Enabling politically correct shame?

I've always enjoyed Andrew Sullivan, and in many ways I consider him an inspiration. He's always embodied non-conformity, and while I haven't always agreed with him, I've always respected him. (I've only been blogging two years, so I guess I can't always expect "always" to be that way always.)

The other day, Andrew Sullivan crossed a line when he insinuated that Glenn Reynolds was an enabler of the "theocratic impulses" of the religious right:

I'd like to think that bringing the evangelical right along was part of building a coalition to fight the war. I'm certainly not impugning Glenn's good reasons for voting for Bush on those grounds. But in my darker moments, I wonder whether the war wasn't a cover to persuade good, open-minded folk like Glenn to enable the theocratic impulses of the Republican base. Of course, Glenn can wait and see.
While I thought that was a crock of utter shit, I let it pass, because Andrew Sullivan is entitled to a tantrum every once in a while like we all are, and besides, earlier yesterday he seemed to apologize -- a little:
IN THE GRIP OF A "THEOCRACY"? Pace Glenn Reynolds, I don't think and have never said that we're in the grips of a "theocracy." We live in a constitutional democracy. Iranians live in a theocracy, and I am aware of the difference. But one element of our politics - one that happens to have a veto on Republican social policy - does hold that religion should dictate politics, and that opposition to a certain politics is tantamount to anti-religious bigotry.
OK, fair enough.

But shortly after the "apology," Sullivan issued an even more unfair outburst:

DOES GLENN KNOW ABOUT THIS? Banning new books in public libraries that feature any gay characters or are written by gay authors? There are no theocratic tendencies among the Republicans, are there? My favorite quote from the bigot behind this: "I don't look at it as censorship," says Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children." The guy wanted to ban some Shakespeare. But Capote, Wilde, Auden, Proust and who knows who else will be barred. Government as the protector of souls. What are these "hysterics" worrying about "theocratic impulses" going on about?
Sorry, but something about the tone -- DOES GLENN KNOW ABOUT THIS?" strikes me as almost, well, inquisitorial. Very unlike Andrew Sullivan.

Since when is Glenn Reynolds responsible every time a bigoted hick legislator acts up somewhere in the South?

It's not as if Glenn Reynolds hasn't made it clear where he stands. He's repeatedly slammed Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as idiotarians, and likened Randall Terry to Ward Churchill, supported gay marriage, legalization of drugs, opposed criminalization of dildos in the South, and I don't even see why I should have to list these things or defend Glenn Reynolds. What do I have to do? Cite his entire blog? It is as undignified as it is unnecessary.

Then this morning, I saw a long review of the president's press conference titled "INSTAPUNDIT."

What the hell is this nonsense about?

Screw this attempt (by Sullivan, anyway) to instigate a feud or whatever it is -- and screw this damnably PC inquisitorial mindset! Glenn Reynolds does not have to answer to Andrew Sullivan at all, much less be held accountable for antigay prejudice or bigotry -- least of all in the South. He has done and said nothing to deserve Sullivan's clear, repeated attempts at shame. I'd expect something like this from the moralistic scolds (of left and right) that Sullivan and Reynolds both condemn.

I just never, ever expected to see it coming from Andrew Sullivan.

It borders on outright political correctness, and it really bothers me. I didn't want to write about it at all, but I hate politically correct scolding and shaming and I know it when I see it. This recent theme of Andrew Sullivan's is not going away. Maybe I shouldn't be reading Andrew Sullivan. But I am, and while I hope I am misreading this, I don't like what I'm seeing.

If I said nothing, then I'd be enabling shame.

(Even by Andrew Sullivan's much higher standards.)

MORE: Regarding the bigoted legislator referred to above, there seems to be a meme going around that "the south" and "the Republicans" share collective responsibility for the actions of a few individuals (or for that matter, even a particular individual). Here's John Aravosis:

I'm sorry, but the south really needs to clean up its act, along with the Republican party. This man should be thrown out of the party and out of the Alabama state house. This is reprehensible.

Gay groups, PLEASE pick this up and make it an issue. This is your chance, grab it, use it, run with it, and force the GOP, the religious right, and the south to grow the hell up once and for all and take some responsibility for themselves.

There is no question that this obnoxious attempt at "legislation" is as bigoted as it would be unconstitutional. But it didn't pass, and despite the post's title -- "Ok, THIS is Nazi Germany in America," it isn't "Nazi Germany in America." Furthermore, attacking a region and a huge political party for the actions of a few bigots in this way is nothing less than another form of bigotry. Last time I looked, a lot of people lived in the South -- and anyone was still allowed to join either party.

