Jonah Goldberg aims at liberals, hits conservatives

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

You could probably construct a more brazenly hypocritical argument than Jonah Goldberg's latest rant about liberals if you tried, but you'd really have to work at it.

Responding to a column by the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum, Goldberg writes that "the simple fact is that the objections offered by the anti-elitists right now have almost nothing to do with Ivy League education. Fair or not, to the extent the Ivy League comes up it is as a codeword or symbol for the agenda of progressives." And Goldberg spells out what these "anti-elitists" on the Right dislike about the progressive agenda:

Applebaum doesn't seem to comprehend that it is not status-class anxiety that is driving the main critique of the elite. It is that this particular elite is hellbent on bossing the country around that will make America less meritocratic.

To date, I've seen not one instance of Tea Partiers denouncing engineers, physicists, cardiologists, accountants, biologist, archeologists or a thousand other professions who've emerged from elite schools. Because those people aren't bossing anybody around.

Got that? Conservative "anti-elitists" dislike the "elite" because it is a bunch of liberals "hellbent on bossing the country around." Goldberg italicizes "bossing … around" twice, so it's pretty clear he thinks this is his key point.

But it's an absolutely stupid point. In this context, "bossing people around" is just a negative term for "leading." Every politician's agenda can be disparaged as "bossing people around" if you don't like what they're trying to do.

If "bossing people around" is the complaint, where's the conservative outrage over a governing elite telling two loving adults that they can't get married? Where's the conservative outrage over a governing elite telling a Marine that, unlike his peers, he'll be fired if he publicly acknowledges his relationship status?

You won't find clearer examples of "bossing people around" on any progressive agenda. And so it is obvious that Goldberg's claim that conservative "anti-elitists" dislike liberals because liberals are "hellbent on bossing the country around" is bunk. The Right's complaint isn't that the Left wants to boss people around, it's that it doesn't like what the Left wants to do. And they have every right to dislike it. But dressing that dislike up, as Goldberg does, as some principled commitment to individual liberty is simply dishonest. Or dumb. Or both. With Goldberg, it's hard to tell.

(Goldberg himself wrote in 2008 that gay marriage is "likely inevitable and won't be nearly the disaster many of my fellow conservatives fear it will be" and on December 31, 2009 (via Nexis) that it should be delayed, which basically means that he's in favor of bossing people around for the sake of bossing them around.)

More Goldberg:

In other words, it is the agenda of a very specific and very self-styled elite, not the existence of an elite that is pissing so many people off. Some of the angriest and most dedicated people I meet at Tea Party events are quite wealthy and successful, often with shiny educations equal to Applebaum's.

So, basically, wealthy and successful people who are used to bossing others around resent being bossed around themselves. And Jonah Goldberg thinks this is a principled objection to people bossing people around. Got it.

And Goldberg provides this hilarious example of projection:

[I]t's only one subset of Ivy Leaguers that seems to bother anybody on the right: the lawyer-social engineers-journalist-activists they churn out by the boatload. No one begrudges kids who've made good from tough backgrounds. What bothers lots of Americans is when those kids then think they are entitled to cajole, nudge, command and denigrate the rest of America.

When did you last hear a prominent liberal politician denigrate "ignorant bible-thumping rubes in Kansas?" Probably back on the Fifth of Never, right? But conservative politicians suggest that effete, godless coastal elites aren't "Real Americans" all the time. Goldberg himself refers to liberals as "filthy hippies," to pick one of many slurs. But in Jonah Goldberg's fantasy world of paranoia and oppression, it is liberals who denigrate the rest of America.

If you ever catch yourself thinking Jonah Goldberg is completely useless, just remember that in his attacks on liberals, he provides convenient reminders of the flaws of conservatives.

National Review
Jonah Goldberg
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