Language has a well-known liberal bias

Jonah gets an email  from a "DC based television writer" who starts his email off like a Penthouse Forum masturbater writer ( "I’m a freshman at a small midwestern univerity and I never thought this would happen to me…") and complains that Peter Mark Roget is a fascist word-Nazi or something :

I was looking for a good synonym for the word "advanced." (I am writing about dinosaurs.) I went to one of my usual sources, Thesaurus.com – – the on-line version of the esteemed Roget’s Thesaurus.

So just what words are listed as synonyms for "advanced?" – – how about "liberal" or "progressive."

Main Entry: advanced
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: ahead in position, time, manner
Synonyms: avant-garde, breakthrough, excellent, exceptional, extreme, first, foremost, forward, higher, late, leading, liberal, precocious, progressive, radical, state-of-the-art*, unconventional, cutting-edge, leading-edge

Then, just for fun, I clicked on the word "liberal" – – and got such hits as "enlightened," "humanitarian," "intelligent," "rational," "unbiased," unprejudiced" and "unbigoted" – – as for antonyms try "conservative" and "narrow-minded."


I am a great fan of your columns – – and maybe somewhere in the creeping leftism of something as supposedly benign as a thesaurus will give you some fodder for some future writings…

Jonah responds:

While annoying, none of this surprises me. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that my book is idiotic on its face because the dictionary says so.

Oddly enough, even the free-market Financial Times thought Jonah’s book was, well, let them explain:

Ever since the “Reagan revolution”, conservative intellectuals have dominated the battle of ideas in American politics. But the success of Jonah Goldberg’s silly book, Liberal Fascism, suggests that American conservatism may now be in some intellectual trouble. The book has done well in the United States. It reached number three on The New York Times bestseller list. Yet it is dedicated to an absurd proposition – that American liberals are the direct ideological heirs of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. This is the kind of ya-boo politics that has deformed American talk radio for years. But it is depressing that you can get a bestseller out of such nonsense.

Goldberg is not a stupid man. A pundit and commentator, he writes fluently and occasionally amusingly – and he has read lots of books about fascism. The opening pages of his own work are a quasi-learned dissection of the central tenets of fascism. But the purpose of the book is not to understand fascism. It is to discredit American liberals. Goldberg piles example upon example, to draw harebrained comparisons between American liberals and fascists. Liberals buy organic food. But did you know that “Dachau hosted the world’s largest alternative and organic medicine research lab and produced its own organic honey”? Well, I never.

Over the course of almost 500 pages, Liberal Fascism pursues a tedious argument of insidious intent to lead us to an overwhelmingly stupid question: “Was Bill Clinton a fascist president?” Surprisingly, the answer to this question is No. Clinton, it seems, wasn’t even good enough to deserve the label fascist: “To say that he was a fascist himself is to credit him with more ideology and principle than justified.”


At the end of his book, Goldberg encapsulates his anger at the unfairness of American liberals by recalling with approval an exchange between Gore Vidal, the leftwing novelist, and the late William F. Buckley, who founded the conservative National Review (a publication that now boasts Goldberg as a contributing editor): “In 1968, in a televised debate, Gore Vidal continually goaded William F. Buckley, eventually calling him a ‘crypto-Nazi’. Vidal himself is an open homosexual, a pagan, a statist and a conspiracy theorist. Buckley, a patriotic, free-market, anti-totalitarian gentleman of impeccably good manners, could take it no more and responded: ‘Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the Goddam face and you’ll stay plastered.’”

Buckley himself swiftly regretted his outburst. Goldberg has taken it as the inspiration to write an entire book.

If Goldberg’s book were the best that American conservatism had to offer, the outlook for the American right would be extremely gloomy.

Jonah’s book isn’t "idiotic on its face".

It’s idiotic to the bone.

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