Guest Review by Jonah Goldberg on Greg Gutfeld’s The Joy of Hate
Jonah Goldberg is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and contributing editor to National Review. A USA Today contributor and former columnist for the Times of London, he has also written for The New Yorker, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.
The funny thing about Gutfeld is that he’s really funny. But this fact obscures the other funny thing about Gutfeld: He’s really absurdly smart. This is readily apparent to anyone who picks up The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.
Gutfeld’s basic argument is that the Forces of Tolerance claim an exclusive monopoly on, well, tolerance. But they use tolerance as a cudgel, a means of enforcing political correctness and shaming heretics into silence. “The idea of tolerance—a seemingly innocuous concept—has now become something else entirely: a way to bludgeon people into shutting up, piping down, and apologizing, when the attacked are often the ones who hold the key to common sense,” Gutfeld writes. “They speak an unspeakable truth, and they get clobbered by the Truncheon of Tolerance. Tolerance has turned normal people into sheep/parrot hybrids, followers in word and deed—bloating and squawking at everyone in a psychological torment not experienced since Dave Matthews picked up a guitar.” In other words, behind the liberal double-standard conservatives so often complain about is a single standard: the left holds a monopoly on acceptable speech.
To his credit, Gutfeld acknowledges that conservatives are too often prone to adopting the “voice of perpetual outrage.” Gutfeld considers himself a libertarian, albeit one of an admirably Victorian variety, though I may be the only person who’d use that adjective. “I have a rule,” Gutfeld proclaims. “Anything that can be done privately does not need to be performed publicly. It’s why I love the gays but I hate their parades.” The reason I say this is Victorian, is that in Victorian England, there was all sorts of wild hanky-panky going on, but it was behind closed doors. In public there was one social norm for everyone, in private there were so many freak flags flying it looked like the rotunda outside the U.N.
Obviously, Gutfeld doesn’t want the one standard to be anything nearly so constraining or oppressive as that of Victorian England. But he does want one standard: Don’t whine about how someone or something hurts your feelings and is offensive when what really bothers you is that someone disagrees with your point of view or agenda.
Gutfeld doesn’t mention Herbert Marcuse, but he talks a lot about “repressive tolerance,” a term Marcuse coined and popularized. The Frankfurt School Marxist argued that traditional—i.e., classically liberal—notions of tolerance were in fact oppressive because they helped perpetuate the sorts of societies Marcuse disliked (liberal, capitalist, democratic, free, decent, etc). And so, as Frankfurt School Marxists are known to do, he vomited up a bilious stew of nonsense that basically served as a secular fatwa: Leftwing groups are free to say whatever they want, but “rightwing” groups (defined as any outfit not loyal to leftwing groups) were to be treated as bigoted and offensive simply because they disagreed with leftwing groups. As Marcuse writes, “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.”
Gutfeld doesn’t bother with Marcuse, because Marcuse is dead and was only considered really smart by the people who wanted an eggheaded excuse to be asinine hypocrites. Gutfeld’s fight is much closer to the ground. It’s an incredibly timely argument, given the new rage for what the kids today call “concern trolling.” This is where people pretend to be deeply, deeply troubled or concerned about this or that when they’re really not. Have you ever noticed how many extremely liberal columnists and TV pundits devote so much time to worrying about the Republican Party’s electoral prospects given America’s changing demographics? Or evolving attitudes about abortion? Or homosexuality? Because we all know that if the GOP suddenly became pro-choice and for open borders, Keith Olbermann would suddenly start voting Republican.