Jonah Goldberg is a Partisan Douchebag

Jonah Goldberg is a partisan douchebag. I met him for the first time in person a few months ago, and have been reading his columns for over a decade. I can confirm that he is, in fact, a partisan douchebag.

Mr. Goldberg wants to start with some data, but he doesn't cite any recent data about hate crimes against Muslims - or recent public attempts to block the construction of mosques. And not just two blocks away from Ground Zero, i.e. Ground 2.0, but also public attempts to block the construction of mosques in other parts of the country.

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And since there is no justifiable reason to protest the construction of a Muslim community center apart from bigotry towards Muslims, we must conclude that 70% of Americans polled are bigots. This is not very surprising, as I explained earlier:

Can you think of any other time in history when 70% or more of Americans were intolerant bigots? I sure can. Is there any good reason to think that this collectivist impulse was just a passing phase in human history? Or is it more likely that we still have many of the same impulses our human ancestors had before us, including the intellectual ease with which we (including myself) fall into us-versus-them tribal thinking?

Republicans/conservatives/Tea Partiers believe that Muslim-baiting is a smart political tactic to win midterm elections, and perhaps they are right: They have had great success with race-baiting in the past. In fact, the very publication that employs Jonah Goldberg--The National Review--publicly opposed racial integration. Its founder, William F. Buckley, famously wrote within its glorious pages,

the central question that emerges... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.

The new "Southern strategy"--the Islam strategy--may turn out to be politically successful, at least in the short run. It certainly polls well. But a Jew who knows the history of the Jewish people, or anyone who cares at all about civil rights, has no business supporting a politically successful but morally outrageous strategy.

Three of Jonah's paragraphs are particularly noteworthy:

No doubt some American Muslims -- particularly young Muslim men with ties to the Middle East and South Asia -- have been scrutinized at airports more than elderly women of Norwegian extraction, but does that really amount to Islamophobia, given the dangers and complexities of the war on terror?

No doubt some African-Americans-- particularly young black men with ties to a culture conservatives demonize for the glorification of crime and drugs -- have been scrutinized at traffic stops more than elderly women of Norwegian extraction, but does that really amount to racism, given the dangers and complexities of the war on drugs and crime?

The answer, of course, is yes: It does really amount to racism. In case you were wondering.

More Jonah:

It's an odd argument given that Americans have shed a lot of blood for Muslims over the last three decades: to end the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans, to feed Somalis and to liberate Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Afghans. Millions of Muslims around the world would desperately like to move to the U.S., this supposed land of intolerance.

Jonah seems to be on the very brink of realizing that not all Muslims are the same, but he's just not quite there yet. Many Muslims would like to move to the U.S., and yet many Muslims also view American society as intolerant towards Islam. How could this possible be? Could it be that some Muslims like America and some Muslims do not? Could it even be that the *very same* Muslims who like America and wish to move here ALSO believe that America could be more tolerant towards people of non-Christian faiths, or even no faith at all?

Might it also be possible that some Muslims do not particularly want Americans shedding blood for them, and in fact believe (quite rightly) that Americans have shed a lot of *Muslim blood* over the last three decades? This might be worth investigating, instead of childishly pretending that "they hate us for our freedom." Sure, some Muslims might hate us for our freedom, but I have a feeling a lot more Muslims hate us for our foreign policy - an aggressive foreign policy that publications like National Review publicly support.

Conversely, nowhere is there more open, honest and intentional intolerance -- in words and deeds -- than from certain prominent Muslim leaders around the world. And yet, Americans are the bigots?

Did Jonah Goldberg pass kindergarten? Did he fail to learn that "but he did it too!" is not a valid excuse? That it's possible for both parties to a conflict to be in the wrong? Shit, it doesn't take a bucky in Bava Kamma or a legal expert in joint liability to grok this concept; young children understand it. Pitiful.

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I wouldn't worry Micha, after

I wouldn't worry Micha, after all the intellectual battle against bigotry is largely won. At least that's what you told me last week.

Or maybe, and I'm just spitballing here, maybe by a program of political correctness you've only succeeded in driving people's real opinions underground until they are sufficiently stressed.

I'm for property rights. Absent compelling evidence that the builders plant to use the Mosque as a staging area for terrorist attacks the owners should be able to dispose of their property as they see fit regardless of who likes it. And there is no such evidence.

Some number of the protesters are calling for selective enforcement of law to abridge those property rights, but most I've heard are simply whining like you. And I know from previous discussions that you favor the adoption of laws that would immediately cause the violation of property rights of bigots.

So as I see it, you kind of deserve them, they kind of deserve you, and I don't really deserve either of you.

