Friday, May 11, 2012

Humoring Bullies

Speaking of bullies (see below), Alex Pareene dissects Jonah Goldberg’s latest bit of effluence, The Tyranny of Clichés.

On the back of my review copy of “The Tyranny of Clichés,” Goldberg’s latest, it still claims that the author “has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.” That, of course, was revealed yesterday to be utter bullshit. He is a two-time entrant for Pulitzer consideration — to enter requires solely an application and a $50 fee — and while Goldberg claims not to have added that line to his bio, it appears everywhere he writes, and it’s hard to believe he hadn’t noticed it until this week. That said, I can’t imagine a person dumb enough to actually believe that Jonah Goldberg had been seriously considered for a Pulitzer. (Well, OK, I can imagine one person dumb enough.)

If Pulitzers were handed out, like editorships at conservative publications, based on nepotism, Goldberg might’ve had better luck.

I have never had the privilege of reading one of Mr. Goldberg’s books in its entirety. I picked up his last one, Liberal Fascism, at a bookstore, read about ten pages, and had to restrain myself from invoking Dorothy Parker: “This is not a [book] to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” As Mr. Pareene notes so well, Mr. Goldberg is both lazy and unoriginal. He regurgitates right wing talking points and mashes them together in a way that defies both logic and good grammar. He aspires to be H.L. Mencken and comes off more like H.R. Pufnstuf; it’s all word salad with a dollop of whiny victimhood on the side.

So why am I picking on poor Jonah? It’s not because I envy him either his position or his income. (If I made money writing that badly, I’d give it all away out of sheer guilt.) It’s because it is sycophants like him that enable the Mitt Romneys of the world to get away with their bullshit. Every bully has his posse of enablers; the cohorts who go along and and hold down the victim while the big jock cuts off their hair or pisses in their shoes. They do it not just because they get some kind of charge out of it but because they know that they could so easily be the one pinned to the floor. They mock the weak because there but for the grace of daddy’s trust fund and an utter lack of courage go they. He and Tucker Carlson go together like salt and peter.

The writings of Mr. Goldberg also illustrate one of the most prevalent aspects of conservative pundits: they really fail at humor. Try as they might, they just can’t grasp the concept. That’s because most of their attempts at humor are aimed at the weak or the disenfranchised elements of our society. They pick on those who are already victims. It’s both creepy and cruel, and the only kind of laughter it invokes is the involuntary kind that comes from “Are you serious?”

The best humor comes from mocking the pompous and knocking them off their pedestal. There’s nothing new about this; Aristophanes nailed it 2,400 years ago, and it lives on in the genius of Shakespeare, the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, and the last scene in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The problem for conservatives is that they are the ones who are putting themselves up on the pedestal, and there’s never a banana peel around when you need one.