Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Professor Bainbridge is embarrassed to be a conservative, as is David Klinghoffer.

In a related development, (via The Anchoress), Anne Rice no longer wants to be a Christian (though she says that’s cool with God, who must clearly agree with her). To be Christian you have to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, whatever, and she’s had enough of this.

Do I have to pull this car over? (Maybe that should be the new name of this blog.)

Where to start? These are all bright people who make their living with words and ideas. How can they write words without anticipating what even a casual reader, let alone a determined and unsympathetic one, will immediately see as obvious blind spots? It is rather like the science fair project where the student has not considered that the judges will ask him why he only measured the growth of the shoots that survived the experiment, neglecting to notice all the sprouts that died. Or the suspect who stresses in his alibi that he has never owned a weapon like the one used in the murder, not considering the detective might check whether he borrowed it.

Klinghoffer pines for the old days, when William F. Buckley Jr, Irving Kristol, and Father Richard John Neuhaus were conservative icons. Sure, we all remember well when Kristol and Neuhaus were household names, don’t we? And there were no buffoonish conservatives then, right? Bainbridge has a list of what embarrasses him, which prominently includes statements from Tom Tancredo and “Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins Investor’s Business Daily column.” Whew. That’s getting to the white-hot center of the modern Conservative movement, ain’t it? He then undercuts his argument by noting that Russell Kirk said the same thing about Republicans 20 years ago.

Let me assure them that buffoonish conservatives are not new.

Here’s the catch. Liberals, independents, Greens, and Libertarians have all had their share of chuckleheads over the years. It’s called human nature. Jesse Jackson, Tom Haden. Heck, most of the animal rights movement – and does he think New Age practitioners come off the right wing? Most of the entertainment industry, led by Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, are liberal starkers. And the three Als: Gore, Sharpton, Franken – buffoons.

Bainbridge and Klinghoffer come to their conclusions only by cherry-picking their data. Let me go back and stress the word only.

Anne Rice is similarly blinkered, perhaps infuriated that all these people who disagree with her social beliefs – whether for crazy reasons or sane – get to be called Christians and no one makes them shut up. That there are Christians who agree with her – for crazy reasons or sane – seems not to penetrate.

Related: Retriever recently did a repost from two years ago, inspired by the Anne Rice story, of the young woman writing in Slate how much hatred she had encountered from her “friends” since becoming a Christian – and how the comments in Slate confirmed that.

Cherry-picking the data. You can make purple look either red or blue by doing that. The question is, given the choice between their intellectual tribe and their social tribe, why do they go out of their way to side with the social? I don't want to keep seeing the same hands here. Folks here know my answer: progressivism is maintained solely as a social need, to belong to the correct tribe. There’s nothing intellectual about it. Not that there is no intellectual effort spent in rationalizing the decision, but that the social aspect explains 100% of the variance. Okay, 90%. Still.

A few more thoughts. “Anti-science” shows up prominently in these criticisms. This is very occasionally code for “doesn’t support embryonic stem-cell research because it comes too close to the abortion issue.” As even the most extreme pro-lifers are fine with adult stem cell research, anti-science would seem to be, well, just silly. But more often, anti-science is code for “Six Day Creationist,” or even more likely “people who aren’t horrified enough at Six Day Creationists.” I discussed Evolution and Creation in detail in this series, but most simply, 6D Creationism is a mostly harmless error. It might impair one’s ability to understand some aspects of biology or geology, but even in those fields, 1) any work that people actually do for a job is largely unaffected, and 2) students are often quite good at understanding what the instructor wants and learning it, even if they disagree. Creationism will seriously screw up your ability to understand physical anthropology, but not much else. 6D Creationists are rejected on social rather than intellectual grounds. Think I’m kidding? The anti-science attitudes from the left are far more damaging. Think DDT. Think GM foods. Think Jensen. Think Al Gore and hurricanes. Alternative energy. Check out the list at Lay Science. Or read the comments at John Tierney’s science column in the NYT. These are rejections of science that have death embedded in them.

Bainbridge excoriates the neocons for “…running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements.” Three out of those four are pretty much the same thing. I agree with him on those, but it’s hard to make a case how clownish your opponents are with that. As to an “unnecessary” war, that’s rather sweeping, rather un-nuanced. It sounds more forceful to say things that way rather than weigh the costs and benefits, but it’s ill-placed when you are trying to show how simple minded your opponents are.

