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An Echo Chamber of His Own.

Instead of responding point by point to Cathy Young's piece on my book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America ("An Echo Chamber of His Own," November), let's just say that reasonable people may disagree. But a few of her main arguments require a response.

"On the one hand," she writes, "Goldberg castigates the arrogance of the liberal elites" who look down their noses at people who like to bowl or eat at Red Lobster or fly the American flag. But on the other hand, I criticize shows like Jerry Springer's that are watched by millions of "ordinary" Americans. "Goldberg can't have it both ways," she concludes, "and be a populist only when the populace likes things that meet his approval."

Why not? Eating at Red Lobster or bowling or flying the flag on the Fourth of July doesn't hurt anybody. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and rappers who go on about "bitches and hos," on the other hand, debase the American spirit. Are they as bad as terrorists who want to kill us? Of course not. But in the long run they will also do our culture harm. After all, if we are what we eat, as the old saying goes, why won't we also become what we consume in the culture?

Young also says that I'd be a more effective critic if I "were more willing to challenge [my] new friends in the conservative establishment." The reason there are more liberals on the list than conservatives is simple: Liberals control the culture. They control sitcoms; they control the news media; they control music; they control not only our best universities but our mediocre ones too. So a book about those who are screwing up the culture is bound to take more shots at the left than the right.

One other observation Young makes--and she's not the first to make it--is that some of the people on the list of 100 are "obscure." This one I can't figure out. If they work behind the curtain and pull a lot of strings and do a lot of harm to the culture, should they get a pass simply because they're not household names? Should only "famous" people be held accountable?

I remain a fan of Cathy Young. I just wish she had called me before writing her review. Not for some self-serving quote, but for a better understanding of who I am and where I came from and why I care about our culture--and why I think it's so important to challenge the elites who, in my humble opinion, are screwing it up.

Bernard Goldberg

Miami, FL

Cathy Young replies: Bowling and eating at Red Lobster don't hurt anybody, but I think the "liberal elites" Goldberg criticizes could reasonably argue that traditional attitudes toward homosexuality (to take one example) do hurt somebody. In any case, my point is that one should be able to disapprove of a popular preference without being called a smug elitist.

Goldberg's "obscure" targets are not influential-but-invisible string pullers but people who are both unknown and insignificant--e.g., the author of a personal essay describing her decision to selectively abort two of the three fetuses she was carrying.

Finally, is Goldberg really telling us that Ann Coulter has no cultural influence?
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Young, Cathy
Publication:Reason
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:543
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