Saturday, March 04, 2006

In which Jeremy Zilber fisks Jason 
Zilber mounts a spirited defense of his book, and a counterattack against my own reasoning below. I think his defense of his own reasoning fails - he doesn't defend, for example, his argument that the reason college costs are so high is because the Federal government doesn't give the states enough money. I think this argument is particularly illustrative of a set of absurd assumptions in liberalism today which could not survive long if academia were a more intellectually diverse place. The argument cries out for natural deselection. But his attack against my own sloppiness and is absolutely fair game, and well-taken, as are his objections to some selective editing on my part. Here's Mr. Zilber again, verbatim.

I'm flattered that you feel I'm worthy of so much attention, but I'm afraid I don't have time to respond to all of your points. I think you're wrong about almost everything, but let me just hit a few of my favorites.

First, as for the Dean quote: it only serves to make my point stronger. As I said, I wrote a book that tries to give Democrats a positive alternative to educating their kids about the party. The other alternative, which apparently you are advocating, is to let Democrats' kids learn about political parties by watching people like Dean and Mehlman trading insults on TV. Then, when little Johnny hears his parents screaming something about Mehlman and the Republicans being a bunch of lying jerks, he'll know he's a Democrat. How, I wonder, is THAT going to reduce the level of anti-Republican hostility in future generations?

And then there's this:

Me: "A young child...is not going to have any idea of the symbolism of an elephant."

You: "Yes. And that is precisely what makes this book so manipulative and vile. Zilber admits he relies on the hermeneutic relationship with an adult reader to buy into the symbolism of the elephant."

Ok, so now you've done a complete 180. First (according to you) I was saying the elephant isn't supposed to symbolize the Republican party, and now (according to you) I was saying that parents are expected to explain the symbolic elephant to their children. In fact, I said neither. I specifically said that the elephant is meant to represent the party, but that children wouldn't get it, which is why this is a positive book as far as the child reader is concerned. If parents are inclined to go out of their way to explain the symbolism to their kids, then I suspect their kids are going to receive that message with or without the book. Check out the testimonials on my website. Do any of them say anything like "Finally -- an easy way to explain to my kids why Republicans are evil!" No. And none of my customers have suggested anything of the sort. You may be an expert on any number of things, but you clearly know nothing about my intent or my customers' intent.

And I just can't let this one go without commenting:

"Zilber also tries to deny that the preservation of the legality of abortion is a core position of the Democratic Party..."

What I actually said on the air....
"I certainly agree that Democrats are pro-choice, by and large, but that is a far cry from saying that the Democratic party supports abortion."

In what way is this dishonest? Had someone asked me, "does the Democratic party promote the preservation of the legality of abortion," I would certainly have said yes. But that's not what I was asked. It's easy to make someone look bad if you take their answers out of context and/or snip off the parts you don't like, but what's the point? I could just as easily say about you: "Jason thinks anyone who reads this book to their children is basically a Nazi." But, that would completely misrepresent the spirit of your comment, which is something I wouldn't do. You -- who, somewhat ironically, claims to be interested in uniting -- seem to have no problem undermining my statements in precisly this way.

Let's look at a final example of distortion. Here's your version of an exchange:

Host: Jeremy, is there anything about freedom in your book?

Zilber: Well...um....there's a page about playing by the rules.

And your interpretation of this exchange: Really, I don't think that ought to be that hard a question to answer. Unless freedom is no longer a Democratic value.

And now... here's s the COMPLETE exchange, including the parts that you apparently don't want your readers to know:

Host: Jeremy, is there anything about freedom in your book?
Me: Well (a few uh's and um's) there are certainly messages to 'live and let live.' There's an emphasis on playing by the rules -- a page devoted to playing by the rules. There's a page devoted to being nice to people who are different. So I think... I don't use the word 'freedom' or 'liberty' explicitly in the book... but I think there are implicit messages that freedom is a good thing."

And let me point out that immediately before this exchange, I said to a caller (who'd suggested that Republicans care more about freedom and Democrats care more about equality): "I think there is truth to that. I think both parties ideally would like to have freedom and equality, but I think when push comes to shove... I think Democrats do tend to favor giving up some degree of economic freedom at least, in order to make sure that the poorest of the poor are taken care of, and Republicans tend to not to be willing to give up nearly as many economic freedoms. I think that's probably a fair generalization."

And after hearing all this, you come up with: "Really, I don't think that ought to be that hard a question to answer. Unless freedom is no longer a Democratic value." And you do this while claiming to be concerned about the potential for my book to divide Americans?

In closing, I have to say I must reject his argument that having a page on playing by the rules and a page on being nice to people who are different from us means he's got anything at all about freedom in the book. Even North Koreans have an obligation to play by the rules and be nice to one another. Except for government officials.

All that I've seen so far of this book reads like a celebration of Big Brother. And if you substitute "Party Members" or "Imams" for "Democrats," this book would be equally well received in some of the most repressive societies on the planet.

No, I haven't read the book. What am I, some sort of monument to justice!?

Many thanks to Mr. Zilber for participating here on Countercolumn. Please comment or write any time.

Splash, out


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