Some email from readers:
Thomas Sowell once wrote, “…there are those to whom book reviews are simply the continuation of politics by other means…”
Tomasky seesm to be one of “those.” You handled him beautifully by (rightly) pointing out that not only was he lacking integrity and thus overtly unfair to you, the writer…but he was also unfair to – and at times outright dishonest with – the Reader (by criticizing your book for things it did not contain).
Tomasky and those of his ilk ought to remember that Readers, whether of books or their reviews, are not paying to have their intellgience insulted – or to be lied to.
About 3 1/2 years ago, I bothered you with the question of whether or not the fascists were socialists. I was in a debate with an attractive blond girl who received her education at Oxford. She asserted that the fascists could not be socialists because they emphasized the individual over the collective. I appealed to you for help and you were gracious enough to reply. I’ve been in this debate many times since and the only time this debate ever proves remotely challenging is when they bring up her point regarding individualism. Of course, by challenging, I mean the pronunciation of the word “Fuerherprinzip”. Of course, the lefty involved always remains angrily unconvinced which, probably, is the reason why I am marrying an attractive brunette next weekend.
Enter Tomasky’s review with the so-what caveat concerning the National Socialists actually being socialists. Left-leaning people of sophisticated education tell the community college drop-out (me) that the National Socialists were totalitarian individualists (and see no irony in it.) Now The New Republic issues this “big effin’ deal” moment. If your book accomplishes just that one feat, it’s a huge step forward.
Jonah,In general, I think you’ve done a great job on the book and responding to critics. I read your response to Tomasky today and wanted to comment. Forgive me if others have already written on this point. Many critics of the book have made the complaint that “we already know this stuff” implying the book is useless or repetitive. I think you make good points in response saying that if today’s liberals to know this stuff they don’t seem to have learned from it or be disturbed by it. But I think you’re conceding too much. I don’t know exactly who Tomasky and others mean when they “we” already know this stuff, but we, meaning the American people, absolutely do not know this stuff! I consider myself well educated and (not to pat myself on the back too much) know a heck of a lot more about history than your average American. There are many facts and concepts in your book I was learning for the first time. Very little of this is actually taught in school, whether it’s high school Western Civ, or advanced college courses (do they teach anything about the West in college?). If, by “we”, Tomasky means serious political history scholars, experts on totalitarianism, and random Woodrow Wilson buffs, then I’d concede the point. But I’m sure your book was written for a wider audience than those folks. We definitely don’t know this stuff. As Cal said, “Press on”!
Good lord Jonah. I don’t ever want to have an argument with you.
Loved the book,
P.S. As to availability, I notice it is ALWAYS on the requested shelf
at the library here in Mpls where it’s waiting for people to pick up.
Jonah, yeah, but what do you really think?
Geeze, talk about “deconstruction.”
I guess the only question I have is, why bother responding to a review
at New Republic, circulation 612? I know you have a buddy over there,
so maybe you were a bit wounded by the snarky piece of crap that passed
for a review. Frankly, I think I would have gone the Churchill route,
“My dear Mr. Tomasky. My dear, dear Mr. Tomasky. Sincerely, Jonah.”
Anyway, you certainly told him! 🙂