To be sure, Jonah Goldberg and I do not agree on much. When he equates teacher salaries with "entitlements," I take issue.
These issues are, however, why I determined to read Goldberg's new book "The Tyranny of Cliches."
The underlying message is that the political left takes shortcuts to conclusion, while those on the right rely on objective truth or indisputable fact. No doubt, Goldberg would take exception to the phrasing I've used thus far, pointing out that he didn't actually say teacher salaries are entitlements. But he did put the two in the same context, leading any careful reader to precisely this conclusion.
There are, I admit, arguments Goldberg posits that I can support. In his chapter on "social justice," he rightly points out how the term at its core is hollow, void of quantifiable value or definition. "If you oppose liberals in advancing what they want, you are not just against liberals but social justice itself," he argues, and yet liberals can no more explain what they mean by social justice than Jedis can define what they mean when they speak of the "force."
The canard of social justice, Goldberg argues, is that, "Intellectually, it has no more weight than a gesture, no more substance than a wish."
On issues such as dissent and diversity, however, Goldberg allows his rhetoric to mimic that he decries. His arguments take him part way there, but he collapses into the very house of cards on which liberals build their platforms.
On diversity, for example, he cites the example of the statue commemorating New York firefighters after 9/11. Three firefighters raised a flag at Ground Zero, but controversy ensued when the artist, bowing to politics, artistically changed the race of some of the firefighters in the name of diversity. An explanation suggested that diversity was more important than "factual correctness."
But when Goldberg suggests as an argument against diversity that the NBA would not want a quota on one-legged midget point guards, he undermines his integrity, diverts his reader's attention and succeeds at what he criticizes.
On dissent, he does the same. Here he zeroes in on the liberal catch phrase, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism," erroneously attributed it seems to Thomas Jefferson. However, just as he does with diversity, just when he has a chance to leave on the high ground, Goldberg jettisons integrity for the thrill of putting his finger in the eye of liberalism. He equates the phrase with "the wife beater who insists that his spouse left him with no choice but to abuse her." The intellectual leap of logic is where Goldberg becomes what he claims to detest, the pontificator who prefers cheap phraseology to concise argument.
Jonah Goldberg and I will not agree on many issues, but this is what makes "The Tyranny of Cliches" worthwhile.
Good Reading. Rating: 3 out of 5
Glen Young teaches English at Petoskey High School. His column, Literate Matters, appears the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Young can be reached at P.O. Box 174, Petoskey, Mich. 49770.