The Tyranny Blog

The digital burial ground for tyrannical clichés.

Sorry for the Light Posting


To say it’s been a crappy day is a slander against crappy days. And it’s only half over, I’ll be on the Piers Morgan show again tonight for reasons that defy easy analysis. We’ll see how it goes, my hunch is he’ll try to kill me with kindness. But my hunch last time was that we’d have something like a normal conversation, so my hunches are worth only so much.



My book’s dedication reads: “To the memory of my big brother, Josh.”

Since today is his birthday, I figured I should link to the eulogy I gave last year.


The NY Post Review....


Very nice, by Kyle Smith. An excerpt:

Goldberg is similarly devastating when it comes to other truisms. Take the liberal talking point that we shouldn’t be beholden to “ideology” or “dogma” but should instead be “pragmatic.”

The left doesn’t like labels because the ones that correctly describe their thinking — Marxism, statism, socialism, liberalism, even progressivism — are justly held in low esteem. Goldberg traces this line of attack back to a denunciation of “ideologues” by Napoleon, who saw them as a threat to his power. Yet if you feel like Chinese food for lunch and your friend prefers Mexican, there is no correct “empirical” answer independent of your taste. It’s an honest difference of opinion. Conservatives are open about their politics, yet from President Obama on down, liberals claim they just want to know, as the president put it in his inaugural, “whether it works.” Then they breezily insist that what works is always more government. There is no ideology whose adherents think it doesn’t work. Ideology and dogma are simply scare words for values.

Conservatives promote “social Darwinism”? No, eugenics and weeding out the unfit were backed by liberals — H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Oliver Wendell Holmes and the founders of modern democratic socialism, Beatrice and Sydney Webb. Meanwhile, the supposedly heartless “robber barons” were, except for Andrew Carnegie, not Darwinists. They were fervent Christians who gave massively to charity because they wanted to uplift the poor. Even Carnegie believed, “He who dies rich dies disgraced” and became one of history’s greatest benefactors.

The left loves to delve into the rule book and mend the world’s ills by regulatory tinkering, but even when they’re expressing what they believe to be simple, universal truths, Goldberg finds the flaws in their thinking. When liberals are talking, he shows us why even the truisms aren’t true.

The Republican Brain Cont’d


A useful video:

I’m A Pepper In Winnipeg!


A really generous review in the Winnipeg Free Press. An excerpt:

It’s too late for the first two-thirds of the U.S. presidential campaign. But with seven months to go, this thought-provoking work of historical non-fiction peels back the warm, fuzzy surface of much political rhetoric to expose the slimy, crawling realities of politicians’ and pundits’ use of clichés.
American Jonah Goldberg, a pundit himself, is an unapologetic conservative who writes for National Review magazine and the Los Angeles Times.
In 2002, he ruffled feathers north of the 49th with his tongue-in-cheek screed — headlined Bomb Canada — about our response to America’s war on terror.
As he did in his first book, 2007′s Liberal Fascism, Goldberg brings to bear his exhaustive knowledge of history, discussing the roots and implications of such common expressions as “power corrupts,” “let them eat cake,” “violence never solves anything,” “social justice” and calls for “a Muslim Martin Luther.”
Goldberg asks, “What freedom is al-Qaida fighting for, exactly? Hamas? The freedom to lock women away in burlap sacks, crush homosexuals and throw acid in the faces of children?”
While the book’s subtitle will probably inflame the sensibilities of those who haven’t gotten past the title of Goldberg’s earlier book, a fair reading of The Tyranny of Clichés is both educational and entertaining….

Throughout, Goldberg peppers intellectual depth with peppery prose. In the chapter discussing political promises to the middle class, he points out how progressives in the past poured contempt on that part of society.
Goldberg is especially effective at dismembering arguments that cherry-pick science, and the appeal to the magical epithet “scientific” to forestall arguments.
“The idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing hogwash,” he writes.
“It is also hogwash that liberals are intrinsically opposed to science. The reality is that each side sees science for what it is: a tool … to advance larger arguments.”
His excellent chapter on the Catholic Church attempts to correct conventional wisdom about the Crusades, inquisitions (there were many more than the Spanish one) and the Reformation. Hunting of witches and burning of heretics was done much more by secular authorities, and by mobs, than by religious authorities.
“If the dungeons and torture chambers of the Inquisition were so barbaric, why did some criminals profess … heresy” to “be transferred from the far crueler secular prisons to those of the Church?”
Goldberg insists that his point “is not to exonerate the Church from its misdeeds, but to put them into context.”
Throughout The Tyranny of Clichés, Goldberg provides such context, which can serve to make political and cultural discussion and thought clearer and more sophisticated.


