Category Archive 'Andrew Sullivan'
17 Jul 2020
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, Iâ€™m a luxury item they donâ€™t want to afford. And thatâ€™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 theoryâ€™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 Iâ€™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 â€” 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 thatâ€™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 itâ€™s worth pointing out that â€œconservativeâ€ 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 thatâ€™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 wonâ€™t bend the knee to critical theoryâ€™s version of reality, thatâ€™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 Iâ€™m now headed.
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 NiemÃ¶ller:
“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
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 â€˜Send in the Troopsâ€™ op-ed, the Maoists at New York magazine were going after their best columnist, Andrew Sullivan.
Sullivan revealed on Twitter yesterday that his column wouldnâ€™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 â€˜Send in the Troopsâ€™ op-ed, the Maoists at New York magazine were going after their best columnist, Andrew Sullivan.
Sullivan revealed on Twitter yesterday that his column wouldnâ€™t be appearing. The reason? His editors are not allowing him to write about the riots.
Presumably Sullivanâ€™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 â€” at the magazine that, in 1970, published Radical Chic, Tom Wolfeâ€™s brilliant and controversial excoriation of progressive piety. Itâ€™s the bonfire of the liberals!
Who cares about the First Amendment? Not the Maoists who are marching through NYCâ€™s media institutions. Safetyism is their creed. Sullivan may be a very small â€˜câ€™ conservative, in some ways, but he is really a committed liberal â€” an Obama-loving gay man who thinks that Trumpâ€™s â€˜dangerous fantasiesâ€™ 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 doesnâ€™t trigger them. If it passes their sniff testing, it can be published.
25 Apr 2020
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. Iâ€™m not required to put myself at risk every day as a hospital or essential worker. Iâ€™m still employed. Iâ€™ve got some savings, and donâ€™t have to worry about basic survival. I get food delivered. I havenâ€™t lost any family members or friends from COVID-19 (though I did lose my dad in a horrible accident, and couldnâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€” I havenâ€™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 itâ€™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 Iâ€™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 hereâ€™s the thing: I canâ€™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.
17 Sep 2018
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 todayâ€™s America, this conservatism is completely under siege. The left will increasingly tolerate nothing that gets in the way of what it calls â€œsocial justice,â€ 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 whatâ€™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 societyâ€™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 Iâ€™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 â€” even in good economic times â€” 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 donâ€™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. Itâ€™s to be part of the stream of history and say: slow it down a bit, will you?”
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
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 citizensâ€™ 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 heâ€™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 â€œOâ€ 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 â€œcardinal principle of our legal systemâ€™â€™ – 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 Sullivanâ€™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.
â€œIt is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,â€™â€™ Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutorsâ€™ 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, â€œdoes not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,â€™â€™ 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 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 someoneâ€™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 â€œzeâ€ or â€œxeâ€ or â€œveâ€ or an endlessly proliferating litany of gobbledygook â€” â€œ(f)aer,â€ â€œe/ey,â€ â€œperselfâ€ â€” invented out of thin air by postmodern transgenderists. Justin Trudeau doesnâ€™t just want you to be criminalized for saying things he regards as â€œhate,â€ he wants to use the criminal law to force you to say things you donâ€™t believe in and canâ€™t even remember.
In Britain, meanwhile, it is now a criminal offense to post something on social media that â€œis perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice.â€ â€œHostilityâ€ is defined thus: â€œill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike.â€ In other words, if you â€œdislikeâ€ some idea, and someone else asserts your view is driven by â€œunfriendlinessâ€ to a member of a minority, you are breaking the law. There is effectively no free speech left in the U.K. that isnâ€™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 â€œitâ€™s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.â€ He also thinks he can coerce people into saying â€œMerry Christmasâ€ or standing for the national anthem. (Iâ€™ve decided to reverse my previous custom and always say â€œHappy Holidaysâ€ and always kneel for the anthem.) The GOP candidate for the Senate from Alabama â€” supported by every other GOP senator â€” 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: â€œNearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration.â€ That rises to 76 percent of Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of all voters â€” and 46 percent of Republicans â€” 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 â€¦ 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:
â€œObviously we donâ€™t like having to make corrections after the publication of a review,â€ [Kirkusâ€™s editor-in-chief Claiborne Smith] adds. â€œThe plan is to beef up our editing of reviews in this section, to have further eyes before it goes to print.â€
In the future, I ask, is the goal that no problematic book will escape un-called-out?
