Jonah Goldberg’s fatwa-that-never-was

No, the miserable SOB didn’t actually call for the murder of Julian Assange.

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 Assange’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.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

14 thoughts on “Jonah Goldberg’s fatwa-that-never-was”

  1. "Well they tell you: never hit a man with a closed fist. But it is, on occasion, hilarious" — Mal

    You missed a great Firefly reference there. 🙂

  2. Mark: ¨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.¨

    American law draws pretty narrow boundaries around this sort of thing. I´m no lawyer, but I wonder if Goldberg´s rant would not be actionable in the UK under the Public Order Act. That´s even without the controversial ¨hate speech¨ laws of many European and other countries that prohibit incitement to hatred based on a history-driven list of characteristics (ethnicity, religion, etc.). These wouldn´t apply to Assange because he´s not being hated for being Australian, heterosexual, white, etc., but for being a nuisance to neocons and other war cheerleaders.

    But shouldn´t Assange be entitled to sue for defamation?

  3. Ah, but would you give Goldberg the steam off your sh*t if he were freezing to death in the Arctic?

  4. The entire premise of "Liberal Fascism" is undermined by Goldberg's ignoring of Franco's Spain, the fact that Mussolini and Hitler aided Franco militarily in the Spanish Civil War (the assault on Guernica, I believe, was the first instance in history of aerial bombardment of a civilian population; those were Stukas by the way, doing the bombing). This, of course, is in addition to Hitler and Franco debating about forming an alliance and Franco sending the Division Azul to fight alongside the Nazis against the Soviets.

    Franco received two of the briefest of mentions in Goldberg's book. If Goldberg wants to make the case that Franco is a leftie, then I sincerely hope he never gives anyone directions and has someone put his shoes on for him.

  5. I honestly don't know why people even bother rebutting Goldberg.

    He's not a thinker, and he's not a moral philosopher. He's a cheap, partisan polemicist, and nothing more.

  6. Goldberg did NOT call for Assange's murder. Goldberg wondered why he hadn't been murdered already, offered a rationale why some folks would murder him, suggested ways to murder him, and presented a set of narratives where Assange-like characters are murdered. In fact, Goldberg was extremely clever in that he never used the word "murder".

    Goldberg could have confined his essay to objecting to what Assange has done, but he provided "extra value" to the reader by adding notions of murder, something we can all appreciate. I know I did.

  7. Personally, I have $100 riding on a bet at 5:1 odds that Lucianne Goldberg will be dead before Dec. 31, 2010.

    Remember, the Paris Hilton Tax, now at zero, returns on Jan. 1, 2011.

  8. Randy Paul on Guernica: the British RAF used air power to put down rebellions in Iraq in 1920 and in Waziristan in 1925. Their attacks on rebel villages, with machine guns and primitive bombs, undoubtedly killed civilians. The new thing with Guernica was that it wasn´t a military target in even an elastic sense – unlike say the factories in Bilbao -, only a symbolic centre for Basque culture.

    None of this excuses Goldberg in any way. Mark should be harder on paralepsis, as Quiddity implies. Incitement doesn´t have to be literal.

  9. James Wimberly,

    That's largely what I meant, albeit articulated somewhat badly.

    In any event, Goldberg, to no one's surprise has never addressed Hitler's and Franco's mutual support, whcih would undermine his thesis,

  10. Mr. Wimberley,

    Hey, 5:1 odds involving Lucianne's Little Boy and the Paris Hilton Tax were just too good to pass up.

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