Liberal Fascism

Tomasky & Virtucrats

From a reader:

If you can, dig up an essay by Joe Epstein that appeared in

the New York Times magazine lo these many years

ago–sometime in the early 80s I think. It must still be

out there somewhere. The subject was what Joe called

virtucrats, and in it he summed up the tendency of people

on the left (not all by any means, but a depressingly large

subset) to indulge in this kind of impenetrably

self-righteous, amazingly circular thinking.

Unhappily it has come to infect people on the right as

well, mostly because of the influence of talk radio with

its endless oversimplifications and its cults of celebrity,

but it is still primarily a cultural characteristic of the


As I recall at the distance of a quarter of a century, one

of the things Joe pegged was the tendency to use straw men

(as Tomasky does in his review of your book)–that tactic

of fending off an argument by inventing a substitute for it

in grotesquely exaggerated form (“well! I suppose you’re

FOR starving children to death and leaving women to die in

back alleys”, etc etc), then leaping for the jugular with a

morally superior demolition of a point you never actually


The whole process allows one to avoid having to grapple

with a new idea, at the same time soothing one’s own sense

of almost biblical righteousness. It is a facon d’etre

rather than a philosophy–this is why it’s effectively

impossible to have an honest debate with a virtucrat, even

a well-educated and reasonably bright one like Tomasky.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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