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July 5, 2005
Book Review: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

Like a great many people in the blogosphere, Bernard Goldberg's book Bias resonated deeply with me. His honesty about the institutional biases of the mainstream media outlets, especially at his former home at CBS, confirmed what many of us argued for years: that the liberal mindset of the editorial filters at these institutions directly impacted what we read and saw in their output. Goldberg described himself in that book as "classically liberal," arguing that liberalism in America had taken a sharp left turn and left him and many others behind, allowing him to see the bias closely from the inside out.

That self-categorization may not apply any longer after the publication of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37. In this effort, Goldberg effectively outs himself as a conservative-libertarian as his roster of American embarrassments overwhelmingly takes on the Left. From its first pages, Goldberg assails the loss of civility and rational discourse that used to exist in the public debate and the screamfest and obscenity-laced dialogue that has replaced it. Goldberg, in his introduction, predicts that people will complain that his bias affects the list, which he freely acknowledges in his traditional blunt style:

And it won't take you long to notice that there are a lot of liberals on the list, which, of course, is just how it ought to be. If I were compiling the list years ago, say, when I was in college, there'd be a lot of conservatives on it. But this isn't years ago, and besides, I'm smarter now than I was back then.

Goldberg goes after the pillars of liberalism, not just in its spokespeople, but in its central tenets. He attacks non-judgmentalism, not surprising for a book of this nature, but points out the intellectual stupidity of taking the concept to its extremes. Instead of promoting tolerance of the "right things", we have promoted what Goldberg calls "indiscriminate tolerance" -- where we not only have to tolerate the offensive (such as Chris Ofili and Britney/Madonna liplocks), but get castigated if we don't celebrate it as well. (Not that conservatives escape scot-free; the tiresome Michael Savage makes an appearance, as do a handful of other extremists from the right.)

While this is a list book, and Americans love list books, it's fair to say that the meat of Goldberg's intent can be found before page 55, when readers get to Rick and Kathy Hilton, hilariously occupying the final slot at #100. A series of essays sets up Goldberg's selections ends at page 54, but in that brief overture, Goldberg writes mightily against the prevailing idiocies of modern discourse. He takes on America-bashers and the purveyors of "Punitive Liberalism", those people who feel America must suffer punishment for its past and exacts it on American policy today. Hollywood celebrity idiots come in for a roasting; in fact, he makes room for many of them in his list, and on top of that includes three generic slots for the Dumb Celebrity, The Vicious Celebrity, and the Dumb and Vicious Celebrity. He takes on television, especially television news, gangsta rap, lawyers promoting the culture of litigiousness, white-collar criminals, sex warriors, and literary radicals.

Most interestingly, Goldberg takes on race relations. As a rich white man -- and arguably a conservative voice, now -- conventional wisdom suggests he should remain silent on this issue. But he not only brings it up, he debates it numerous times in his book, even hauling out the 'N' word as a point in the debate. It provides a measure of his courage that he willingly ventures into this territory, and it shows that Goldberg means to have this work taken as seriously as Bias.

In essence, the book serves its main course in that first 54 pages, and offers the reader 100 servings of dessert afterwards. It might be easy for people to gin up a list of 100 Americans they'd like to see on a slow boat to anywhere else, but Goldberg writes meaningfully about each one of them in explanation -- except for three celebrities, where he uses brevity for wit and who really need no explanation anyway. He also goes past the obvious to get to the real driving forces behind the cultural changes that made this book necessary. The top 10 will surprise you; most readers will not be familiar with all 10. I found the inclusion of Jonathan Kozol highly illuminative, and perhaps the best teaching moment of the entire book. I will not reveal where Kozol falls within the top 10 (or any other specific positions on the list), but I can guarantee you that the New York Times will not enjoy this book. I can't wait to read their review.

For those of us who openly speculated on the book, I can report that the wait was worth it. Goldberg has delivered a new volume in his cultural reporting that may not have all the impact of Bias but will certainly capture the imagination. I highly recommend it for all readers -- and not just because Markos Moulitsas is #52.

Coming later today: an interview with Bernard Goldberg.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 5, 2005 8:07 AM

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Captain's Quarters discusses the implications of Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias.Like a great many people in the blogosphere, Bernard Goldberg's book Bias resonated deeply with me. His honesty about the institutional biases of the mainstream media outlet... [Read More]

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From a comment by ‘LiberalGoodman’ on this post at Captain’s Quarters (the 13th, dated 7-05 at 6:42 pm): This book is another illustration of the fact that "conservative intellectual" is an oxymoron. To be an intellectual, you have to read boo... [Read More]

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Bernie Goldberg represents everything that is wrong with American letters. He's a lazy one-trick pony with an axe to grind. His writing is pedantic. His research is shoddy. His style is laborious. He can barely tell a verb from an [Read More]

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