The intellectual battle

The intellectual battle against the *principle* of bigotry is largely won, but it's application is a different matter. Consider blacks and women to be on one side of the spectrum, and Mexicans, Muslims, and gays to be on the other. Explicit anti-black or anti-female bigotry will result in a case of revulsion for normal, well socialized people. Whereas the application of this same principle to gay people, the non-native born, and non-Christians is less solidified and widespread.

For what it's worth, widespread adoption and consistent application of a social norm of non-bigotry towards the non-native born must logically result in one of two policy options: Anarchy (in the best way) or a single world government. Hayekian knowledge problems make the second option impossible, which pretty much every expert economist would agree with - barring the unrepentant Stalinists with Ph.D.s in economics, of which there may be some, but not many.

Therefore, a consistent commitment to functional non-bigotry must lead one to anarchism. Q.E.D.

Or maybe, and I'm just spitballing here, maybe by a program of political correctness you've only succeeded in driving people's real opinions underground until they are sufficiently stressed.

You say political correctness as if it's necessarily a bad thing. It isn't. It serves a useful social function of decorum, collegiality - of what might be called the virtues of etiquette and manners. It can sometimes be taken too far, but so can many valuable things. I learned a great deal from reading this old Roderick Long post on political correctness.

Second, if political correctness succeeds in driving people's real opinions underground until they are sufficiently stressed, one of two things may happen. We could either have a race war--as many white supremacists messianically dream for--or we could have a bunch of old KKK members die out, and hopefully not teach their children too much irrational hatred and nonsense before they do. And if that generation fails to adopt standards of decency and politeness, then social pressure will see to it that the next generation does so adopt, else repeat as necessary until problem is solved. I think the latter possibility is more likely, is born out by history, and that those with the irrational preference for bigotry are rightfully the ones whose preferences need to change, and not the preferences of those who wish to be openly gay, openly Muslim, or openly a non-citizen. That is how society advances.

I'm for property rights.

And I'm for hot fudge sundaes, but what does that have to do with anything? This isn't a question of property rights; it's obvious who the property rights belong to. It's a question of social decorum, of whether we are going to accept anti-Muslim collective guilt by association as acceptable social behavior, or whether that behavior needs to be shunned, discouraged, etc. Property rights do not answer that question. There is more to ethics than torts and property claims.

And I know from previous discussions that you favor the adoption of laws that would immediately cause the violation of property rights of bigots.

Could you be more specific here?

The intellectual battle

The intellectual battle against the *principle* of bigotry is largely won, but it's application is a different matter. Consider blacks and women to be on one side of the spectrum, and Mexicans, Muslims, and gays to be on the other. Explicit anti-black or anti-female bigotry will result in a case of revulsion for normal, well socialized people.

It results in revulsion for most "well socialized" people because they know they'll be excoriated and ostracized, even harmed, if they don't toe the politically correct line. Intellectual battle my ass.

And I'm for hot fudge sundaes, but what does that have to do with anything? This isn't a question of property rights; it's obvious who the property rights belong to.

Property rights settle the moral question of whether the owners should be allowed to build the Mosque. Case closed. They also settle the moral question of who should be allowed to sit at a lunch counter. But in that case you are not very tolerant.

It's a question of social decorum, of whether we are going to accept anti-Muslim collective guilt by association as acceptable social behavior, or whether that behavior needs to be shunned, discouraged, etc.

I am tolerant of vices, irrationality being one, recognizing them as inevitable in human society. I am intolerant of moral crimes.

You are intolerant of some vices and tolerant of some crimes against those with the vices you abhor.

You seek to browbeat the irrational into supposed rationality and call it an intellectual battle, oblivious to the irrationality of your own project.

Could you be more specific here?

We've been over it several times. For example you favor the extension of marriage "rights" to gays even though such law would immediately be used to violate the property rights of those who would choose to discriminate against gays.

Do you make a distinction

Do you make a distinction between excoriated and ostracized on the one hand, and harm on the other? Keep in mind the intellectual problems that arose from popular adoption of Mill's Harm Principle, and the ambiguity that goes with the concept of harm, as viewed through an enforceable NAP lens, or an unenforceable discouragement of vice lens.

Social ostracism or lesser forms of shunning (*tsk tsk*, the incredulous stare) is how intellectual battles are won, culturally. It leads to moral progress. We are getting closer and closer to treating persons--all persons--with the respect they deserve. That is undoubtedly a good thing from any perspective, especially a libertarian one.

Property rights settle the moral question of whether the owners should be allowed to build the Mosque. Case closed

Right, but as I said, the question has nothing to do with whether the owners should be allowed to build the Mosque. The question is being framed as whether the owners should build the Mosque, or whether doing so is in bad taste. And as I pointed out in the previous linked thread, suggesting that it would be in bad taste for the owners to build a mosque on their own property is itself a suggestion given in bad taste. Property rights do not settle questions of taste, which touches on an important element of ethics: virtues and vices - unenforcible ethical obligations.

