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The intolerance of Jonah Goldberg

By Nicholas Wilbur - posted Thursday, 9 September 2010

Americans never seem to get their fill of craziness. Think Sarah Palin; viral Internet videos of drunken squirrels; websites for toenail clipping collections; toilet seat art; non-political “Restoring America” rallies; $80 skin cream; you shout “espresso enema” in Central Park, people either give a quick wink and a little nod or go home and Google it.

Ranking probably in the top 100 in this obsessive but patriotic pastime is Jonah Goldberg, a nationally syndicated columnist whose right-wing logic has more than kept pace with the Republican Party’s recent devolution into radical irrationality.

In his August 24 column, Goldberg calls out the Obama Administration for its “reflexive response” of fretting about an anti-Muslim climate in America that, according to the intellectual powerhouse that is Jonah Goldberg, doesn’t actually exist.


Like any good journalist, Goldberg backs up his assertion with facts. He cites FBI data from 2001 showing that hate crimes against Muslims increased a whopping 1,600 per cent after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In the next breath he calls this “a math mirage”, stating that, “In 2002 and pretty much every year since, anti-Jewish incidents have outstripped anti-Muslim incidents by at least 6 to 1”. What’s so crazy about this? Nothing. He’s right.

According to the FBI, anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2001 totalled 1,117 compared to the anti-Muslim total of 546. In 2008, anti-Jewish versus anti-Muslim hate crime offences totalled 1,055 and 123, respectively. It’s in the next sentence that Goldberg’s logic turns to mush. Upon referencing these statistics, Goldberg asks, “Why aren’t we talking about the anti-Jewish climate in America?”

A bit more research doesn’t necessarily provide an answer, but it does contextualise Goldberg’s failed attempt to contextualise the anti-Muslim data. Yes, more Jews are victims of hate crime than Muslims, but neither could hold a flame to the anti-black statistics (3,413 offenses in 2008), or even against ethnic minorities in general (1,148). According to the data, Jews don’t even rank above homosexuals (1,142). Based on the numbers he cites, the question really ought to be, “Why aren’t we talking about black, ethnic, homosexual and Jewish phobias?” Or for that matter, why aren’t we talking about Nazi-phobia, KKK-phobia and Hannah Montana-phobia - whose haters number in the billions?

Sure, Jewish jokes are as common as lawyer jokes, but does that in any way compare with the stereotypes of blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims? Put another way, is being stereotyped in a way that mocks your wealth the same as being stereotyped for being a deadbeat father, an illegal day laborer, a sodomite or a terrorist?

As it turns out, there’s a legitimate reason why we’re not talking about an anti-Jewish climate in America, and it’s the same reason Obama isn’t talking about a climate of intolerance toward blacks, Hispanics and gays. Goldberg, in a demonstration of his elitism, does what any private-school-educated upper class intellectual is expected to do. He answers his own question: “Because there isn’t one.”

It is so profound I almost lost consciousness. Once again, Goldberg is correct. His power of observation is so keen he makes a dunce of the French-American food critic’s world-changing revelation that French fries go well with ketchup.


If you just skimmed through the remainder of the column, Captain Obvious doesn’t seem to be saying much at all. His main point, that Americans in general have general intolerances that generally ought to be acknowledged, leaves you wondering why anyone would waste the time, ink, and paper just to say something so banal as “Some people are somewhat intolerant of some stuff”.

He says America is one of the most tolerant countries in the world. He says America consistently fights for the freedoms (and lives) of Muslims around the world. He says a bunch of other patriotic fluff that makes you feel very proud to be an American and, by proxy, very proud to be an American reading an American-Jew’s column on American triumphs for peace. This paragraph is his buffer between points. Point No1 was: Jews are discriminated against more than Muslims, but there is no anti-Jewish “climate” in America. So what’s point No2?

According to Goldberg: “(T)here isn’t an anti-Muslim climate either.”

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About the Author

N. L. Wilbur, a journalist turned critic, believes that while the greats already said it best, news of White House blowjobs and pre-eminent war policies give the art of satire immortality.

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