144 of 160 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2012
I'm only halfway through reading this (just got it yesterday and I have 3 kids under 7 years old, so I'm doing quite well), but I figure if 18 people who haven't got past the cover can give it cliché-filled one-star reviews as part of their contribution to the culture war, I can be excused for offering my opinion based on a partial read.
I must say that this book is really engaging. Thoughts which I have tried to put into words for years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, are presented in all their entertaining eloquence here by Jonah. For example, the defense of economic liberty as an inherent good or the indictment of people who shun "ideology" while they are simply bursting with ideas to improve society. He manages to provide depth, succinctness and wit in appropriate balance on these and other topics.
What it comes down to for me is that ideology should be discussed more in politics. I blame us for the fact that it's not. Politics is a market like any other, where a successful business has to sell what people want to buy. If they're peddling clichés instead of intelligent defense of their ideologies, it's because we've been buying it. As a nation, we haven't taught our children to understand freedom's intrinsic value or to think critically about ideas and policies. Our government-run educational system has produced people who don't know how to digest anything meatier than a cliché. It's time to teach them how. Don't accept muddy logic from friends and loved ones. Gently, but firmly, urge them down those mental pathways they have all but forgotten how to tread. Make them defend their principles if they can and be prepared to defend yours.
194 of 227 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I think it's hillarious that the reviews of this book are largely 5 stars or 1 star. In reading the reviews it's easy to see why...the leftists hate it and the more conservative folks appreciate its content. Not surprising too that the negative reviews are dismissive and nastier and generally don't refute the author's views, just rail against him. Let's see, who bills themselves as more tolerant than all others in the world today? It's awful to be judgmental unless judging conservative ideas and books. Got it. I know the rules of popular culture today, but I find it amusing and soooo predictable whenever I see it. This is a good book and the left's hatred for it just proves that point. The truth hurts, when you're on the wrong side of it.
179 of 213 people found the following review helpful
One of the most frustrating aspects of modern political discourse is the inability to engage with Progressives / Liberals in discussions or debates using well-formed arguments and reasoning. Why is this so? Because you will quickly get a shorthand reply using hackneyed declarations and clichés that are supposed to stand in for an argument. They are supposed to be some kind of self-evident truth, and debase the standing of their opponent to even be discussing the issue. For, example, how could there possibly be anyone for religion in the public square. Everyone knows that Separation of Church and State is in the Constitution, for heaven's sake - er, something's sake. Except that it may not be as clear or as traditional as the Liberals seem to think.
Jonah Goldberg, who wrote one of my favorite political books, "Liberal Fascism": http://www.amazon.com/review/R1E3MQQ04S4IJ5/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm now gives us another treasure. He shows how Liberal discourse is debased by the use of these standard tropes about diversity, religion, ideology, pragmatism, social justice, the Living Constitution, and a lot more.
We get history lessons and cultural analysis on how these standard statements came into being, what they used to be about, and how they have been transformed and recycled into modern politics as a way of stultifying discourse and shutting down any possible opposition or questioning of the Liberal Agenda. The history lessons are vital because any number of thoughtful writers have pointed out how dangerous it is to live our lives based on "facts" that just aren't so. And Goldberg delivers these clarifying lessons with such style and humor that they are downright entertaining. Honestly, you will find yourself chuckling. That is if you aren't too fond of the sacred cow he just slaughtered.
For example, he demonstrates the idea that man was demoted from the center of the solar system by Galileo is a complete misreading of what the center meant to the Renaissance mind. Think bowels and you will be closer to the mark. Center as a place of prestige is of more recent origin. And this changing of values over time leads to these anachronistic deceptions about meaning in our politics.
