Category Archive 'Andrew Sullivan'
21 Mar 2021

Atlanta Shootings Coverage and Establishment Response Set Record Level of Mendacity

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Ed Driscoll calls it precisely: WE’VE DESCENDED INTO SOME SORT OF BIZARRE HELL-WORLD IN WHICH ANDREW SULLIVAN IS A VOICE OF SANITY.

[The Atlanta massage parlor shootings] story has… been deeply instructive about our national discourse and the state of the American mainstream and elite media. This story’s coverage is proof, it seems to me, that American journalists have officially abandoned the habit of attempting any kind of “objectivity” in reporting these stories. We are now in the enlightened social justice world of “moral clarity” and “narrative-shaping.”

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

We have yet to find any credible evidence of anti-Asian hatred or bigotry in this man’s history. Maybe we will. We can’t rule it out. But we do know that his roommates say they once asked him if he picked the spas for sex because the women were Asian. And they say he denied it, saying he thought those spas were just the safest way to have quick sex. That needs to be checked out more. But the only piece of evidence about possible anti-Asian bias points away, not toward it.

And yet. Well, you know what’s coming. Accompanying one original piece on the known facts, the NYT ran nine — nine! — separate stories about the incident as part of the narrative that this was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. Not to be outdone, the WaPo ran sixteen separate stories on the incident as an anti-Asian white supremacist hate crime. Sixteen! One story for the facts; sixteen stories on how critical race theory would interpret the event regardless of the facts. For good measure, one of their columnists denounced reporting of law enforcement’s version of events in the newspaper, because it distracted attention from the “real” motives. Today, the NYT ran yet another full-on critical theory piece disguised as news on how these murders are proof of structural racism and sexism — because some activists say they are.

RTWT

24 Feb 2021

The 2020 Election and Our Inquisitorial Establishment

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Michael Anton (famous for the 2016 “Flight 93 Election” essay) reflects on all the arm-twisting going on anent acceptance of the 2020 Election’s legitimacy and he has plenty of intelligent observations.

Recently, I appeared as a guest on Andrew Sullivan’s podcast. Sullivan is vociferously anti-Trump, so I expected us to disagree—which, naturally, we did. But I was surprised by the extent to which he insisted I assent to his assertion that the 2020 election was totally on the level. That is to say, I wasn’t surprised that Sullivan thinks it was; I was surprised by his evident yearning to hear me say so, too.

Which I could not do.

Sullivan badgered me on this at length before finally accusing me of being fixated on the topic, to which I responded, truthfully, that I was only talking about it because he asked. As far as I’m concerned, the 2020 election is well and truly over. I have, I said, “moved on.”

So I thought. Then I received two emails from a friendly acquaintance who is a recognized Republican expert on elections that suggested he, too, is troubled by my lack of belief. Then came two other data points, which I noticed only after the first draft this essay had been completed. Ramesh Ponnuru snarked (snark seems to be the go-to, indeed the only, device his in literary quiver) that one of the anomalies I cited in my most recent article in the Claremont Review of Books had been “debunked” by the partisan left-wing FactCheck.org. While I appreciate the insight into the sources from which National Review editors get their “facts” these days, the quote provided admits that the statistic I cited is, well, accurate. Ponurru naturally ignores all of the other points raised in my earlier article.

Jonathan Chait wrote yet another (his 12th?) article denouncing me, for this same sin of disbelief. Why did he bother? Is there even a remote chance that a single one of his New York magazine readers either read my article or encountered its argument? Or is he worried that the “narrative” of the election is so fragile that it needs to be shored up?

I wanted to move on, I really did. But when Left (Chait), center (Sullivan), faux-right anti-conservative ankle-biter (Ponnuru), and genuine, if establishment, Right (my correspondent) all agree that my lack of belief is a problem, I wondered why this should be so, and the following observations came to mind. Read the rest of this entry »

17 Jul 2020

Andrew Sullivan Explains What Happened at New York Magazine

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Andrew is bending over backwards acrobatically to be nice about it, but he clearly didn’t fall. He was pushed.

What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative. They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory’s ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I’m out of here.

Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement. In academia, a tiny fraction of professors and administrators have not yet bent the knee to the woke program — and those few left are being purged. The latest study of Harvard University faculty, for example, finds that only 1.46 percent call themselves conservative. But that’s probably higher than the proportion of journalists who call themselves conservative at the New York Times or CNN or New York Magazine. And maybe it’s worth pointing out that “conservative” in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November.

