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Jonah Goldberg vs. Jon Stewart

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Granted that Jon Stewart now and again accidentally says something funny. But he and his supporters think that he's a high holy fool, speaking truth to power under comedic cover. In fact, he's not all that exalted or bright, and he really has no kind of perspective or thoughtful point of view on politics. He can be counted on to hold to standard issue reflexive knee jerk left wing positions. But he's an idiot as far as knowing anything or making any even vaguely serious argument.

This became even more apparent than ever on January 16, when he thought he was just going to sandbag Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, there to talk about his new book Liberal Fascism. You could tell that it had gone badly for Stewart by the disclaimer that he felt it necessary to run at the front of what he eventually broadcast. He explained that his interview with Goldberg ran 18 minutes, but they only have six to show it in. Sorry about the choppy editing.

Jon Stewart - holy fool or plain everyday fool?First off, why couldn't he show 18 minutes? Famously, there's a writer's strike going on, and he's billing the whole show separately – A Daily Show, rather than The Daily Show. He could have lost that second section of the show entirely, just boring time filler crap. Hey, an actual substantive conversation! That's a decent substitute for scripted comedy.

Real obviously, Stewart tried to edit his way to victory with what he put on the air. He maximized airing his little petty mockeries while cutting Goldberg short, cutting him off mid-sentence, and such foolishness. Yet Brother Goldberg ended up without intentional derision making Stewart look the absolute most overtly stupidest I've ever seen. It's not Jonah's fault. He did not come out with malice.

But Jon Stewart apparently thought that he would make mincemeat of an actual thoughtful intellectual. It ended up sort of like watching the malevolent Wile E Coyote blowing himself up a hundred different ways. In Goldberg's world, you're expected to have some substantive facts or argument. Bluffing won't work.

Goldberg was ready to explain the apparently inflammatory descriptive "liberal fascism." He's just written a book with scads of specific factual and historical reference points to the fascistic intellectual heritage of modern "progressives" as Hillary likes to be described, rather than liberal. "Fascism" is not just another word for "evil" or "conservative." What are the underlying principles, and how would they apply to modern Western political arguments?

Now, one might argue against or mitigate some of Goldberg's arguments, or come up with some counterargument. But it's going to take more than a know-nothing late night comic to cross intellectual light sabers with this evil right wing Darth Goldberg. Besides being an intellectual featherweight, Stewart obviously had not actually read any of the book. With no argument whatsoever, he thought his powerful smirk alone would thoroughly rebuke the evil right-winger. No need to do any homework, he can just wing it on his superior charm.

Stewart simply proclaimed that "liberal fascism" is an oxymoron, because they are opposites. The end. Then he just spent the rest of the segment carefully not understanding even the simplest and clearest points. If you simply refuse to acknowledge a point, then it doesn't exist. Then throw in a little knowing mockery to let people know this "controversial author" is an idiot whose opinions are hardly worthy of deciphering.

Except that any way you try to cut it, Jonah's going to get some points across. For example, he noted the significance that historically, the stalwart progressive journal of political opinion for most of a century, The New Republic openly supported the classic fascist Mussolini. Perhaps a thoughtful interviewer might ask if there was something significant about the philosophy underlying this magazine historically that might shed useful understanding on contemporary issues. What kind of "new republic" do these progressives support that Mussolini would have looked like an answer to?

Jonah also managed to make his explanation about the smiley face with the Hitler moustache. These modern progressives are pushing a nice, caring fascism – fascism with a smile. Your classic literary images of fascism would be the giant screens in 1984 with the face of Big Brother pounding indoctrination into you. Cut to Hillary Clinton's infamous It Takes a Village. Note that Jonah does his homework; he actually read the damned book. In that book (which I certainly haven't read), she actually envisions tv screens in public places, waiting lines at DMVs and such, showing loops of helpful programming instruction on how to raise your children. I'm sure it would be really helpful.

