Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hysterical: Sully denies nihilism, accuses conservatives of psychopathology

Quoted by Ta-Nehesi Coates:
I don't think it's possible to believe [the gay rights agenda threatens traditional families] without, at some level, engaging in homophobia - literally an irrational and exaggerated fear that the gay somehow always obliterates the straight, or that 2 percent somehow always controls the fate of 98 percent.
This is where paranoia and panic take over. It is where homophobia most feels like anti-Semitism.
Sullivan's finger-pointing j'accuse is enthusiastically endorsed by Coates, of course. Amazing how these "intellectuals" -- including Sullivan, who pretends to the humlity of Oakeshott -- just know these things, eh? To oppose their politics is to be guilty of bigotry, per se, with them acting as judge, jury and executioner.

Myself, I profess to be a man of "untaught feelings," as described by Edmund Burke:
You see, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that [the English] are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. . . . Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical, puzzled and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
The accustomed habits of a society are not to be cast away willy-nilly merely because some radicals conspire to convince us that innocent people are victimized by our traditions. As to the 2% versue the 98% of which Sullivan speaks, should the tail wag the dog? Ought one of our most fundamental institutions be redefined on behalf of the minority of gays who seek legal recognition for their couplings?

Sully and his friends insult conservatives by supposing us to be cowards. If we disagree on what is, at heart, a question of policy, we are accused of vicious hatefulness. Indeed, we are said to be suffering from a psychological disorder, homophobia. To this insult -- and their arrogant supposition that we are too stupid to know when we are being insulted -- I quote one of the great heroes of cinema.
"Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining."
-- The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
The discourse Sully means to have with us:
Sully: You're stupid.
Us: Excuse me?
Sully: You're mentally ill, too.
Us: What the . . .?
Sully: Hatemonger!
Us: Boy, I'm about to whup you.
Sully: Fascist!
He does not argue in good faith. We have on our side ancient tradition and religious orthodoxy. He has on his side the prestige of the intellectual elite. Ergo, we are ignorant rabble, and he is so infinitely superior to us that he can insult us with impunity, and we dare not even take notice of the insult.

UPDATE: Re-reading this, I realize I failed to explain why I said Sully and those like him (who pretend to an expertise at diagnosing the mental malady homophobia) "insult conservatives by supposing us to be cowards."

What I mean is that they seem to assume that we are so afraid of this pejorative label that, merely by accusing us of being "homophobes," they'll cause us to cede the premise of their argument. They make the same assumption when they throw around epithets like "racist," "nativist," "McCarthyite," etc.

These negative labels are intended to pre-empt argument, to throw one's antagonist onto the defensive so that he wastes time defending himself against this label, rather than discussing the subject at hand. And there is good reason why Sullivan supposes conservatives to be cowards in this regard: Because many conservatives are.

They are easily intimidated by liberal name-calling and will bend over backward to protect their precious "respectability" by trying to dodge the accusation. And in doing so, they end up abandoning the high ground, tacitly granting the premise of the liberal argument.

This is why I so admire Kathy Shaidle. When the leftoids shout, "Racist!" she responds, "OK, fine, I'm a racist. Do you have an actual argument, or are you just here to call me names?" Real courage like that utterly confounds the Left, because they're so used to getting their way by intimidating their opposition into surrender.

Getting a bit more specific, there is a reason why the accusation of "homophobia" does not intimidate me: I refuse to accept that "homophobia" accounts for most of the problems experienced by gays. Define "homophobia" however you wish, if you are gay, ask yourself this question: What percentage of the daily problems and hassles in your life are the result of this supposedly pervasive phenomenon?

This is what is so absurd about Sully likening "homophobia" to anti-Semitism. It is he who has succumbed to the paranoid tendency, suspecting that "homophobes," like the Jews of anti-Semitic imagination, are conspiring to deprive him of happiness. Here he is, a successful and famous journalist, with lucrative book contracts and nearly carte blanche to publish in prestigious publications, yet he sits around fretting and fuming over the pathological suspicion that other people don't like him because he's gay.

