After my post about Jonah Goldberg’s G-file over the weekend, I wasn’t looking to write anything more on the G-man. But then I read the exclusive excerpt of his forthcoming book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy (doesn’t that just roll off the tongue?) on National Review’s website, and I just had to say something about it.
Goldberg fashions himself as a deep thinker as opposed to Trump and his lackeys (moi, for example) who are dragging their knuckles on the ground as they worship shiny golden idols. But from reading the excerpt, a Hillsdale Constitution 101 class would do him a world of good.
Here’s just a sample of the errors and misunderstandings encapsulated in the first half of the piece:
- He confuses self-evident with obvious. Rejecting the idea that human beings are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” is self-evident, he notes, “Something self-evident is, by definition, obvious, needing no demonstration.” No. Self-evident means that once a mind realizes an unchanging principle grounded in nature, it cannot reject it without being dishonest. If self-evident meant obvious, there would have been no need to write the Declaration of Independence in the first place.
- He says we today reject “persuasion,” which he defines as “reason, evidence, and argument.” But that’s only one aspect of persuasion. As Aristotle wrote, men are political animals and have the capacity for reason. But he shows through many examples that most men don’t use their reason, or logos. That’s why, as he teaches, appeals to pathos (an emotional appeal) and ethos (the character of the person trying to persuade) are extremely important—in fact possibly even more important than appeals to logos.
- We are told Lincoln “reconceived the meaning of America” instead of drawing Americans back to the principles of the American Founding as he actually did (Harry Jaffa is currently putting on his boxing gloves in Heaven).
- Civilization is simply “the story the people tell themselves about themselves,” which sounds an awful lot like some claptrap a postmodern professor of history would say, thinking that nothing outside of the self exists.
I could go on but I don’t want to bore you. It would be nice if our intellectual class was actually up to the task.