Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dr. Helen, Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg in Fantasy Land

I listened to a conversation the other day between a trio of folks who have garnered internet fame and the words and concepts expressed left me with some unsettling thoughts. And since the trio is taken somewhat seriously in the world o' internet punditry I decided to share my thoughts in this forum.

Glenn Reynolds, Dr. Helen and Jonah Goldberg shared (in my opinion) some utterly dubious reasoning and extremist ideas in an interview via Dr. Helen's page with Goldberg regarding his new book, "Liberal Fascism." (Thanks to Katie for linking to the interview at Knoxville Talks. Normally I do not seek out that trio's output, as scattered readings revealed to me there was little of value, for me anyway, to discover in their offerings. Others find great value to such, an idea which stoked my notions of writing about what I encountered.)

The book is on the verge of publication and numerous online writers have already ripped into it. I have not read the book, only a few excerpts, however the above-linked interview pretty much revealed the "thinking" of the author and no, I would not want to read it. It falls into the vast pantheon of revisionist historical wingnuttery which continues to flourish in our current age. And I do not mean this post to be a virulent screed against the trio - more that it is a good example of bad practices in punditry.

In essence, Goldberg takes his particular worldview-goggles and peers backward, cherry-picking the events and language of the past in order to bolster his views that Democrats and Liberal politics virtually destroyed America and only the Rise of the Neo-Conservative has saved us from oblivion.

He also embraces an already well-known bit of fakery on the internet - making use of Godwin's Law, which states that the longer an online discussion continues, there will inevitably occur the invocation of Hitler and Nazis to the topic discussed. Judging from the trio's discussion and several excerpts from his book, he takes that Law as primary to his thesis. He also says title came from writer/social activist H.G. Wells and that Wells was a founding father of the modern American Liberal Democrat.

Wells was certainly a Utopian, though his novels tended more to show the failings of Utopias and the destructive elements of human nature. He was certainly well-regarded in the early days of the 20th century, but Goldberg's elevation of his status is problematic at best.

Goldberg's propositions involve creation of an argument, which may be provocative but are more "academic," meaning
having no practical or useful significance. Specious reasoning taken to its furthest extensions. Speaking in syllogisms, one could say: Hitler Had A Mustache, Many People Have Mustaches and so, Many People Are Hitler.

At one point in the trio's conversation, Reynolds compares former president Jimmy Carter's appearance on TV in a sweater urging Americans to turn down their thermostats to an act of Fascism and "at least it wasn't a brown sweater". Oddly tortured turns of metaphor often arise in the trio's discussion. Another is the concept from Goldberg noting that Hitler was a vegetarian and hence all current interest in healthy foods and vegetarianism is somehow related to following ideals of Hitler's National Socialism.

You can listen to the interview (linked above in the 2nd paragraph) for yourself and hear the trio's faux logic. It's a common trait among many popular Neo-Con pundits - Ann Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and others: be outlandish, be histrionic, constantly repeat your points so that others must use your language to debate your topic, and claim that elitist Leftist madmen are trying to silence your viewpoint.

For myself, when I notice a particular political argument must always have An Enemy Which Must Be Defeated as it's basis, I find the argument based more on fantasy than reality. It's as if the first action of such a view is to destroy all things not in agreement, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. And such agents of argument have sadly risen to prominence, praising the self-determined individual while demanding obedience to a particular dogma

Your views may vary.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Things We Could Do Without in 2008

A short list. Yours may vary:

Glenn Beck

Daily reports on Britney Spears

Being tasered

The sports trifecta of steroids, OJ Simpson and Barry Bonds

Carlos Mencia

The View

Two commercials: Fitness Made Simple; Head-On

Redlight cameras

Your trip to rehab

Celebrities judging talent shows

Tainted things - vegetables, toys, dog food, no-bid government contracts, toothpaste, the US Justice Department, the FCC, open government, all sports, etc, etc

FEMA trailers and fake FEMA news conferences

Scandalous Folk/Behavior: student loans; mortgages; Blackwater; Senators Ted Stevens, Larry Craig, and David Vitter; illegal wiretaps; legislative bills filed by The Rep (aka Stacey Campfield); Scooter Libby


Rationalizing the use of torture

Losing/misplacing government computer database records

Sending me a text message - if you cannot make a phone call or email me, then it really isn't important is it?

