Wednesday, May 9

Those Who Will Not Learn Their History Are Doomed To Rewrite It


Jonah Goldberg, "Netroots on Shaky Ground: What’s Left and Right." May 9

LET'S just get this over with. Just before 6 this AM I lay down and switched on NPR to catch the news at the top of the hour. What I caught was the end of the previous hour's news, and someone intoning something about "Anti-American Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr". Is this some sort of courtesy to the 5 AM newslistener who's got a baseball scorecard on Iraq he's keeping at home, but just can't quite keep the players straight? How about "Radical Shi'a cleric" Muqtada al-Sadr, or "Mahdi Army leader" Muqtada al-Sadr"? Or for that matter Anti-Saddam Hussein Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr? Haven't we fucked things up enough yet that framing Iraq as The Hunt for Anti-American Clerics is seen as a bad idea? There is now no possible way that Sadr is left out of the equation in Iraq. If you don't care for that situation, take a bus to five years ago and tell George Bush.

Speaking of stupid (boy, I thought I wouldn't find a segué!) here's Jonah, playing, no really, playing the Right Wing Intellectual card:
The conservative movement was a response to generations of growing statism at home and abroad. From the Progressive era to the Great Society, government seemed to be expanding in tandem with the threat of communism. The conservative project was first and foremost an intellectual one because, as Hoover Institution fellow Thomas Sowell has written, it takes an ideology to beat an ideology.

The conservative infrastructure that arouses so much envy among liberals today was an afterthought. It was created because the far more valuable real estate — universities, foundations, newspapers, and TV networks — were held by liberals. Conservatives used their institutions to have serious arguments about what conservatives should believe.

Swear to God, any time Jonah Goldberg starts talking about the history of anything older than 24 it feels like being asked to examine the crash site of a 767 to determine if any of the passengers had poached eggs for breakfast. There's little bits of half-digested stuff sticking out everywhere, and it's all covered in a horrific slurry that smells even worse than it looks.

So here's the deal, Jonah. 1) Political Science doesn't drive anything, and hasn't since the 19th century. Its students move to Economics, or International Relations, or remain Political Scientists. The fact that these disciplines are sometimes home to Closet Monarchists, Robber Baron manqués, and people who can't tell the difference between Ayn Rand and a philosopher does not bestow "intellectualism" on any of them. 2) Assuming that it did, so what? Faculties are jam-packed with intellectuals, and you seem to imagine they're all but uniformly liberal, so I guess you lose. The fact is that ideas function in opposition. True conservatism is the opposition to the democratic impulse. It's been around since we chased the Tories into Canada. Modern Movement "Conservatism" may have appended to itself an ideology you call anti-statist, that others say draws on objections to the increasing complexity of modern life, the increase in personal freedom and reduction of the supremacy of property that followed WWII, the collapse of Western religious and moral authority begun--by intellectuals--in the 19th century and completed by two World Wars in the 20th, and a political realignment owing more than a little to outright racism. It did not do so through some startling intellectual breakthrough, but by winning a Best Bumper Sticker Slogan contest. You've been talking to yourselves. This is why you guys were pretty good as the Pore Forlorn Opposition, but from the moment you gained power you had no idea what to do with it aside from cutting taxes. It's why, after thirty-five years of blather about "originalism" and "textualism" the only thing you all agree on is using either as a cudgel. It's why you're still blaming Jimmy Carter, fer chrissakes. 3) Believe it or not, Jonah, the world did not begin the moment you lifted your head out of the Cheetos™ bag long enough to learn something about it, however erroneous.

4 comments:

Scott C. said...

Thanks, DH. I wanted to tackle this when I read it in the LA Times, but I'm ashamed to admit that Jonah is just plain wearing me down. It's getting to the point where his Brer Rabbity advice for liberals should bypass the medium of ink on paper entirely and just be die stamped onto the editorial page.

But this is the part I found most charming in that coy, flirtatious, Is He A Liar Or Just An Idiot way of Jonah's:

The conservative infrastructure that arouses so much envy among liberals today was an afterthought. It was created because the far more valuable real estate — universities, foundations, newspapers and TV networks — were held by liberals. Conservatives used their institutions to have serious arguments about what conservatives should believe.

Transcripts of most AM radio programs and meeting minutes from the Arkansas Project will confirm this.

spaghetti happens said...

It's finally dawning on me ('bout damn time) what an intellectually hollow argument it is to hold--as all conservatives do--that academia is controlled by liberals. Hm-m-m, John Woo, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeane Kirkpatrick, to name three; Wolfie and Kirkpatrick came to government from academia, while Woo has gone to academia after helping to fuck up government.

English departments and art and music schools are controlled by liberals. Schools of economics, government, and history? Not so much.

heydave said...

The Doughy One is yet another noise box trying to pass off blather as something other than noise, passing off those who agree with the royal "we" as intellectuals.

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