Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jonah Goldberg does that thing where he pretends that words don't have plain meanings so that he can pretend liberals are confusing things

Jonah Goldberg defends Stanley Kurtz's new book about President Obama's socialism-drenched past. A couple of paragraphs need some attention:

Here’s my problem. Socialism isn’t the scare word Weigel and others (David Frum comes to mind) say it is. I will be honest and admit that I wish it was more of a scare word than it is, but it’s really not one. I don’t think Americans think of gulags, bread lines and Red Dawn when they hear the word “socialist.”  They think of those things when they hear the word “Communist,” which is a different thing than socialism (or at least that’s what every book on the subject and every sincere democratic socialist I’ve ever spoken to says).

This is an example of Goldberg being hyperliteral when he chooses to be. Yes, socialism is different from communism -- even if the two are related. But as used by much of the right, the "socialist" charge against Obama is clearly, unambiguous effort to conflate the two concepts and paint the president as a bit of a stealth Stalinist. That's why if you do a Google image search for "Obama socialism" you end up with lots and lots and lots of pictures like this. It's not liberals who are making those pictures, so Goldberg is being either A) naive to the point of stupidity or B) willfully disingenuous when he suggests that the conflation of socialism and communism, with regard to Obama, is because of liberal misunderstandings.

But now things are a bit mixed up. So even though leading liberals have talked openly about the possibility that Obama is a “liberal socialist” or might usher in a socialist era, when conservatives take these arguments at face value or make similar ones themselves, it isliberals like Weigel who insist that socialism must be seen as synonymous with Communism, the gulag, Red Dawn etc.

Er... which leading liberals have talked openly about the possibility of Obama being a "liberal socialist"? I'm open to the possibility it's happened, though I'd be surprised. I just want to know Goldberg's documentation for that assertion. But here's the capper:

For example, I’ve just been dipping in and out of Stan’s book, but nowhere I’ve seen does he call Obama a Communist. I’m sure Dave understands the distinction and he might have simply found the word-play irresistible, but it’s worth noting that the Hammer and Sickle are not symbols of socialism but of Communism.

Who is seeing Hammer and Sickles everywhere now?

Ladies and gentlemen: I give you the cover of Stanley Kurtz's book:

Right. Now, granted, there's no "hammer and sickle" on the front of Kurtz's book, but a red star is generally accepted as the next-best symbol of Soviet-style communism.  And granted, a book cover isn't a book's argument. What's more, I understand this book is well-researched, even if its arguments fall flat. But for Goldberg to suggest that there's no red-baiting going on by conservatives who charge Obama with socialism, well, that's literally unbelievable.

No comments: