Was Virginia Woolf a 1980s Takeover Arbitrageur?


Slate EIC Jacob Weisberg has a scorching review of Andrew Robert's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, in the news for its recent appearence clutched to Dick Cheney's bionic bosom. The section on Roberts' errors reveals content so shoddy that it actually degrades the free market, pro-war point Roberts is trying to make.

The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s—an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a "takeover arbitrageur," whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren't forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. "No man gets left behind" is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is "Rangers Lead the Way." In a breathtaking peroration, Roberts point out that "as a proportion of the total number of Americans, only 0.008 percent died bringing democracy to important parts of the Middle East in 2003-5." Leaving aside the question of whether those deaths have brought anything like democracy to Iraq, 0.008 percent of 300 million people is 24,000—off by a factor of 10, which is typical of his arithmetic.

Note also Roberts' ground-breaking theory that The Silence of the Lambs is anti-English agitprop pushed on the masses by Hollywood's Irish powerbrokers. Jesus, the book can't be this bad, can it? Is the idea of an "Anglosphere" that discludes countries with lots of Irish or black people who, um, also speak English just so bad that it corrupts the historian's work?