It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated. And that’s fine. We have freedom of association in this country, and if the mainstream media want to cut ties with even moderate anti-Trump conservatives, because they won’t bend the knee to critical theory’s version of reality, that’s their prerogative. It may even win them more readers, at least temporarily. But this is less of a systemic problem than in the past, because the web has massively eroded the power of gatekeepers to suppress and control speech. I was among the first to recognize this potential for individual freedom of speech, and helped pioneer individual online media, specifically blogging, 20 years ago.

And this is where I’m now headed.

RTWT

And he’s right: if an anti-Trump, anti-Bush Quizling ersatz conservative, who additionally plays for the wrong team, is not an acceptable token in Establishment journalism today, things have reached one helluva pass. Andrew, of course, needs to sit back and reflect on his own part, in the role of sell-out, in letting matters proceed so far.

Andrew finds himself rather in the position of the late German pastor Martin Niemöller:

    “They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
06 Jun 2020

New York Mag Has Andrew Sullivan Hog-Tied and Muzzled in the Closet

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The once-conservative Andrew Sullivan is now paying the turncoat’s price. New York Magazine pays his salary presently, and it has become clear that New York Magazine is keeping Andrew muzzled and on a tight leash.

There is, you see, always some danger that Andrew may reflexively lapse and produce an honest and well-reasoned appraisal of current events. This week’s current events consist of nation-wide violence and looting produced by well-financed and well-organized radical agitation, abetted by the national media, with the death of “Five Felony Convictions” George Floyd while in the hands of the police as the pretext.

Andrew will fight like a tiger for the honor of Sodomy, and he ankle bites real conservatives like a hydrophobic chihuahua but, even Andrew has to live, and he would transgress the Left’s sacred taboos concerning racial grievance at his own peril. That comfortable seat at the Establishment Table comes with a price: his integrity, his soul.

(Cockburn, at the Spectator, is mercilessly derisive.)

What has happened to New York media? Just as the New York Times was experiencing its own Inner Mongolia Moment over the now notorious Sen. Tom Cotton ‘Send in the Troops’ op-ed, the Maoists at New York magazine were going after their best columnist, Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan revealed on Twitter yesterday that his column wouldn’t be appearing. The reason? His editors are not allowing him to write about the riots.

What has happened to New York media? Just as the New York Times was experiencing its own Inner Mongolia Moment over the now notorious Sen. Tom Cotton ‘Send in the Troops’ op-ed, the Maoists at New York magazine were going after their best columnist, Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan revealed on Twitter yesterday that his column wouldn’t be appearing. The reason? His editors are not allowing him to write about the riots.

Presumably Sullivan’s editors are frightened that he might make the radically bourgeois point that looting and violence are wrong.

Cockburn understands that Sullivan is not just forbidden from writing for the New York magazine about the riots; his contract means he cannot write on the topic for another publication. He is therefore legally unable to write anything about the protests without losing his job — at the magazine that, in 1970, published Radical Chic, Tom Wolfe’s brilliant and controversial excoriation of progressive piety. It’s the bonfire of the liberals!

Who cares about the First Amendment? Not the Maoists who are marching through NYC’s media institutions. Safetyism is their creed. Sullivan may be a very small ‘c’ conservative, in some ways, but he is really a committed liberal — an Obama-loving gay man who thinks that Trump’s ‘dangerous fantasies’ threaten America. …

Sullivan, a source close to New York magazine reveals, has to have his work vetted by sensitive junior editors to make sure it doesn’t trigger them. If it passes their sniff testing, it can be published.

RTWT

25 Apr 2020

Poor Andrew Sullivan

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Andrew can’t take much more of this sitting around at home, reading books, and binge-watching Battlestar Gallactica. It’s all just too stressful for the poor chap.

This Friday’s column begins:

I began to lose it this week.

I know, I have it very easy. I’m not required to put myself at risk every day as a hospital or essential worker. I’m still employed. I’ve got some savings, and don’t have to worry about basic survival. I get food delivered. I haven’t lost any family members or friends from COVID-19 (though I did lose my dad in a horrible accident, and couldn’t get to the burial). My apartment gets plenty of sun and I have two dogs who love me. I get a couple of good walks in a day, and have plenty to read. I don’t have kids. I have direct, personal experience of living through a plague once before in my life.