It goes without saying that bigotry can take many forms. Not allowing libraries to buy books by gay authors is one form. I think attacking sexual freedom by means of that noxious practice called "outing" is another.

AND MORE: I hasten to add that Andrew Sullivan is not a practitioner of "outing." Actually he's been more like a victim of the people who do such things.

(Regular readers know this already, but I wouldn't want new readers making unwarranted assumptions about Sullivan.)

UPDATE (05/01/05): Andrew Sullivan links to this post by PolySciFi Blog highlighting an important fact: the Alabama ban on gay authors would prohibit advocacy of most heterosexual conduct as well! (As I keep saying, most sodomy is heterosexual. Why can't they get it, um, straight?)

High time we got all those Harlequin romance novels, and then (to quote Gerald Allen, the bill's sponsor), "Dig a hole, and dump them in it!"

Does Mrs. Allen know about the bill?

posted by Eric on 04.29.05 at 09:25 AM


I think these book bannings are an over-reaction CAUSED by gays and liberal librarians and teachers attempting to force their diversity views on others. Some of these books praise the gay lifestyle rather than just mention it. They're intended for young people whose parents do not want them to get this type of indoctrination, which seems fair to me. So the parents are reacting by trying to ban too much. It's similar to the wedding/civil union thing. Try to force too much in undemocratic ways and there will be an adverse reaction.

btw - I gave up reading Andrew when he "outed" himself as a Kerry supporter. Don't even miss reading him now, although I did at first.

tim   ·  April 29, 2005 12:22 PM

I understand the principle of overreaction, but pulling books by Tennessee Williams off the shelf cannot rightly be called a way to "oppose indoctrination."

Sullivan struck me as a reluctant Kerry supporter, and not only do I read lots of blogs by Kerry supporters, many of my friends voted for him too. (So that's not a good reason for me to stop reading Sullivan.)

Something about this does not make sense. I've never known Andrew Sullivan to lash out like this at a good guy like Reynolds.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 29, 2005 1:10 PM

Well, I am a daily reader of Instapundit and also an ex reader (and tipper) of Sullivan. My point? My guess is that there are many ex readers out there like me and I further suppose Sullivan would like our numbers and tips for his blog. Starting a feud is one way to generate such a result. Alas, yes, I am cynical about Sullivan...in several ways.

notherbob2   ·  April 29, 2005 1:47 PM

I thought the same thing when I read "Does Glenn know about this?" and the subsequent post beginning with Instapundit. I used to read Andrew Sullivan religiously. Now not so much.

Rachel   ·  April 29, 2005 2:43 PM

The selling of dildoes was banned. I think using them in public is also banned. This is about coming up with rules that fit the local political environment.

The banning had to do with not talking about dildoes with their children. Private illicit acts are a turn on for many. Others just want to concentrate on other areas. The whole country doesn't need to be San Francisco/Fire Island/Disney/Microsoft friendly.

Huggy   ·  April 29, 2005 3:10 PM

Re; Andrew Sullivan.

He's like one of those aging rock bands (pick one: Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Go Go's) who, years ago put out some great music, but whose recent stuff is all crap. Yeah, they're still putting out music, but if you try to listen to the new stuff, it only ruins your appreciation of the time when they were relevant.

Same with Andrew. Reading him today is an experience akin to having to listen to Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance".

retrofuturistic   ·  April 30, 2005 4:32 PM

I believe there is another side to this. I am a big admirer of both Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan - and have disagreed with both of them - but what initially troubled me in this exchange was the Instapundit post scolding the Daily Dish for using the term "theocracy". I think it is perfectly reasonable for Andrew to respond to some very public criticism at one of the highest traffic blogs in the 'sphere. Glenn thinks the term "theocracy" is "unhelpful". Well, having had that same finger wagged at me in here in Canada I found myself sympathizing with Andrew on this one.

Flea   ·  April 30, 2005 8:00 PM

I think you're reading this wrong. Glenn Reynolds has not hesitated to use the term "theocrat" -- and he called Randall Terry exactly that:


I can't speak for Glenn, but I think he objects to the misuse of the term, as do I. Not every religious conservative is a theocrat, and it's no more helpful to call people theocrats who aren't than it is to call people Nazis who aren't.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 30, 2005 10:52 PM

And by the way, I say this as someone who abhors theocrats!

Eric Scheie   ·  April 30, 2005 10:55 PM

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