As the author says [This book] "is about clichés that have a tyrannical hold on our minds and the clichés that serve to advance ideological agendas that would expand and enhance the state's mastery over our lives". There are so many taken to task here that I am sure you will find more than a few you have been waiting for someone to dismantle for a long time. I know I found it cathartic when Goldberg declares, "The Marxists who claimed to be ending the masses' addiction to religion then proceeded to slaughter those same masses at a rate unprecedented in the history of human life." I also loved his unmasking of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign as being for the "middle class" when the Clinton Campaign KNEW that 90% of Americans considered themselves "middle class". "It was an appeal to classically bourgeois values masquerading as class warfare." Brilliant it was. Honest it was not. But the nation fell for it. The purpose of this book is to help us get up to speed on how this verbal slight of tongue is used on us so we can stop falling for it.
I want you to get a copy and read it a couple of times so you can talk to your liberal friends and hold them accountable for what they say. Then I want you to buy a couple more copies for your tongue-tied friends who fall for these clichés and help them to begin to see through them.
And this is a vital time to do it as the airwaves and discourse between now and November are not going to be full of light and truth. We are going to hear noise, obfuscation, and clichés in quantities like schools of ocean fish darting in unison to the demands of the directions from Campaign Headquarters. Do NOT fall for them, my friends. This is not only an important book, but it is also a fun book. Well, unless you are feeling skewered by it.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
120 of 144 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
In Jonah Goldberg's first book, Liberal Fascism, he wrote against type, at least to a degree. For all of the controversy surrounding it, the book was scholarly almost to a fault. Goldberg, who made his name writing the hip and irreverent "G-file" for National Review Online, himself described Liberal Fascism as having "strong tannins". There were over 500 references, but, significantly, I don't think his couch was quoted once. In other words, while it was at times humorous, the serious nature of the topic of fascism and Goldberg's meticulously scholarship made for a bit of a dry read. Goldberg produced a great and important book, but he threw his fans a bit of a googly. Well, his scholars pen has now been exchanged for, if not a rapier wit, then perhaps (as Brad Thor put it) an intellectual prison shiv. If Goldberg needed to write Liberal Fascism as a first book to prove his bona fides, he finally lets `er rip in The Tyranny of Clichés.
If you are the sort of person who loves a good political discussion, you have no doubt at times been stymied by one of the clichés the Goldberg deconstructs. These are passed off in conversation as conventional wisdom, essentially immune to challenge. Heck, sometimes they are even taught in schools. However, much like the Wicked Witch of the West facing a bucket of water (that's for the Flying Monkeys out there), they melt on contact, in this case with facts and logic.
Probably the biggest of the clichés is the trope that a progressive ideology is really just "pragmatism". After all, who is against pragmatism? Time and again he exposes the effort to insinuate this idea or another as not an ideology but rather common sense. Ideologies are debated. Conventional wisdom is immune from such thoughtful consideration. In particular, Goldberg takes on those clichés
that are used as tools to advance an agenda (This section also the great line "The French Enlightenment was a lot like the Star Wars franchise: It started great; it just evolved into a disaster over time.")
Take the "No Labels" movement. Guided by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but with intellectual roots back to "another famously short egomaniac, Napolean", it claimed to be a group without any party affiliation and a non-partisan agenda. In practice, it just turned out idea that all of the "pragmatic" ideas the group pushed were state-oriented solutions to perceived social problems. The Venn diagrams for No Labels and Progressives were highly overlapped. "No Labels" was just a false flag for advancing that agenda without having to argue the ideology.
A few of the other choice bits:
The Left like to think of itself as a "Reality Based Community" with science on its side. Sure. Just as long as certain uncomfortable truths can be defined out of the "fact" column and filed under "agree to disagree". This is not a respect for science, but "scientism", the use of the white lab coat as a trump card. It is intended to stop a closer examination of the science (as Al Gore put it "The time for debate is over!"). If the Neuroscience faculty turns out another "what's the matter with conservatives" journal article, Goldberg argues that it is probably relevant that they faculty has a 13:1 liberal to conservative ratio. Scientism on the left is described as essentially Bill Murray in Ghostbusters saying: "Back off man, I'm a scientist". It turns out that folks on the Left actually are pretty human in picking and choosing the reality on which their community is based
Another one: The Right is for "social Darwinism". This is particularly galling since a) that's not what the folks on the Right would more appropriately call the idea that "actions have consequences" and b) the progressives were the ones who tried to go a step beyond ACTUAL Darwinism and embrace eugenics of Margaret Sanger, et al.
