Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Unted Front Against Bullshit (I Like That)

"[Susan] Jacoby informs us,...that she can think of no better example of why the right is never to be taken at face value in their discussion of the 60s. How does this logic work, one wonders? Would it be equally acceptable to take a claim about the 60s from a left-wing author with which one agrees and derive from its supposed truth the conclusion that one can think of no better reason to always trust the left?

Jacoby doesn’t entirely fail to criticize the left. She recalls time spent in the Soviet Union that made her understand and appreciate American liberty. She admits that the left has politicized junk science and fostered trends within academia that serve to trample over reason and quell healthy debate. She notes, in particular, certain strains of feminism. But how, one wonders, can there be a discussion of American unreason that fails to confront the wooly-headed postmodern philosophy that dominates literary theory classes and much political discourse of the left? Noam Chomsky managed to say that the British journalist and blogger Oliver Kamm’s criticism of him showed that he was complicit in state crimes — this from a man touted so often as “the world’s greatest living intellectual.” Scan the index for mention of Chomsky’s name and you’ll find nothing."

Jacoby is fond of asking how a person living in America today can know X and not Y, how they can value things so valueless while failing to appreciate the most precious — but mostly how they can fail to criticize glaring transgressions against reason and good sense. Great questions, but they might be posed to her as well: the track record of the American left in recent years has blemishes at least as hideous as those of the right, but that track record is not met with nearly the bluster that she gives to what she repeatedly refers to as “the right wing.”

The repetition of these words wouldn’t be nearly so disturbing if they weren’t so common in the text and if they didn’t so outnumber the appearances of “left wing.” One gets the sense that, for Jacoby, referring to something as “right wing” is an epithet, which is a problem for anybody hoping to approach a book like this for a sober assessment of what wrong turns America has taken since its inception as one of the grandest — and most successful — experiments of the Enlightenment. As one who is generally disowned by “the right wing” for being a snarling liberal and by “the left wing” for being a neocon apologist for imperialism, I have always taken a great refuge where category is concerned in Robert Conquest’s recommendation that, rather than beating worn-out steeds to death, we should forget about left and right and seek a United Front Against Bullshit. Jacoby’s book most certainly offers invaluable ammunition to this Front, but there are unfortunately times where it feels more like an attempt to revive those horses and ride them into the partisan sunset. In those moments, the book seems to miss its own point, leaving the Front to once again lament its frustrating dearth of firepower."
-- Josh Strawn, writer and musician, reviewing Susan Jacoby's The Age Of American Unreason for Pajamas Media.

1 comment:

  1. Because Oliver Kamm is a devoit liar and apologist for state crimes, this is not in dispute.