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Jonah Goldberg

Yesterday, somebody from CNN called me. He asked, “Is this Jonah Goldberg?”

I said, “Uh huh.”

He asked, “Is this Jonah Goldberg of National Review?”

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I said, “Yep.”

He said, “The one who wrote that article today?”

I said, “Yep.” I assumed he was referring to my piece about my old grade school banning Mother’s Day, which had been linked to Drudge.

“You must be a huge idiot. It was really idiotic. It was the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read.”

A little taken aback, and even more disappointed that CNN evidently cannot afford a better thesaurus, I said something along the lines of “Okay.”

He went back to using the word “idiotic” a few more times.

I said something along the lines of “Who is this?” At which point he finally decided that the treads on the word “idiotic” had been worn down to the rims and he said, “And you shouldn’t talk, since you look like a big queen in that pop-up ad!”

At this point I said, “Look, I can tell from the caller I.D. that you’re from CNN [in New York], so why don’t you have the guts to put your name to your opinion?”

A bit surprised by the fact I knew where he was calling from, he stammered, and then insisted that giving me his name would be “unprofessional.”

I told him it was more like “cowardly” — though I didn’t use the word “coward” (my thesaurus being a bit more advanced and a lot dirtier). I was willing to sign my name for all the world to see, I told him, and here he was calling me like some crank caller lacking the testicular fortitude to even give me his name.

Now indignant, he insisted a few more times that it would be “unprofessional” for him to give me his name, adding, again, that I was an idiot.

What I liked about this defense was the implication that calling up journalists and anonymously calling them “idiots” and “queens” fits well within the parameters of CNN’s code of professional conduct. But using your own name? Well, that would be unprofessional.

Anyway, he coughed up the words “idiotic” and “unprofessional” a few more times and I yelled a few more times and then I hung up.

Now, why am I bringing this up? Well, sure, it’s an interesting little story from the belly of the CNN beast. Maybe it says something about the political leanings of some people — or someone — at the “Cable News Network of Record.” Or maybe someone’s kid was bored while waiting for his mom or dad. Perhaps it was an intern from an Ivy League school who thinks his opinion has absolute intellectual authority. Who knows? And more to the point, who cares?

Well, the truth is, I do. If I didn’t wallop this guy over the head with a semi-frozen flounder for such a Dershowitz move, I’d be kicked out of the Self-Indulgent Online Columnist’s Union. I mean, what’s the point of paying dues at all if you have to let that sort of junk pass? He’s just lucky I don’t publish the phone number.

So, look, there’s another reason I’ve told you this very true story: I want to give you just a taste of the sort of insider,

fast-paced, the walls-have-ears salacious 411 you can expect from my tell-all book, I Sweat When I Eat: Tales of an Online Outcast.

Okay, actually, that’s not the title. The truth is I don’t have a title yet. And, I don’t really have a book yet, either. But I’d really like to have both.

Everyday, at least one or two people write me to ask, “When are you going to write a book?”

Of course, one or two people write me everyday to ask, “Are you the guy with the Wiffleball bat and the dude dressed up like the Princeton Tiger’s mascot in that very odd art film I just rented?”

To which I tell them, “That’s not me. That’s not a Wiffleball bat. And that’s definitely not an art film. (It’s actually a teaching aid in Peter Singer’s “Intro to Human Values” course).

Anyway, I would really, really like to write a book. My motivations are threefold. I would love to do my small part to influence the important debates of the day toward a more traditional, human, and ordered understanding and appreciation of liberty and civilization. I would also like to help people understand that conservatives do not need twenty metric tons of bran just to crack a smile at a Three Stooges movie.

But hey, let’s be honest: Another reason is that I could also really use the schmundo. I’m getting married soon, and hopefully episodes of Goldbergs: the Next Generation will air shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, I have a dog that operates on the same marketing principle as DSL Internet accounts; I got the hardware installed dirt cheap, but the monthly payments are killing me. Factor in that my taste for various brown liquors is not getting any less expensive, the inevitability of liposuction as my only viable option, and the fact that I like to play craps but my attention deficit disorder prevents me from memorizing the rules, and you can see why I need the money.

Seriously, the idea is this: I want to write a book much along the lines of my columns — but not a collection of columns. I want to hit all the big themes: the perils of libertarianism; the genius of Edmund Burke; why France is a real threat; the benefits of hidden law and police brutality; the downside to the holodeck and the upside of Klingon ethnicity; the greatness of The Simpsons, Budweiser, and the benefits of sweatshops; and, of course, why the media is liberal and Michael Moore smells like an old refrigerator with a corpse inside. You know, the big stuff.

I think conservatives specifically and America in general could use a serious book that’s written with humor and a humorous book about serious things. We can’t rely on P. J. O’Rourke forever.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking. My problem isn’t so much coming up with content or even finding a publisher. But I am struggling with a title and with the general organization.

What I’d like to hear from you are suggestions for titles — Don’t Steal This Book; Pay For It and Avoid Becoming Someone’s Jailhouse Wife, Only Users Lose Drugs, or Let’s Leave a Few Kids Behind: the Case for Uncompassionate Conservatism, etc. — and suggestions about what specific columns and topics from the Goldberg File oeuvre you would most like to see expanded into book or chapter-length discussion. And lastly, whether or not you’d buy the damned thing. If I can’t write this book for you people, I don’t want to write it at all.

All I ask is that you don’t tell me the book you want to write; no offense, but I get too much of that already. Also, please, no e-mail telling me how sure you are that I am the guy with the Wiffleball bat.

Thanks a bunch. And keep hope alive.



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