By Jonah Goldberg
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (including suspected terrorists like Steve Hayes),
I probably shouldn’t be having this much fun with Steve’s plight. On Twitter I’ve been going on about my SteveHayesenfreude — the taking of undue pleasure at his misfortune. Hayes is a great guy, a real talent, and a good friend. But, how shall I put this? Bahaahahahahahahaha!
I mean, the guy has been doing all of this intrepid reporting about the terrorist threat for more than a dozen years. And what does he have to show for it? Every time he wants to fly, some TSA agent is going to ask him to turn his head and cough and give new meaning to the phrase “packer fan.”
It’s just so ridiculous. Unless, that is, there’s some truth to it. Imagine the scandal. If Hayes turned out to be deep, deep, deep, deep cover al-Qaeda, even Pamela Geller would be like, “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming.” Dick Cheney’s Secret Service detail would have to commit seppuku en masse and Bill Kristol would finally declare he was caught unaware of something: “I was shocked. Well, not shocked. I sort of suspected. Well not suspected. I knew. Yeah, I knew.”
And, perhaps best of all, when coupled with the revelation that George F. Will is actually a sleeper agent for a radical Marxist splinter faction of Up With People! (equally plausible), I could finally get some more panel time on Special Report.
WOMEN & WAR
Earlier this week I wrote a column on the objectively idiotic notion that we are in the midst of a war on women. An excerpt:
Sure, women still face challenges. But the system feminists have constructed cannot long survive an outbreak of confidence in the permanence of women’s progress. The last thing the generals need is for the troops to find out that the “war on women” ended a long time ago — and the women won.
The response from feminists — including any number of men who clearly put too much starch in their “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts — has been less than adulatory.
I wish I could say the criticisms surprised me. Over and over again women dismissed the very idea that there isn’t a war on women because, in the words of one, I am a “white dude.” Now anyone misfortunate enough to have wasted time better spent making replicas of Devil’s Tower out of their mashed potatoes reading left-wing academic gobbledygook knows that this response stands on a huge pile of identity-politics asininity. But, it should be noted, just because “white dude” lacks the polysyllabic panache of critical gender-studies jargon doesn’t make it any less serious. If anything, it is more serious because it is honest and decipherable. So much of what passes for academic writing these days is really a kind of guild-mentality gnosis, an impenetrable code intended to empower and elevate a priesthood (or in this case a priestesshood) as keepers of a truth the rest of us are too addlepated to grasp. (Time to recycle an old Jewish joke: Guy gives a piece of matzoh to a blind man. Blind man says, “Who writes this stuff?”)
One could babble on for pages about “structures of power” and “false consciousness” and offer no greater insight or intellectual sophistication than “you’re wrong because you’re a white dude.”
FIRST, KILL THE MESSENGERS
Of course, it’s not even original. It’s simply a fresh coat of paint on the decrepit edifice of cultural Marxism. That vast enterprise can be summarized as little more than shooting the messenger in order to have a monopoly on the message. If the truth isn’t to your liking, all you need to do is claim that it isn’t the truth but merely a social construction deployed by the Pale Penis People to keep the rest of us down. Facts can be dismissed by attacking the motives of those presenting them. And if you are foolish enough to explain that your motives aren’t what the self-proclaimed champions of the oppressed say they are, you are guilty of false consciousness and must “check your privilege.”
