Idle Musings and More


Jonah Goldberg

Unfortunately, because of this work-release furlough thing, my webmaster (if you don’t have one you really should get one) is leaving today around noon. So this must be an expedited G-File. It’s a good thing too, since I don’t have anything to write about.

So while I try to figure it out, let’s get the corrections and clarifications out of the way. First, yes, mopery is from Revenge of the Nerds, and I must say I am a little frightened, not so much because so many readers knew that, but because so many readers said it was one of the greatest films of all time.

Yes, “Were you burned by acid or something?” is from The Princess Bride — indeed one of the greatest movies of all time.

“My head, my heart wired together for some full-tilt boogie for freedom and justice” was from Firebirds (as long-time readers would already know).

A few people thought it a glaring oversight not to mention Pinky and the Brain in my discussion of really smart mice in the pop culture. Since this is one of my brother’s favorite shows, this was a real oversight. Only one person mentioned that I left out the pan-dimensional mice manifestations of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Apparently, “They are the ones who build the super-duper computer Deep Thought to come up with the answer to life, the universe, and everything.” I read Hitchiker’s a long time ago and totally forgot. I am ashamed.

On the column about General Loan, a few people thought that I put too much emphasis on Loan losing his restaurant and not enough on us losing the war. Technically it’s a fair point, but — guess what? — the story about us losing the war has been written a couple of times; read though the archives of the New York Times and you can almost hear the champagne corks popping as they wrote about it. That column is still one of my favorites and from the response it got, it seems to be one of yours, too.

But that’s all nickel-and-dime stuff compared to the response load about evolution and creationism. Many of my readers have spent a lot more time on this subject than I have. Still, I’m standing my ground. I do not believe in creationism as a science. I know the idea that we are related in some way to apes is unpleasant for some (“Get your hands off me you filthy ape!”). But, I think the notion that the world is only about 6,000 years old is untenable. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God and it doesn’t mean I think creationists are nuts.

Even though I cited Michael Behe (author of Darwin’s Black Box), many of you told me I should read Behe. Well, I have and I like a lot of his stuff. He’s not a literal creationist either. Which is to say, I agree, to the extent I am qualified, that evolutionary theory has a lot of internal flaws and contradictions — how else to explain James Carville? But I don’t think dinosaurs lived with humans and I don’t think that the Book of Genesis is literally true. I don’t want to hide behind the Pope’s robes on this, but he sees no inherent problem with evolution, either.

One thing that struck me was that many critics — most of whom were very friendly and civil — insisted on invoking the fossil record to prove that men did live with dinosaurs or other tenets of creationism. I don’t get that. The fossil record is overwhelmingly — and “overwhelmingly” may understate the case — on the side of evolutionists. To point out a handful of mysteries in a billion-year-old fossil record as evidence that the fossil record is A) a lie, and B) scientific proof of the anti-evolution case is a real dodge. As I said, I leave room for plenty of revisionism of the evolutionary theory and I am one of the God-believer people, but beyond that, I’m sorry, I’m on the other side of the divide (Hey, Pope, help me out here, I’m dying with these people!). One of the people who enlightened me — or poisoned my mind with perfidious secular humanism, depending on where you come from — is my friend Ron Bailey.

I am not comfortable with the sterile and cold steel floor that is his world view, but he has helped me separate the wheat from the chaff in my own thinking. If you’d like to read his take on all this, click here, but only when you’re done bouncing around NR Online for another couple of hours.

The other column which got a big response was my opus on pop culture and my own stifling hypocrisy on the subject. Many of you quibbled with my examples of conservative hypocrisy and you may be right on that. But everyone knew what I meant.

But everyone didn’t know what I meant about censorship. I guess that’s because I don’t either. So let me see if I can come at it from another angle. Censorship, like taxes, jail, the death penalty, war, is in the abstract just another legitimate government function. There is nothing inherently wrong with the practice, unlike say rape or murder or genocide. For censorship to be bad, good, or simply necessary requires a context. We all agree that kiddie porn should be censored (if there are readers who disagree, go away). The Left thinks that anything even remotely neutral, let alone kind, to the legal product known as tobacco, should be censored. And, in fact, TV cigarette ads have been censored since the early ’70s. So it ain’t a bad word.

I think the society would benefit from some benign censorship. At the margins to be sure, but censorship nonetheless. It happens all the time in the private sector. Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, major publishing houses, and book chains are constantly determining what you can and cannot read or watch. Yes, I know that’s not exactly the same thing as the government doing it, but it ain’t ruining the nation, either. The hypocrisy comes in when I point out how much I like the stuff I think should be censored. The elitism comes in when I say that I think I can handle being exposed to some of this stuff while I think others cannot. This is a very anti-egalitarian and undemocratic thing to say. But that’s me. And quite frankly, it’s an obvious point for anyone who believes in censorship — after all, logic would dictate that you’d believe censors could handle seeing the stuff they censored.

Anyway, this isn’t a burning passion of mine, and as I said, it’s all pretty moot since, like the gold standard, the days of confident censorship are gone.

On a personal note (because, after all, the above was written in such a cold and robotic voice), my apologies to the several hundred people who have written me with suggestions for the site. I have been quite busy lately (I was a little hurt that not a single reader ever mentioned my cover article in Food and Wine magazine. There are a few other professional developments to be announced anon) what with the website and all. I am taking all of your suggestions seriously and have already incorporated a few. But NR Online is an evolutionary rather than creationist effort and improvements will be incremental. You should check out our new feature, Clip Job [Link defunct]. I think you’ll like it. And please, keep sending (short) suggestions.

Oh, and about my question yesterday, “What happens 9 days from now?” Well, now it’s 8 days and nobody has guessed. I asked “loyal G-File readers” and like 200 of you guessed Rosh Hashanah. Um, has the Jewish calendar been a particularly prominent theme of this column? Does that sound like the kind of answer I was looking for? Why do you show me this disrespect? Haven’t I always been loyal? (what’s that from?).

Keep guessing, and remember for every wrong guess an angel gets his wings surgically removed.