Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do As I Say (And As I Do): Don't Buy This Book - Do As I Say (Not As I Do)!

The Good: Moments that are well-written and informative
The Bad: Largely comprised of an argument that neglects a larger fundamental argument
The Basics: Do As I Say (Not As I Do) - Profiles In Liberal Hypocrisy is a broad and ineffectual argument that falls short of doing the conservative movement justice.

With my many reviews, I have tried to reach a new audience beyond what my movie and music reviews might reach by exploring books and teas and even some healthcare products. To that end, I even subjected myself to the complete works of Ann Coulter, arguably finding a reference to one of my own reviews one of in her latest books, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (reviewed here!). So, when a friend of mine gave me a copy of Do As I Say (Not As I Do) by conservative researcher Peter Schweizer to read, I went into it with the same gusto as I had been evaluating other books by his peers.

Schweizer's premise is remarkably simple: prominent liberals are - almost without exception - hypocrites. Schweizer damns Gloria Steinem for marrying, Michael Moore for not hiring enough blacks, Al Franken for his sense of humor and perennial conservative target Hillary Clinton for acquiring material things. Schweizer's arguments target notable (supposed) liberals like Noam Chomsky, Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Barbra Streisand, and Cornel West. In each case, Schweizer details a public policy espoused by the person involved and then exposes how their personal views do the exact opposite of what they claim publicly.

First, I will admit that there are moments when Schweizer makes some decent points, like when he references that Barbra Streisand ". . . embraced the feminism of Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan . . ." (174), yet "All three of her husbands . . . are strong male personalities. Her longtime business manager is a man, and she has by and large had most of her business affairs conducted by men" (190). Yes, Schweizer rather effectively picks apart the hypocrisies of liberals who espouse a social agenda geared toward benefiting society at large. With virtually every economic populist detailed in the book - George Soros, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky - Schweizer illustrates . . . they have made money.

Yeah, I'm out of the good. Do As I Say (Not As I Do) is a ridiculous treatise that plays fast and loose with facts, neglects large principles and simply ignores concepts when they do not suit him. To begin, the premise of the book, as laid out in the introduction, is that liberals have delighted when conservatives are caught betraying their principles and there has been no similar venue for liberals who are caught in hypocritical actions (apparently neglecting the fact that talk radio in the United States is largely conservative with callers calling frequently to expose supposed-liberals for their shortcomings).

Schweizer reminds his readers, liberals ". . . got their first opportunity [to expose a conservative for hypocrisy] a few months later when it was revealed that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was addicted to the prescription drug OxyContin, which he had been originally prescribed after back surgery in 1995" (2). Yes, many liberals were admittedly overjoyed when a man who had frequently called drug users stupid and weak turned out to be abusing drugs himself. Schweizer's defense: ". . . once his [Limbaugh's] illegal use of OxyContin began in 1996, he didn't return to the subject [of drug abuse]" (3). Somehow, it became less wrong in Schweizer's view that Limbaugh stopped railing on drug abusers once he became a drug abuser himself. That makes some sense, I suppose. But some of his establishing arguments make less sense; Dr. Laura's naked pictures, for example, only make sense in the context of the viewpoint she espouses. In other words, it is only because conservatives narrowly define good and evil and their terms that makes their hypocrisy noteworthy. Yes, I'll be the first to suggest that virtually every liberal I know has little or no problem with looking at nudity, finding nothing inherently wrong with being naked. That conservatives - like Dr. Laura - have hangups on nudity (often it goes back to the Bible wherein eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good And Evil, Adam and Eve realize they are naked - and that is apparently bad) and make judgments on that frames their entire world view and makes it ridiculously easy to spot when one of them falls down. Similarly, most of us liberals who are gay friendly would not give a damn about when one of the prominent conservatives turns out to be homosexual were it not for the exact same person who is outed venemously spreading hate about the "evils" of being gay. Yes, their hypocrisy is big and bad because much of the message they espouse is about how people ought to live their lives. Actually, it's how EVERYONE SHOULD live. They define decency and what kind of society the nation ought to be.

