Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Goldberg and the paleocons

Jonah Goldberg responds to paleocon Daniel Larison, and notes as well Ross Douthat’s intervention.

Larison has a hard time showing respect for people with whom he disagrees (I’ve been on the receiving end a couple of times), and I don’t think Jonah deserves the Larison treatment.

If you want to see something of Larison’s self-understanding, read this, where he responds to the Daniel Henninger piece I noted here:

If I write in a bitter, withering tone in many posts, I learned it from reading the Journal’s editorials as a boy–these were always laced with irony and also quite frequently with contempt for their subjects. Yes, the blogosphere is far less restrained, and particularly in comment sections this becomes quite dreadful at some sites, and I am certainly strongly in favour of restraint, but any attempt to dictate a “code” to bloggers is an attempt to control them and limit their influence.


Bloggers are notoriously combative and often seem unusually “angry” to the refined, calm columnists and media watchers, because many of us, unlike them, actually have opinions that do not resemble weak tea. Having gagged on years and years of their spoon-fed pablum, we spit it back in their face and they discover that they don’t like it at all. Sometimes we’re angry, and sometimes we’re simply calling establishment pundits and media outlets on their flaws in a particularly pointed and critical way that these people can only interpret as a “screed” or an expression of crazed rage. What I despise is the pretense put forward by establishment figures and institutions that they hold the keys to the definitions of moderation and reasonableness. Their insipid policy views are half the reason so many of us are so agitated about the state of affairs today.

I run what I am proud to say is a pretty clean and respectful [say what?] house here at Eunomia, so I know it is possible to create a healthy atmosphere of combative back and forth that does not have to degenerate into mudslinging and insults.... There is a lot of invective and criticism and obvious hostility to various hacks, villains and tyrants who deserve that hostility here at my blog. If I were to subscribe to this bizarre code, I would basically have to stop writing 85% of what I write because of rule #2 alone:

We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.

I find such a restriction completely unrealistic and inappropriate. In person, I actually try to be diplomatic and seek to avoid harsh exchanges of words or even intense disagreements. I do this for the sake of civility, and because I am not inclined as a matter of temperament to getting into shouting matches with people face to face,


Written invective will be the outlet for a society choking under the imposed constraints of political correctness and thought crimes. The more consolidated major corporate media become, and the more autocratic the government becomes, the greater the demand will be for increasingly unfettered expression to rebel against these things. To take away that outlet, or to try to say that there is something deeply wrong with that written invective will be to ensure that there are explosions of outrage elsewhere in society.

He offers two justifications here for his tone. First, the objects of his scorn deserve it. Second, if he, and others like him, can’t do this in print, they’ll explode in other, less pleasant ways.

Now, I don’t object to satire, because satirists don’t take themselves too terribly seriously. They’ve got some distance from their anger and are unlikely to explode (as Larison implies he might, if he didn’t have this outlet). But Larison’s bile seems utterly serious and not terribly funny. Give me Aristophanes any day. Give me even P.J. O’Rourke and R. Emmett Tyrell any day. And give me Jonah Goldberg....

Discussions - 11 Comments

I've never noticed that Goldberg is particularly respectful towards those he disagrees with. Nor are Tyrell or O'Rourke. It seems a bit self-serving to say that certain words are acceptable because they are "satire".

satirists don’t take themselves too terribly seriously

Sure they do. They also tend to express themselves in a very caustic fashion.

We have been following this little tiff at Conservative Times as well.

I think a defense for Larison could easily be, while a little playground, that the neocons "started it." Bradford, Buchanan, "Unpatriotic Conservatives," "The End of Racism," many of Horowitz's screeds, etc. etc. etc.

As I see it, the primary objection of the paleos is that the neocons/mainstream conservatives/movement conservatives are inauthentic conservatives. That they are, if fact, a type of liberal. That they high-jacked a movement. These charges strike me as rather high-minded and easily debatable. The most potentially low-minded (is that a word?) charge is the issue of Israel which wouldn't even be that emotionally laden if not for the ultra-sensitive PC atmosphere.

In response, the frequent charges from the neo brigade are "racism," "bigotry," "fascism," and let's not forget "treason." (For the record, I have personally reframed from using the t word from my side when the issues of Israel or border security come up because it is too emotionally laden a word and does not further the debate.)

