Even-Handed Nonsense

Cathy Young frustrates me. She can bang out an opinion piece that usefully frames moral and political issues, so that even those who disagree have to incorporate bits of her arguments to support their own. Her current column in Reason, for example, is worthwhile reading. It points out how neither the left nor the right has been able to resist enacting its moral programs as law, and neither is content to leave peaceable citizens alone.

She also wrote an infuriatingly wrong-headed column about The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and its alleged support in conservative circles – “gushing praise,” no less, drawing a comparison with the Ward Churchill affair. The book itself, which I do not intend to read, seems to be mostly well-known paleo-conservative stuff. The controversial part is the author’s advocacy of the Southern cause in the Civil War, including that it was not fought primarily to abolish slavery (this is news?). His assertion that the defeat of the South was a tragedy for American liberty was once the received wisdom in some parts of the country, but has been renounced by mainstream conservatives for some forty years or more.

The only source she cites for this “gushing praise” is Hannity and Colmes. The transcript is here on Lew Rockwell’s blog (Rockwell seems to approve). Read it and judge for yourself. The author, Thomas E. Woods, Jr., let loose some stinkers without Sean Hannity calling for ventilation, but that’s hardly “gushing praise.” Even Alan Colmes went after Woods for his denial that the New Deal rescued the American economy, and his assertion that it was wartime spending that ended the Depression (again, not news). The book is a featured selection of the Conservative Book Club, but the member reviews there can be scored as one gushing, two flushing.

So what do authentic conservative and libertarian voices say about this man and his book? Hmm, Obsidian Wings has nothing nice to say, and says it well. Instapundit files Woods under “i” for Idiotarian. The Claremont Institute gives the book no praise. In the Weekly Standard, Max Boot applies the eponymous footwear where it does the most good.

Far from repeating the Ward Churchill nonsense with the sides reversed, we wingnuts look pretty good in comparison. Remember Trent Lott? This is not a bug, it’s a feature.

5 thoughts on “Even-Handed Nonsense”

  1. Pingback: Signifying Nothing
  2. Support “The Politically Incorrect Guide To American History” really does seem limited to the Lew Rockwell crowd, who’s been circling the wagons the last few days, and the stray reviewer on Amazon.com

    I think the problem with the book–again, without reading it–and why it won’t get conservative report, is that to advocate the Southern cause immediately raises the specter of being anti-Lincoln. Some of the Rockwell folks don’t have a problem with that, though.

  3. James: One needn’t “advocate the Southern cause” to note the essential inaccuracy of styling the 1861-65 conflict a “civil war.” Cavaliers and Roundheads contending for London was a civil war; slaveholders attempting to maintain their “peculiar institution” by pissing off from the US was something rather different.

    Surely libertarians have some problems with the measures Lincoln enacted during that conflict, representating as they did the first major precedents in abrogating civil liberties in the US? And to raise that point is not to pimp for chattel slavery, either.

    I haven’t read the book myself, and am content at this point to accept Boot’s overall characterization of the text. That doesn’t mean that I concede all the CFR talking points in his review, however. I, too, have major problems with the characterization of the New Deal as anything other than a calamity for individual liberty — political and economic — in the US.

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