Here’s a tiny suggestion for Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Company. It wouldn’t save that much money, but it would be met with applause from anyone who cares seriously about journalism: promise to dump syndicated Los Angeles Times op-ed writer Jonah Goldberg.
Goldberg, whose work had previously been limited to right-wing rags like the National Review, replaced veteran journalist Robert Scheer (whose firing caused a 300-person protest and the cancellation of Barbara Streisand’s subscription) in 2005. Since then he’s been given air time on NPR as a regular commentator and face time on The New Republic‘s video debate blog, What’s Your Problem, which is sort of like a webcam Meet the Press.
What explains his quick rise? He’s a respectable prose stylist with a vast repertory of Simpsons knowledge at his disposal and pretenses toward moderation, which makes him a valuable commodity in an industry seeking to lure younger readers. But that’s the boring part of the story–Goldberg ultimately owes his meteoric rise to the most famous acts of fellatio in the 20th century.
Back in 1997, he was working for his mother, former Nixon mole Lucianne Goldberg, as vice-president of her literary agency. About that time she brought home the Lewinsky tapes, which led to the impeachment of the president and a series of TV show bookings for her son. Goldberg, Salon wrote in 1998, subsequently “quit his job to devote himself full-time to his Lewinsky-related activities.” Which led to a gig at the National Review, and then his position as a mainstream pundit.
And his subsequent work has lived up to these origins. The low point came when he cracked wise about the Superdome shortly before it turned into a symbol of tragedy:
“That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you’re working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he’s not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It’s never too soon to be prepared.”
The Poor Man Institute has the ultimate post on Goldberg’s journalistic sins, which are numerous. I am hopeful that the breaking point will be the publication of his long-delayed book, Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. It’s currently scheduled to be published on the unfortunate date of December 26, which suggests a certain lack of confidence by the publisher.
Sacking Goldberg might only be a tiny dent in the company’s substantial financial debt, but as remittance of the societal debt incurred by his column, it would be incalculable.