The paleo charges seem, as I said, debatable and entirely fair. To the charge of "Neocons are a type of liberal," one could easily respond, "No we are not and here is why" or "Yes we are and here is why that is a good thing."

How are paleos supposed to respond to a charge that they are a "bigot?" Now in a sensible, non-PC dominated environment, grown men and women could discuss the degree to which people are and should be motivated by blood ties vs. creed, for example. But it is dangerous to have that debate in today's environment and the neocons know it. So leveling the charge seems to me like obvious PC preening. That to make the charge is to essentially win and end the debate. It shows the accuser as someone who is against "bigotry" and associates the accused with that most unpardonable of sins.

So to me, Larison's anger is entirely understandable. It is the anger of the participant in a contest who knows the rules are deliberately stacked against him. People who are supposed to be at least partial friends (neocons) are using clearly enemy forces (political correctness) against him. And by so doing they legitimize and strengthen those enemy forces.

"but I think there's some truth to the underlying idea, which is that paleoconservatism tends to display the weaknesses you would expect from an intellectual movement that hasn't held power, in any meaningful way, in God knows how long - specifically, a tendency to advance ideas without any regard whatsoever to their practicality, to condemn others for making compromises without pausing to consider the constraints and difficulties involved, and to obsess endlessly over battles that were lost a long time ago."

I don't entirely disagree with this basic assessment by Douthat, but it is not objectively stated. First, paleoconservatism and conservative political purism are not the same thing, although, for obvious reasons, there are more per capita purist paleos than there are purist mainstream conservatives. (Half the CP is purist mainstream conservatives in my experience. And much of the Chronicles Magazine crowd is coldly realistic.) Paleoconservativism is a philosophical predisposition, the fundamental rejection of liberalism. Purism is more obviously political and suggests a particular strategy and an unwillingness to compromise. More favorably stated it is the elevation of principles over political or pragmatic concerns.

But why is the more prominent purism of paleos a "weakness?" That is a value judgment that reflects the default pragmatic mindset of most political commentators. Why is fighting lost battles an unworthy endeavor? Especially if many current problems can be traced to those lost battles.

Since he identifies paleoconservatism as an intellectual movement, which is largely correct, then why should they not concern themselves primarily with ideas, and leave the political log-rolling to party people.

No offense to anyone here, but I think part of the problem with the modern conservative intellectual movement is that it became too closely identified with party politics. This is equally a problem on the left. Michael Lind, no paleo, has made this observation, and I agree.

Larison really is vicious and hate-filled. All commentators use invective to a certain extent but he achieves a dailyKos level.

Note, Larison is not wrong or misguided. He is "vicious and hate-filled." I pretty much rest my case. Who uses words like "hate-filled?"

Who uses words like "hate-filled?"


"Here is Jonah Goldberg attacking Daniel Larison, because of what Larison said here. Of course, there is no real competition, since Larison is a real scholar, and Goldberg a dolt. Mind you, Goldberg is the same culturally illiterate fool who confused what the Austro-Hungarian Empire was (here), has a fuzzy notion of patriotism (here) probably because of his dual / foreign loyalties, is a defender of political correctness (here), hates real conservatives (here), and generally mistakes left-wing Jacobinism for conservatism (here). Only in a movement of precipitous decline would a clown like Goldberg be given an editor position, and only in a time of ideological confusion would a fifth columnist like Goldberg ever be mistaken for a conservative."

"Who uses words like "hate-filled?" Victims?"

I didn't answer my own question because I thought it was so obvious. The answer would be Politically Correct leftist.

Goldberg is a Republican party hack and a fool - he has argued the United States should invade Africa, so this is not my opinion, it is a fact - whose mommy got him a job at National Review. Larison has treated him better than Goldberg has treated Larison and other real conservatives. Goldberg has slandered those holding conservative views on immigration as "white supremacists" and urged such traditional conservatives be excluded from debate, in no small part because he is incapable of defending his own positions. So take Jonah Goldberg. Please.

Note to "Authentic Conservative"
You are not only a bigot, but as ignorant as you claim Goldberg to be.
Jonah Goldberg is not Jewish.
But even if he were, you have no evidence of "dual loyalties". Such terms are a slur meant to silence opponents.

Ah...Ron, Jonah Goldberg is kinda Jewish. Just a point of fact.

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