Why Jonah Goldberg is the Animal House conservative

Since friends of this website have sometimes advised me not to attack other conservatives in overly strong terms, I suppose that my references to Jonah Goldberg as the “Animal House conservative” and as a “vulgar little faux conservative” will strike them as a bit over the line. I don’t especially like using unpleasant personal put downs of this nature, as relatively mild as they are. I know it lowers the tone of VFR to a certain degree. And if it were simply a matter of revolting personalities or writings, I wouldn’t bother taking note of them. But the problem is that in our time revolting things, instead of being shunned, are welcomed and normalized by our whole society including conservatives, while anyone who is offended by and who complains about these things is considered the out-of-step one who must be lectured to and told to “lighten up.” So it’s a complete reversal of wrong and right, of normality and abnormality. And, what is most ominous, the moral reversal in this case has been effected, not by the left, but by the so-called right. This raises the problem of what is the appropriate way to describe highly objectionable things and persons, especially when no one else is objecting to them. It seems to me that there are times when name-calling is not only justified, but virtually required by the nature of the case.

So that the reader will know the kind of thing I am referring to, and why I call Goldberg the names I call him, below are five samples of his writings that have appeared at the online version of National Review. If I had the time to do the research, I could show many more and much worse examples than these. In any previous era, such things would not have been published in any respectable magazine. A person who wrote as Goldberg writes would have been looked at by editors as though he were a bug. At best, they would have told him to go away and grow up and clean up his act before they would even consider his writings. But today he’s widely published in mainstream venues, principally in America’s flagship conservative publication, and not only that, but he appears at National Review events and on National Review cruises as a representative of that magazine. Yet according to Goldberg when I last corresponded with him a year or so ago, I am the only person who has ever complained to him about his repulsive writing. Though I doubt that it is literally true that not a single person other than myself has ever complained, it would seem that very few have complained. Which backs up my idea that the abnormal today has become the normal, even among (so-called) conservatives.

I’ll start with the mildest of the examples, published on July 14, 2004, in which the potty-mouth conservative (pottycon?) makes a wholly gratuitous reference to toilet paper. Note that he could have used any number of images to make his (ridiculously overwrought) point; but he chose toilet paper. In the world we grew up in, making naughty comments related to bathroom activities was a stage that pre-pubescent boys went through. Now a prominent, nearly 40-year-old “conservative” does it, and in an opinion magazine, and no one objects. Even if not perverted and disgusting as the other two examples are, it’s still immature and inappropriate and had no place in a serious publication.

In any case, they forget that Saddam’s regime was the only one in the world to celebrate the 9/11 attacks, and that Saddam’s “box” was falling apart like a Haitian barge made out of supermarket cartons of Charmin—and was about as airtight.

In the next item, from July 26, 2005, Goldberg again reverts to his favorite trope of excretion, this time related to excreting (or something like that) onto food, an image he has used repeatedly:

I’ve returned from the National Review cruise of the British Isles. It was great fun, but exhausting. And now that I’ve landed in the States, I’ve also landed in that plane of Hell which went unmentioned by Dante—the realm of overdue books. I don’t mean in the library sense but in the dear-god-the-publisher-needs-it-when sense. I will be working overtime for the remainder of this summer. This means things will be unpleasant not just for me, but for everybody around me. Indeed, if I see anyone having a pleasant summer, I will sidle up to them and do something vile to their cornflakes while they’re not looking.

Next, in October 2003, Goldberg, writing at NRO’s The Corner, recommends pornography:

SATISFACTION [Jonah Goldberg]
This is a very cool, very smutty, music video about power tools. If you don’t like music videos, power tools or jiggly models in suggestive poses, do not click on this link. Liking just two of the three is not sufficient. You cannot say, Gee, I like power tools and cool music videos, let’s see what Jonah’s talking about. You gotta like the whole trifecta. Actually, on second thought, that’s not true. If you like really hot models you could watch this with the sound off and it’s not like the power tools get in the way. But there’s no doubt in my mind Kathryn will be cross with me for posting.
Posted at 12:35 PM

Maybe we should call Goldberg a pornocon, or perhaps, joining him with his spiritual comrade Brian Anderson of the Manhattan Institute, a SouthPark-con.

Next, at NRO’s The Corner on October 31, 2005, Goldberg continues sharing with readers his interest in fetishes, even as he carries on conversations with his fellow NRO contributors about such matters as the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito.


Okay, I’ve agonized about whether to post this. But I think it has three redeeming qualities: 1) It’s amusing (for some) 2) It’s a conversation-starter for others 3) it reveals that eventually every conceivable fetish, obsession, vice or depravity will eventually be catered to on the internet.

Don’t worry, this isn’t X-rated. It’s somewhere between PG-13 and R. It’s bizarre. But if you think you might be offended by men getting kicked in the groin by attractive women (you know who you are) don’t click on this link.

I fully expect an updated clip on this site at some point in November starring Judge Alito and someone from NARAL.

Update: A shockingly large number of Corner readers tell me they dated some of the women on this site.

Here Goldberg continues to share with readers of NRO his interest in excretion. November 23, 2005:
THE RUMORS ARE TRUE [Jonah Goldberg]
Some men sit to pee.
Posted at 11:01 AM

- end of initial entry -

A reader adds:

Does using the term “Animal House conservative” lower VFR to a degree? Probably. But I think it does for a different reason: it gives Mr. Goldberg too much credit.