Violence never solved anything? Well, other than ending slavery, stopping Nazism, and creating a United States (and that's just a partial list for the U.S. Army). It's a statement that is just moronic after even a moment's thought.
Chapters which covered the truth about witch hunts and what Marie Antoinette actually said were not only entertaining and well-researched, but areas of history in which I was misinformed. Also: slippery slopes aren't so slippery, and dissent is the highest form of patriotism...in certain circumstances.
You get the idea. As Brad Thor (again) said: "Straw man down!"
This aspect of the book is fun, but the cliché-debunking really has a feel of a fish-meets-barrel-meets-gun proposition. The meat of the book is when Goldberg discusses the implications that these clichés have for modern politics, hence the "Tyranny" of the title. Goldberg's goal, and this is congruent with Liberal Fascism, is to expose the shoddy thinking, obfuscation, and duplicity that undergirds the progressive movement. In the end, these clichés are not intended to serve as arguments, but rather intended to stop them. Other times they steal an intellectual base by assuming facts not in evidence. Stripping the clichés out of the progressive armamentarium turns the conflict back into a level-ground discussion of ideas and results. If readers finish Goldberg's book somewhat more willing to think for themselves, he is confident that the ideas of the Right will win in any fair fight.
So I give a strong endorsement for his latest book. It is an enjoyable read, but, with apologies Highlights, it is fun with a purpose. If conservatism is "standing athwart history, yelling stop", then this is pointing a finger at history and saying "you gotta be kidding me, right?"
84 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Just the facts, ma'am. Jonah Goldberg is very good at facts. And he is very witty as well, which makes this book not only educational, but fun to read. I laughed at loud in several places. Now, what happens when you take sloppy thinking, buzz phrases, catch words, etc. and simply extend them to their logical conclusion? Well, you find out they are largely nonsensical drivel, but often calculated drivel. Progressives generally lose when facing facts and history, and thus resort to language manipulation while hiding behind a banner of pragmatism. Mr. Goldberg lifts the lid off their little boiling pot however, and exposes the lack of ingredients in their stew. But that is not all he does. He gives the lie to the idea that progressives don't cling to ideology. I seriously don't want to spoil anymore of this book for you, because, if you are intellectually honest and interested in more than just 'feeling good' about your positions, then this book will be a good intellectual exercise for you. You may find that some of those cliches and half-thought out ideas you may have generally subscribed to don't actually hold up to an intellectually objective analysis. All in all, this is a very good book from Mr. Goldberg. 5/5 stars.
67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The book (Kindle Edition) is thoroughly enjoyable*. Some of the clichés are a stretch by a standard definition of cliché but the arguments are well thought out and supported by extensive research. *If you disagree politically, you will not enjoy this book so save your money. Conservatives, libertarians, hybrids, moderates and the open minded will enjoy the book. The reader gains a greater understanding of Progressive politics as well as a thorough history of the Progressive movement. Isn't a greater understanding worth the price of admission?
63 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2012
Almost all conservatives who have followed politics closely for any length of time have seen liberals either in person or on television attempt to use empty clichés in place of solid arguments. For example, who among us has never heard someone on the Left assert that "violence never solves anything"? Clearly, violence is how we ended slavery in the United States and destroyed the Nazi regime in Europe, but refuting some other left-wing clichés is not nearly so effortless.
Author Jonah Goldberg has noticed how Leftists rely on clichés, and in "The Tyranny of Clichés" he has done the conservative movement a great service in cataloging and skewering some of the more common clichés that the Left throws out when they want to avoid arguments and spread their pet memes.
