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July 6, 2005
Bernard Goldberg Interview, Part II: Not Just The Famous

I continue my converasation with Bernard Goldberg in this installment of the interview. Goldberg talks about his experiences with the blogosphere, the connection of sports to culture, and the New York Times. You can find Part I here.

CQ: Did you follow some of the speculation in the blogosphere and the media as to who was going to be in your Top 10, Top 25?

BG: [Laughs] A little bit. You know, Im laughing because Ive geared myself up to hear people say, What? How come you didnt put Hillary on the list? Things like that. Of course, it goes without saying that the people on the Left will say to me, How come Bush isnt on the list? How come Rush isnt on the list? So Im going to let people have fun with the list. I give them the opportunity on the very last page to tell me who they thing should be on the list. Maybe therell be an update at some point, and their entries will make it into the next book.

CQ: Are you going to put a blog site up, or a web site up, where people can send their entries?

BG: Well, Ed, I will tell you and I tell you this with a great deal of embarrassment that Im not great at the Web, you know what I mean? Im still finding my way, but I do have a website. Theres a place for people to post their opinions about things, including this. I will tell you flat out, its not Captains Quarters, but Im new at this, Ed! You gotta cut me some slack!

CQ: [Laughs] Absolutely! Ill make sure we post a link to that. Bloggers are going to be interested to find out that Markos Moulitsas made it to #52. What blogs do you read? What blogs do you follow?

BG: As I say, Ive got several jobs that keep me busy. I go to yours, I go to Power Line, I go to Free Republic You know, I dont want to offend the people I dont mention. Its just that Im not as hip to this stuff as I know I ought to be.

CQ: Maybe you have more of a life. Some of us could probably use more of a life and less of the blogs.

BG: [Laughs] Im not saying that! I know that will offend too many people.

CQ: [Laughs] Well, Ill say it and let them be offended at me instead. Now, youve worked on HBO Sports [Real Sports] for years and Im a big fan of your work there.

BG: Thank you.

CQ: I noticed that not too many sports figures made this list. Do you find them less consequential in terms of their ability to screw up America?

BG: No. Ill tell you why. When you have a hundred names, on one hand its not easy finding the right 100. On the other hand, you could come up with a thousand names. I figured that the ones really doing harm to our culture are the big cultural figures, the ones I mention in the book. Sports and religion are the two things in America that we really get passionate about. I think we get more passionate about those two things than we do about politics, frankly. So I knew I had to mention somebody in sports, and I mention somebody who, frankly, I like as a player. I like his work ethic; I like a lot about him. He was an example of somebody I wrote about with mixed feelings. I didnt sit down and write this saying, Oh, great! Im going to make this guy look bad.

A lot of times, I had mixed feelings about the people I wrote about. In this case, when a guys worried about how hes going to make it on seven million a year, I think he represents something bigger than himself. I think almost everybody in the book represents something bigger than themselves. What the sports reference represents, bigger than just the person I mention, is that a greediness has entered sports. Once upon a time, sports is where we went to escape, to have a good time, where we went to get away from all the crap we have in the culture. Now you find it there. You have a huge fight, and what happens when the fan gets caught? He says, Well, Im the victim here. Why should I get thrown out unless all the players are thrown out? You get fans yelling all kinds of stuff in arenas. If you take your kids, you have to listen to people saying, He dropped the f***ing football! What have we become? Sports had to be mentioned, but I didnt want to overdo it.

As a matter of fact, heres the real point. I could have come up with this guy, I could have come up with somebody on steroids, I could have come up with somebody whos violent, I could have come up with five or six or ten guys from the world of sports. I used the one I picked to represent the biggest problem in sports, and thats theres a disconnect between the athlete and the fan in a way that there wasnt not too many years ago. Not too many years ago, players had off-season jobs. Now they make so much money that they dont need it which is fine with me, Im a capitalist but then they complain that theyre only making seven million dollars? Come on.

CQ: I was looking at your top 10 and I found it really interesting. First off, one of the entries at least a couple of the entries, people wont be terribly familiar with.

BG: Exactly.

CQ: Jonathan Kozol, being one of them, I thought was a tremendous teaching moment in the book, ironically. And Pinch Sulzberger. I dont want to give away too much of the Top 10 here, I want people to read the book, but it speaks to the fact that you took this very seriously. This isnt a just some glib, Late Night Top 10 kind of list.

BG: Thanks for noticing that. Thats a very important point, one which I cant make, but I hope you will. A lot of the names on the list, the readers will recognize, but there are quite a few who they dont know, or I think most of them wont know. These are people who work behind the curtain, theyre not in the limelight, but theyre pulling all kinds of strings and doing lots of harm to the culture. I think one of the more interesting things about the book is how people will be introduced to these culprits who they didnt even know existed. I think thats a really important point, and I thank you, they way you said that, that its not just some Late Night Top 10 List. Yeah, there are famous people on the list, because they are screwing up the country, but there are people the reader will not know who are causing a great deal of harm to our culture. We need to tell the truth, and I think thats what this book does.

CQ: Given that two of your top ten involve the New York Times, what kind of review do you expect to get from the Gray Lady?

BG: None! I guarantee you, I guarantee you. Guarantee. Remember youre never supposed to say never? I am telling you, they will never, ever, ever, never review this book.

CQ: Thats interesting. You think theyll be able to get away without

BG: I dont have a doubt in the world about this. And you know what? I dont want this to come off as smug or self-centered or anything, but this is a serious book. This is an important book. Its a funny book, in a lot of parts I hope you think its funny but its an important book. And the New York Times wont touch it, for two reasons. One is the obvious reason, because their publisher is way up there on the list, but also because I find that even though they treated Bias very well, I think that the book review section is probably the most biased part of the New York Times. Theyve done stuff over the years like giving books to people they know will trash them, things like that. So they wont review it, and you know what, Ed? Im not going to lose a lot of sleep over that.

CQ: So what projects are coming up next for you? As you said, youre a very busy man, but what are you going to take on next?

BG: Im not an author by temperament. Im a TV news reporter by temperament. So Im going to keep busy with HBO, and Im going to keep busy with what people send me on this book to see if I need to put it all together someplace and have a readers edition. But Im always keeping an eye out for things I find interesting in the culture, and maybe Ill write an op-ed here and there, but another book is not on my to-do list right now. [Laughs]

CQ: Mr. Goldberg, I cant thank you enough

BG: Bernie, please.

CQ: Bernie, I cant thank you enough for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Im sure you see from this transcript that I enjoyed talking with Bernard Goldberg about the book and the issues surrounding it. He is a very pleasant but passionate man; both qualities come across in his book. The one message that underscores our conversation is that he intends this book to be taken seriously as a cultural critique. I would certainly recommend it to everyone interested in the topic. Its a fast read, but it definitely takes on the most serious issues. You can find my complete review here.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 6, 2005 8:37 AM

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