Siddhartha Deb at The Baffler:
Yet the book serves an unintentional purpose as a barometer for the times. Why is American liberalism unable to provide a better defense of its values than this? Always eager to pursue violations of human rights abroad, although only in those countries not directly in thrall to American power and capital, conditions at home could surely provoke liberals into a fresh appraisal of the significance of individual rights and a free press. But this is where liberalism’s long, benighted history comes to the fore, the flip side to its professed commitment to free speech, free elections, and free market. Lilla’s complaints about minorities and the disenfranchised, the supreme disdain revealed in his reference to the Democratic Party’s website, which includes links to seventeen groups, as reminiscent of “the website of the Lebanese government” brings to the surface American liberalism’s long history of red baiting and race baiting, its anti-communism and its anti anti-imperialism, its hostility toward Palestine and now to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
It is fear that is the driving force of such liberalism and that pulses throughout this book. In good times, such as the flat terrain end of history promised not that long ago, this characteristic doesn’t surface. Instead, one gets arrogance and hubris, think tanks and op-eds, the certainty of everything in its right place. But now that the clamor of the world, its uneasy disturbances, are beginning to be felt even in the hallowed confines of Brooklyn and the ivory tower classroom, one sees the teeth behind the smile, the fist under the glove, and the common cause between the prissy men with advanced degrees and the demented ranters on Fox News.