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The Tyranny Blog

The digital burial ground for tyrannical clichés.

The Republican Brain?



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I adapt a much longer discussion from TOC in today’s USA Today:

“They do that because they were born that way.”

If you say that about homosexuals, you are tolerant and realistic. If you say it about blacks, you are racist (unless you’re black yourself). If you say it about women, you may or may not be sexist, depending on who is manning (er, womanning) the feminist battle stations. If you say it about men, you just might be a writer for Esquire. But if you say it about conservatives, you’re a scientist.

Over the past decade, a new fad has taken hold among academics and liberal journalists: call it the new science of conservative phrenology. No, it doesn’t actually involve using calipers to determine intelligence based on the size and shape of people’s heads. The measuring devices are better — MRIs and gene sequencers — but the conclusions are worse. The gist is this: Conservatives and liberals don’t just have different world views or ideas, they have different brains; the right and left are just hard-wired to think differently.

Author Chris Mooney compiles much of this research for his new book The Republican Brain, which purports to show that conservatives are, literally by nature, more closed-minded and resistant to change and facts. His evidence includes the fact that conservatives are less likely to buy into global warming, allegedly proving they are not only “anti-science” but innately anti-fact, as well. “Politicized wrongness today,” he writes “is clustered among Republicans, conservatives and especially Tea Partiers.”

Between The Covers



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John Miller and I joined forces for the latest “Between the Covers” podcast.

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Over at Townhall...



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Jacqueline Otto has an interesting take on TOC.

Call The Roll



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Blogger Buzz: John J. Ray Reviews TOC



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The always interesting John Jay Ray of Dissecting Leftism has wonderful review over at the Blogger News Network (Ray for the record, has been covering the Liberal Fascism beat since before anyone called it Liberal Fascism). Here’s the lead paragraph:

I have just received my copy of The tyranny of cliches by Jonah Goldberg and I cannot praise it highly enough. Jonah combines an immense amount of knowlege with relentlessly logical thinking and yet presents the result with a lightness of touch that leaves us with at least a smile, if not a chuckle, on almost every page.

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Piers Morgan



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I’m going to be on his show tonight. Advice about his show runs the gamut from “It’ll be fun!” to “Oh dear Lord, what were you thinking.” Frankly I have no idea what to expect. If there are any longtime Morgan watchers out there, please feel free to give me some insights. As it stands I figure I’ll just show up sober and talk, though that’s open to revision.

Big Government’s John Nolte Reviews TOC



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An excerpt (please for give me for highlighting a few things):

Chapter by entertaining and informative chapter, Goldberg methodically hits all the lazy buzz phrases and straw men we’re familiar with (diversity, middle class, social justice, dissent). Better still, though, Goldberg drops the scales from our eyes (at least mine) with some that might’ve slipped past us (slippery slope, dogma, pragmatism). At the close of each chapter Goldberg’s deconstruction is so scholarly and complete, no one who isn’t intentionally manipulating our language will ever hear this nonsense in the same way again. You’re also loaded for bear the next time some Lefty tries to shut down debate by whipping out this age-old but admittedly effective arsenal (and shutting conservatives up — the tyranny — is a big factor in why these clichés were invented in the first place).   

Let me back up just a moment to ensure I’m not misunderstood. There’s nothing dated about “Tyranny.” For as long as the Left uses rhetorical nonsense, Goldberg’s book will be required reading — which means “Tyranny” is and always will be a vital work. My point is that the timing of the release couldn’t be better. In other words, you buy a copy, read it over the summer, and come out for the Labor Day presidential push much better prepared for what will be the key battle in this election: the verbal jiu-jitsu of lies we’re about to have to cut through in order to persuade a few thousand independent voters to come our way (by the way, Goldberg gives the lauded political “center” a delicious shellacking).

But politics and elections and argument and debate aside, the primary reason to recommend “Tyranny” is The Writing. I should send Jonah a bill for the three yellow highlighters his prose cost me. Goldberg is not only the rare writer with a real voice (who makes you burst into laughter regularly), but his ability to persuasively bring together history and wit and quotes from “Animal House” into incredible packages of knowledge and insight makes “Tyranny” a page-turner you don’t want to end.

Blog Buzz: RightHookNY



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Nice:

This book will prove to be invaluable for conservatives in the upcoming election, because the Obama Campaign’s entire agenda seems to be based entire in clichés. His health care bill, his occupy movement, his arbitrary sense of ‘fairness’ when it comes to taxes and who he decides his next boogeyman is going to be…it’s all clichés and phrases to be chanted over and over again.

