Oh No! The Dictionary Has a Liberal Bias!

I, and you, have Harry Hutton to thank for this Jonah Goldberg jackpot that had escaped my notice, in which a reader complains to the author of Liberal Fascism of "the creeping leftism of something as supposedly benign as a thesaurus." Yes, the correspondent looked up the entries for "liberal" and "progressive" in Roget's and found them too positive. Goldberg can't leave mad enough alone:

While annoying, none of this surprises me. I can't tell you how many people have told me that my book is idiotic on its face because the dictionary says so.

I must pause here to revisit a previous Goldberg entry:

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank quoted me as saying Harriet Miers fits the dictionary definition of "crony," as if it was a stinging rebuke of the White House. In reality, it was merely a factual statement. According to the dictionary, a crony is a longtime close friend or companion. Historically it didn't have a negative connotation. It derives from the Greek chronos (time)...

This happily spares me the effort of making up an instance of Goldberg doing something like it -- for example, "The dictionary defines 'ass' as 'any wild species of the genus Equus,' so you're really calling me a mustang which is a compliment actually."

He goes on:

By the way, my dad wrote about the deep-seated bias of dictionaries for the Wall Street Journal a few years ago.

Oh no, you think, it can't be -- but it is:

This is not the only instance of labeling-hesitation in Webster's New World--at least when the "leader" in question belongs to the "revolutionary" left. The dictionary can call Hitler the "Nazi dictator of Germany" but Stalin merely the "Soviet premier, general secretary of the Communist party of the U.S.S.R." Mussolini is an "Italian dictator," but Tito is "Yugoslav Communist Party leader, prime minister and president of Yugoslavia." Franco is "dictator of Spain" and Salazar "prime minister and dictator of Portugal," but Mao Tse-tung is "Chinese Communist leader, chairman of the People's Republic of China and of its Communist Party"...

Reference works carry with them, inherently, an air of authority, as if their contents are handed down from the heights of scholarship and learned precision. No one can feel right about error and tendentiousness slipping into the culture under such a guise.

So it's congenital!


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