Who is it that really has the mental problem here? And who takes seriously the charge of "homophobia" from someone like that?

De l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace!

UPDATE II: Speaking of fallacies, Debra Dickerson engages in the "progress" fallacy:
But this is an issue, like race, whose time has come. Enjoy the last few years left of discriminating against gays 'cuz them days is almost gone.
It's hard out there for a bigot. Homophobia is on a short list of acceptable bigotries. But it's fading fast.
To quote Burke again:
We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government.
Or, to quote G.K. Chesterton:
My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.
Truth is a durable commodity. Of course, Burke and Chesterton were intractable homophobes, which is why they are so morally and intellectually inferior to Andrew Sullivan.


  1. Mr. McCain, your final paragraph more or less sums up the whole of what passes for the liberal-conservative debate in the USA and other western countries.

  2. Breaking out the big guns by invoking Burke? Mr. McCain, you haven't been eating granola and discussing Burke with the folks over at Crunchy Cons by any chance?

  3. Having been pretty conservative since 1979 or so, I have come to largely despise conservatism and many of its key personalities now. The pseudo argument about gay rights is emblematic why: American conservatism seems particularly incapable of taking freedom seriously in the sense of actually increasing it for anybody other than hedge fund managers or AIG bonus-ees. Seriously, hearing Rush et al bray about the "sanctity of contract" made it pretty clear that money is the only sacred substance in America.

    Take medical marijuana: well maybe in theory a conservative will support it, but he'll risk nothing to help people who are suffering.

    From where I sit, conservatism has become just a crabby, reactionary, thoughtless worldview with a cast of characters who serve the plutocrats. It deserves to lose.

    I liked being a conservative when it was about opposing communism, reforming bureaucracy, spreading self-reliance etc. When it's about targeting minorities (and don't kid yourself about these ballot initiatives), I don't want anything to do with it.

  4. Critical Thinker: I do not cede to the Crunchies proprietorship of the legacy of Edmund Burke.

  5. We have on our side ancient tradition and religious orthodoxy

    More than either of those, we have NATURE on our side. Both 'tradition' and 'religious orthodoxy' are based on the NATURE of sexual activity.

  6. Josey Wales' quote to keep in mind for the next 4 years: "Doin’ right ain’t got no end." If they truly believe in the justness of their cause, they will allow themselves to do anything without limit.

  7. Dad29 wrote:

    "We have on our side ancient tradition and religious orthodoxy

    More than either of those, we have NATURE on our side. Both 'tradition' and 'religious orthodoxy' are based on the NATURE of sexual activity."

    Regrettably, this is what slaveholders said, too. If that's what you want to argue, ok ...

    Needless to say, I am not persuaded by this kind of argument and I believe there have been many who wished (or ought to have wished) that they didn't rely upon it.

  8. Regrettably, this is what slaveholders said, too. If that's what you want to argue, ok ...


    you kinda just prove RSM's argument invoking name calling.

  9. "They make the same assumption when they throw around epithets like "racist," "nativist," "McCarthyite," etc."

    McCarthyite is not an epithet any more than any other word chosen at random from the dictionary and sneered with the drip of vocal derision.

    "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

    By now, you MUST be doing this merely to intentionally tweak me, and being of good humor, I am not disinclined to laugh with you.

  10. I will be happy to debate the topic of gay marriage with Sully's grandchildren. Let the fruit of his ideas be their judge.

  11. Any conservative thinker who uses the Outlaw Josie Wales in an argument immediately gets attention.
    Also your imaginary argument with Sully, "Sully: You're stupid.
    Us: Excuse me?
    Sully: You're mentally ill, too.
    Us: What the . . .?
    Sully: Hatemonger!
    Us: Boy, I'm about to whup you.
    Sully: Fascist" is brillant.
    Finally, your Kathy Shaidle reference, "When the leftoids shout, "Racist!" she responds, "OK, fine, I'm a racist. Do you have an actual argument, or are you just here to call me names?" is spot on.
    As usual an insightful, biting and thoughtful take on the state of conservative thinking.
    I'm not gay, but I think I'm in love with your style.