Stephen, David, Anne. We get it that some conservatives/Christians are jerks. We get it that liberals focus on these, ignoring their own dim bulbs, and make it socially uncomfortable for you. But that's no excuse for not recognising that these ideas you disapprove of have some better exponents, whose ideas you could engage instead of caricaturing. But mostly, you just have to buck up. Welcome to adulthood.

Mike Rappaport weighs in similarly over at The Right Coast.


Retriever said...

Thanks for the link, AVI.

Good post, especially the section on the social need to belong to a tribe, and how that leads people to go along with all kinds of crazy ideas. People on both ends of the spectrum feel this, of course, but fortunately we conservatives are often so cranky and solitary that we are less likely to succumb to HIVE MIND. I hope.

I believe that it's the lack of religious faith,(sometimes of family ties or strong patriotism) that makes this herding so strong. If you don't follow God, or family tradition, or serve your country, what's left? But to parrot the PC opinions and feel that one belongs.

I tend to think that when people say they are embarrassed to be a ___ because of the buffoonery of ___, that they are just avoiding looking at something of their own that they SHOULD be embarrassed about. All of us have enough sins and weaknesses that we should worry lest our failings discredit our faith and noblest ideals. That we should throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, and beg Him to save us. The splinter in another's eye and the beam in our own...

Donna B. said...

Oh dear. Some conservatives do embarrass me. But I can't help but notice that I'd likely be more embarrassed by certain liberals.

Or libertarians. Or centrists. Or whatevers.

What I try to do is not constrain myself to any one ideology. Note the word "try". I am mostly conservative, sort of libertarian at times, and I have my liberal instincts to deal with also.

Purity in any of the above mentioned ideologies nauseates me.

I'd like to think that it's the purity that Bainbridge and Klinghoffer are embarrassed about, but I suspect it's more the political correctness of a certain viewpoint that bothers them.

I also think it is about time that conservatives acknowledge they are promoting their own version of political correctness. It's just as nauseating to me as the liberal version.

For example, I don't find it to be "unconservative" to be for some kind of defined amnesty for illegals. The qualifier "defined" separates me from the liberals who seem to want unqualified amnesty.

Note the word "seem". I'm not sure that there is not agreement among some conservatives and liberals on this issue.

I love the "do I have to pull this car over" theme.

In my family it was "don't make me pull this car over" but the intent is the same.

As a single mother in the early '80s before the days of carseats for toddlers and beyond, I arranged the backseat with the carseat for the infant between the two older children. (5 years difference between the baby and 1 year between the older siblings.)

This worked very well. While the older two wanted to kill each other at times, neither one was willing to hurt the baby that both loved. Nor were they willing to risk the wrath of Mom if the baby were even upset.

The other tool I used to calm all three was music. I would tell them that I could not hear them over the radio so they might as well stop complaining... or, I would use my own voice to calm them... or punish them depending on their age.

Either way, I always set myself up as a the winner. I was the parent and I was in control. They could adjust their behavior in accordance with my wishes... or suffer.

And suffer was defined by my pulling the car over.

But, in reality I had no idea what I'd do when I pulled the car over than get out and scream. The fantastic thing about this technique is that my children didn't know that.

Texan99 said...

I'm in search of that fabulous movement I can join that has no embarrassing members! When I join, it will confer nothing on me but honor. It will swiftly expel any member I consider heterodox or even unsightly.

Nearly all of my family and my oldest friends are quite liberal. I try not to quarrel with them over their frequent insulting slips into broad disparagements of what "all conservatives" think. It's good practice for me, to remind me not to talk about pinheaded liberals that way, either, no matter how provoked I am.

Quasimodo said...

I'd say Ms Rice had a sudden surge of integrity. I heard interviews with her when she first claimed to have reverted; it was clear she had made God in her image and likeness and only accepted s much of Christianity as her god thought prudent. Her surge of integrity led her out of Christianity to a place where she and her god could be together without uncomfortable rules.

jackscrow said...

How do you "quit being a Christian" unless you aren't????

Can you choose to unchoose a choice that wasn't yours to make?

News to God and everybody else...