From a reader:
Subject: Apologies for How the Academy Is Treating You
Dear Mr. Goldberg:
I have been reading your work for a long time, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was in high school, I read NR and learned tons from Rob Long, who showed beautifully and humanely how cruel and stupid people in Hollywood – and, by extension, all of us if given everything – could be. John Simon is probably my favorite movie critic, and what makes his writing work is that he gave movies – things that people labor over for years – his undivided attention, and let them speak even when disliking them in his reviews.
So when you started your Impeachment Diary on NRO and I found you had the same sensitivity that Messrs. Long and Simon had, that same ability to try to explain what it is that makes us human even while sorting out the litany of absurdities that characterize politics, I was thrilled. Sure, that sensitivity made itself manifest in positions that sometimes galled me, like your invocation of the “hidden law.” But you were being honest about what you believed, and your analysis of certain things – like how insanely liberal public television is – taught me a lot.
When I see people at Crooked Timber open threads asking why they should take you seriously, and spend hundreds of comments calling you an idiot, i.e. here then I want to cry. They’re being dishonest and cruel and not allowing you to make a single mistake. They’re setting you up to fail.
They have no understanding of how to be a genuine scholar. I work like hell to help those around me have the best arguments possible, even if I disagree with those arguments. I understand the spirit Liberal Fascism was written in. And I’m sorry you live in a nation of genuine fascists, and I mean that word in its worst sense. There’s no way I would accept the attitude of Henry Farrell from anyone around me; it is something I would end friendships over.
I’m just amazed you can take this abuse and keep going strong. I do recommend if you want to study anything, you might want to look at religion in American life, yet again, and ask if it has a charity that the academy can never have.
Thank you for your work, and thank you for your character. It is amazing what you are dealing with, Lord knows only the President has it worse right now.
Me: I appreciate the sentiment, really. But don’t worry about me. Attacks like this are a sign that I’ve hit on something real. If I really didn’t matter, if I was really an idiot, jokers like that wouldn’t be arguing about it so passionately (and, by the way, I wouldn’t have gotten the support from all sorts of serious folks like Ron Radosh, Tom Wolfe, Ronald Bailey, Dan Pipes and others). In a sense it’s a compliment. Most of these people don’t want to read my book or talk about me, but they recognize that they have to. Now, I’m no Hayek, Charles Murray or Allan Bloom, but the same thing happened with those guys when they launched assaults on liberal pieties and assumptions. They’re talking about me, swarming around me, because I’ve upset their beehive. This is all a defensive, protests-too-much, response to the fact I’ve drawn blood. I sincerely doubt I’ll feel like I have to read Matt Yglesias’ book when it comes out. Whoever this Henry Farrell guy is, he’s wigging-out about my book. I have no idea if he’s ever even written anything worth reading or discussing. And the fact that it’s all so personal is a sign that their cupboards are bare, or at least poorly stocked, when it comes to serious replies. No, the attacks aren’t always fun. But they are often amusing and nearly always telling.