By: Benjamin Droz
I am pretty certain that author Greg Gutfeld would hate nothing more than for me to begin a review of his latest book, The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage, with a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, but unfortunately, such a quote could not be more applicable. Nietzsche once wrote, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster,” and I wish it were not the case with the generally funny Greg Gutfeld, but this time, Gutfeld really failed to hit his target.
Something I have learned is that when you set out to pen a diatribe against an attitude, particularly one as amorphous and mercurial as “phony outrage,” you need exceedingly precise, and, more importantly, extraordinarily concise arguments. This fact is true because the most common result of such attempted attacks is that you end up contradicting yourself in some detail and/or sound like the folks you are railing against.
Gutfeld, sadly, falls into this abyss. He tries to craft a narrative that posits every action common to liberal individuals, or any liberal argument at all, is stupid. But he does so by creating a straw man argument, an obvious fallacy. For example, he knows that many liberals during, before, and after the Occupy movements have criticized corporations on a variety of levels. Gutfeld summarizes this broad spectrum of criticism as your “nephew from Cornell [coming to] lecture you on corporate greed” and then bashes the argument by defining a corporation as “a group of people performing an activity that one person cannot do alone.” Basically, according to Gutfeld, a corporation is no different from two people lifting a heavy piece of lumber, except it makes them money. This entirely ignores the reality of the arguments against corporations, which are often arguments against the morality of allowing owners of huge economic entities to bear no personal liability to such entities, and the legal practice of such organizations having ‘personhood’ apart from the owners.
This instance is but a single example of a widespread problem. Gutfeld’s book is filled with double standards. These generally consist of Gutfeld characterizing liberals in ways that he himself says he is angered by. For example, he writes of being furious at being the victim of an ad hominem attack on his show, but then he follows this with repeated aggression against the Occupy movement, always including quips on their personal hygiene, which is blatantly ad hominem. Basically, his attacks upon liberals follow a logically fallacious pattern: he ignores their ideological arguments, and attacks their personas and stereotypical behaviors, as he did with his dismal of the Occupiers as “dirty people”.
Gutfeld provides several chapters of interesting reading material since I can understand his distaste for truly phony outrage. Unfortunately, he then creates a ton of space between the first and last chapters and fills it with phony outrage and logical errors. I am certain, though, that this fact would not bother Greg Gutfeld, who I will infer hates guidelines of rhetoric as much as he hates academics. Greg’s worst and final offense is that he just is not funny. After mentioning several times in the book that the only appeal of liberal politics is that they are more “cool,” it is pretty disappointing to find that Gutfeld’s humor centers around trying to seem cool in a fairly pathetic way. His writing style is analogous to freshmen rushing fraternities; he is just dropping lines saying he has done illegal or inappropriate things so that the frat boys will think he is cool. As a fraternity man myself, I’d cut him, because that is not funny, and he does not seem cool.
Photo Credit: Flickr user CrownPublishing
This article originally appeared in the winter edition of PPR on March 11, 2013.