With that in mind, perhaps a better name for Mr. Goldberg (and many other notables at NR) is “Animal House Liberal.” I think it is high time to call a spade a spade. I still visit NR every week (for reasons that escape me at the moment) and I rarely come across anything remotely “conservative.” The magazine seems to be morphing into “The New Republic Part 2.”

LA to reader:

Yes, but aren’t I already saying enough? I can’t attack everything about the conservative establishment at once.

But seriously, “Animal House conservative” already contains the meaning you’re talking about. AHC is an ironic phrase, a contradiction in terms. Someone who’s “Animal House” is, by definition, not conservative. Just as a pornocon or a SouthPark-con is, by definition, not conservative.

* * *

Further Goldberg items

The Animal House conservative reveals that he is the Animal House conservative (January 2005)

In this column, Goldberg reveals that Animal House is, indeed, one of his favorite movies, showing that my name for him has been right all along. The piece includes this:

This summer I had an intern researcher drone named “Lyle.” But I tended to call him things like “meat sack,” “you,” and “the kid-whose-head-someone-used-as-a-toilet-but-forgot-to-flush.” It pained me to call him these things because he was generally a very sharp kid and I was glad to have him skulking around, eating my old pizza crusts and rifling through my garbage when he wasn’t “working.” Anyway, if you want to put a face to him, here he is.

Goldberg, replying to my comments about him, December 2006, says he likes being called a champion of smut:

Auster [Jonah Goldberg]

If it makes you feel any better Derb, I didn’t know he hated me until I read that link. Or I forgot that he did. But I do like being denounced as a champion of smut. Just yesterday during a Liberty Fund session I was being chastised as a champion of prudery and moral scolding.

Goldberg in his May 2008 article on former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan’s book, What Happened, he manages to combine an unimaginable torture used as a joke; wild animals placed in body cavities; flushing toilets; and sluices of bodily fluids.

Not since America’s most revered feckless crapweasel, former Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, switched parties have Beltway Republicans been more eager to sew a half-starved ferret into someone’s body cavity….

Apparently this is something new in McClellan’s eyes. Perhaps such visitor-from-Mars cluelessness will prompt him to report in his next tell-all that when you pull a hidden lever behind a white bowl in the Oval Office bathroom, a sudden burst of water appears and then swirls down the bottom….

McClellan’s only legitimate beef seems to be his unjust treatment during the Valerie Plame investigation. But that complaint doesn’t sell books or get the sluices of journalistic saliva raging.

Jonah Goldberg has no problem with the idea of a Muslim being president (December 2008)

In this piece he shows both the pure liberalism of his thinking process, and the frivolous immaturity with which he expresses it.

Goldberg on ObamaCare debate, National Review, August 2009

Democrats’ Fear Is Showing on Health Care

The Democratic party is panicking, lashing out like a cornered animal, all because its effort to take over the health-care industry is coming apart like so much wet toilet paper.

Since Goldberg writes about timely subjects (and the quoted article, apart from the vulgarity in the opening sentence, is a good one), his method is to make readers who care about those subjects accommodate themselves to his vulgarity. The constant toilet and similar references, in a conservative publication, get conservatives to accept toilet humor as a normal part of conservatism, as a normal part of political journalism.

November 6, 2009

The thought of excrement, excremental functions, and excremental peripherals is never far from Goldberg’s mind; it is his all-controlling metaphor for discussing culture, politics, philosophy, entertainment. Here he is, writing at the nation’s leading conservative magazine, November 6, 2009, the day after the Fort Hood massacre:

The other day I was on a public radio show (Warren Olney’s “To the Point”) with David Sirota, a progressive columnist. He was making the case that the only smart thing for Obama to do is to concentrate on “fixing the economy” because economic concerns are what’s driving voter discontent. For Sirota, and it seems a lot of other progressives, this means pushing ahead with health-care reform and another stimulus bill.

I didn’t get a chance to respond to this, but since I keep hearing this argument elsewhere, I’ll say it hear: This is bat-guano crazy.

At The Corner, July 13, 2010, 10:35 a.m.
Because Ponnuru no longer likes to collaborate with me, I went slumming and co-wrote a piece with Nick Schulz for the current issue of NR. It’s on our idea to create a new web domain purely for minors. A .kids domain would allow parents and businesses to carve out a safe zone for kids without denying adults their First Amendment right to coprophilic porn, kids’ cartoons re-dubbed with profanity, or videos of Al Gore trying to swallow his ex-wife’s head at the 2000 Democratic convention

At The Corner, July 13, 2010, 10:52 a.m.

So I keep hearing that these efforts to capture, clean and release oiled wildlife are counterproductive. Most eventually die from the stress of the oil and, apparently just as stressful, the dishwashing soap baths. In one of those weird ironies of nature, being surrounded by a bunch of soapy-sponge-wielding attractive University of Alabama female zoology students in wet t-shirts is an excellent plot device for a late night cinemax movie when the subject “victim” getting a bath is a sensitive-yet-jocular ski instructor, but it’s terrifying if you’re a brown pelican.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 28, 2005 08:54 PM | Send

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