Friday, October 1, 2010

Andrew Sullivan: Mushy

If there's one thing I cannot abide, it's mushiness. Andrew Sullivan, probably the world's most-read blogger on political and religious matters, fails to make my Ultimate Blogroll (see column at right) for two main reasons: Obama-Love and his weekly Sunday attempts to rationalize a religious faith (which happens to be Catholicism, but weirdly enough isn't Islam, or Judaism, or any of the hundreds or thousands of other religious faiths out there - no, it has to be Catholicism with its bullshit metaphysics of transubstantiation among other things). The religious mushiness is old hat, nothing new to see here. It is notable only because he's supposed to be, like, the Most Reasonable Blogger on the Internet, and yet this grown man seemingly cannot manage to wean himself off the god-nonsense. It matters not a whit to any of this that Jesus of Nazareth may have been a wonderful human being. That's not the point; the point is how grown adults with fully functioning intellectual capacities get all mushy and sentimental and start doing god-talk that can't be pinned down to literal facts.

(Fuck political correctness; stripped of its pretenses and euphemisms, PC is a cover for intellectual weakness and an attack on intellectual courage and honesty. People die millions of times over in the name of religion, and it's goddamn time people figure out why that is. Sully treats it as if it some kind of accident that the leaders of his chosen fantasy-sect have done untold damage to people around the world, for centuries on end. Sully: your religion sucks, grow up and get over it already. Your mealy-mouthed and second-rate apologetics notwithstanding, you're only two or three steps removed from the Wasilla Dingbat because of this, and only a few steps more removed from hardcore fanatics with a different fantasy than yours and who are willing to die and kill in its name.)

What really ticks me off, though, is how you can't get a coherent picture from him about our current president, Barack Obama. Here's Andrew Sullivan on September 9, 2010, just 3 weeks ago:

But Obama's insistence on protecting every Bush era war criminal and every Bush era war crime from any redress or even scrutiny is a sign both of how cold-blooded he can be, but more, I think, of how powerful the security state now is, how it can protect itself, how it exists independently of any real accountability to anyone, how even the metrics of judging it are beyond the citizen's reach or understanding.

I tried valiantly not to believe this of Holder and Obama for months; I tried to see their legitimate concerns about exposing a war machine when it is still at war; I understand the need for some extraordinary renditions; and the necessity for executive power in emergencies to act swiftly, as the Founders intended. Yes war requires some secrecy. But Obama has gone much further than this now. The cloak of secrecy he is invoking is not protecting national security but protecting war crimes. And this is now inescapably his cloak. He is therefore a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more. This won't happen in my lifetime, barring a miracle. Because Obama was a test case. If an outsider like him, if a constitutional scholar like him, at a pivotal moment for accountability like the last two years, cannot hold American torturers to account, there is simply no accountability for American torture. When the CIA actually rehires as a contractor someone who held a power-drill against the skull of a prisoner, you know that change from within this system is impossible. The system is too powerful. It protects itself. It makes a mockery of the rule of law. It doesn't only allow torture; it rewards it.

Now, on September 30, it's like he's forgotten all that:

Obama's speech to Gen44 tonight knocked my socks off. ... If you've forgotten why many of you worked your ass off for this guy, and felt hope for the first time in many years, watch it. He deserves criticism when necessary as this blogazine has not shied from at times. But he remains in my judgment the best option this country still has left - and it's far too easy for the left and far too dangerous for serious conservatives and independents to abandon him now.

(and more Obama-knob-slobbering in similar vein)

This is why Glenn Greenwald makes the Ultimate Blogroll, and Sully doesn't. It's only a matter of time before I'm vindicated on this. Unless he changes his ways, Sully will go down as a mush-head who refuses to speak truth to power in a principled and convincing way, and who tries to be a "uniter and not a divider" when the choice is food or poison. (Notice, if you click on the Sept. 9 link, how it is Glenn Greenwald and his principled commentary that eventually brought Sully around to the "Obama is a tyrant" and "I have been radicalized" viewpoint.)

This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise when Sully's intellectual heroes are not principled advocates of reason, individualism, and capitalism, such as Ayn Rand, but evolutionary "conservative" types such as Hayek and Oakeshott. I have the utmost respect for Hayek in his areas of professional expertise, economics and social theory. The evolutionary model is correct as a description of how institutions change over time, and there are solid classically-liberal conclusions suggested by such description as long as the audience isn't overwhelmed by intellectual mush or lack of common sense. But there's a reason why radicals for capitalism such as Ayn Rand are the wave of the future, and non-radicals are not. Barry Goldwater's proclamation that "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" is lost on the likes of Sully. Hayekian jurisprudence is fine as a descriptive model, but the correct prescriptive one is natural law, where talk of pragmatism, compromise, incrementalism and whatnot are out of the question. Vascillating back and forth between "Obama is a tyrant" and "Obama is what we need right now" is a clear and convincing failure to grasp or apply natural-law ideals.

The main part of Sully's appeal - to a concrete-bound and politically-focused blog audience - is how he does a convincing job beating up on the dysfunctional American Right. It is true, the Dingbat & Co. have totally destroyed the GOP's reputation for intellectual respectability. Or, better yet, the Dingbat & Co. are the inevitable outcome of decades of cynical and anti-intellectual GOP political strategy. But come on. This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Standing up and being consistent about whether President Barack Obama is a lawless tyrant and manipulative Machiavellian orator or the best political thing since sliced bread, however, is not. It requires a courage and an intellectual context that Sully lacks. If Sully knew the first thing about proper cognitive method - about integration - you wouldn't see him damning Obama one minute and praising him to the stars the next. That lame excuse for a balancing act simply doesn't make sense to people who can retain a thought from one moment or day or week or month to the next.

If we get a meaningful America-worthy freedom in our lifetimes, it'll be no thanks to Europeanized, intellectually-disintegrated, pragmatistic, concrete-bound, mushy, crypto-quasi-socialists like Andrew Sullivan. It's very irrelevant to all this that we've got current problems that, in the prevailing context, require governments doing this or that to "help and protect" people, or being fiscally responsible enough to ensure that taxation covers government outlays as much as reasonably possible. That's all short-term, very concrete stuff. That seems to be all that Sully is currently capable of grasping in his half-assed way. It is, however, the next planet over from how Ayn Rand commented on the concretes of her day. And one thing she was most certainly was not, in any way, shape, or form, was mushy. Where the hell would our political discourse be today were it not for her? Thank GOD for Ayn Rand!

Andrew Sullivan, eh? Read Greenwald instead. No mush there.

[ADDENDUM: Credit where it's due, one thing that Sully hasn't been mushy on over the years, is his defense of gay rights. But that only reinforces the lesson here: in those matters, personally critical to him, there is absolutely no room for mush. But intellectual disintegration, just in virtue of what that is, can mean firmness in one area and mushiness everywhere else. The lesson to draw here is that Sully could be that much more effective if he were as firm on everything as he is on gay rights. That ultimately requires an intellectual context he presently resists for no good reason.]

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