â€œThatâ€™s certainly the goal!â€ Smith says, with the caveat that Kirkusâ€™s critics arenâ€™t infallible. â€œI mean, weâ€™re human beings.â€
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 â€” yes! â€” free speech, only to be shouted down by the usual mob, who were at least honest enough to chant: â€œLiberalism Is White Supremacy,â€ and â€œThe Revolution Will Not Uphold Your Constitution.â€ 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
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 generationâ€™s reactionaries reacting to? Theyâ€™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 â€œnormalized.â€ But the normalization has already occurred â€” thanks, largely, to voters across the West â€” and willfully blinding ourselves to the most potent political movement of the moment will not make it go away. Indeed, the more I read todayâ€™s more serious reactionary writers, the more Iâ€™m convinced they are much more in tune with the current global mood than todayâ€™s conservatives, liberals, and progressives. I find myself repelled by many of their themes â€” and yet, at the same time, drawn in by their unmistakable relevance. Iâ€™m even tempted, at times, to share George Orwellâ€™s view of the neo-reactionaries of his age: that, although they can sometimes spew dangerous nonsense, theyâ€™re smarter and more influential than we tend to think, and that â€œup to a point, they are right.â€
A must-read article.
12 Mar 2017
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.
Intersectionalityâ€ is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, itâ€™s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity â€” such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. â€” but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, thatâ€™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 Orwellâ€™s words, as a â€œsmelly little orthodoxy,â€ 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 â€” 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., â€œcheck your privilege,â€ 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 â€” 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. Itâ€™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 youâ€™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 â€œwhite supremacy,â€ 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 canâ€™t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate othersâ€™ souls, and wound them irreparably.
And what I saw on the video struck me most as a form of religious ritual â€” a secular exorcism, if you will â€” 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. Hereâ€™s how they begin: â€œThis is not respectful discourse, or a debate about free speech. These are not ideas that can be fairly debated, it is not â€˜representativeâ€™ of the other side to give a platform to such dangerous ideologies. There is not a potential for an equal exchange of ideas.â€ They never specify which of Murrayâ€™s ideas they are referring to. Nor do they explain why a lecture on a recent book about social inequality cannot be a â€œrespectful discourse.â€ 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: â€œWe â€¦ cannot engage fully with Charles Murray, while he is known for readily quoting himself. Because of that, we see this talk as hate speech.â€ They know this before a single word of the speech has been spoken.
Read the whole thing.
02 May 2016
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 Platoâ€™s Republic. It has unsettled â€” even surprised â€” 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 â€œtyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.â€ 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 â€œa many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.â€
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 â€” 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 â€œwhatever one wants,â€ 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: â€œWe 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.â€ Family hierarchies are inverted: â€œA 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.â€ In classrooms, â€œas the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.â€ 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 â€” given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracyâ€™s civil religion. He makes his move by â€œtaking over a particularly obedient mobâ€ 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 â€” 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. Itâ€™s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracyâ€™s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excessâ€”â€œtoo much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slaveryâ€ â€” 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.
31 Mar 2015
Poor Andrew quit, he tells us, because grossing seven figures a year while being his own boss was so terrible a burden that it was not worth it.
“The truth is, I had to stop primarily because it was killing me,” Sullivan said Sunday night at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. “I used to joke that if blogging does kill someone, I would be the first to find out.”
He described the grueling pace that he maintained along with a small editorial staff.
“This is 40 posts a day — every 20 minutes, seven days a week,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan has been lying low since he penned his farewell post for “The Dish,” the politics and culture blog he founded in 2000. When CNNMoney requested an interview earlier this month, Sullivan declined, saying he was “in detox from media for a while.”
In announcing his retirement from blogging in January, Sullivan cited “increasing health challenges.” He said those health struggles weren’t related to the HIV he’s lived with for more than 20 years, but rather the stress of a profession that he helped make mainstream.
On Sunday, while speaking to veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield, Sullivan said that the “crushing” workload was only part of what made his job so overwhelming. The experience, Sullivan said, was often dehumanizing.
“Here’s what I would say: I spent a decade of my life, spending around seven hours a day in intimate conversation with around 70,000 to 100,000 people every day, ” Sullivan said. “And inevitably, for those seven hours or more, I was not spending time with any actual human being, with a face and a body and a mind and a soul.”
Sullivan said the job resulted in lost friendships and minimal contact with his family. He said his husband, whom Sullivan married in 2007, called himself a “blog widow.”
No longer tethered to his computer, Sullivan said he’s resolved to exercise and meditate each day, and to get eight hours of sleep. He expressed relief that he wasn’t forced to cover the recent controversy over Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“I couldn’t imagine blogging the next election,” he said. “I will not spend another minute of my time writing about the Clintons. Period. Or the Bushes.”
Andrew, of course, was an extremely prolific and (allowing for his left-wing derangement and common intellectual dishonesty) high quality blogger. Andrew’s own editorials were usually claptrap, but he was an excellent editor and anthologist.
40 blog posts a day is a lot, probably more than anyone really needs, but Andrew had the professional assistance of a paid staff of at least four, plus several part-timers and usually one or more interns. I’ve often thought that I could do a pretty competitive big-time job of blogging if I had half a dozen assistants combing through the web for me all day, and all I had to do was dash off the occasional think piece along with titles and opening lines.
I’m afraid I don’t buy the “it was all too exhausting” story. Andrew obviously loves blogging. He is an attention junkie and a news, politics, and cutural obsessive.