All of that should make me a prime candidate to hang in, take this period as a disciplinary exercise, and generally be a good citizen. And I have been — I haven’t had any physical human contact for two months now, I wear a mask everywhere, I use rubber disposable gloves for groceries, I keep my six-feet distance so far as I can, even though it’s impossible in my neighborhood to walk on a sidewalk or in a park and not be accosted by joggers, who routinely come within inches of my face. I have no intention of breaking any of these rules, although I am tempted by homicide if any of these fit, entitled motherfuckers actually spit on the ground near me.

But I can recognize signs of psychological and physical stress, and I’m beginning to lose it. This week, for some reason, Wednesday was a bad day. Or at least I think it was Wednesday. What day is it again?

My sleep patterns are totally screwed up, and I find myself waking up tense several times a night, or crashing out for 10 or 12 hours at a time. I wake up and want to go back to sleep. My appetite is waning, and my body longs for some weights to push and pull. My teeth grind all night long and my jaw is tense. I have all the time in the world to read and write, and yet I find myself anesthetized with ennui, procrastinating and distracting myself. Yes, I scan the news every day, often hourly, to discern any seeds of progress.

And here’s the thing: I can’t see much on the horizon.

On the whole, I think it’s just as well that Andrew missed the plague in London in Pepys’ time, Waterloo, WWI, and the Blitz.

27 Oct 2019

Andrew is Right For Once

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17 Sep 2018

Conservatism, According to Andrew Sullivan

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Andrew Sullivan, in last Friday’s weekly editorial, says “America Desperately Needs a Healthy Conservatism,” and tells us what he thinks that consists of.

In today’s America, this conservatism is completely under siege. The left will increasingly tolerate nothing that gets in the way of what it calls “social justice,” which far too often reduces individuals to their racial or class or gender identities rather than their merits, or character, or talents. The conservative approach to a multicultural and multiracial society is to keep our focus on the individual and do what’s best to help every individual, regardless of their race, gender, or whatever, to be part of our shared liberal democratic inheritance. Conservatism is about enfolding the new into the old, sustaining a society’s coherence and cohesion, while being extremely tough on particular injustices against particular individuals, vigilant about corruption, and anguished when the criminal justice system loses legitimacy, because of embedded racism.

But conservatism is more deeply besieged by the Republican Party, its alleged harbor. If you consider the themes I’ve emphasized above, it becomes clearer that the GOP is not only not conservative, but actually dedicated to destroying that tradition. Republicans pursue the ideology of free markets and lower and lower taxation, regardless of its brutal assault on fiscal solvency, human dignity, social cohesion, and community life. They have nominated and protected a president who assaults the norms that conservatives revere, has contempt for existing institutions and sees the rule of law as a means to advance his own interests, rather than that of the society as a whole.

This is a man and a party that has such disdain for conserving anything that it is actively despoiling our landscape, enabling a climate catastrophe. It is a party that has generated crippling and everlasting debt — even in good economic times — in a way that makes a mockery of any compact between generations. It is a party that actively endorses cruelty as a policy tool, deploys fear as its prime political weapon, and insists that the opposite party has no legitimate right to govern at all. It is the party of torture, the absolute nemesis of the liberal inheritance, the party of corruption, propaganda, vote suppression, and barely masked bigotry.

I despise it because I am a conservative. I don’t believe that conservatism can be revived on the right (it has been thankfully sustained, by default, by the Democrats in recent decades) until this hateful philistine would-be despot and his know-nothing cult is gone. And by revived, I do not mean a return to neoconservatism abroad or supply side crack-pottery at home. The 1980s and 1990s are over. I mean a conservatism that can tackle soaring social and economic inequality as a way to save capitalism, restore the financial sector as an aid to free markets and not their corrupting parasite, a conservatism that will end our unending wars, rid the criminal justice system of its racial blind spots, defend liberal education and high culture against the barbarians of postmodernism and the well-intentioned toxins of affirmative action, pay down the debt, reform the corruption of religious faith, protect our physical landscape, invest in non-carbon energy, and begin at the local level to rebuild community and the spirit of American civil association.

Andrew’s thesis is summarized perfectly at the point where he writes:

The goal is not to stand athwart history and cry ‘Stop!’, as William F. Buckley put it. It’s to be part of the stream of history and say: slow it down a bit, will you?”