In “Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas,” Jonah Goldberg gives us the information we need to fight back, and more importantly, mocking and ridiculing them as we do so.

Awesome Sauce



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Blog Buzz



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From Barking Moonbat: “I’m halfway through that advance copy of Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Cliches. Wow, what a great read.”

Meanwhile, Kirk Peterson is finding common cause.

Upcoming DC Speeches



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On May 9 I’ll be giving my first speech on the book at AEI. Details here.

On May 16, I’ll be at the Heritage Foundation, hopefully giving a slightly different talk.  Details here.

The Trouble with Arguments



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This anti-Cato, anti-Koch brothers screed over at The Nation by Mark Ames has too many flaws to address. Among the lowlights, he calls Charles Murray’s Bell Curve a “racial eugenics book” (it’s not), nor does Murray argue that “blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites.” David Weigel wasn’t part of IHS.  And so on.

Though I do think  Ames actually lands a good point when he observes that Cato is more of an institution of the right than many of the folks at Cato want to admit. That doesn’t make them intellectually dishonest or any of that rot. But it is true.

What I actually found fascinating, however were the comments, and I don’t just mean the commenter who seems to have rightly called out the Nation for supporting a writer who brags about getting fifteen year old girls drunk so he can force himself on them sexually.

In particular I thought this was intriguing. A commenter is deploring the role of think tanks in Washington:

Yes, but [think tanks'] main function is to pollute the political landscape with misinformation and create arguments that shouldn’t even take place in the first place.  When there is in argument, there is a stall in action against whatever the argument is over. No matter how stupid the argument against, it takes up time in Congress, the court system etc.  That is the function of these think tanks.  To stall, and even kill movements against anything that would threat the powers that be.  The powers that be, are the major funding entities of these “think tanks”.  The Koch Brothers are a perfect example.

Having worked in and around think tanks in Washington (specifically the American Enterprise Institute, where I am a fellow), this is high-proof hogwash. But it does show you a certain remarkable contempt for free speech and public debate that I think is revealing. Democracy, as I argue at length in TOC and elsewhere, is about disagreement not agreement. If you think the right’s disagreements are on their face illegitimate because they slow down the left, then you don’t understand democracy.

There’s also an irony here. The reason many conservative academics (I obviously don’t include myself here) find their way to Washington think tanks is that they are treated with such hostility on and by college campuses. If the left hadn’t made free discourse and conservative ideas so unwelcome in higher education, we probably wouldn’t have the potent conservative think tanks we have today.

One can always make too much of commenters, so make as much or as little of it as you’d like.

The Myth of Social Darwinism, Cont’d



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I’m way too fried from my whirlwind trip to West Virginia and back to add anything particularly interesting right now, but I seemed to have inspired  Steve Hayward on the subject of social Darwinism. Worth checking out if you’re remotely interested.

Not Just To See a Man Die



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I’m coming to Reno May 23! Details here.

West Liberty University Economics Club



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I’m speaking there on the 19th (not the 18th!) details here.

Send Your Cliches Now



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One problem I ran into working on TOC was figuring out which cliches to include and which to exclude. If you have some favorites that aren’t in the book, or something to add to the ones that are in the book, please pass them on.

For instance, one phrase that drives me crazy that we hear from politicians of all stripes is “Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

First of all does anyone know if he really said that?

Second, this is absurd. You know a better word for “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?

“Practice.”

Golfers do the same thing over and over again hoping different results. Dart throwers, writers, prostitutes, singers, dancers, musicians, knitters and just about everybody who wants to get better at something repeat the same behavior over and over again. The saying “practice makes perfect” makes a hell of a lot more sense than “practice makes you crazy,” though I suppose practice has driven some people crazy. But you get the point.

No Rematch, Alas



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Well, I got the word that “The Daily Show” has taken a pass on having me on to talk Tyranny of Cliches. The explanation that was passed on to me was that the book is too “one-sided” and that they don’t do books like that. As far as I can tell, that’s nonsense.

Of course, the show is free to have on whoever they want. I was just a little surprised. My last outing on the Daily Show was rather famous. Stewart went after me hammer and tongs for nearly 20 minutes and then they cut it down to five or six minutes, in ways — I’ve been told (I’ve never watched it) — that were quite friendly to Stewart (Here’s Mark Hemingway’s response at the time). I was hardly great, and I certainly should have prepared myself for such a hostile interview so early in the book tour. But Stewart was a mess. He seemed to think that spending an afternoon reading up on fascism made him an expert. I have never watched the final clip that aired, but in the interview he seemed obsessed — as many critics of LF have been — with some quotes from Mussolini denouncing “liberalism.”  The argument goes something like this: See! Liberal Fascism makes no sense since Mussolini hated liberalism.