Once Jonah snaps those two pieces together, sentient beings cannot avoid understanding the simple and symbolic link. It's not going to be a scary alpha male on the omnipresent video screens of the dystopian fascist future, but a nice caseworker there to help out. Stewart pretending not to see the significance of the point won't make it go away.

Inevitably, the full length interview will become publicly available. If the broadcast version is the best edit he could give himself, he's really going to look like a punk when the full exchange hits the net.

Meantime, one little bit of advice for Brother Stewart: Before trying to cut down an actual intellectual, you should probably really do your homework. Or at least pay someone to do your homework for you: at least get someone on your staff to read the book that you're going to make a big point of ridiculing.

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  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Sorry, Al. You’re just wrong here on so many levels.

    I’ll give you that Goldberg is dead on that the real threat of oppression and tyrrany comes from the left and it always has.

    But Stewart was absolutely right to take Goldberg to task on the title, because the title is idiotic. It was designed to be inflammatory and controversial and sell books, but it makes no sense. First off, as Stewart correcly pointed out, Liberalism as a philosophy is diametrically opposed to Fascism. Second, Fascism is in fact not a movement of the left, it is actually a form of totalitarianism characteristic of the political right. So the title make sno sense at all.

    An accurate title for the book might have been “The Tyrrany of the Left” or if you wanted something more controversial or perhaps borrow a phrase from Marx and call it “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” or maybe call it “Democrats to Dictators”. Those titles would have described the phenomenon Goldberg is describing far better.

    I’d be willing to bet that most of the time that got cut was Goldberg explaining to Stewart how the terminology has become twisted and Stewart saying “well why the hell did you name the book that then” over and over again – a pretty stupid discussion, I admit.

    For the record, here’s some audio of Goldberg discussing how the conversation actually went and bashing on Stewart a little bit in a friendly environment.

    And BTW, John Stewart is genuinely funny to those of us who are both conservative AND have a sense of humor.

    Dave

  • Molly

    I think Jon did a great job with pointing out the fact that Mr. Goldberg WAS too caught up in labels, because everytime Mr Goldberg tried to explain a stance, all of his arguments were based on labels. If he were a true “intellectual”, he would have to back up his claims stronger arguments.

    For instance, relating the term “organic” to its uses by a Hitler mindset, and drawing a conclusion about organic food. How can one really take this author seriously?

    The nice thing is that the editing did allow for Jonah to respond. Unfortunately Jonah did not have any coherent responses. If he wants to seel a book, then maybe, just maybe, he should find better arguements…because the type of arguments he had, you could probably link anything to fascism. Ironicallyt, this is the thing he was supposedly rallying against – how ironic is that? Thank you Jon for pointing that out.

  • Matt

    I am not sure you understood the interview.

    I like Jonah, but he got worked.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle


    For instance, relating the term “organic” to its uses by a Hitler mindset, and drawing a conclusion about organic food. How can one really take this author seriously?

    To be fair, Hitler was a vegetarian and very concerned about the quality of food and its influence on the mind and body, so suggesting that he would support organic food makes perfect sense. One of the first things which many totalitarian regimes on the left engage in is agricultural reform, which could even include forced organic farming for both health and economic reasons. It’s a lot more labor-intensive, justifying forced labor for the large number of unemployed under a leftist autocracy.

    One of Goldberg’s many errors was that he was too timid to tell the truth. The type of autocracy which the ideas of the American left would lead to is something more like Nazism than Fascism. Their anti-corporatism and socialism make that a natural direction for their ideas to go. From what I can tell he doesn’t understand the difference between Nazism and Fascism just like he doesn’t understand the difference between liberalism and socialism.

    Dave

  • chucklyons

    I haven’t read Jonah’s book, yet, but from what discussions I have seen him involved with, the concept is certainly intriguing.
    The points on Hillary are definitely on target. Not because I can’t stand her, but because of the ‘It Takes a Village Idiot’ book. And the corruption. And influence by foreign investors.

