Goldberg: The Moron

I never feel comfortable taking on a Jonah Goldberg column. He can't seem to make an argument without getting all of his facts wrong. As a result, all you really have to do is set the record straight and Goldberg's work is left a smoking ruin. It doesn't really seem like a fair fight, but I guess I'm not the one who picked it. By choosing to do battle with reality, Goldberg sets himself up to get his rhetorical ass handed to him.

With "Liberals' Dirty Shame," he gets in a twofer -- liberals are big fans of the porn and are enemies of free speech. Enemies, that is, unless the speech involves women of questionable morals displayed in all their bare-skinned glory.

In 1996, Miloš Forman directed The People vs. Larry Flynt, the propagandistic film that made a "First Amendment hero" out of the publisher of Hustler, a racist and filthy porn magazine. Frank Rich of the New York Times dubbed it "the most timely and patriotic movie of the year."

Even if you've never seen the movie (or read Hanna Rosin's contemporaneous debunking of it in
The New Republic), it's easy to guess why the film was a favorite of people like Rich. It whitewashed Flynt while demonizing conservatives as religious prudes.

Considering that Jerry Falwell played a big part in Larry Flynt's life, it'd be hard not to portray Flynt's conservative rivals as religious prudes -- mostly because that's exactly what they were. And the typical right wing cognitive dissonance is on display here; liberals are perverted fans of filthy smut, until you need them to be radical feminists who believe "that womanhood is an existential and metaphysical state of enlightenment." It's hard to believe that both groups would be the same people. But being a conservative columnist means never having to deal with accusations of consistency.

What makes this all especially fun is that "Liberals' Dirty Shame" isn't just about lefties and their porn. No, it's about liberals, porn, censorship, and what a terrible, terrible person Hillary Clinton really is.

HTM poster[A] case before the [Supreme Court], Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, involves a documentary-style film, Hillary: The Movie, that ran afoul of campaign-finance laws designed to censor so-called stealth ads as well as electioneering paid for by corporations or unions.

To be fair, the film does amount to partisan advocacy. It’s a scorching indictment of the former Democratic presidential front-runner, produced by an unapologetically conservative outfit. It's as one-sided as a MoveOn.org-produced documentary about George W. Bush would be. But, some might wonder, should partisan advocacy ever be illegal in a democracy?

Yeah, here's where Goldberg really goes off the rails and into a reality of his own creation. The problem with Hillary: The Movie wasn't so much the movie itself, but ads for the movie. The movie was just something thrown together by a bunch of anti-Clinton conspiracy theorist nutjobs in order to create an ad campaign. H:TM wasn't censored. According to NPR, it "was available on DVD and came and went quickly in theaters." In fact, despite a national ad campaign, the movie played in a grand total of six theaters. It had a national advertising campaign, meaning you might see an ad about a movie that claims Hillary Clinton might've killed people, but you'd have to catch a plane to another state to go see it. It was bass-ackward marketing -- the ad wasn't made to support the movie, the movie was made as an excuse to run the ad. It wasn't a movie, it was a loophole in McCain-Feingold.

And this actually worked. The movie was in and out of those few theaters it ran in, the DVDs were burned, the ad campaign was launched. Hillary: The Movie didn't run into trouble until they tried to get the movie on pay-per-view. You'd imagine it would've run for a night or two, preceded by ads upon ads about what an unpunished and unrepetant criminal Hillary Clinton is. Once again, the movie was to support the ad campaign.

At this point, the film got the attention of the Federal Elections Commission. The purpose of the movie and its ads, a three judge federal court found, was "to inform the electorate that Sen. Clinton is unfit for office." As a result, the film was encased in concrete, all the DVDs were thrown into a volcano, the script and storyboards were shot into the sun, and everyone was instructed to never speak of it again.

At least, that's what Goldberg would have you believe. In reality, Citizens United could run the ads all they wanted, run the film all they wanted, even show the movie on the sides of barns right off the interstate if they thought that sounded like fun. But it was a campaign ad and, as such, they had to reveal who provided the funding for it. Turns out that the funders of this little project weren't especially proud of their connection with it and the PPV run never happened.

Eek! Censorship!

All of which makes this paragraph more than a little absurd:

Several justices asked the deputy solicitor general, Malcolm Stewart, if there would be any constitutional reason why the ban on documentaries and ads couldn't be extended to books carrying similar messages. Stewart, speaking for a president who once taught constitutional law, said Congress can ban books "if the book contained the functional equivalent of express advocacy" for a candidate and was supported, even slightly, with corporate money. Such advocacy, Stewart conceded, could amount to negatively mentioning a politician just once in a 500-page book put out by a mainstream publisher.

Ban? What ban? At best, this is an abuse of the English language, at worst it's a damned lie. Citizens United could've mailed a DVD to every address in the United States. They could've started their own cable network and run H:TM 24/7. They could've converted it to a stage play and done theater in the park in every city in America, every day until the end of time. But the backers chose not to be associated with this pack of lies. A book "banned" in a similar manner could be a bestseller, read by every person on Earth. If anyone "banned" the film, it was the film's funders, out of embarrassment over being connected to it.

As I said, I never feel comfortable taking on a Jonah Goldberg column. Because it's so damned easy it feels like cheating, somehow.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to all my porn.


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