Chris Mooney Responds


I’ll get around to responding to his response when I have a second to catch my breath. I am underwhelmed.

The Shameless Guilt Pays Off


Some nice emails today in response to my admittedly heavy-handed G-File (though it really wasn’t intended to sound so guilt-mongering, I was just writing very, very, fast that’s what came out).

Here’s one:

Subject: Be of good cheer

I finished the Kindle edition of TOC, and immediately ordered 7 copies and gave them to the members of our high school debate team. We started discussing the book yesterday. No one has finished it yet, but we all agree that it is going to be an excellent weapon for us next year. We all had stories of encountering your examples in debate rounds (me and the other coaches while judging). The universal response was some variant of “They used that ‘one man’s terrorist’ crap on us at Princeton, and I wish I had had this answer ready!”So to your list of comforting accomplishments, you can add the fact that, thanks to J. Goldberg, the Randolph-Macon Academy Debate Team is going to kick some serious ass in the fall.

And another, from a longtime reader:

Subject: Loving the Book!


Wanted to let you know that:

1) I’ve been burned by pre-orders before…but pre-ordering your book
was not too much to ask at all, and it turned out to be a Very Good
Decision. I knocked off the first 100 pages on Tuesday alone. Well done.

2) My ideal, hypothetical Jonah Goldberg book would be about midway
between LF and ToC in terms of density, scholarliness, and tone. But I
greatly appreciate each book for what it is, and wouldn’t make major
changes to either.

(Except maybe to publish a separate edition of ToC in coloring-book form
to increase the chances that Piers Morgan might read it.)

3) Good news: I touted ToC to the Facebook crowd. Bad news: I did so by
sort of accusing you of intercepting my thoughts. To wit–

> Jonah Goldberg’s new book arrived today, and–wow–it’s like
> he’s been stealing thoughts from directly inside my brain. Like
> this one:

> “Now when it comes to enlightenments I’ve long followed the rule
> of the dad in So I Married an Axe Murderer: ‘If it’s not Scottish,
> it’s crap.’”

> I swear I said the exact same thing myself just the other day…

I had indeed said that very thing…I wasn’t making it up!

4) Reading the Acknowledgments, I once again got a lump in my throat
over Josh. That may seem silly, since I never met him, and I’ve only
gotten to hang out with you in person on two occasions (though pints
were lifted and a good time was had by all).

But I’ve been a flying monkey for so long that you’re a big part of my
mental furniture (as is The Couch of course!); and also, some of the
things you wrote about your brother reminded me a lot of myself. So I
remember him along with my own family when I pray for those who have
died; and this week I’m hoping especially that he’s been able to enjoy
the book you dedicated to him.

Cheers, and get some rest when you can.




And finally, damn libraries! Here’s hoping Mitt Romney takes care of them once he’s elected!

Subject: LOVE the new book

Jonah, today’s G-File only added to the guilt I was already feeling: I checked your book out at the library rather than buying it.  I know, this is awful.  I am a HUGE fan of yours (actually only 6′1″, 180, but you know what I mean).  I’ve only read the Introduction, and I already find myself saying “YES!, YES!” out loud (not quite in the “When Harry Met Sally” way) as you articulate points and observations that pretty much everyone else ignores or lets slide. They really need to be said, and the book has a chance of actually helping debate move forward rather than get sidetracked or stalled by conventional turns of phrase.

I’m trying to do my part in other ways: I’ve gone to Amazon and marked the good reviews as helpful, and the ones written by people who haven’t read the book or are criticizing Amazon’s DRM as unhelpful.  I’ve written emails and internet message posts recommending the book.  But I haven’t yet bought the book.  I was looking this morning to see if you were doing a book-signing anywhere, but I understand that so far appearing on TV shows hosted by left-wing weenies has taken up most of your time.  I’ll probably end up picking it up at Costco.  I know it is only one book and that won’t really move the needle, but more than anything else I want to accomplish one thing: ensure a next book by Jonah Goldberg.  

Thanks, and good luck.

My Apologies


I’m sorry for the quick rapid fire links, but I am quite simply exhausted. Also the Goldberg household is a depressing place at the moment as both my wife and daughter have been felled by terrible colds. As I come from ancient line of Hebrews who become utterly incapacitated by colds, I am quite fearful I will be struck down right in the middle of the book launch, which would be, in the words of the captain of the Titanic, “very bad indeed.”

More substance to come.

Me v. Inskeep


My friend Tim Graham faults my NPR level civility.