    I’d like to have seen Jon vs Jonah. Fortunately, the writer’s strike has steered me away from the nightly ritual of watching Stewart. Which is, of course, another example of supporting the worker’s rights until it starts to affect your own livelihood. Very similar to the union chiefs and the car companies. The union chiefs continue to make inflated salaries while the poor guy on the assembly line gets 50 bucks while walking the picket line. So it’s not surprising that Jon would try to make an idiot out of Jonah, as Jon will soon be publishing his own book, ‘Champion Charlatanism’, in which the the smiley face on the cover winks while holding the worker’s hammer…

    Thank you writers for bringing more hyprocrisy of the Left to light. And thank you Dave Letterman for truly supporting the writers. Very Honorable.

    If anyone remembers, the Right and the Left have both shifted in the political spectrum. Jonah’s book, I hope, will help enlighten me on the hypocrisy of the Left and the perilous path it has taken. And why those who fail to learn from history DO repeat it.

    Now if he can only follow it up with a book on why the Right is slowly going down the same path…

  • sk

    you get paid for this?

  • Someone

    You are such an idiot. For one thing, Jon Stewart is almost always funny. Occasionally he might have a bad joke or two but every comedy has one. He did not bring Jonah Goldberg onto his show just so that he could make fun of him, he brought him on because no other writers will cross the picket lines. You can’t really tell whether Stewart really read the book because we can only see tiny clips of the conversation. Jon Stewart was desperate for guests so he had to bring on this crappy writer. It’s not his fault that Jonah Goldberg makes absolutely no sense. You also said that Jon Stewart “really has no kind of perspective or thoughtful point of view on politics.” Jon Stewart is not trying to have a serious show, it’s a comedy. If you want a serious political show watch CNN.

  • Visf

    I read some comments from people who were on the show, they said the author got stoned to death, defeated on every stupid point he made. I mean organic food being fascist.. this guy doesn’t know shit about ideologies.

  • BigJoe

    The real threat of tyranny comes from the right, of course. In the US the left wing of the progressive movement was neutralized by the middle of the 1970’s. The American right owes its political success to the shrill, religious extremists of its party.

  • Baronius

    I haven’t seen the interview yet (edited or unedited). I have found Goldberg to be far funnier and smarter than Stewart. Kudos to Al for pointing out how often Stewart responds to reasoned argument with a smirk and a shallow wisecrack.

  • alessandro

    Stewart is funny but he’s no genius as some ridiculously proclaim. Goldberg always has a coherent response – you may not agree with it but it’s far from incoherent.

    Yes, fascism is on the right of the scale – not left. That’s basic. But I can see why he calls some on the left fascists.

    There’s nothing complicated in Jon Stewart.

    Colbert is a different matter. That guy is real smart. I mean academic type smart to go with the humour.

  • Bob the Subgenius

    I wish I’d seen this Stewart\Goldberg interview so I could compare it to the one I watched.

  • Jeremy

    Jonah Goldberg the intellectual… I’m letting that one sink in. I went to college with Jonah and I can tell you that he is one wordy, nonsense-filled mama’s boy who only got where he is through his parents, particularly the awful Lucienne. Ask any of his former professors how highly they regard his intellectual prowess and you’ll hear the sound of one hand clapping. I tell you what — subsidize my writing for 10 years (as is *all* writing in the non-selling, paid for by wealthy patrons National Review) and I’ll spin up a series of clever arguments (with ‘scads’ of facts) about how Jehovah’s Witnesses single-handedly saved the U.S. Constitution. And I would have done something as useful and relevant as Goldberg (which is to say, not useful or relevant at all).

