Martin, William. What Liberals Believe: Thousands of Quotes on Why America Needs to Be Rescued from Greedy Corporations, Homophobes, Racists, Imperialists, Xenophobes, and Religious Extremists (New York: Skyhorse, 2008)
William Martin has delivered a substantive successor to his breezy 2004 book The Best Liberal Quotes Ever (which I reviewed here ). Martin divides this large volume into nineteen sections--and myriad sub-sections--covering topics from "The Rights of Citizens in a Democracy" and "The Meaning of Patriotism" to "The Threat of Religious Extremism" and "The Right Wing in Its Own Words." In doing so, the quotes he has chosen touch on virtually every issue of contention in modern American life.
Martin's book is somewhat less of an accomplishment than its heft might indicate; he cites far too many secondary sources, does not provide URLs for web articles, and omits page numbers when he does cite books. His general over-reliance on magazines, newspapers, and websites has led to some regrettable omissions; for example, in none of his sections on the media does Martin quote Ben Bagdikian, despite Bagdikian's Media Monopoly being the classic source for information on media conglomeration. Martin's section on authoritarianism has no material from either the classic works on the subject (Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism and Theodor Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality) or the modern studies by Bob Altemeyer. He relies on Rabbi Michael Lerner and Reverend Jim Wallis for liberal theology, who are two excellent choices, but neglects to quote Bishop John Shelby Spong's excellent work n debunking religious fundamentalism.
In addition, a number of articles are cited numerous times: Jane Smiley's "The Unteachable Ignorance of the Red States" is mentioned more than a few times, as is Paul Waldman's "It's the Conservatism, Stupid" and Alan Wolfe's "Why Conservatives Can't Govern." The book is correspondingly less broadly sourced than its page count might indicate.
He are some other problems with Martin's reference book, aside from the occasional typo (such as his references to linguist George Lakoff's book as Don't Think Like an Elephant rather than its actual title Don't Think of an Elephant):
* Ben Franklin's "essential liberty/temporary safety" quote (p. 29) is sourced by Martin to a speech to the PA Assembly. US History.org has a page on the quote, but I found this page to provide interesting insight into the difficulty in precisely documenting older source material.
* When Martin quotes Digby, (p. 349) he notes that her name is a "pseudonym for a blogger." Martin does not, however, make the same notation for Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) or George Orwell (Eric Blair). This strikes me as a slur on bloggers, perhaps an implication that we are not "real writers."
* On page 392, Martin reuses a de Toqueville quote from The Best Liberal Quotes Ever; I pointed out that quote's falsity in my review, but Martin is apparently not one of my readers.
* In the second and third quotes on p. 515, an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ("Crimes Against Nature" from Rolling Stone) is variously dated as "2004" and "December 11, 2003." Rolling Stone's website gives the article's date as Nov 18, 2003 (12:00 AM).
* While liberals do have a few anti-porn activists (Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, et al.) among their ranks, the Left tends to be sex-positive compared to the Right. The section on "Pornography" (pp. 564-5) contains a few less-than-positive quotes, including this one:
"Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice." (p. 564, Robin Morgan, Going Too Far, 1977)
It's good, I guess, to show the intellectual diversity of the Left, but doing so comes at the expense of clarity. Freedom of expression is a core liberal value, and--at least to that extent--the anti-erotica crowd acts in an illiberal manner.
* Martin errs in the attribution of this quote:
"It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." (p. 618, Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820)
These words are actually from Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" from 1781/2; the letter mentioned by Martin (available from the Library of Congress) actually contains this rather different sentiment:
"...we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
There are plenty of books on GOP gaffes, many of which I've read, so I was disappointed to find very little new in Martin's section on "The Right Wing in Its Own Words." However, the following words from Rush Limbaugh cried out loudly enough for rebuttal that they became my Quote of the Day:
"This guy has to be a liberal... He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act." (p. 634, Rush Limbaugh on the Virginia Tech mass-murderer Seung-Hui Cho, 19 April 2007)
As MediaMatters noted, Limbaugh continued: "I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation."
Actually, Rush, your comment was pure extrapolation...and pure BS. If, as you claim, Cho was a liberal, your stereotypes would have made him a tree-hugging vegetarian pacifist who opposed capital punishment and the easy availability of firearms outside of "a well-regulated militia." You're such a tool that you actually made more sense when you were all hopped up on hillbilly heroin.
Despite its flaws, Martin's collection is still an indispensable collection of liberal quotes. A book covering the same territory from a more scholarly and analytical viewpoint could be even more useful, so I hope this book is successful enough to warrant a sequel.