The problem is that the liberalism Mussolini was denouncing was the “Manchester liberalism” of free markets and free trade, which pretty much bolstered my point. For the record, while I have huge problems with many of Stewart’s views and arguments, and have written as much many times, I still think he’s very talented and a charming guy.

Anyway, the next day Stewart called me and was very conciliatory and friendly. He didn’t apologize, but he made it clear he thought the whole thing didn’t go ideally either.  The way I remember it at least, he seemed eager to have me back. Clearly,  I was either wrong or things have changed. It’s too bad, it would have been fun.

The Myth of Social Darwinism, Cont’d



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For those interested in the academic literature on all this, a great place to start is Thomas Leonard’s “Origins of the myth of social Darwinism: The ambiguous legacy of Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought.” (PDF).

And here’s a pretty even-handed recap of the historiography.

And Damon Root has been writing great stuff on Herbert Spencer for a while.

“The Republican Brain”



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Chris Mooney comes out with a whole book on what I call “the new phrenology” in TOC. More to come.

Social Darwinism Fantasies



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Over at the Weekly Standard, I have a  piece on the Social Darwinism nonsense taking flight since Obama’s charge that the Republican budget is nothing more than “thinly veiled Social Darwinism.” It’s mostly adapted from the Social Darwinism chapter in The Tyranny of Cliches. In response, the Associated Press reported, “Social Darwinism, a popular topic in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is making its way into modern American politics.” I write (in part):

This raises the real problem with the AP’s analysis. It has the history exactly backwards. The topic was not popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but it is now. And it’s not suddenly “making its way” into modern politics. Liberals have been irresponsibly flinging the term Social Darwinism rightward for decades. Mario Cuomo, in his famous 1984 Democratic Convention keynote speech—which “electrified,” “galvanized,” and “inspired” Democrats, who went on to lose 49 states in the general election—declared that “President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of Social Darwinism.” Walter Mondale, the Democratic nominee that year, insisted that Reagan preferred “Social Darwinism” over “social decency.” Even Barack Obama’s April 3 speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors was so much recycling. In 2005, then-senator Obama denounced the conservative idea of an “ownership society,” charging that “in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself.”

Meanwhile, the myth that Social Darwinism was a popular term in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was largely created by the liberal historian Richard Hofstadter, whose 1944 book Social Darwinism in American Thought didn’t merely transform our understanding of the Gilded Age, it largely fabricated an alternative history of it.

But let us start with Herbert Spencer, the man who is always cast as the villain of the tale and the “founder” of the Social Darwinist “movement.” A writer for one British paper insists Spencer was “a downright evil man .  .  . whose passion for eugenics and elimination made him the daydreamer of things to come.” Edwin Black, in his history of eugenics, War Against the Weak, writes that Spencer “completely denounced charity and instead extolled the purifying elimination of the ‘unfit.’ The unfit, he argued, were predestined by their nature to an existence of downwardly spiraling degradation.” Hofstadter himself wrote that the (almost wholly progressive) eugenics movement in America “has proved to be the most enduring aspect” of Spencer’s “tooth-and-claw version of natural selection.”

The most creative assault on Spencer must be Richard L. Schoenwald’s psychological autopsy in the 1968 summer issue of the esteemed journal Victorian Studies, in which the historian reveals that Spencer’s twisted and deformed worldview stemmed from his fascination with feces.

Starting with Spencer’s childhood in the 1820s, Schoenwald concluded that “Spencer’s self-esteem had been undermined hopelessly in the oral and anal stages of his development; he could commit himself only to paper, not to a woman.” As a baby, Spencer rejoiced in his ability to “create excrement.” He never forgave his parents’ efforts at toilet training, which revoked the “freedom in which he had gloried.” This “fearful attack from behind” left permanent scars, which is why, for example, Spencer would one day oppose public sanitation regulation, because he “saw in sanitary reform an attack on his magical anal producing powers.”

You can read the whole thing over there. Though sending you over there, makes me feel like Santa in Miracle on 34th Street sending customers to Gimbel’s.

Update: Thomas Lifson has a very generous reaction over at the American Thinker.

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