I guess I’m not as outraged as James Taranto about Jonathan Alter’s modest proposal for corporate loyalty oaths:
Before we settled on today’s topic, we weighed the question: Is Jonathan Alter joking? The question arose not on the basis of Alter’s character–we’ve met him, and he strikes us as very earnest, an unlikely prankster–but because his latest Daily Beast piece is so outlandish. The headline is “The United States Needs Corporate ‘Loyalty Oaths.’ ”
Although as a matter of pure logic one cannot rule out the possibility of a very elaborate deadpan charade, the balance of evidence–namely his Twitter feed–suggests he’s serious. Taken at face value, every Alter tweet about the piece is entirely unironic, especially this one: “I’m afraid headline made people react viscerally rather than read piece.”
We read piece and piece even more outlandish than headline. The term “loyalty oath” has a certain implication to those familiar with 20th-century U.S. history. Alter explicates it, which is to say he names names: “If Republicans cared about this issue, which most don’t, they would revive McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, where people were forced to swear that they weren’t communists.”
That might be because I doubt the proposal will go any farther than Mr. Alter’s column. I also think it’s more emblematic of a lack of understanding of the problem and a lack of imagination that it is of a mindset.