Liberals,Cliches, and the War of Ideas
Report by Betty Sakai
Jonah Goldberg is a conservative syndicated columnist, author of Liberal Fascism (2008), and The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas (2012). He writes about culture and politics at the National Review where he is a Senior Editor. He has appeared on several television programs on Fox News. He once described FOX as a “populist, tabloidy” network. Shows include The Five, The Greg Gutfeld Show, Special Report with Bret Baier, and Your World with Neil Cavuto. On other stations, Jonah Goldberg has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Real Time with Bill Maher, Larry King Live, the Glenn Beck Program, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Goldberg is well educated. Having grown up in the Upper West Side in Manhattan, he attended Goucher College, became active in politics and was the co-editor for two years of the school’s newspaper. Later he interned for Scripps Howard News Service, United Press International (among others), worked for a publishing house in New York, taught English briefly in Prague, worked as a researcher for Ben J. Wattenberg for his syndicated column and book, worked on several PBS public affairs documentaries, and served for three years on the Goucher College Board of Trustees.
Jonah Goldberg has worked on numerous television programs and projects. He wrote, edited, and produced two documentaries for the independent television production company, New River Media: (1) Gargoyles: Guardian of the Gate, and (2) Notre Dame: Witness to History. His career as a pundit was launched following his mother Lucianne Goldberg’s role in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. His mother advised Linda Tripp to record her conversations with Monica Lewinsky and to save the dress.
Goldberg writes a “Goldberg File” column for the National Review that is typically more cultural or interest-oriented, frequently involving humor, often at the expense of liberals. He frequently contributes to the National Review blog, The Corner” and posts light-hearted, comedic, and pop culture references. He also is a writer for the L. A. Times. His presentation at the Forum was informative and highlighted with humor.
Asking, “What is the similarity between a vet and a taxidermist?” he answered, “Both guarantee you’ll get your dog back.” From a medical school professor of anatomy, he asked, “What organ in the human body expands eight times when stimulated?” Answer: The pupil in your eye.
He talked about his writings and suggested that conservatives have given up trying to persuade the other side. The idea of God, he said, is important to civilization. The idea of belonging to a tribe is hard-wired in all of us to be part of a group. It is natural. Human beings know about 150 people. Christianity expanded the idea of God beyond the tribe to a universal plane. It started with Judaism and Christianity universalized it.
Poverty he said is a factor of the human condition. Discussing where the concept of democracy comes from, he noted that capitalism and innovation were regarded as sins for generations as they threatened the powers that be. Tribalism occurred. For democracy to be, a strong middle class would be required to secure it. In tribalism, corruption and nepotism occur. Corruption is defined by Webster’s as “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people such as government officials or police officers”. Nepotism is defined by Webster’s as “the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially giving them jobs.”
Tribalism (or liberalism) becomes better understood when one considers “I-Pencil”. People all around the world work together to end up with a single pencil that costs four cents -- involving lumbering, mining, science, manufacturing. Capitalism allows us to cooperate and work together but does not give us meaning. Neither does democracy. Reliance on government can increase one’s wealth but not one’s self-worth. The pursuit of happiness requires faith, friends, good genes, experience, and earned success.
Jonah Goldberg then reminded his listeners that we don’t live in America. We live in a family, in a civilized society. Today, people are using Facebook as a substitute for community. Democrats at their Convention stated, “Government is the one thing we all belong to.” This is opposite to what Conservatives believe. Conservatives believe government belongs to us, not the other way around. In his book, Liberal Fascism, Goldberg wrote that the second you say that the country should be run as one big family, you destroy the country. Obama once stated “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all work together to get the job done?” Obama recognized the value of tribalism but not capitalism. He also did not recognize the need for a strong military to keep us free.
In his book, The Tyranny of Cliches, Jonah Goldberg writes that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he did not exit. The greatest trick liberals ever pulled was to convince themselves they are not ideological. “Objective” journalists, academics, and “moderate” politicians argue radical ideas by hiding as centrists. Liberals spout many clichés, like “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, “Violence never solves anything”, and “We need complete separation of church and state [unless it supports liberal programs]”. His book goes into detail describing ideology, pragmatism, no labels, dogma, separation of church and state, power corrupts, diversity, social Darwinism, dissent, social justice, community, the living Constitution, the middle class, ounce of prevention, the Catholic Church, and democracy and unity.
Conservatism, he summarized, is simply gratitude. Conservatives are incredibly grateful for the inventions, the innovations, the standards of living that capitalism has produced over the course of history. Although tribalism is natural, as capitalists and as conservatives, we are on the right side of the elimination of poverty.
The Q & A Session followed with Vice President of Programs Erika Ammirati asking questions submitted from the large Forum audience. Jonah was asked a number of questions: (1) About Joe Manchin, Governor of West Virginia switching his party to Republican: Jonah answered it was necessary for Manchin to reflect the changing politics of West Virginia. (2) About his Mom [his Mom being an Episcopalian; his father being Jewish; Jonah was raised in the Jewish faith]: Jonah noted at age 82 with lots and lots of cats his Mom is doing great. (3) Asked about why he did not vote for Donald Trump, Jonah answered he lives in Washington DC and his vote would not count anyway. Also, he does not see himself as a cheerleader for any party but as a cheerleader for Conservative values. (4) Asked about who he wants to see as future leaders in the GOP, Goldberg answered Ben Sasse. Bob Corker was mentioned in the context of “it is easy to be brave once you have announced your retirement”. Mitch McConnell was mentioned in the context of giving him credit for Neil Gorsuch, and it was McConnell who staved off the Merrick Garland nomination for a year. (5) Asked if he considers himself a classic liberal, Jonah answered that he considers himself a Conservative in the Reagan mold. And lastly, (6) he was asked what solutions he might have for our schools. Jonah Goldberg said inner city parents want ADA vouchers to help them pay for and choose better schools for their children, but vouchers are opposed by the public school teachers’ union.
Jonah Goldberg’s presentation was fast paced and complex, reflecting the depth and complexity of his intellect and career. He produced much information. Jonah has an experienced, inquiring, assertive mind. The large Conservative Forum audience thanked him with grateful standing applause.
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