The American Spectator Reviews TOC


Aram Bakshian is mostly pleased with my effort, but there are few digs in there as well. I’ll take it.

Dyspepsia from my LAT Colleague


Dan Turner is displeased.

When less exhausted and less pressed for time, I will probably respond.

Deep Thinking From Mother Jones


They don’t like the title. I shall endeavor to sleep despite this terrible news.

“Scathing” & “Hilarious”


A fun review from The New York Journal of Books


Social Justice Demands It!


From the Chicago Sun-Times:

“If we do tax sweet drinks and it reduces consumption and that money is used to create a healthier food environment in those communities, aren’t we doing everybody a good thing?” Rao said. “Isn’t that … a form of social justice?”

Media Update


I’ll be on the G. Gordon Liddy show today at noon.

I’ll be on the Janet Mefferd radio show at 4:00

Blog Talk Radio at 4:35.

And Lou Dobbs TV show from 6:30 to 8:00.Around 7.

I will also be taping the Tom Sullivan show and an interview with Nick Gillespie for Reason TV.

I also have  to give a speech and (try to) write a column so it’ll be a busy day.

Hey Moe!


My podcast interview with Moe Lane of Red State is here. His review is here.

Red Eye


I’ll be on tonight, figuratively — and maybe even literally — with bells on.

In Tropes We Trust


Jonathan Neumann reviews TOC in Commentary magazine. The kicker:

The conversion of thinking people into trees and turnips for the purpose of cultivating them more efficiently and without any annoying individualistic guff is the grave weakness of progressivism (the central argument of Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism). The tyranny of clichés is indispensable to that effort because it is “a way to avoid arguments, not make them.” In a sense, Jonah Goldberg’s engaging and cant-free second book is not making an argument in itself; it is trying to facilitate argument that otherwise would be stifled by liberal cant constructed on a shaky foundation of self-satisfaction and ornamented to a fare-thee-well by intellectual conceit.



That’s apparently Obama’s official slogan (Someone really needs to photoshop Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, with Obama leading the charge).

Victor Morgan over at the Washington Times has a short precis on the history of the use of the word “Forward” on the left. It’s interesting, but I think he misses the more basic point. “Forward” is simply a synopsis of the progressive understanding of the State. The State has always been seen by the left as the engine of history. When Obama says he’s about going Forward, he’s also saying that he thinks the government is the thing that moves us all forward, that the State is the source of Progress. I have no doubt he believes this. And obviously the government is a major driver of change — however change is a very different thing than progress. Sometimes government driven change is good, sometimes not. The more important point, however, is that government is only one of many sources of change. Technology is at least as important. The car was certainly had a far more profound impact on society than, say, Warren Harding. The birth control pill, antibiotics, the telephone, frozen pizza, etc: These all are far more significant than 99% of what passes for politics.  Culture, religion and demography are also often far more important and relevant than the State. The problem is that progressives tend to see all of these things as products of the State in some way. If we are to go forward it must in the saddle of the State. One could say that if you believe the State is the source of all progress, then everything is in the state and nothing is outside the state. But that’s a point for my old book.

One of the overriding themes of my new book is that this hardwired progressive assumption, that the State turns the wheel of history, is baked into our language and worldviews in ways that we don’t always appreciate. From the introduction:

The Whiggish assumption in contemporary politics that today must be better than yesterday, this year more advanced than last year, this century wiser than the one that preceded it is held most dogmatically by so-called progressives. For them history is a vehicle with no reverse gear, and the engine that powers it is nothing more or less than the State. This is the hardened, metaphysical, dogmatic cliché that makes it possible for journalists to glibly describe any expansion of the government into our lives as a “step forward” or an “advancement” and any retrenchment of government as a step “backward.” A Republican proposal of market-based reform always amounts to “turning back the clock.” As discussed at length in a subsequent chapter, this is the core assumption behind the idea of the “living Constitution”—an idea that assumes with Hegelian ortho- doxy that expansions of the State are the sine qua non of progress (see Chapter 14, Living Constitution).

One small example: During the recent debate over reforming Medi- care, many liberals insisted that any backsliding amounted to a sacrile- gious violation of a fundamental “covenant.” Writing in The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn, a leading health care expert, quotes LBJ’s Medicare law signing statement:

“No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” Johnson said at the signing ceremony. “No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”


“Read those quotes carefully,” Cohn advises us, “because they spell out the covenant that Johnson made with the American people on that day: A promise that the elderly and (certain groups) of the poor would get comprehensive medical insurance, no matter what.” Now I cannot and will not criticize Cohn for believing that the government should ensure that the truly needy and elderly receive medical care. That is an honorable, intellectually defensible position. Though I should at least mention that wanting the needy to receive health care does not necessarily require a vast expansion of the federal government. But my point isn’t to debate the means to a desirable end.