  12. Conceding an argument by silence can certainly be called cowardice when all that one seeks to preserve is "respectability", especially in some nebulous public or cliquish sense. I'm not so sure it's fair to be quite that harsh on people who stand to lose family or friends, or to suffer genuine career setbacks, for daring to admit to a belief that all too many people will hold against you.

    One of the things that conservative writers quite rightly decry in liberal advocates is their incredible willingness to make others pay the price for their calls to social justice - buying women's freedom at the cost of sanctified abortion, buying racial opportunity at the cost of market-skewing affirmative action, buying dubious or marginal environmental benefit at the cost of wrecked economies, etc. - and their willingness to resort to any means to demonize and marginalize disagreement. That being the case, I sometimes think it behooves conservatives to be more understanding of those who have to make a hard choice about how much they can, and can't, afford to sacrifice to uphold their principles.

  13. First of all, I'm a liberal (just to get that out of the way).

    You give good arguments concerning why certain arguments in support of gay marriage are fallacious, but you fail to convince me of your position. The only argument you make against gay marriage is that it goes against tradition, yet tradition, specifically the tradition of marriage, has changed several times in the past two thousand years.

    Early marriages were a business arrangement, in which the wife was considered her husband's property. Marriages did not require state recognition until the protestant reformation, at which time divorce was also allowed. Marriage had nothing to do with love until the Enlightenment/Romantic period, and women didn't become equal partners in marriage until the twentieth century.

    Not all change is good, but neither is all tradition. In this case, marriage provides stability, along with financial and legal rights and responsibilities. Allowing gays to marry would not make your marriage. Why is tradition (which is, and always has been, fluid) so much more important than a stable family structure?

  14. Iaccept the premise of your argument against Sullivan et al who seek to cut off discussion by engaging in name calling. The also seek to place themselves in a morally ascendant position vis a vis their opponent which makes it impossible to discuss policy and places the debate on a plane where they can't lose; homphobe vs. heroic, tolerant liberal.

    However, the question for me regarding gay marriage has always been what business government might have in the matter. I have read some secular defenses of traditional marriage but honestly, they fall a little flat for me.

    And the idea that conservatives can't accept change grounded in tradition (love of any stripe by two people of any sex is always good) sells conservatives short.A secular conservative can view gay marriage in the light of government interference in a private matter or even personal choice.

    Opposing gay marriage on religious grounds is fine but must that reason be used to make public policy? The state may have a "compelling" interest in seeing that traditional marriage remains the only legal union possible but it should not be animated by what one sect or another believes but rather in tradition and the law. If citizens of a state want to make it legal, then the law will be changed. And as far as tradition goes, there is no reason why it should stand in the way of change as long as that change reflects a kinship with tradition and builds rather than tears down.

    Good takedown of Sully but I think a hands off policy from the feds is the wisest course.

    Rick Moran

  15. "That being the case, I sometimes think it behooves conservatives to be more understanding of those who have to make a hard choice about how much they can, and can't, afford to sacrifice to uphold their principles."

    I agree that this would be one sign of Burkean prudence, a quality easy to dismiss by the talk radio guys for whom nuance is a ratings killer.

    On the other hand, why is it that few outside the conservative bubble actually believe conservatism's libertarian rhetoric? Broadly, it is because conservatism does have a notable record of defending injustice, and an even longer one of being indifferent to causes not its own.

    I wish that weren't the case.

  16. Marriage had nothing to do with love until the Enlightenment/Romantic period,

    No doubt you have empirical proof of this statement, Kimberly.

    A couple of valid citations would be enough--no need to write a long essay with footnotes.