They also settle the moral question of who should be allowed to sit at a lunch counter. But in that case you are not very tolerant.

Nope, not very tolerant at all. If I was on a jury deciding a trial for a non-violent civil disobedient trespasser, depending on the facts, I might very well vote to acquit. And I don't see how property rights answer any moral question about whether it's right to exclude, on the basis of race, a customer from your lunch counter. The restaurant owner certainly has (or should have) the property right to exclude, for whatever the reason, and no one should forcefully prevent him or her from doing so. But that doesn't tell us if the restaurant owner is committing a moral vice by excluding people based on arbitrary factors and/or collectivism. Nor does it tell us whether or not, and to what extent, people who object to this vice should react in non-coercive means: through boycott, shunning, bad publicity, or yes, even some times, mass civil disobedience. Thoreau is libertarian enough for me.

You seek to browbeat the irrational into supposed rationality and call it an intellectual battle, oblivious to the irrationality of your own project.

Cute. If I had a masthead with vanity quotes about myself, I'd add that one to the collection. Shit, I'm tagging you on Facebook. That's my new status, yo.

Could you be more specific here?

We've been over it several times. For example you favor the extension of marriage "rights" to gays even though such law would immediately be used to violate the property rights of those who would choose to discriminate against gays.

Oh yeah, that. Theory of second best, my friend. Roderick Long formalizes the point in response to a similar question,

Let see If I understand, a true Libertarian should advocate the end of every tax and privilege, right?

Yes. But there are cases where we can have the following preference ranking:

1. Remove both tax and privilege
2. Keep both tax and privilege
3. Remove tax, keep privilege

as opposed to:

1. Remove both tax and privilege
2. Remove tax, keep privilege
3. Keep both tax and privilege

Or, in other words, the status quo violates the rights--namely, the right to contract--of gays and lesbians, and all of the various benefits and costs that exercising this right creates. One cost of which may be, in the world of second best, a violation of the right to discriminate against married gay couples, if legalizing gay marriage creates a legally protected class against discrimination. (I do not know enough about discrimination law to know whether legalizing gay marriage would in fact trigger discrimination liability by promoting sexual orientation to the list of existing legally protected categories.) In any case, we would be trading one rights violation for another, and libertarian theory thinly defined does not give a clear answer for what to do when faced with a decision between two second-best alternatives. Ethics, decency, and common sense would give a clearer answer. So much the worse for thinly defined libertarianism.

Do you make a distinction

Do you make a distinction between excoriated and ostracized on the one hand, and harm on the other?

Yes, the last is a crime the others are merely obnoxious.

Social ostracism or lesser forms of shunning (*tsk tsk*, the incredulous stare) is how intellectual battles are won, culturally.

That's intellect? Monkeys do the equivalent.

In any case, we would be trading one rights violation for another, and libertarian theory thinly defined does not give a clear answer for what to do when faced with a decision between two second-best alternatives.

There is a difference between preferring a lesser evil and advocating one because while we live in a world where it is nearly inevitable that evil will be done it is never inevitable that the individual be party to it. The fact that you prefer the rights of gays to the rights of bigots cannot justify trading one for the other.

Social ostracism or lesser

Social ostracism or lesser forms of shunning (*tsk tsk*, the incredulous stare) is how intellectual battles are won, culturally. It leads to moral progress. We are getting closer and closer to treating persons--all persons--with the respect they deserve. That is undoubtedly a good thing from any perspective, especially a libertarian one.

I understand why Long thinks people deserve a certain respect, why do you think they do?

Could it even be the case the

Could it even be the case the the *very same* Muslims who like America and wish to move here ALSO believe that America could be more tolerant towards people of non-Christian faiths, or even no faith at all?

I suspect this would play better with a lot of Americans if such Muslims more typically prefaced such concern by voicing their concerns for the intolerance of Islamic culture in general. Absent that it lacks a certain street cred.

Sure, and I sometimes wish

Sure, and I sometimes wish Christians and Jews apologized for all of the terribly intolerant things people have done in the name of those religions and cultures as well, and continue to do to this day. It's the singling out of Islam that I have a problem with. I understand the claims people make to distinguish Islam as a religion that has not yet gone through its enlightenment. Whether or not these claims are true, I think the best way to help Islam through an enlightenment is to demonstrate through our actions the enlightenment values of reason, tolerance, wisdom, and skepticism.

Implicit in your claim above is that there is a singular "Islamic culture." I think moderate American Muslims, and all the different kinds of Islamic cultures across the world would find that claim troubling. As an atheist but ethnic Jew, must I voice my concern for the intolerance of Jewish culture in general, or only those Jewish cultural traditions in which I actively engage? As it happens, I do enjoy voicing my concerns about all sorts of religious, cultural practices, but I don't feel its a necessary responsibility; one need not apologize for the actions of another.