Maybe it’s true that pointing out that women are doing much better today according to myriad measures somehow solidifies my rank in the cult of Priapus, but I’m at a loss to figure out how. And, even if it did, even if pointing out there is no rape epidemic on college campuses earned me an extra round of martinis at the men’s club with Mr. Monopoly and the Koch brothers, I cannot for the life of me see how that makes the facts any less factual. If I slapped my wife’s name on my column instead of my own, would the facts therein suddenly be more true? (“Hey don’t use ‘slap’ and ‘wife’ in the same sentence or they’ll compare you to Ray Rice.” — The Couch)
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE INTERNALIZED
I didn’t set out to write a column on the war on women, I set out to make a larger point. But I couldn’t do it justice in the space required, so I carved off everything but the bit about the war on women. (How do you carve an elephant? Take a block of stone and remove everything that it isn’t an elephant.) In the column I wrote:
Obviously, this isn’t all about elections. There’s a vast feminist-industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic. On college campuses, feminist- and gender-studies departments depend almost entirely on a constant drumbeat of crisis-mongering to keep their increasingly irrelevant courses alive. Abortion-rights groups now use “women’s health” and “access to abortion on demand” as if they are synonymous terms. The lack of a subsidy for birth-control pills is tantamount to a federal forced-breeding program.
Well, this sort of thing is hardly restricted to feminism. One doesn’t have to read Crisis and Leviathan (or, you know) to see that progressivism increasingly finds its sustenance in the cultivation of fear and the demonization of political opponents. I could write pretty much the same column about law enforcement’s supposed open season on young black men or the anti-Muslim backlashthat always seems to fall on Jews or the new elite fad of gender identity as the most important civil-rights issue of our time. Note, just as with feminists, I’m not saying that there are no legitimate problems or grievances among any of these constituencies (indeed, I’d argue that young black men face much bigger challenges and have more legitimate complaints than any Sandra Fluke or Wendy Davis acolyte). What I am saying is that the constant crisis-mongering outstrips the scope of the problem by orders of magnitude. And, more to the point, it’s deliberate. This is the great irony. When I say:
“The U.S. has made enormous environmental progress.”
“Sexism and racism are smaller problems than at any time in American history.”
“Capitalism helps poor people more than socialism does.”
“The best way to feed a bear a marshmallow isn’t by putting your hands behind your back and holding the marshmallow between your lips.”
. . . the response from the Left is that I am merely trying to protect the vested interests of The Man and His League of Extraordinary Meat-Eating Oligarchs. But, when alarmists insist the Earth will burn like an ant under a magnifying glass if we don’t ban the internal-combustion engine by this Thursday at noon, it’s merely “speaking truth to power.” I mean it’s not like anybody is making any money off global warming. It’s not like there’s any privilege that comes with being a climate activist. It’s not like big corporations would ever think to take advantage of the issue. Nor would government bureaucrats ever use climate hysteria as an excuse to expand their own power.
Maybe liberals have a point about voter-ID laws — I don’t think they do — but even if I’m wrong, the relentless comparisons to Jim Crow and chants of “We won’t go back” are not merely incredibly dumb, they amount to a kind of insidious and willful slander against the society we live in and the progress we’ve made. Think about it: At least 70 percent of Americans support voter-ID laws, including a majority of blacks and Democrats. But in elite circles the push for voter-ID laws is proof of racism run amok. Think about that. When elites, in and out of the press, talk about voter-ID laws as troubling evidence of widespread racism, they are saying that the American people are racists. And yet they pose as if they are speaking for “real” America. This rhetoric and the reasoning behind it gives bureaucrats in Washington license to aggrandize — or hold onto — as much power as possible. (Don’t get me started on President Obama’s spiel yesterday about how the Civil Rights Division is the “conscience of the Justice Department.”) And because the mainstream media are on the same page, they celebrate expansions of government power for the “right reason.”
I understand that none of this amounts to a particularly new insight. But it’s really worth pondering because I don’t think people see the problem in its totality. The vast complex of New Class intellectuals and activists, rent-seeking “capitalists,” liberal politicians, and the apolitical-in-name-only bureaucrats who work for them actually hold remarkably radical views better suited for the crowds marching in the streets. But they have brilliantly figured out a way to translate their radicalism into a license to boost their own prestige, power, and — quite often — material prosperity. Talk about renewables: They stoke the fires of hysteria and panic and use the heat to propel them into positions of ever more power and advantage. America can never simply be a healthy country in their eyes, because healthy countries don’t need to follow doctors’ orders. And they are the self-appointed doctors.