Mini-Pile #2 Do as I say (not as I do) by Peter Schweitzer

14 Jan

Do as I say (not as I do): profiles in liberal hypocrisy / Peter Schweitzer.  New York: Doubleday. 2005  285 p.  Includes bibliographic references.

As usual, the original review can be found here; “Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy”

It is often the case that activists and commentators on the right side of the cultural and political spectrum complain about mainstream broadcast media outlets publishing stories about individual conservatives who act contrary to their stated convictions, without providing a balanced presentation of the same foilables of individual liberals. Peter Schweizer (at the time of publication) a fellow of The Hoover Instittion wants to change that, by bringing together a compilation of liberal academics, politicians, enterntainers, and activists. In his book “Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy he simply claims to produce verifiable evidence of contradiction between stated public statements and commitments of prominent individuals of a left-leaning cultural and political persuasion and their private actions which seem to contradict their statements and positions. As of the reading of this book, I do not know if a comparable book exists exposing the contradictions between convictions and actions of those on the right side of the cultural-political spectrum. Such a book would be useful for comparison purposes.

No better, but no worse.

The book covers 11 such high profile individuals as: Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Al Franken, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader, Nancy Pelosi, Geore Soros, Barbara Streisan, Gloria Steinam, and Cornel West. Each chapter covers one person that sketches a brief biography and career, the issues they pronounce upon, and what an examination of tax records, other public records filings, as well as company disclosures show they act in private.  Schweitzer uses a combination of print, broadcast transcriptions, and speeches, as well as public records filings for his source materials.  There is no formal bibliography, though there is a section of “notes” at the end; there is also an index. Scattered references are made throughout the text to the author’s attempted comminication with the subjects of his profiles -most of them unsuccessful- but such is not reflected in the “notes”. A trait shared by a majority of the individuals covered (all but two, actually) which Schweitzer calls attention to is a conviction that the “wealthy” should pay progressively more in taxes, combined with the fact that they themselves -independently wealthy-  use the self-same pattern of (personal and corporate) income  tax-avoidance shelters (trust funds, charities, off-shore accounts and corporate charters)  ‘conservatives’ use in order not to pay those same taxes.

The most memorable quotation from the book is the following: “For despite the fact that they often speak of them [the ideas and comments they so confidentially prescribe to the rest of us] with genuine convictions, these do-as-I-say liberals don’t actually trust their ideas enough to apply them at home.” (p15, “Introduction”)

No worse, but no better, either

One weakness is the absence of direct communication between the author and the individuals (or their agents) he writes about, though to be fair, he did attempt to contact them. Another weakness is the aforementioned lack of a formal bibliography. A larger and more comprehensive disclosure of sources for the numbers he cites would make his arguments and anecdotal evidence more convincing.  Verifiable documentary evidence from Internet sources would also have been useful for evaluating the information.  The author indicts the media for failing to hold liberal activists and commentators to the same standards that they hold conservative, yet he does not really address this issue in the rest of the book. It would have been nice if he had proffered stories and coverage from “conservative” journalistic outlets.  It is definitely a one-sided book. A more balanced presentation would have included hypocritical prominent conservatives, though the counter-argument exists that conservative hypocrites get enough exposure in the mainstream outlets.

Don’t read this book if you’re expecting detailed analysis of liberal ‘wrong-doing’, or why liberal positions and policies. If, however, you are looking for support for the thesis that liberal activists are no better (or worse) than conservative activists, Schweitzer’s book is a place to begin grazing.


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