Friday, December 28, 2007

D-squared Digest Is Shriller than Ever!

It's a very nice Christmas present from Daniel Davies:

D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: Is Tom Wolfe the American Martin Amis?

I've hated Wolfe for a long time. Basically, starting half way through Bonfire of the Vanities, when I noticed that a) every single time a female character is introduced, we have to sit through a frankly creepy half-page description of her breasts[1], and b) that Wolfe seemed to believe that the ethnic nickname of the Irish in New York was "Harps", and that he kept on breaking off his story for some really silly jock-sniffing eulogies to the character, strength and downright manliness of anyone with Irish ancestry[2]. I thought it was a really bad book (the film was much better[4]). But anyway, every other fucker apparently liked it (though I have to say, very few actual traders, who usually love anything set in their milieu, even the appalling Ben Affleck vehicle "Boiler Room". And on the basis of that plus the "New Journalism", Wolfe has been taken seriously for a long time.

No more, I think. He's written the following blurb for a book which pupports to prove that modern American liberals are actually fascists (in other words, for a complete waste of time and paper - I have no more interest in how the author tries to make his case than in discussing the ins and outs of geocentrism. Since modern American liberals visibly aren't fascists, "engaging with the arguments" in this book is purely for the sort of people who like playing "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" type games).

In the greatest hoax of modern history, Russia's ruling "socialist workers party," the Communists, established themselves as the polar opposites of their two socialist clones, the National Socialist German Workers Party (quicknamed "the Nazis") and Italy's Marxist-inspired Fascisti, by branding both as "the fascists." Jonah Goldberg is the first historian to detail the havoc this spin of all spins has played upon Western thought for the past 75 years, very much including the present moment. Love it or loathe it, "Liberal Fascism" is a book of intellectual history you won't be able to put down—-in either sense of the term.

Hahahaha. Credibility gone.

I wish the greatest of commercial success on "Liberal Fascism". If it really takes off it will be like an infestation of herpes in the credibility of all sorts of leading right-wing commentators. The short term displeasure at seeing its author enriched is surely as nothing to the lip-smacking prospect, in four or five years' time, of being able to dismiss half the commentariat with an airy wave of the hand and a cheerful "yes, but didn't he write that embarrassing praise for 'Liberal Fascism'".

Napoleon said that when you saw your enemy making a mistake, you must never interrupt him. I wouldn't want to deprive my mates at Sadly No! of their fun, but I would really caution against being too hard on this book.

[1] I am told that this dirty-old-man tendency reached apotheosis in I am Charlotte Simmons, which I did not read because it did not get good reviews.

[2] An irritating Wolfe trope foreshadowed in "The Tangerine-Flake Baby" and the New journalism, most particularly the stock-car racing pieces, which in retrospect are chock full of bizarre racial biology theories about the "Scots Irish[3]" heritage of people in the Appalachians, and therefore of "Southern Culture" more generally.

[3] The "Scots Irish", beloved of Wolfe, PJ O'Rourke, etc, are the same people as the Ulster Protestants btw. Not a bad bunch intrinsically and all that, but I mean really, me neither.

[4] Although I have to say that when a cinematographer of the calibre of Brian de Palma casts a black actor with a wide nose, then takes a wide-angle lens and films that actor in a close-up from a position just below his face, he knows exactly what he's fucking doing and I regard it as the visual equivalent of the worst racial epithets.

John Scalzi Gets Medieval on MSNBC!!

Downright shrill, in fact:

Why We’re All Going to Hell, Part 54,302: A multi-billionaire industrialist donates 97% of his fortune to help fund clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill, and it’s presented by one of the largest news organizations in the world in terms of what it means for Paris Hilton...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jonah Goldberg Drives Andrew Sullivan Shrill!

Sullivan writes:

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: O Frabjous Day! 17 Dec 2007 05:36 pm: Jonah Goldberg's party might be dragging citizens off the street, incarcerating them without charges for four years and torturing them (if you haven't heard of Jose Padilla, you've been reading too much NRO), they might have suspended habeas corpus indefinitely, they might be wire-tapping your phone without warrants, they may be claiming presidential authority to ignore laws and treaties ... but the real fascism can be found in:

a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

Be afraid.

David Corn Is Shrill!

Huckabee does it to him:

Mike Huckabee: Playing Both Sides of the Pulpit: not too long ago, Huckabee was quite willing to be divisive. In a 1998 book decrying American culture, Huckabee was no seeker of common ground. He drew stark lines, equating environmentalists with pornographers and homosexuality with pedophilia and necrophilia. He also declared that people who do not believe in God tend to be immoral and to engage in "destructive behavior." He drew a rather harsh picture of an American society starkly split between people of faith and those of a secular bent, with the latter being a direct and immediate threat to the nation.

The book, Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence, was hardly a call to come together. Huckabee wrote it with George Grant in response to the March 24, 1998, school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The book was published in early June of that year, its cover featuring a blurry photograph of a young boy pointing a gun at the reader.

In Kids Who Kill, Huckabee argued that school shootings were the product of a society in decline, a decline marked (and caused) by abortion, pornography, media violence, out-of-wedlock sex, divorce, drug use, and, of course, homosexuality. Huckabee and his coauthor bemoaned the "demoralization of America," observing, "Despite all our prosperity, pomp, and power, the vaunted American experiment in liberty seems to be disintegrating before our very eyes." Huckabee, who was governor at the time and a well-known social conservative, blasted away at those whom he held responsible for America's ills, and he took a rather tough stand against government social programs and their advocates. In lamenting the "cultural conflicts" besetting the country, he wrote,

Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.

