Reviewed 4/10/2008

100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, by Bernard Goldberg
Cover shown is revised edition, with 10 more names.
Access to this book courtesy of the
San Jose, CA Public Library
(And Al Franken is #37)
Bernard Goldberg
New York: HarperCollins, 2005




ISBN-13 978-0-06-076128-?
ISBN-10 0-06-076128-8 305pp. HC $25.95

Goldberg opens this book with eleven short chapters on the characteristics of modern America he hates: the vulgar language and sexual exhibitionism of popular culture; the shallowness of television news; the greed and shortsightedness of too many big businessmen; the excessive litigiousness of lawyers; the excessive political correctness of academia; the excessive misanthropy of radical feminists; the insufficient honesty of black leadership; and the insufficient patriotism of liberals.

So Goldberg deplores gangsta rap as well as "shock jocks" of all stripes. Similarly, anyone who disses President Bush earns his condemnation. A few criminals also make the list, but only because of especially egregious behavior. And he devotes three of his 100 ranks to celebrities he considers dumb or vicious or both. The chief target of his ire in these three categories is Janeane Garofolo; he apparently considers her not only dumb, not only vicious, but dumb and vicious. Politicians appear, as do various academics including a university president. The latter, for presiding over the infamous "water buffaloes" instance of political correctness run amok (and for other, similar decisions,) gets the longest individual assessment in the book: four pages. I won't give you the entire list; that would spoil the fun. But I will tell you that the top rank, the person Goldberg holds to be the worst screwup, is every conservative's favorite whipping boy: Michael Moore. Goldberg says not one word about Moore; he merely presents his picture.

Goldberg is a conservative, but this is no right-wing diatribe. He considers each individual as a separate case, and though I don't agree with a large percentage of his selections, his arguments against them are defensible. While his assessments are not baseless rants, neither are they very deep. They read much like many conversations you might hear in a barbershop or bar (minus the grammatical errors.) But there's nothing wrong with off-the-cuff assessments; we all make them daily. I'd recommend skimming this book to check whether your favorite target is on the list, and whether your opinion matches Goldberg's. It's definitely not a keeper.

Under Hackney's watch, there was one case that came to show him for the poltroon he is. The story begins on the night of January 13, 1993.

Eden Jacobowitz, a freshman, had been in his dorm room that night writing a paper for an English class when about fifteen young women students stopped beneath his window and began a celebration to mark their sorority's Founder's Day. They sang and chanted and stomped their feet and were generally making so much noise that Jacobowitz yelled out to them to "Please be quiet." Twenty minutes later, the ruckus was not only still going strong, but had gotten even louder. This time Jacobowitz stuck his head out the window and shouted, "Shut up, you water buffalo."

Jacobowitz is white; the sorority sisters black. And before you could say "bigot," five of the women said they were victims of racism, and after a preliminary investigation, Sheldon Hackney's "judicial inquiry officer" filed charges against Eden Jacobowitz—for violating Penn's speech code, which prohibited racial harassment.

Racial harassment? What did "water buffalo" have to do with racial harassment? A judicial hearing was convened and experts were interviewed. Had any of them heard the term used as some kind of racial slur? None [had]. It didn't matter. This was the politically correct University of Pennsylvania, after all, and Sheldon Hackney was its president.

– Pages 78-79

The above is merely one instance where Goldberg makes a good point.2 "Water buffalo" is not a racist term, and any university president should be able to discern that fact.

1 The original list of 100
2 And extra points for using the word "poltroon."
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