Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jonah Goldberg Shows The Importance Of Idiots To Modern Conservatism

As you know Scott Walker recently "punted" on a question about whether he believed in evolution. And the reason is, as a Republican and a conservative, he depends on idiots to win elections. The National Review's Jonah Goldberg wrote an article about this, and it's vital to understanding how important the various mouth-respirators and gilled halfwits are to the conservative movement.

Mr. Goldberg is careful to notify his readers that he is not, himself, an imbecile. "I think the evidence shows that all life evolves," he writes. But he wants his reader to know that the sort of person who would blow his digits off with a firework to impress a comely second cousin has important things to say about the nature of humankind:

Beneath the surface, the salience of evolution as a political football is ultimately about the status of man. Are humans moral creatures whose actions are judged by some external or divine standard, or are we simply accidental winners of an utterly random contest of genes? If it’s the latter, does that mean we are only answerable to whatever ethical standards we invent for ourselves? 

This is a common argument made by stupid people. One dismisses it by noting that all revelation is hearsay as Thomas Paine did, which means the claim of moral objectivity is always suspect. One could also point out such claim is not only suspect but a positive indicator that the claimant is about to call for a stoning or a holy war... but either way, one quickly moves the fuck on.

No, Jonah Goldberg has nothing crucial to say about the big questions. Where this gets interesting is where he draws an equivalence between the braying clowns of the right wing and the stunted chuckleheads of the left. He argues that Obamacare has given homeopathy and acupuncture "elevated legitimacy," for example. And that filthy hippies often have stupid beliefs about vaccines.

"Point taken!" I say to him heartily. Yes indeed, filthy hippies are wrong about much. But he goes further, claiming that issues like evolution are not important in themselves - that they are only a way for liberals to attack people of "traditional faith." We on the left, equally anti-science, are merely against "a certain kind of Christian having any say about anything."

And on that last point, I have to say that Jonah Goldberg hits on something. If you're a liberal, or an honest thinking person of any stripe, you absolutely want to make sure that certain kinds of Christians get muzzled each and every election we have in this Republic. Many of those who are with me in this muzzling project are Christians themselves. Yes, Jonah. Certain kinds of Christians - people of "traditional faith," as you call them - have been causing this nation a hell of a lot of trouble.

This is where Goldberg's equivalence breaks down, and it's where his piece becomes truly important about conservatism and its knuckle-scrapers. Because we progressives don't have anything near the extensive and consistent record of empowering idiots that conservatives have. The numb-skulls who love homeopathy? No, there is no parallel between that and the unrelenting fight we've had for a century to actually teach biology in the nation's classrooms. Or the fight to allow women equal rights and control over their own bodies. Or to stop you from treating gay people like criminals. Or to stop all the nimrods on your side who want to set fire to the Middle East, because they are convinced Jesus will beam them up to heaven just in time to watch things get really nasty. The issue has never been whether both sides have idiots. The issue has always been about how much power you give yours.

But of course, the plan is not to give the idiots all the power. No.

It works like this: At the core of the conservative movement are the plateheads, flat-earthers, the neo-Confederates, the web-footed and the web-fingered. Now, surrounding those idiots, cradling them softly like packing peanuts around a delicate porcelain statue of a guy with an ass for a face, are idiot-enablers. They help. That's what Jonah Goldberg does. And surrounding those idiot-enablers, like a plastic wrap to keep them contained and to give them shape, are idiot cultural heroes. Over the whole thing, like a big cardboard box, are the representatives of the idiots. Why a cardboard box? Well, this allows the idiots to be "delivered" into the hands of the people who make use of them. Like business leaders who want to cut your wages and put poison into your groundwater. Or guys who think they can make money getting your kid's arm blown off in a ridiculous military intervention. That kind of thing.

The point is the GOP, the conservative movement, and their backers are working to help jackasses across America get every stupid, pointless thing they want... so they in turn can take everything they have. It's worked so far. Conservatism is a dumb philosophy. But as a scam, it's pretty sharp.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. BUY IT HERE.


  1. Mr. Goldberg is careful to notify his readers that he is not, himself, an imbecile.

    Setting a sadly low bar for not-imbecility, given Mr. Goldberg's credentials. While he does show that he's not as dumb as the tremendously dumb people, that still leaves a lot of space to be pretty dumb, and it's space he gladly occupies. Not many particularly major howlers here, but one pretty easy and lamentably common one: "either my concepts of how my religion works are exactly right in every way, or nothing means anything". That's the kind of dichotomy you can get past with one drop of empathy or two drops of clever.

    Which plays into the theory in the post. It's not a dichotomy. There's space between there. There's room for NOR - Goldberg's particular way of looking at his own religion is not entirely correct, but there is still some subjective and/or objective meaning to things - and, for that matter, there's room for AND - where his religious views are perfectly valid AND ALSO nothing means anything. So maybe there's room, too, for an idiot-enabler, despite being mostly cast as someone helping to wrap the idiots, to be pretty damn dumb himself.

  2. Point missed about Evolution is that it totally DENIES Slavery. that was one of the important facts not defined outin the Bible--that slavery is an economic and power structure imposed upon people of More Color.

  3. Godlberg has been an imbecile for his ideology since the day he drew first breath. Nothing new to see here.

  4. Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative. John Stuart Mill


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