RTWT

In essence, Andrew Sullivan is reacting with indignation and hostility to the populism of Donald Trump, but in the course of defining his own position of opposition to Trump, he makes it clear that his version of supposed Conservatism also rejects the Conservatism of William F. Buckley, Jr., Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.

Andrew’s “Conservatism” is really the “Me, Too, Just a Little Less” style of Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, and all the Establishment, Country Club-style Republicans of the Bad Old Days before the Conservative Movement took over the GOP and equipped it with principles and a backbone.

Andrew’s Conservatism finds its compass, not in the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writings and debates of the framers, but in the editorial page of the New York Times.

Andrew’s Conservatism is intellectually uncritical. It accepts in every jot and tittle the consensus of the elite community of fashion. Junk science, Dualism, and the worship of Gaia, immolating billions to drive off this imaginary catastrophe or that? No problem. Andrew is on board.

Andrew’s Conservatism shares with our liberal establishment reliance on the radical hardcore Left as its conscience. Idealism and morality belong to that radical Left. Declining any of its edicts or demands endangers your moral standing and threatens the stability of society. We must wage war continually on intrinsically evil Bankers and Big Business. We must always regulate out of existence any stigmatized compound or element. We must always choose the emotional gesture expressing our love of Nature over energy or productivity, always disregarding crass calculations of costs and benefits.

We must become deficit hawks during any Republican Administration and deplore tax cuts. We must embrace Isolationism and Pacifism in our Foreign Policy, unless the Left wants to go after some reactionary regime.

Identifying exactly what is conservative in Andrew’s Conservatism is not easy. The best I can do is to point to Andrew’s implicit conviction that the national establishment inevitably is made up of the wisest and best people and therefore possesses the mandate of Heaven. Opposition to establishment culture and politics is intrinsically revolutionary and just plain bad form. Andrew’s Conservatism is really the Conservatism of the Vicar of Bray.

He tells us in the opening of his essay that he had just read Roger Scruton on Conservatism. If he did, he certainly was not really paying attention.

29 Oct 2017

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Andrew

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This week, in his hebdomadal New York magazine piece, Andrew Sullivan was back to pure left-wing democrat partisan flackery. Just one little section, though, I thought, cried out for particular attention, the bit where Andrew sternly rebukes that lawless reprobate Donald Trump:

Almost all our liberal democratic norms and institutions are much weaker today than they were a year ago. Trump has not assaulted the Constitution directly. He has not refused a court order, so far. But he has obstructed justice in his firing of James Comey, and abused the spirit of the pardon power by using it for a public official who violated citizens’ Constitutional rights, before he was even sentenced. In the most worrying case so far, he has refused to enforce the sanctions against Russia that were passed by a veto-proof margin by the Congress. I fear this is because his psyche cannot actually follow the instructions of anyone but himself. This is also why, after failing to repeal, replace or amend Obamacare, he has not faithfully executed the law, but actively sabotaged it. If he does not have his way, he will either sulk and refuse to do his constitutional duty, or he will simply smash whatever institution or law that obstructs his will. At some point, we may come to a more profound test of his ability to operate as just one of three equal branches of government. I think he’ll fail it.

Yes, the forms of the Constitution remain largely intact after nine months. But the norms that make the Constitution work are crumbling. The structure looks the same, but Trump has relentlessly attacked their foundations. Do not therefore keep your eyes on the surface. Put your ear to the ground.

This is pretty rich stuff coming from illegal immigrant Andrew Sullivan who managed to successfully defy for most of two decades the 1987 ban on entry to the United States by HIV-infected persons. Sullivan managed to elude deportation, despite being diagnosed with HIV in 1993 (the same year the ban on immigration was statutorily re-affirmed) using Blat.

Andrew was then editor of The New Republic, a very influential and big deal position, and he was consequently, despite his contagious and potentially fatal, perverse-sex-connected illness, able to swing an indefinitely renewable “O” visa, a special status awarded to an alien “who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

All our liberal democratic institutions took another very big hit for Andrew in 2009, when the US Attorney working for the Obama Administration declined to pursue a marijuana charge against the British-born journalist because it would have resulted in the (probably permanent) deportation of a prominent commentator passionately devoted to the incumbent administration’s support. So flagrant was the special treatment Andrew Sullivan received that the US Magistrate Judge wrote an 11-page dissenting memorandum protesting what had occurred.