People who make insulting/cutesy plays on the words Republican or Democrat.

Those news-crawls or tickers or whatever they are. Pick a news story to report, then report it and go on to the next one. It's not like that 'breaking news' feeling is supposed to be a permanent state of being.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Music For The Very Special

Travel along as we go from a sharecropper's Christmas to the mega-funky Bootsy Collins and finally land in Hawaii. The following musical montage was carefully hand-selected and compiled to be your very own musical collection, from me to you. Merry Christmas!

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Carol

Animated by Richard Williams and Chuck Jones, with voices by Michael Redgrave and Alistair Sim.

Best of Tennessee Blogs - Jingle Bells Edition

The latest roundup of news, views and many things Christmas, all courtesy of TennViews:

A "Jingle Bells" edition of our weekly sampling from some of Tennessee's best and brightest bloggers:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Democrats fail to show up on SCHIP, bonus: Wordless Wednesday

• Andy Axel: Brr!

• BlountViews: Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft, also BlountViews in the news, bonus: Best Christmas music video ever

• The Crone Speaks: Bad Santa

• Cup of Joe Powell: Without restraint, totally beyond the pale, bonus: Sophie spins some Christmas soul music

• Enclave: NOLA housing crisis roundup, plus The David Bowie/Bing Crosby Christmas duet classic

• Fletch: New coal plant on fast track, plus Wordless Wednesday, bonus: 'Tis the Season

• KnoxViews: Energy bill gets 50MPG on way to White House. plus UT launches tobacco research center - anything for a buck

• Lean Left: Obama and Alter's faulty memory, plus: Huckabee's video Christmas card

• Left Wing Cracker: Larry King impersonation ramble, plus: Nat King Cole for Christmas

• Loose TN Canon: Conservative climate science ignorance on parade, bonus: Fried Cheesecake

• NewsComa: The rural factor in presidential politics, bonus: Christopher Walken's Night Before Christmas (warning: children should leave the room)

• Pesky Fly: Separated at birth, plus: McCain beneficiary of Chucklebee fallout but Romney by a nose?

• Progress Nashville: Starving the poor, plus Corker wading into 2010 minefield, and Top 10 Progressive New Year's Wishes, Day 1

• Resonance: Pelosi surprised by Republican resolve

• RoaneViews: State Sen.Tommy Kilby on Tennessee's sunshine law, plus Alvin C. York and the origin of turkey shoots

• Russ McBee: State Sen. Randy McNally having second thoughts on changing Tennessee's sunshine law plus, A Christmas story

• Sean Braisted: (back at home) A law firm divided

• Sharon Cobb: Gov. Bredesen should follow Gov. Corzine's lead on death penalty, plus Expect to see Republican politicians, country artists and Ted Nugent on late-nite TV

• Silence Isn't Golden: Reporting in from the Obama Nashville HQ opening, bonus: possibly the stupidest letter to the editor ever, plus (sorry, missed from last week): Happy Hanukkah

• Southern Beale: Ron Paul's true Republican credentials, plus Gift idea for the person who has everything except health insurance, plus 12 Days of Christmas

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Coverage denied, girl dies and a follow up, plus You're so lame - let the party begin!

• TennViews: Bush to California: Drop dead, plus State Rep. Beth Harwell's toxic toys, and Tennessee election study recommends paper audit trail and other reforms, and 1968

• Whites Creek Journal: Tilt and the gift of the mysterious, plus This technology must be stopped!

• Women's Health News: Spermicide in your hair dye?