Thursday, July 9, 2015

Not Exactly A Book Review: "The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas"

I have had a hard time writing this non-review. Even though I enjoyed Jonah Goldberg's "The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat In The War of Ideas" a few things are bothersome. 

First, let's look at the Table of Malcontents, or my slightly abbreviated version.

1. Ideology

2. Pragmatism
3. No Labels
4. Dogma
5. Separation of Church And State
6. Power Corrupts
7. Diversity
8. Social Darwinism
9. Slippery Slope
10, Dissent
11. Social Justice
12. Community
13. Ten Guilty Men
14. Living Constitution
15. Let Them Eat Cake
16. Violence Never Solves Anything
17. Middle Class
18. Science
19. Youth
20. Ounce Of Prevention
21. The Catholic Church
22. Spiritual But Not Religious
23. Understanding
24. Democracy And Unity

In addition to these nuggets, Goldberg gives us "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This is not so much an invalid cliche as it is an always insincere statement. It seems to forever be delivered by someone unwilling to sacrifice much of anything for anyone, much less sacrifice their mortality for a rival. They are willing to offer up their earthly existence but would they be willing to pay $100 to defend their enemy's speech? $10? $5? 50 cents? 
Goldberg dismantles with good humor the yo-yo's who make this proclamation.

It took me a long time to warm up to Jonah Goldberg. Sorry to say that his flamboyant mother clouded my opinion of her son for a long time. Goldberg is witty in a common sense, P. J. O'Rourke kind of way. This is an entertaining, sometimes laugh out loud book. It is also scholarly at times. Goldberg even works in a "Starship Troopers" reference, an always-endearing maneuver in the eyes of this blogger. 

The origins and evolution of the term 'Social Darwinism' are interesting. It seems that no one has ever been for Social Darwinism. It is always a disapproving label applied by Evolutionists who are satisfied enough with Darwinism to explain everything else.

Goldberg traces the origin of the phrase, "Better that ten guilty men go free..." and applies mathematics to the problem. In dollar terms it is probably not better that ten guilty men go free if such choices have to be made. 

Minor criticisms: Goldberg seems to run out of cliches at some point and to maintain a book length product he dissects statements about youth and invalid criticisms of the Catholic Church. Still, his observations are valid and long overdue. 

Larger Criticism: The subtitle "...How Liberals Cheat In The War Of Ideas" The title suggests that these are exclusively liberal clichés. To be sure, Lefties have made their contribution to Emptyspeak. Vapid terms like 'Social Justice' are parroted exclusively by Occupy types. Terms like 'Community' and 'Understanding' and 'Diversity' also have some partisan affiliation. But Conservatives talk about the slippery slope in regards to gay marriage or assisted suicide. Who doesn't use "Ounce of Prevention" and who doesn't lapse into an occasional "Hindsight is Twenty-Twenty"?

When Peter Schweizer drops a bombshell on the Clinton Foundation, CNN et al painstakingly alert the audience that Schweizer is a conservative reporter who might bring some bias to the discussion. Bernard Goldberg called attention to the broadcast convention of identifying conservative representatives and pundits as CONSERVATIVE but assigning no particular label to non-conservatives.

While this sort of subtle bias is frustrating, we have to ask ourselves if Conservatives don't paint themselves into a corner. When Goldberg dissects more or less universal clichés and blames their usage on Liberals, the line is drawn in the sand. Can we later complain if Goldberg is dismissed as a Conservative writer?

Don't let my nitpicking ruin your fun. "The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas" is both entertaining and enlightening. If this was Amazon, I would give it four stars.


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