Liberals, while equally motivated, tend to have a much more relaxed world view. Yes, we might not have laissez fair economics, but for how people live their daily lives, we tend to be more "live and let live" than the vocal (and evangelical) conservatives. Schweizer does not see things that way. First, out of eleven figures surveyed in the book, only three - Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi - are actually in positions of public authority in politics where they can attempt to make the changes they speak about. Schweizer fails to give any credit where credit is due to people like Hillary Clinton. Railing against her materialistic nature, Schweizer neglects to mention the efforts - and humiliating defeat - Clinton made to try to get a universal health care system established in the United States.

Schweizer plays fast and loose with the facts in Do As I Say (Not As I Do). He carefully separates out cited facts, like one he references involving Michael Moore having bodyguards, with unsupported innuendo; his assertion that "Moore, who claimed in Bowling For Columbine that Americans buy guns out of irrational fear, surrounds themselves with armed guards out of his own paranoid fear of right-wing gun nuts" (43-44). This editorialization occurs between a few facts, cited from obscure sources. The one I took issue with was that Schweizer claims that after Moore declared he would hire more black people for his films in Stupid White Men (reviewed here!) that Moore failed to live up to that. Specifically, he cites (on page 48) that Moore's cameramen for Fahrenheit 9/11 (which he references as "911"), Moore's first film after penning Stupid White Men are white. However, if one actually watches Fahrenheit 9/11, in the scene on the mall in Washington D.C., a cameraperson is caught on film as two people try to get different angles of an altercation. And yes, the camera operator is a person of color. Rather extraordinarily, Schweizer wastes space by going back to all of Moore's projects from before he pledged to hire black people for his production company to try to damn Moore.

Schweizer also fails to note - when damning Moore for alleged anti-union activities - that Moore belongs to three unions!

Schweizer neglects rather large and important principles in Do As I Say (Not As I Do) when he long belabors Barbra Streisand's activism before admitting ". . . few outside her circle of admirers and friends take her all that seriously" (190). He denounces Streisand for promoting women's liberation and a feminist perspective of equality, while hiring men for some of her business affairs (190). Schweizer clearly does not understand that feminist perspective is not anti-male, but rather a world view of equality where all are treated based on their merits as opposed to judged by gender, sexuality or skin color. We feminists tend to acknowledge that there is an imbalance now and seek to rectify that by increasing opportunities for education and employment for those who have historically been oppressed in order to equalize the field. Most feminists will acknowledge that we're not there yet.

Similarly, Schweizer damns Gloria Steinem for marrying . . . 30 years after denouncing marriage in an article for Ms. Yes, in Schweizer's world view, people never change and as a result, because Steinem once declared she would never marry, over thirty years later, she ought to be sticking to that. Again, feminism is about choices and making personal choices based on individual desires as opposed to societal demands. Schweizer's neglect of the actual principles of feminism is intellectually criminal.

Moreover, many of Schweizer's targets are people who are either entertainers or only marginally liberal. When I consider great liberals in modern times, Nancy Pelosi is never the top of my list. Similarly, Al Franken and Barbra Streisand are entertainers and their commentaries on social and political should be taken through that lens. And as for his legitimate targets, like consumer activist Ralph Nader, one has to ask, "What is the point?" While Rush Limbaugh sits around for hours kvetching on the radio about how stupid and misguided liberals are, Ralph Nader crusades for safer automobiles for everyone. Yeah, he deserves to be considered one of history's villains.

Finally, most of the arguments in Do As I Say (Not As I Do) condemn those who have money and rail against the tax codes for using tax loopholes. As a Marxist, I'm all for the cause of things like keeping the estate tax and taxing the hell out of the ultra rich to fund social programs to lift people out of poverty - and, you know, feed them. People like Noam Chomsky, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and George Soros all tend to agree with that, too (Clinton, for example, has voted against repealing the estate tax). However, as Schweizer notes, all of these people have money and have set up tax shelters to avoid paying taxes on them. Yes, this is troubling - less in the case of Soros who has been remarkably philanthropic - but it is not illegal. Until they actually succeed in their social crusade to change the tax codes, not using it to protect their wealth is roughly equivalent to knowingly plugging oneself into The Matrix and refusing to eat and enjoy the steak.

In other words, this is a short book with a lot of rather broad, underdeveloped or unsupported arguments that do little service to the cause Schweizer proclaims to love.

For other political books, please visit my reviews of:
Keeping Faith by Jimmy Carter
Letters To A Young Conservative by Dinesh D'Souza
Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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