Jonah Goldberg

Er, no. At least not by my lights. But maybe the country singer and the first-term senator are contenders for that title according to the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder.

In 2009, Holder famously declared in a speech that America is a "nation of cowards" because it refuses to talk about race "enough." What constitutes enough race talk in our private time seems like a hard thing to quantify, and I'm not sure Holder has any idea how to do it either.

Holder was hardly the first, nor will he be the last, liberal to call for a national conversation on race. It is one of the mossiest locutions in modern America. I sincerely doubt an hour goes by where the phrase or something similar -- "frank dialogue," "much-needed discourse," etc. -- isn't uttered or written by some editorialist, college professor or television host.

Though often ridiculous and hackneyed, this isn't necessarily a sinister or mercenary thing. It's only natural that activists, academics and consultants would want a "national conversation" on their specialty issue or cause. If your passion, principles and profits align so that you make a living from talking about race, why wouldn't you want to increase demand for your wares?

I doubt there are any activists out there who wouldn't dearly love to have their issue -- adoption, literacy, animal cruelty, mopery, whatever -- be turned into a "national conversation," never mind turned into a required topic in curricula from K through Ph.D.

Less defensible is when calls for a national conversation amount to a trap. It's a predictable pattern. Some poor dupe thinks people are serious about all this frank-dialogue talk. He sticks his head up to say something frank and quickly finds it separated from his shoulders.

Which brings us first to Mr. Paisley. He's released a song titled "Accidental Racist," and it has attracted an enormous amount of scorn. I can't really second-guess the music critics. It is not a great song from what I can tell. Though is it really the "worst song ever," as several critics have said? It seems to me that "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" is catchier but substantively less redeeming.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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