Boston Globe (12 September 2009):

[A] federal judge says Sullivan did not deserve preferential treatment from prosecutors who dropped a marijuana possession charge after the journalist was recently caught smoking a joint on a federally owned beach on Cape Cod.

In a strongly worded memorandum issued Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings said the decision by Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks to dismiss a federal misdemeanor possession charge against Sullivan flouted a “cardinal principle of our legal system’’ – that all persons stand equal before the law.

Three other defendants charged with the same offense had to appear before Collings the same day as Sullivan, the judge noted. But Sullivan’s case was the only one prosecutors did not pursue, out of concern that the $125 fine carried by the relatively minor offense could derail his US immigration application.

“It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,’’ Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutors’ rationale for the dismissal was inadequate.

Collings added with obvious irritation that he had no power to order prosecutors to pursue the case, and granted their motion to dismiss it. The fact that he did, however, “does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,’’ he wrote.

So, tell us, Andrew, which outrage shakes the foundations of our liberal democratic norms and institutions more violently, the merciful (though obviously partisan) clemency sparing jail time to an 80-something-year-old Sheriff facing a contempt charge from a judicial political adversary (Joe Arpaio) or covert White House intervention to quash a criminal drug possession rap that might deport a useful journalistic ally (you)?

21 Oct 2017

Andrew Sullivan Gets One Right

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Andrew is a very mixed bag. He can be brilliantly perceptive, hitting the nail right on the head. And he can be an intellectually conformist sheep, swallowing the current leftist spin hook, line, and sinker. And Andrew can go both ways in the very same editorial.

For example, this week, Andrew correctly identifies the democrats’ huge political vulnerability.

For me, as regular readers know, few things seem as ominous as the fate of free speech in the West. In democratic countries without a First Amendment, writers and speakers are now routinely hauled into court for hurting someone’s feelings or violating some new PC edict. In Canada, it is now a crime to use pronouns that have served the English language well enough for centuries, if you are not careful. You are compelled by law to say “ze” or “xe” or “ve” or an endlessly proliferating litany of gobbledygook — “(f)aer,” “e/ey,” “perself” — invented out of thin air by postmodern transgenderists. Justin Trudeau doesn’t just want you to be criminalized for saying things he regards as “hate,” he wants to use the criminal law to force you to say things you don’t believe in and can’t even remember.

In Britain, meanwhile, it is now a criminal offense to post something on social media that “is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice.” “Hostility” is defined thus: “ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike.” In other words, if you “dislike” some idea, and someone else asserts your view is driven by “unfriendliness” to a member of a minority, you are breaking the law. There is effectively no free speech left in the U.K. that isn’t subject to a criminal veto by someone seeking to make trouble or permanently primed to take offense. And that is not to speak of the chilling effect such laws have on others too intimidated to open their mouths at all.

In America, thanks to Thomas Jefferson et al., such policing of minds and thoughts by the government is forbidden. So the illiberal left and reactionary right find other ways. Our president believes “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” He also thinks he can coerce people into saying “Merry Christmas” or standing for the national anthem. (I’ve decided to reverse my previous custom and always say “Happy Holidays” and always kneel for the anthem.) The GOP candidate for the Senate from Alabama — supported by every other GOP senator — believes that NFL players are actually breaking the law by using their First Amendment rights, and that Muslims should be barred from public office. And then the worst news on this front all year: “Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration.” That rises to 76 percent of Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of all voters — and 46 percent of Republicans — believe that the government should be able to remove the licenses from outlets that criticize the president. The First Amendment lives; but the beliefs and practices and norms that buttress it are atrophying very fast.

Many now demand, for example, that young-adult fiction conform to their ideology … or they will destroy a book before it is even published and before they have even read it. That just happened to a book written by Laura Moriarty, called American Heart, which was subjected to a social-media version of book-burning. Kirkus originally gave the book a glowing review, and then retracted it under pressure, then got the reviewer to rewrite it. Vulture interviewed the editor of Kirkus Reviews about the flap. Money quote:

    “Obviously we don’t like having to make corrections after the publication of a review,” [Kirkus’s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith] adds. “The plan is to beef up our editing of reviews in this section, to have further eyes before it goes to print.”

    In the future, I ask, is the goal that no problematic book will escape un-called-out?

    “That’s certainly the goal!” Smith says, with the caveat that Kirkus’s critics aren’t infallible. “I mean, we’re human beings.”