Goldberg's new book reads like a great jazz piece sounds--the author flits from topic to topic, twenty-four chapters in all, advancing solid arguments and using great analogies when discussing topics such as social Darwinism, social justice, community, the "living Constitution," the middle class, science, youth, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and more.
The author notes that self-described conservatives and libertarians are honest and up-front in owning the fact that they have an ideology and attempt to advance it, but realizes that one of the most amazing traits of most liberals is they are self-deceived to the point that they believe that liberalism itself is not an ideology, believe that they are simply pragmatists who attempt to do "what works," and believe that only those who disagree with them are ideological. Goldberg also smartly notes why just about all calls for unity are bogus.
While the author's earlier work, Liberal Fascism, effectively refuted one big myth that warps our political discussions, his new work attempts to slay a bunch of smaller myths and misconceptions. Goldberg again tackles important topics with wit and humor, and conservatives can look forward to seeing where he turns his attention next.
46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Jonah Goldberg is the author of "Liberal Fascism" in which he skewers the progressives/liberals by showing that it is they who more closely follow and emulate the "fascist" rulers they accuse conservatives of being. In "The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas" he once again uses his wit and sound logic to debunk and point out the silliness of the "Cliché" as used in political discourse/debate. This is just a fun read. I am sure you will see many maliciously slamming this book because it has caused that dissenting reviewer great discomfort. Discomfort from the fact that somewhere in the back of their brainbox they have the faintest realization that Jonah has scored a direct and devastating hit on the unsubstantial foundation upon which liberals have based their arguments.
The fun thing about "The Tyranny of Clichés" is that most readers will recognize that we have all heard these statements and thought--"boy, is that dumb, and doesn't substantiate or make the point", yet have remained silent. Well, Jonah will provide you with a sound, logically supported retort which will allow you to annoy the hell out of any such offending speaker. Others have unfairly rated this book based upon the publishers pricing, not it's content. This is unfair and should be ignored. I am sure there will be a lot of negative reviews and low ratings, based upon the political views of the reviewer and unwarranted antipathy toward Jonah. One should be able to clearly tell this bias in the review and I predict that many such reviews will only prove/reinforce Mr. Goldberg's thesis.
So purchase the book and dive into the arena in which Jonah consumes the "Whale" that is the Liberal Establishment and destroys their "clichéd arguments" using a humorous yet devastatingly logical approach. It is a fun read. I highly recommend this book.
70 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As one of the leading rhetoricians of the side of the political debate that usually finds itself cast as the Party of Stupid, Goldberg knows very well that feeling of being an outsider whose utterly calm and rational viewpoint is regarded by the consensus as too "extreme" to merit serious discussion. But Goldberg's years of speaking in public fora as a political outsider have sharpened his thinking and given him access to an inventory of lazy, self-deceptive thoughts that are the store of wisdom of the center/left mind, a mind made lazy and slack by its overwhelming dominance of the political dialogue in the media, the academy, and elsewhere.
Here, Goldberg does people of all honest political persuasions a great service. He demonstrates with great clarity the utter vacuousness of the psuedo-pious blathering by which too many people manage to congratulate themselves for being dolts and useful idiots. Certain arguments (one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter; better that ten guilty men should go free, etc)will now be greeted by readers of this book with something like a pitying chuckle.
It will be fascinating to see if this book actually improves the caliber of political dialogue in this country. It deserves to. It would be a useful supplemental text in an introductory course in Logic or Rhetoric. I recommend it highly.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Anyone who truly reads this book, and understands sound logic, with appreciation for solid research, will undoubtedly rate it honestly near the 5 star range. I would like to read an honest review from someone who is giving this book a low rating, who actually read the book and can articulate a credible argument against anything that is laid out in the book. That said I love how Goldberg manages to succinctly articulate what we all know and see everyday in the MSM. He manages to destroy all defenses of typical progressive rhetoric and shine a light on their inability to put forth anything resembling a cogent argument. I highly recommend it for anyone, no matter their "Ideaology". Everyone could benefit from this book by helping liberals and Conservatives alike explain and defend their beliefs.