    Not that Goldberg wasn’t a friendly idiot, nor was he some kind of pure evil — just a big privileged moron with a hard on for awful conservative writing. Sure he drunkenly crashed his car with me in it — along with three others he injured after drinking at Fridays and removing with his bare hands a metal towel dispenser from the men’s room and careening his car into pole #13 — and the fact that the last time I saw Jonah in person (post-college, when he was a producer for Ben Wattenberg) he deliberately smashed a pint of beer into his own head at a Fell’s Point bar, doesn’t preclude his intellectual status, but it does speak something of his character.

    Has the author actual bothered *reading* anything Goldberg writes? Jonah is a sophist, plain and simple, who can argue his way about any position whether he believes it or not, just as long as you fund him. Jon Stewart indulged mama’s boy and gave this blowhard more time and audience than he ever deserves, simply because (I suspect), like any semi-literate, halfway educated person may suspect, fascism has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH LIBERALISM. Fascism is the collusion of the state with the corporation. Guess that’s why Henry Ford loved his Hitler, along with Prescott Bush. Does Jonah mention this in his ‘scads-o-facts’?

    Jonah Goldberg always was, always is, and always will be a tool. Jonah Goldberg the intellectual… ha ha ha ha ha ha. That still has me belly laughing.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Jeremy, I find your poisonous little diatribe to be less than impressive. For starters, you obviously have a malicious hatred for Mr Goldberg, largely on an ideological basis and on a class basis. I see zero reason to presumptively believe your accusations of drunk driving, etc. Any idiot could claim such things.

    But then, perhaps he was a drunken party boy in college. That would still have no relevance to the truth or quality of his writing. I have read Jonah for some years now on National Review, and I can see why left wingers would despise him. He has a strong knowledge of politics and history, but also a highly engaging and humorous writing style with which to explain them.

    Then you combine that with venomous class hatred. You presume with no reason or evidence that he is a prominent author because of his family’s connections. This is clearly not true. Connections might or might not have helped him get a job, but his success in the job is absolutely not just because of a family name.

    Jonah Goldberg has become probably the #1 well known and popular personality in the National Review universe. Millions of people read his words regularly, including me, and it’s not because of his mom. Probably a good many of his readers neither know nor care about his parentage.

    And you kid yourself to dismiss the National Review. Now, it is a journal of political opinion, and those are not particularly driven by the pure profit motive as a People magazine. But there are many readers, and many subscribers. In the category of journals of political opinion, NR is probably the #1 most popular and influential, left right or center.

    Also, Jonah’s book on Liberal Fascism is a NYT top 10 best seller, last seen around #3 or so. That’s people paying their money, and you can’t argue that this represents nepotism or subsidy.

    You may continue to fume in your pinko impotence, but Jonah’s the man. Your hatefulness only underscores his success.

  • Abu

    Your policy for the comment section is …

    “Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.”

    and you so easily declare that …

    “In fact, he’s not all that exalted or bright, and he really has no kind of perspective or thoughtful point of view on politics.”

    Wow, not that is a good example of ‘intelectual’ discourse…ha!

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    It sounds to me like Jeremy’s animus is personal and irrational rather than more relevant and soundly based. I know guys who were drunken louts in college who turned into worthwhile citizens and even in one case a damned fine writer – arguably better than Jonah Goldberg.

    That Goldberg is glib and manipulative was obvious from the interview and from the book. He has obviously framed and presented his book for maximum shock value, and that required misrepresenting both liberalism and fascism. IMO doing that dilutes the accuracy of his basic point, but if he stuck to a less sensationalistic presentation chances are no one would have read the book and that would have defeated the purpose.

    dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    LOL. I looked up Goldberg’s bio. He graduated from Goucher. How the hell he made it through there as a conservative I can’t even begin to imagine. If Jeremy is a typical Goucher graduate I can see why he hates Goldberg.

    Dave

  • http://www.my-virtual-income.com Christopher Rose

    Abu, the comments policy refers to behaviour between and towards other commenters, not public figures…

  • Baronius

    But no one here has read his book yet, apparently. (Neither have I. I hope to correct that, and soon.)