Or look at what happened to a speaker from the ACLU at the College of William & Mary in Virginia a couple of weeks back. She came to give a talk about — yes! — free speech, only to be shouted down by the usual mob, who were at least honest enough to chant: “Liberalism Is White Supremacy,” and “The Revolution Will Not Uphold Your Constitution.” They physically prevented the speaker from even talking one-on-one with those who were interested in a dialogue.

The unity of the far left and the Trump right on this is as striking as it is depressing. What they share is a contempt for liberal democracy. Truth to both of them is merely an instrument of power. Instead of relying on an open exchange of ideas in order to determine the always-provisional truth, both sides (yes, both sides) insist that they already know the truth and need simply to acquire the power to impose it on everyone else. Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson weeps.

And then Andrew proceeds to tell us just how wonderful and enlightening the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Vietnam War Documentary is. (Sigh!)

Try Mackubin Thomas Owens on that subject.

06 May 2017

Andrew Sullivan Defends the Reactionary Right

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Charles I, the classic reactionary.

A stopped clock is right two times a day, and once in a blue moon Andrew Sullivan is still capable of writing a very intelligent essay. Here is Andrew explaining why the Populist Nationalist Right has arisen as a political force capable of asserting its own will, and why its issues and perspectives deserve serious consideration.

The pendulum is always swinging. Sometimes it swings back with unusual speed and power.

You can almost feel the g-force today. What are this generation’s reactionaries reacting to? They’re reacting, as they have always done, to modernity. But their current reaction is proportional to the bewildering pace of change in the world today. They are responding, at some deep, visceral level, to the sense that they are no longer in control of their own lives. They see the relentless tides of globalization, free trade, multiculturalism, and mass immigration eroding their sense of national identity. They believe that the profound shifts in the global economy reward highly educated, multicultural enclaves and punish more racially and culturally homogeneous working-class populations. And they rebel against the entrenched power of elites who, in their view, reflexively sustain all of the above.

I know why many want to dismiss all of this as mere hate, as some of it certainly is. I also recognize that engaging with the ideas of this movement is a tricky exercise in our current political climate. Among many liberals, there is an understandable impulse to raise the drawbridge, to deny certain ideas access to respectable conversation, to prevent certain concepts from being “normalized.” But the normalization has already occurred — thanks, largely, to voters across the West — and willfully blinding ourselves to the most potent political movement of the moment will not make it go away. Indeed, the more I read today’s more serious reactionary writers, the more I’m convinced they are much more in tune with the current global mood than today’s conservatives, liberals, and progressives. I find myself repelled by many of their themes — and yet, at the same time, drawn in by their unmistakable relevance. I’m even tempted, at times, to share George Orwell’s view of the neo-reactionaries of his age: that, although they can sometimes spew dangerous nonsense, they’re smarter and more influential than we tend to think, and that “up to a point, they are right.”

A must-read article.

12 Mar 2017

Intersectionality as Religion

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Andrew Sullivan takes time off from crying over the election of Donald Trump to identify and explain the new religion that has taken charge on elite campuses all over the country.

Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.

And what I saw on the video struck me most as a form of religious ritual — a secular exorcism, if you will — that reaches a frenzied, disturbing catharsis. When Murray starts to speak, the students stand and ritually turn their backs on him in silence. The heretic must not be looked at, let alone engaged. Then they recite a common liturgy in unison from sheets of paper. Here’s how they begin: “This is not respectful discourse, or a debate about free speech. These are not ideas that can be fairly debated, it is not ‘representative’ of the other side to give a platform to such dangerous ideologies. There is not a potential for an equal exchange of ideas.” They never specify which of Murray’s ideas they are referring to. Nor do they explain why a lecture on a recent book about social inequality cannot be a “respectful discourse.” The speaker is open to questions and there is a faculty member onstage to engage him afterward. She came prepared with tough questions forwarded from specialists in the field. And yet: “We … cannot engage fully with Charles Murray, while he is known for readily quoting himself. Because of that, we see this talk as hate speech.” They know this before a single word of the speech has been spoken.

Read the whole thing.

02 May 2016

Democratic End Point

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Plato
Plato, copy of a bust by Silanion, Musei Capitolini.

Andrew Sullivan is back, in New York magazine, telling us that the current election reminds him of something.

As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”

This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.

The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.

And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.

He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time — given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracy’s civil religion. He makes his move by “taking over a particularly obedient mob” and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—“too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.

Trump definitely scares Andrew.

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