If you don’t know how to use the word “neocon,” don’t. Seriously, don’t. If you’re even the teensiest bit unsure, don’t. Because when you use it wrong you illuminate such vast swaths of ignorance so as to make it difficult to be taken seriously on other subjects. An amazing case in point from Tina Brown’s column today defending Conrad Black:
The meager turnout was a bummer, since Black’s 1,300-page biography has had stellar reviews. Historians from Alan Brinkley to Daniel Yergin have hailed it as the best single volume on the many perplexing aspects of FDR’s political life. A belligerent neo-con before it was fashionable, Black has paradoxically contrived to write an admiring appraisal of Roosevelt’s pre-Pearl Harbor reluctance to fight the Nazis and the economic interventionism of the New Deal for which neo-cons of the ’30s bitterly reviled FDR as “that man.”
Now, to the extent I understand the charges, I am all in favor of defending Conrad Black. But, Tina, there were no “neocons” in the 1930s, hyphenated or otherwise. As a matter of intellectual history, this is like referring to “Christians” in 500 B.C. Does Brown think that only “neo-cons” disliked FDR but authentic cons loved him? Seriously, when in doubt, shut up.