What I think must have happened is, that as Andrew arrived at the beginning of his third year of trying to make a go of it as an independent blogger supported by reader subscriptions, and it was time for Andrew’s readers to pony up again, the subscription and renewal rate (which Andrew usually like to boast about), this year started falling off. Andrew looked at his wall, and saw “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”
Experiments like Andrew’s thrive on being a hot new thing. Even a talented blogger like Andrew Sullivan will, after three years, have done as much new as he can do. My guess is that subscriptions began going down, and Andrew thought long and hard, and realized (not unintelligently) that there was nothing he could do, the future was only going to go one way. So Andrew decided to pull the plug while he still looked successful, before everyone caught wise and recognized that the game was up. Better to go out voluntarily a winner, than to be seen to lose.
My own guess is that Andrew will be back blogging again before very long, just as soon as he can put together a paying gig. The real question I have is: Will the logical Republican Revolution starting in 2016 make Andrew turn his coat around again? Will the next new Andrew be Republican and conservative?
30 Jan 2015
On Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Sullivan suddenly announced that “in the near future,” he is going to quit blogging.
Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, Iâ€™ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). Thatâ€™s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, itâ€™s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.
The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. Iâ€™m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although itâ€™s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a â€˜blog-widowâ€™, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because Iâ€™m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. Iâ€™ve had increasing health challenges these past few years.
Pejman Yousefzadeh cheerfully interprets Andrew’s decision to retire as a final gesture of repentance for betraying Conservatism in order to pursue the homosexual agenda and worship at the feet of the first black (and very possibly queer) US president.
[D]uring the Obama era, Sullivan has indeed blogged â€œlike a hack in a one-party state.â€ At times, Sullivanâ€™s blogging project seemed like a giant audition aimed at getting Sullivan named chief propagandist of the Obama administration. Sullivan may have failed to achieve this particular station in life, but his failure wasnâ€™t for lack of trying.
I write all of this, of course, because Andrew Sullivan claims that he has decided to quit blogging. Now, Andrew Sullivan has claimed that he decided to quit blogging before, and he has come back, so Iâ€™m keeping the champagne on ice for the moment. But Iâ€™d like to think that at long last, Sullivan has realized that his fatuous, overwrought, emotionally unstable, intellect-insulting writing has finally reached China Syndrome proportions of insufferability. I would like to think that Sullivan took a good long look at his writing, his thought process (if one can be so generous as to claim that Sullivanâ€™s writing is backed up by any thought whatsoever), and himself, and didnâ€™t like what he saw. I would like to think that at long last, Andrew Sullivan decided that a belated embrace of discretion and silence was the bestâ€“the onlyâ€“way to salvage whatever dignity he once had, before he decided to squander the vast majority of that dignity via anti-Semitic trolling, logic-defying apologetics on behalf of the Obama administration, and the spelunking of Sarah Palinâ€™s womb.
Andrew retired previously once before, and of course unretired before very long. Glenn Reynolds (perhaps Andrew’s only real rival for title of genius loci of the Blogosphere) responded to Andrew’s announcement with the skeptical retort: “I suspect Sullivan will be back. In my observation, itâ€™s easier to quit blogging than it is to stay quit.”
I certainly agree with Pejman Yousefzadeh about Andrew Sullivan’s shameless and infuriatingly insolent pronunciamentos. Reading Andrew’s melodramatic postings accusing US counter-terrorism agencies of “torture” and his endless, lachrymose complaints about George W. Bush, the War in Iraq, and Sarah Palin, contrasted with his canine adoration of Barack Obama, could get my blood pressure pumping on a daily basis. Personally, I’ve been hoping that some especially keen GOP candidate in 2016 will put “Deporting Andrew Sullivan” high up on his list of contributions to the Republican Platform.
Nonetheless, I have to admit that Andrew has been an extraordinarily perspicacious and creative blog editor, reliably able to turn up precisely the kind of interesting and amusing web morsels that readers are looking for. Additionally, I feel obliged to note that, despite the outrageous intellectual dishonesty too commonly characteristic of Andrew in full rant, he did always maintain a peculiar streak of personal honesty and habitual fairplay, which frequently caused him to apply his excellent editorial skills to finding and publishing the best rejoinders to his own nonsense.
Besides which, speaking as a blogger myself, my hat is off to Andrew for his energy, his ability to produce readable prose with such rapidity, and for the enterprise capable of making his blog such a large-scale, profitable enterprise. My own efforts at monetizing my blog get me the occasional coupon from Amazon.
My suspicion is that, as the third year of Andrew’s subscription paywall has arrived, Andrew felt the cold breath of the general decline in blog readership, and perceived that his blog’s financial momentum was starting to flag. Clever bugger that he is, Andrew is simply declining to ride his current horse into the ground, and has decided to “retire” while The Dish still appears to be a success. His temporary withdrawal from the field will permit Andrew to regroup, bat out another lucrative book, and then he can come back with the exciting, brand-new Andrew Sullivan blog.
I do kind of wonder whether, now, with the culture war triumph of Gay Marriage in his pocket, and the stars shaping up for a Republican sweep in 2016, Andrew may not take his period of retirement as another occasion for personal ideological transformation.
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