18.4.05

WE'D BELIEVE YOU IF YOU DIDN'T SHOUT SO MUCH. Book Review No. 12 is South Park Conservatives, which some of the big boys have already reviewed. I sometimes fear that the problem with polemical books like this is with the publishing house, Regnery, where I suspect resides an editor who errs on the side of preaching to the converted. Consider a passage from page 6 in the opening chapter, "The Old Media Regime,"
During the Reagan years, Bernard Goldberg wryly observes, "I started noticing that the homeless people we showed on the news didn't look very much like the homeless people I was tripping over on the sidewalk." In fact, the typical Reagan-era TV-news homeless person looked like your hard-working family-man neighbor, suddenly, catastrophically down on his luck because of a bad economy and a lack of "affordable housing," not the drug-addled, gibberish-spouting, fist-waving deinstitutionalized lunatic he was likely to be in the real world.
One might make the point without the adjectives, perhaps by noting that the networks' case studies featured people who, at the margin, might have kept their homes with a different set of public policies, rather than the people rendered helpless by a desire to close the asylums and rehabilitation hospitals, and the failed public policies might include zoning codes that impede the construction of cheaper housing. Cast in that light, however, the networks' emphasis might be a consequence of ignorance of the policy arguments, or of the constraints of the medium (try exploring that run-on sentence in 30 seconds, with memorable quotes and a chance for the info-babe to have a concerned look on her face) rather than on some bias. That's not Regnery's style, however: the polemical books have plenty of red meat.

A quote from page 32, at the end of yet another recitation of "Illiberal Liberalism," rings somewhat ironic.
But politics by invective is a double-edged weapon, because intelligent people will ultimately stop believing these accusations. Now that the proliferation of new media -- talk radio, cable television, the blogosphere -- is giving conservatives popular forums in which they can challenge and rebut their accusers, illiberal liberalism's political efficacy is eroding fast.
But what is replacing it? Moonbat. Wingnut. Idiotarian. Imperialist. A proliferation of outlets does not have to bring a proliferation of good ideas in its train.

The chapter dealing with Campus Conservatives Rising is in some ways least convincing. Yes, conservative voices are less rare on campus, and yes, there is resistance to much of the re-education masquerading as diversity awareness. But that resistance might be of a piece with the resistance to compulsory chapel from years ago, and the argument that such re-education crowds out substantive learning need not be a conservative complaint: see The Disuniting of America by Kennedy administration hagiographer Arthur Schlesinger., and The Twilight of Common Dreams by Berkeley veteran Todd Gitlin. These, too, have their polemical moments, but they raise some of the same objections that South Park Conservatives author Brian Anderson sees as evidence of libertarians and conservatives rising, without drawing that inference.

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