  17. Anony

    Regrettably, this is what slaveholders said, too. If that's what you want to argue, ok

    The reason you won't engage the argument from nature is that you cannot possibly win that one.

    Unless you're prepared to 'splain that "it's natural" to do what homosexuals do, sexually.

  18. I think I lost my post and don't have time to reconstruct at the moment.

    Nonetheless, homosexuality does not seem like an historically unknown "natural" variation of human sexuality. Has it been statistically constant through the ages? I don't know. That would answer the question though. Or be close enough.

    Finally, I'm not trying to mau mau anybody, and equating a restatement of someone else's arguments with name-calling is pretty lame. Actually, I think that's my big problem with conservatism these days is that it's gotten whiney and lame, when it really should be trying to think about things a little more.

    Oh, but guess that's what Sarah Palin is for.

  19. Since the racism label is applied to anyone who disparages any of the following.

    - Wacky people in religious cults, (you know who I mean)
    - Wacky paranoid and mean gay people,
    - Wacky mulatto president of the USA with whom you disagree,
    - Wacky native Indians who have completely forgotten what it is to be independent humans with dignity.

    To name a few ... This leads me to believe that it is impossible not to be a racist of some sort in the view of others who judge such things ... namely leftists fools who just hate anyone who isn't them.

    Kathy Shaidle has it right, many of us are defined as racist, but that shouldn't be an impediment to doing what is right and fighting for values that one may hold dear.

    Helpful hint to young conservative men. If you want to get laid, talk like a liberal. In the morning when you want her to leave, talk like a conservative.

    It's simple and it works.


  20. In response to a few questions:

    "Today it may be tempting to see medieval marriage in the light of certain lofty religious doctrines and the poetry of the troubadours. However, throughout most of the Middle Ages and for the greater part of the population marriage remained a practical, economic affair. Romantic love hardly had any place in it. Moreover, the social and legal status of women, while somewhat improved in some countries, continued to be very low...
    "Martin Luther declared marriage to be "a worldly thing . . . that belongs to the realm of government", and a similar opinion was expressed by Calvin...
    "The gradual emancipation of marriage and divorce laws from the control of the church resulted in greater individual freedom and further raised the status of women. The parents began to lose influence over the marital choices of their children, and romantic love became an important factor in marriage. Even so, for most couples until well into the 19th century marriage was still basically an economic arrangement. Moreover, the husband was usually the one who profited most, because he was the "head of the household" and controlled his wife's property."

    As to whether homosexuality is natural, turn to National Geographic:

  21. "...conservatism does have a notable record of defending injustice...."

    So does progressivism, these days; and conservatism has a somewhat better record of learning from its mistakes.

    "...and an even longer one of being indifferent to causes not its own."

    I would say rather a stronger emphasis on only forging alliances of common long-term philosophy, rather than the common short-term interest that characterizes so many special-interest group alliances.

  22. If love of any stripe regardless of sex is good, you're going to have to explain why love of any stripe regardless of age and number are not, and you will be left either with nature, consequences to the individuals, consequences to society, or "that's so gross!"

    The gay rights movement has dismissed all but consequences to society as unworthy of attention in principle, and has dealt with consequences to society with a petitio.

  23. Not one, but TWO dead links, Kimberly!

    The quotation from the U of Berlin page is clearly opinion (not fact), except the line of Luther. Of course, the REASON that Luther said what he said was theological: he did not believe in the Church of Rome (and the powers of the priesthood.) Other religious revolutionaries (Calvin, Zwingli, etc., etc.) followed Luther's lead.

    As to the rest of that editorial, I repeat: provide cites of actual historical evidence that 'marriage was merely functional, not romantic.' Not some femiNazi rant.

    As to the Geographic--if you're trying to persuade us that 'since baboons butt-f&^%, we should too, 'cause it's natural,' you may join your local baboon community. Be honest about it, Kimberly.

    Bonus: baboons do not pay taxes in the USA!!!