Among the things that I’m not slow to believe, though I want them to be true, are things that illustrate Jonah Goldberg’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy. The author of Liberal Fascism is entitled to all the abuse that he gets, and if he waits for me to defend him he’ll be waiting a long time. As a Jew, I’d like to suggest that he get his circumcision reversed – which I’m told is a very painful procedure – and change his name to Christiansen, to stop being an embarrassment to the tribe. If Goldberg were on fire in the gutter where he belongs, and I had a chance to piss on him to put out the flames, I’d have to flip a coin.
So when I read that Goldberg had called for the murder of Julian Assange, I was more than ready to believe it.
However, it turns out not to be the case.
Of course Goldberg was an idiot to write a column that starts:
I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?
and then goes on for two paragraphs offering justifications for murdering him. If, as John Cook did, I wrote a post about punching Goldberg’s ugly face, that would be an act of simulated violence and an invitation to acts of real violence, even if at the end I concluded that you’d be too likely to break the small bones of your hand and not nearly likely enough to reconfigure Goldberg’s nose for him.
My first knowledge of Goldberg’s latest ravings came from DougJ at Balloon Juice, who started his post “Jonah Goldberg calls for Julian Assangeâ€™s murder.” Since, as I say, I regard Goldberg as a moral monster and a fool, I was perfectly prepared to believe that, and clicked through to his column in preparation for writing a wildly denunciatory post of my own.
But though Goldberg’s column is in fact moronic and monstrous, it’s not actually a call for Assange’s murder. It’s a twisted argument that U.S. intelligence services must not be the evil, omnipotent powers that Goldberg thinks some liberals believe them to be, because otherwise Assange would be dead.
His survival thus proves that … well, it’s not clear what it’s supposed to prove, exactly. It certainly doesn’t prove that the CIA under Bush/Cheney didn’t engage in systematic torture, including the torture of the innocent, because it clearly did. So the U.S. intelligence community is certainly capable of more than enough evil to make a reasonable citizen worry about what is currently being done in our name. But Goldberg thinks he’s proven that critics of the intelligence community overestimate either its powers or its capacity for evil.
John Cook turns the game back on Goldberg by using his non-rearranged schnozz as proof that there’s no such thing as liberal fascism, because otherwise the liberal fascists would have punched Goldberg out by now. Again, both efforts can rightly be criticized as incitements to violence, but neither of them is a literal call to violence. (Just as a footnote, I’m still bothered by the fact that even a literal call to violence – the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, for example – is protected speech unless the incitement is specific and likely to be acted on promptly. So I could call for the rearrangement of Goldberg’s face without fear of criminal or civil liability. But that would be wrong.)
No, I don’t think Cook or DougJ or Kathy Kattenberg of The Moderate Voice owes Goldberg an apology: he’s earned any abuse he gets several times over. But if you’re trying to be reality-based, you have to work at it. Since the true things about Jonah Goldberg are more than adequate to make the case that he’s a waste of space on a crowded planet, there’s no need to invent false ones.
As to punching him out … well, those small bones are pretty fragile. “Use your words, not your hands.”