The Magazine

Ideas Matter

So long as they are ideas and not partisan talking points.

May 21, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 34 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Yet effectively rebutting liberal arguments isn’t where this book shines the most. Goldberg quotes George Orwell’s famous observation that “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Of course, the real need goes beyond restating the obvious; it’s finding a way to make the obvious engaging. And here, Goldberg succeeds admirably. Which is not to say that The Tyranny of Clichés is without flaws. A few chapters feel needlessly discursive, and some topics could stand to be fleshed out a bit. Given Tyranny’s short length and wide ideological/historical sweep, it would be nearly impossible for most readers not to have a few objections, or stumble across places where they feel the argument could be made better. Still, it’s quite a feat to write a polemic about byzantine ideological disputes and political semantics and make it thoroughly enjoyable. If you’re interested in giving a precocious student or open-minded liberal an explanation for why they should take the trouble to understand conservatism, this is the book to give them. There’s a good chance they’ll actually read it; it will likely make them do some rethinking; and it almost certainly will make them laugh. 

Unfortunately, those most in need of freeing themselves from the tyranny of clichés are still bitterly clinging to their own transparent attempts to dismiss people who don’t share their worldview. Jonah Goldberg recently found himself on the receiving end of a contentious interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, who, in the middle of the interview, made a point of defending an Obama attack ad about Mitt Romney while insisting he supports neither political party. “If you’re not batting for Democrats,” responded Goldberg, “it’s a wonderful approximation of it.” To which Morgan quickly responded: “Let’s deal with reality.” 

Inadvertently or not, Morgan couldn’t have made the case for reading Goldberg’s book any better.

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.