken of.

    I don’t understand it.”

    I get the feeling that folks on the fence are getting sick of what they’re doing in practice in the name of what they want to do in theory.

    All that to say, I see this one withering on the vine.

    2. Terrorists Attack Us Because They Hate Our Freedom:

    This one made a lot more sense in the days of the Second Intifada and the days following 9/11. Why? Prior to that, the stuff I remember were the arguments over such things as Christian censorship in response to Ofili and Seranno and Kazantzakis and the almost complete change in tone when it came to The Satanic Verses. “They hate us for our freedom” is shorthand for something. I think it indicates a vocabulary problem more than anything else. There are reasons that we are hated and some of them do have to do with how much license we’re willing to take with The Sacred. While it’s easy to point at such things as our support for Israel in the face of the oppression of the poor Palestinians, we also have to point at such things as “the Buddhas of Bamiyan”.

    There are many reasons we are hated. “Freedom” is a poor word choice… but it’s not so far out there that we can’t even tell what the person who is saying it is talking about.

    (I suppose I should also mention that Osama bin Laden printed an open letter to the US about a month after September 11th, 2001. He mentions a great many things about his motivations for the attacks. The fact that we are sinners was waaaaay up there. That’s got some overlap with “freedom”.)

    3. Government Regulation is Bad:

    When I use this one, I use the variant that says”captured” (and, where it’s not captured, it’s something akin to either Prohibition or Stand Your Ground Laws… laws that, in practice, don’t accomplish what we think they ought to accomplish).

    4. “Socialist:” This term doesn’t mean what it used to, I tell you what. When I was going to school, there were still communists around who argued for such things as it being right and proper for command economies to punish people who wanted to buy stuff on the black market in, if not the same breath, the same discussion that they railed against the War on Drugs.

    5. Government Can’t Do Anything Right: Oh, I don’t use this one. I tend to focus on the things it does well. Protecting prosecutors from malfeasance, protecting policemen who shoot teenagers in the face with pepper spray, protecting TSA agents from charges of sexual harassment, killing dogs, colluding with corporations… there’s a lot of stuff that government excels at.

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    • “All that to say, I see this one withering on the vine.”

      Agreed.  I believe that in 30 years, 70% of those who are now against SSM will be telling their children they were for it all along.

      ‘There are many reasons we are hated. “Freedom” is a poor word choice… but it’s not so far out there that we can’t even tell what the person who is saying it is talking about.”

      Maybe.  But I still remember having actual discussions in the time right after 9/11 with guys who asked, in all sincerity, why some Dems (specifically those that were unsure about Iraq) wanted the terrorists to win.  And regardless of what people thought, I have a very clear memory the reinforcement that “because of freedom” was patriotic and “because of what we might have done abroad” was unpatriotic.

      This term doesn’t mean what it used to, I tell you what. When I was going to school, there were still communists around who argued for such things as it being right and proper for command economies to punish people who wanted to buy stuff on the black market in, if not the same breath, the same discussion that they railed against the War on Drugs.

      Mega-dittoes!

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    • The government also managed to pretty much destroy endemic severe elderly poverty along with creating a whole new class of consumer for the private sector via the creation of Social Security. But yeah, other than that, ya’ know, they can’t do anything right. Sell the whole thing of to AT&T and Wal-Mart. I mean, they’re much better at running things.

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        • Yes, I totally get the connected between local law enforcement assholes being assholes and the most successful anti-poverty program in the history of the republic. By the way, every time libertarians rightfully get upset about local LEO’s going off on power trips, they undermine the whole, “hey, if we just leave decisions to local lawmakers, we’ll be in much better shape!” argument. The only difference between local politicians and national politicians is that local politicians are cheaper to buy off and no one pays attention to them.

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            • Right. They can just go to war against each other, like almost happened multiple times under the Articles of Confederation.

              That still ignores the fact that the federal government does lots of good things very well, no matter how much you go, “look over there, it’s a unicorn” to try to cause a distraction.

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              • I didn’t cause a distraction, Jesse. I specifically said that I didn’t use a particular argument or criticism and then you started arguing against me as if I had.

                I’ll say again: Oh, I don’t use this one. I tend to focus on the things it does well.

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                • …and then listed negative things to most people on this site. Which I agree, is a nice little parlor trick. But, it’s still just filled with as little as substance as Goldberg’s rant.

                  Which is of course why libertarians will always be off in their own little corner. Because when somebody, from the right or left comes over and says, “ya’ know, we agree with you on issue x, but you at least got to believe that thing y is a good thing, right?”, a libertarian says something like, well, you did.

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  13. “I’m hoping this is just him tossing a little complimentary anti-college red meat to the Red State crowd, because otherwise it’s a little sad.”

    That seems pretty sad on its own.

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  14. nazis were facist national socialists who belong on the left because the word socialist is in their self description.

    china is the people’s republic of china so republicans are all chinese because they share the word “republic”.

    i doez this right?  i can haz book deal?

    but what if my parents were members of the DC village royalty?

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