The subtitle is "How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas". True, but perhaps more accurate would be "How Liberal Arguments Got Lazy, Dishonest, Illogical, Ahistorical, Silly, and Incoherent." (That probably wouldn't have fit quite so well on the dust jacket.)
Jonah—I call him Jonah—leads off his introduction with a quote from Orwell: "[W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." He could have equally well used the take-home point from Orwell's "Politics and the English Language":
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.Jonah's had quite enough of that, thanks very much. The book is a quick evisceration of a couple dozen examples of "bad usage": thought-free clichés deployed by lefties to short-circuit and deflect intelligent argument.
And it's amazingly topical. A mere few weeks before the book was published, President Obama speechified about how the proposed GOP budget was "nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism." That utter bullshit got quickly refuted; but it would have been far simpler just to cut-n-paste the main points from Chapter 8 here.
Really: if you've found yourself annoyed by some smug liberal who's rattled off some facile self-serving wordstring: it's probably here. The "living Constitution"? Chapter 14. "Social justice"? Chapter 11. (I, for one, am not giving one dime to any institution that claims to be fostering "social justice.")
One problem: the progressive folks that make the arguments Jonah skewers here are the least likely to read the book. Too bad. If only a handful of liberal pundits decided to avoid using the listed clichés, they would be (at least) more interesting, if not any less wrong-headed.
I got the Kindle version, which suffered from annoying formatting with the initial drop-cap on every chapter: it wound up floating by itself above the rest of the text. Oh well.
Here's what's neat, though: on page 64, Jonah describes Mayor Bloomberg as a "nannying, statist bully who, much like Napoleon, hurls around charges of ideological ensorcellment as a way to delegitimize political opponents he cannot defeat in open debate."
Ensorcellment? Wha…? But Kindle comes to the rescue: even sitting (as I was) in the food court of the Northshore Mall in Peabody MA, all I had to do highlight the puzzling word, punch a key, and I was immediately whisked to the relevant entry in the included dictionary. (Not that it matters, but my guess is that Jonah went for the highfalutin word here as a small homage to the late William F. Buckley, Jr.)
So that was nice. In addition, when Jonah mentions (page 102) that the Oxford English Dictionary (invidiously and unjustifiably) claims that "Social Darwinism" is "often used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism", I was able to quickly verify that sad fact as well.