A Conservative Historian Eviscerates Lowbrow Right-wing ‘Intellectuals’

A Conservative Historian Eviscerates Lowbrow Right-wing ‘Intellectuals’ December 28, 2017

Paul Gottfried, the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, is a genuine conservative intellectual and historian. Writing at The American Conservative, he absolutely disembowels today’s right-wing pseudo-intellectuals like Jonah Goldberg, Dennis Prager and Dinesh D’Souza.

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A new anthology of the writings of intellectual historian David Gordon contains a devastating review of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. Reading it reminded me how bad GOP propaganda dressed up as “history” can really be.

David takes no prisoners in his acidic analysis of bad books, and I am still eagerly awaiting his savaging of Dinesh D’Souza’s latest attempt to treat the Democratic Party as the American version of the German Nazi Party…

In addition to pushing a badly substantiated comparison between fascists and Nazis (Jonah runs the two together) and Hillary Clinton Democrats, Goldberg fills his stem-winder with errors that even a moderately intelligent editor should have caught. He attributes to worthies Martin Heidegger and Jean-Jacques Rousseau positions that, as Gordon explains, were diametrically opposed to those that these figures actually expressed. One can easily doubt whether Goldberg ever read a word of either thinker.

He also mistakes the Jacobins during the French Revolution for communists, and has Napoleon battling “the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” which was not created until 1867…

If President Trump sometimes blurts out questionable facts, one comes away from Gordon’s review believing that next to Goldberg, the Donald is a practitioner of scientific method.

Let me note that such inexcusably sloppy editorializing posing as scholarship has becoming increasingly characteristic of the conservative movement as a media phenomenon. Editorial opinions dressed up as as scholarship and then placed in book form and mass-marketed have become part of the new highbrow conservatism…

Let me close these observations by noting the obvious. There are still many respectable historical works that are produced by scholars identified, however loosely, with the American right. But there is also a plague of genuinely ridiculous writings on historical subjects coming from conservative media celebrities that surpass in their arrogant stupidity almost anything I’ve encountered in professional journals.

Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark. Or it would, if people like Goldberg, Prager and D’Souza were capable of understanding it or feeling the burn. But they aren’t. They’re hucksters who have found an audience willing to fawn over them and hand over gobs of money because they think it provides a veneer of respectability to their crude and badly thought out beliefs. The truth could hardly be further away. Those three are really textbook examples of what stupid people think smart people to be.

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