Why was he lumping environmentalism with activities he considered sinful? He did not explain further. A few pages later, Huckabee complained,

It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.

Huckabee did not say what public endorsement of pedophilia or necrophilia he had in mind. But he did seem to be equating homosexuality with both.

Throughout the book, Huckabee warned of going soft on immorality. He slammed those Christians who accept a "misguided version of 'tolerance'" and do not voice outrage at cultural deterioration. Mocking such Christians, he huffed, "We don't want to offend anyone." He denounced what he termed "radical ideological secularism," and he declared, "in the name of civil liberties, cultural diversity, and political correctness, a radical agenda of willy-nilly moral corruption and ethical degeneration has pressed forward." Without identifying any secularists by name, he wailed,

The legal commitment of ideological secularism to any and all of the fanatically twisted fringes of American culture—pornographers, gay activists, abortionists, and other professional liberationists—is a pathetically self-defeating crusade that has confused liberty with license.

This is not the rhetoric of a fellow looking to heal divisions within American society. And Huckabee approvingly quoted a "pastor-patriot" of the early 1800s who said, "Every considerate friend of civil liberty, in order to be consistent with himself, must be the friend of the Bible." That's a rather fundamentalist definition of a civil libertarian.

In Kids Who Kill, Huckabee addressed the decline of manners and civil discourse in American life. He favorably cited the trenchant analysis of the modern media culture that Neil Postman, a liberal critic, presented in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Huckabee argued that the entertainment industry "is conditioning kids to kill." But he also groused about unnamed "modern government-sponsored social engineers," claiming that "virtually every dollar poured into" government social programs "has only made matters worse." With such a remark, he was planting himself firmly in the government-is-the-enemy camp.

Elsewhere in the book, Huckabee denounced no-fault divorce and claimed that "equality in the workplace has ironically worked against women in innumerable ways." Looking for an expert on this matter, he pointed to a 19th-century author named Peyton Moore, who once noted, "Whenever we attempt to muddy the distinctions—the God-given distinctions—between men and women, it is always the women who ultimately lose." He didn't say that women should stay at home. But he heaped scorn on those who advocate workplace equality for women.

So what to do about a culture that breeds kid killers? Faith is more important than policy or politics, Huckabee argued. The "Judeo-Christian religion," he wrote, states "that faith counteracts the destructive effects of sinful actions and activities." That's what you would expect a religious-minded person to believe. But Huckabee went further and declared that nonbelievers tend to be evildoers:

Men who have rejected God and do not walk in faith are more often than not immoral, impure, and improvident (Gal. 5:19-21). They are prone to extreme and destructive behavior, indulging in perverse vices and dissipating sensuality (1 Cor. 6:9-10). And they—along with their families and loved ones—are thus driven over the brink of destruction (Prov. 23:21).

Huckabee is certainly entitled to his religious beliefs and his own view of human nature. He is free to think that nonbelievers cannot be trusted. But should Huckabee be allowed to play both sides of the pulpit? Kids Who Kill presented a black-and-white perspective: environmentalists, homosexuals, civil libertarians, supporters of social programs, advocates of workplace equality, and nonbelievers are on the dark side and allied with the forces of decline; people who believe in the Bible are the decent Americans. In 1998, Huckabee was claiming a religion-oriented cultural war was under way in the United States and he was happy to be a warrior for his side. Now he says he wants to bring together a "polarized" society. His 1998 book—full of unforgiving rhetoric—indicates that Huckabee is more comfortable creating divides than bridging them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ezra Klein Is Shrill!

He is shrill at New York Times columnist Tom "Airmiles" Friedman:

Ezra Klein: Better Press Corps, Etc: In some ways, I think Matt is giving Tom Friedman too much credit when he says that, "in order to reach a pox on both houses conclusion [Friedman] finds himself ignoring the very strong similarity between auctioned permit plans and carbon tax plans." I wouldn't, in this case, chalk up to ideology what I can attribute to incompetence. Instead, I'd bet that Friedman simply doesn't understand that auctioned permit plans are essentially equivalent to carbon tax plans.

This could've been caught, of course. Any expert would have noticed the misunderstanding at the heart of Friedman's argument. But no expert saw the piece before publication. So far as structural problems go in journalism, the way we do fact checking is actually a big one. Friedman's column probably went to some mid-level fact checker at The New York Times, who looked on the web sites of the various candidates, marked down that they had nothing called a "carbon tax" in their plan, and put a big checkmark on the day's Tom Friedman column. Same with Kit Seelye's piece, which went to some intern, who checked her quote and the googleability of the facts, and okayed the article.

For the sort of errors Seelye and Friedman are making to be caught, their copy would actually have to be evaluated by someone who understands the relevant policy issues. Anyone familiar with climate policy could have identified the problem with Friedman's argument, anyone with an interest in health policy, or basic statistics, could have seen the glaring methodological screw-up at the heart of Seelye's piece. But no such individuals were asked to weigh in on their pieces. Instead, the rough drafts went to the "fact checkers," who do something different and altogether less relevant.