No, the reason why I find Cohn’s argument so useful is that it illustrates the progressive mind-set so perfectly. Cohn argues that LBJ made a covenant with the American people—a covenant is a sacred contract—to ensure that the poor would henceforth and forever get comprehensive medical insurance. Here’s the problem: Presidents cannot bind future presidents, never mind future Congresses. Any law can be revisited, any presidential decree may be rescinded. One would hope that Cohn would recognize this fact given that his magazine routinely argues that not even the Constitution itself should be considered permanently binding and restrictive (which is to say it shouldn’t permanently bind or constrict progressives in ways they find inconvenient). What offends Cohn and his fellow progressives is the suggestion that any liberal victory once pocketed can ever be reversed. Laws and words have no binding power on future generations, but once Team Progressive puts points on the score- board, they can never come off. That is what is sacred, because their conception of history only goes in one direction.

This is the living, breathing heart of the progressive worldview. It is as ideological as any conviction can be. And that is fine. There is nothing wrong and a great deal that is right with having ideological convictions. What is offensive to logic, culturally pernicious, and, yes, infuriating to me is the claim that it is not an ideological tenet. Progressives lie to themselves and the world about this fact. They hide their ideological agenda within Trojan Horse clichés and smug assertions that they are simply pragmatists, fact finders, and empiricists who are clearheaded slaves to “what works.”

About Last Night


Okay, so you can watch for yourself and make up your own mind. I’m certainly not going to watch it. Heck I’ve never actually watched the horror show that was my Jon Stewart interview for Liberal Fascism, and that was at least entertaining as far as train wrecks go. (Too bad Stewart’s producers have categorically refused to have me on again).

Anyway, I don’t hold it against Morgan for wanting to talk about the news of the day and not my book (particularly given that he couldn’t even pretend to have read it). It’s his show. So if he wants to be a niggling pedant and score debater’s points by asking tendentious questions and then not letting me answer, that’s his right. I don’t think it’s edifying or even entertaining even for his very small number of viewers. But hey, he’s the winner of Celebrity Apprentice, he must know something I don’t about how to get ahead.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on TV and not had regrets of the “I should have said that” variety. It’s the nature of the medium, particularly for writers who can always come up with better lines given enough time.  When he asked me about Romney’s soundbite on Bin Laden for the umpteenth time, I should have said “Hey, we fought World War II to win World War II, not to kill Hitler. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take the opportunity to kill Hitler if we could have. That was Romney’s point about Bin Laden and the War on Terror.” But I suspect he would have kept being obtuse even if I had said that.

My only real regret is not pointing out to Piers Morgan that he proved the point I made at the outset of the interview when I explained what my book is about: Liberals lie to themselves and the world when they claim they’re not ideological.

After I made that statement Morgan proceeded to insist that he wasn’t biased or ideological and then spent a great deal of the interview carrying water for the Democrats with an alacrity that would make Gunga Din look like a slacker. All the while, he insisted that he wasn’t a partisan and couldn’t understand that I might not be one even though I’m a conservative. Oh sure, I’m nominally a Republican (so is half the country). Yes I want Mitt Romney to win. But that doesn’t mean I speak for the Republican Party.  It certainly doesn’t mean I’m a Romney surrogate. 

This is one of the great frustrations of media bias generally. Conservative analysts and commentators admit their biases up front, and so journalists dismiss them as biased. “Objective” analysts and commentators lie about not having biases and their statements are taken at face value. I remember when I used to be on CNN how frustrating it was to have liberal contributors be asked “What did you think of the speech?” But when it came time to ask me or another conservative it was “So, Jonah, what’s the conservative take on this?” Maybe recognizing your own biases is the first step toward taking them into account. Liberal journalists don’t think they have any biases, which makes it very hard for them to compensate for them.

It was telling that I  – the admitted ideologue — was harder on Romney and the Republicans than Morgan — the self-proclaimed straight shooter — was on the Democrats and Obama. It was also very interesting to see how he didn’t really grasp the distinction between liberals and Democrats, conservatives and Republicans all the while making the case for Obama from what he thinks is the centrist position (apparently he fawned and gushed over his next guest, some liberal actress. So much for going after both “sides” equally).

Anyway, I take Morgan at his word that he thinks he’s a dispassionate journalist with no agenda or ideology. But that simply reveals he believes his own lies and proves the basic argument of my book. He might — just might — realize that if he could manage to read past the cover.


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