Sunday, January 21, 2007

Perhaps the time has come

to break my habit of providing Andrew "anal-object-oriented" Sullivan snide and generally homophobic nicknames whenever I reference the old salad-tosser. But honestly, when Andrew "my asshole is a bear trap - pun intended!" Sullivan is tossing off doozies like this post...I mean, I have certain limits. Generally 10 mph over on surface streets, 15 - 20 on the freeway; 4 joints and I pass out on the couch; 4 minutes and I ejaculate or just stop out of boredom. Sullivan's obsession du jour is the hijacking of conservatism (one of about a million posts to choose from) he claims to have watched take place; he got so worked up about the whole thing that he fucked a bunch of different men. By fucked a bunch of different men, of course, I mean fucked a whole slew of different men, and, between sessions, wrote a mediocre book on conservatism. Here's Sullivan hawking it; here's Sullivan offering to read any number of reviews of the book and respond; here's the best review out there; I would say here's Sullivan's response, but he never came up with one. Here's something else entirely.

In any case, back to the post at hand. Sully approvingly quotes H. L. Menken:
Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on 'I am not too sure.'
Sully then quotes himself, in rather congratulatory fashion - "here is my version":
"The defining characteristic of the conservative is that he knows what he doesn't know... The first thing to say is that this philosophy is not warmed-over relativism or nihilism. While the fundamentalist knows the truth, the nihilist believes it is an illusion, that nothing is true, and everything is valid. The conservative differs from both. While not denying that the truth exists, the conservative is content to say merely that his grasp on it is always provisional. He may be wrong. He begins with the assumption that the human mind is fallible, that it can delude itself, make mistakes, or see only so far ahead. And this, the conservative avers, is what it means to be human."
Of course, Sullivan has just equated "the truly civilized man" with "the conservative...[the] human," who is neatly opposed to "the fundamentalist." One wonders whether the liberal exists in this formulation, or is simply lumped in with Osama and Hitler. Orwell, whom Sullivan quotes/references with sycophantic regularity, at least cloaked his clumsy political stereotypes in animal hides, providing himself a cute excuse for vague, implicit, and simplistic/fascist prescriptions.

This tendency toward questionable abstraction - which then allows for reinterpretation to no end as the author draws "lessons" from the model he created - fits into Sullivan's general pattern of identifying a particular policy he favors and then arguing for its conservativeness based on a rather inchoate set of arbitrary moralisms and selective- distillations/modernizations/convenient-misreadings of philosophical and religious texts. The result is a mishmash of vague, nearly conflicting policy ideals uneasily rubbing shoulders, constantly agitated by shifts in public opinion, spilled out like so much semen from the anus of an overwrought Brit onto the helpless (if plentiful) tissues of the internet.

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