Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating experiences any rational person could ever have is to listen to liberals try to justify their position on any sort of political or social issue” (x).
So begins Richard Mgrdechian’s book How the Left Was Won: An In-Depth Analysis of the Tools and Methodologies Used by Liberals to Undermine Society and Disrupt the Social Order. From this point the book devolves into a wide generalization of liberal tactics that purportedly serves to alert the cautious and rational citizen to the miscreant liberal who is actively attempting to undermine the American way. While Mgrdechian has some valid insights into faulty logic and erroneous arguments that are often made in the political arena, he fails to achieve his goal of providing an “in-depth analysis” because he relies heavily upon unsupported assumptions, bases many of his analyses on a handful of anecdotal events, and generally expects his reader to agree with his interpretation of political events rather than making a sound case for his opinions.
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The Good: Mgrdechian rightly points out some current logical fallacies that are advanced as arguments by liberals. His book is devoted to highlighting various instances and general trends of poor arguments and emotionally charged rhetoric among liberal politicians, scholars, and pundits. Many of the issues he raises seem to bear further consideration and examination.
He’s at his best when discussing “Bad Competition” and “Asymmetry.” Bad competition, the overarching economic and social policy of the Left, is defined as, “Any competitive effort where a person or organization attempts to achieve success through any means other than the strength of their abilities, products, or services” (17). Basically a simple defense of capitalism, Mgrdechian nonetheless puts his finger on the need to understand the implications of economic theory rather than allowing purported compassion and pity alone to drive a fiscal agenda.
Asymmetry is the hypocritical position taken by many liberals in regard to human value: All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others. Mgrdechian holds the political world’s left foot to the fire as he argues that it is undemocratic to punish men for abusing women but to excuse women who abuse men, to punish heterosexuals who hurt homosexuals but to excuse homosexuals who hurt heterosexuals, to blame the ubiquitous straight white male for all the sins of the world while sweeping the world’s misdeeds under the rug.
The Bad: How the Left Was Won fails to deliver. The book is built upon the assumption that all arguments and positions taken by liberals are fundamentally illogical, irrational, and maliciously motivated. I quote:
We all know that practically everything liberals say, whether in regard to political policy, as part of a debate, or in criticism of something they happen to have a problem with is absolutely meaningless” (35).
“Liberals relentlessly try to obscure any meaningful understanding or discussion of why things happen, constantly try to to take credit for things they had nothing to do with and continually make every effort to blame conservatives for problems they didn’t cause” (67).
“An honest discussion on any subject will always cause liberals to throw a tirade” (74).
“Clearly, liberals are trying to distort facts, actions and motivations to fit their own narrow agenda” (90).
With this assumption in place, Mgrdechian jettisons the responsibility to prove to the reader that his generalizations in fact hold, relying instead on a smattering of case studies and his reader’s sympathy to provide the foundation for the essays that follow. It is, in theory, rationally defensible to claim that certain people, or whole groups of them, are maliciously attempting to destroy the social order of America. However, such a thesis requires proportional amounts of evidence, rational argumentation, and penetrating insight in order to convince the unbiased reader that such is the case. Unfortunately, Mgrdechian provides little support for such a position, thus making his essays irrelevant until their underlying assumption can be proven.
The Ugly: At various points in his book, Mgrdechian takes off his gloves and lets liberals have what he considers to be a dose of their own medicine. Stepping out of his cool and cogent persona, the author quite inconsiderately and excessively vilifies his enemies. Among others, the following samples illustrate the phrases he uses to describe all liberals and their ideas: “intent on distorting,” “can never stand to deal with the reality of anything,” “no discussion,” “hateful,” “bitter,” “a swarm of hatred and defiance,” “never held a job in their lives,” “contribute absolutely nothing to society,” “never any analysis,” “never any thought,” “superficial,” “hyper-simplistic,” “raging stupidity,” “spoiled children,” and, full of “lies, slander, propaganda, and hate.”
Such language may be permissible, but only after a sustained argument with supporting documentation that establishes, not only the hazard of implementing liberal policies, but also the disingenuous character and duplicitous behavior of the majority of the Left. However, in a 200-page collection of unsophisticated (in the technical, not derogatory, sense) essays, it is simply unacceptable. Certainly his arguments do not merit stating that,
It should be more than obvious by this point that practically everything the Left says is a complete and utter lie. Every statistic a lie. Every guise is a lie. Every accusation is a lie. Every assumption is a lie. Every agenda is a lie…Every policy is a lie. Every justification is a lie” (198).
Of course every author must be given some latitude in expressing his opinions with force–after all, sensational and overblown statements have a certain shock value and can be an effective literary device. Such writing is not always charitable or praiseworthy yet may sometimes be forgiven, since it is fairly standard in popular literature–especially popular literature of the political variety. However, in a book that purports to offer a rational and coherent analysis of various political tactics and strategies, such liberty in writing style is inexcusable.
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How the Left Was Won alludes to a number of bad arguments and cases of special pleading championed by the Left. The issues touched upon bear further examination, discussion, and exposure–all of which have been done by more able and readable pundits. If Mgrdechian desires to join their ranks, I suggest that he take his opponents seriously enough to rationally engage them. If, in his estimation, they are not worthy of rational dialogue because they never engage in it themselves, he could at least have the decency to prove this to be the case to his reader. Barring that perhaps tedious and distasteful task (or is it merely a difficult one?), he should have the sense to check his own tendency to rant, revile, and otherwise despise his opponents. Since he does not, I can only recommend this book to those who remain overly optimistic about the possibility of civil debate between political parties in popular culture–as an anecdote to such wishful thinking.
Rating: 1 star
For more favorable book reviews please read here and here.
Richard Mgrdechian is interviewed regarding this book here and here.