The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas

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Release Date: 
May 1, 2012
Sentinel HC
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“. . . hilarious . . . scathing critiques of American political elites and their reigning conceits.”

The usual reasons to read Jonah Goldberg are either because you love him or hate him. With his latest book, a potential third reason emerges: To insure that you are the first in your carpool, chatroom, or coffee klatch to fire his latest barrage of un-PC commentary at unsuspecting do-gooders.

Let’s say you are especially annoyed by Bob in HR who goes on constantly about how diversity makes us stronger. You would immediately turn to Mr. Goldberg’s Chapter 7, Diversity, that begins with an admiring quote from Thomas Sowell, reigning dean of black conservatives, “The next time someone tells you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in the sociology department.”

You quickly leaf past the author’s hilarious likening of Barbra Streisand to Bluto in Animal House before reaching the core of his argument: “Diversity is an abracadabra word that magically makes inconvenient facts disappear and forces everyone to get in line.” It is, moreover, the outrider “of a single worldview that takes it as a given that political correctness is more important than factual correctness.”

Pausing to wonder whether the National Basketball Association might be improved by a quota system of “midgets and one legged point guards,” the author concludes that diversity is really about power and the “permanent license” it conveys to social engineers at many levels. “If you make diversity a compelling state interest . . . (then) someone has to decide what does or does not count as beneficial diversity, and that someone is invariably a social engineer . . .” (Possibly billeted somewhere in HR.)

But before raising that possibility in polite conversation, you might ponder Jonah Goldberg’s deconstruction of less sensitive slogans, which most of us find far easier to say than to examine critically. Like his Chapter 16, Violence Never Solves Anything. Actually it does: Remember piracy, slavery, the Confederate States of America and the Third Reich?

But Mr. Goldberg is scathing in pointing out that international order ultimately depends on enforcement and that Mahatma Gandhi chose his enemies even more carefully than his friends. Instead, “. . . the claim that ‘violence never solves anything’ is not a universal truism; it is a selective attempt to manipulate the conscience of those with might not to do right.”

The author also points out that the ideal of building peace through better mutual understanding (Chapter 23) is similarly flawed by that small detail known as “reality.” For example, I once served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, where Croats, Serbs, and Muslims had an 800-year shared history before ethnic cleansing sparked a civil war that eventually killed thousands. Mr. Goldberg argues that the same thing happened in the Holocaust, despite centuries of Jewish assimilation into German society. And, “let’s not forget that it wasn’t a Muslim who assassinated Gandhi but a Hindu. It wasn’t an Arab who killed Yitzhak Rabin but a Jew.”

By the time the reader has finished reading The Tyranny of Clichés’ 24 chapters, any surviving clichés will be those you truly need! Being familiar with the take-no-prisoners style of National Review Online and his other venues, I enjoyed the author’s lively writing and his willingness to make a point with hilariously absurd examples.

“The Crips don’t give a moment’s thought to the American Society of Engineers and the Bloods do not spend their days planning drive-by shootings against the Belgian Lesbian Chess Masters Association.” While conceived as a political book primarily intended for the faithful, it was a nonetheless a pleasant surprise to find Mr. Goldberg’s arguments buttressed by clear organization and well-documented sources.

As with the free-swinging prophecies of an earlier Jonah, we have now become familiar with Mr. Goldberg’s scathing critiques of American political elites and their reigning conceits. Perhaps in a future book, he will envision those ideals—old or new—that might one day take their place.