Tag Archives: Andrew Sullivan

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

“When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”

      —-Andrew Sullivan, in a New York Magazine essay titled “We All Live On Campus Now”.

Once again, blogger-turned-essayist Andrew Sullivan arrives at an accurate assessment of an ethics problem in society without being able to avoid his own biases in trying to assess where the problem came from, which would be extremely easy if he were capable of objectivity. I recommend the whole piece, though Sullivan is an infuriating truth-teller and iconoclast trapped inside an angry gay man who can’t muster  the integrity to directly criticize his sexual politics allies.  Incredibly, Sullivan substantially blames Donald Trump for the phenomenon he assails here, which is ahistorical in the extreme, bordering on delusion:

“Polarization has made this worse — because on the left, moderation now seems like a surrender to white nationalism, and because on the right, white identity politics has overwhelmed moderate conservatism. And Trump plays a critical role. His crude, bigoted version of identity politics seems to require an equal and opposite reaction. And I completely understand this impulse. Living in this period is to experience a daily, even hourly, psychological hazing from the bigot-in-chief. And when this white straight man revels in his torment of those unlike him — and does so with utter impunity among his supporters — there’s a huge temptation to respond in kind.”

Good God, Andrew, show some backbone. Trump, as can be documented and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, was the “response in kind” to the identity-based social justice movement that was weaponized and reached the point of madness under the leadership of Barack Obama. Why should anyone listen to you when you equivocate like this and make false excuses for what was spinning out of control before anyone thought Donald Trump had as good a chance of becoming President as Martin O’Malley? The University of Missouri meltdown that triggered an across-the-nation epidemic of identify politics warfare occurred in 2015. You know that, and you still write this fiction? What’s the matter with you? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/17: It’s The Andrew Sullivan Show!

Still trying to clear the decks..

1 Last week, Andrew Sullivan delivered a couple of excellent pieces of commentary with ethical clarity. My definition of an ethical analyst is one who can steer away from the magnetic pull of cognitive dissonance, and realize that, for example, just because Democrats and progressives deplore President Trump as much as you do doesn’t mean you have to regard their battiest and most unethical positions as better than they are. Sullivan qualifies. Here he is making what I once thought was an obvious point: that Democrats and progressives embracing open borders (and condemning as racist anyone who doesn’t) was irresponsible:

I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president…[and the] reason why I have dwindling hopes that the Democratic Party will be able to defeat Trump in 2020. Instead of adjusting to this new reality, and listening to the electorate, the Dems have moved ever farther to the left, and are controlled by ever-radicalizing activists. There’s a nuanced, smart — and shockingly honest — piece in Vox by Dara Lind about this. Money quote:

For Democrats, it’s been a simple calculus. Democrats’ attempts at “tough love” centrism didn’t win them any credit across the aisle, while an increasingly empowered immigrant-rights movement started calling them to task for the adverse consequences of enforcement policies. Democrats learned to ignore the critics on the right they couldn’t please, and embrace the critics on the left who they could… Democrats in 2017, in general, tend to criticize the use of immigration enforcement, and tend to side with those accused of violating immigration law, as a broad matter of principle beyond opposing the particular actions of the administration … Democrats are no longer as willing to attack “illegal immigration” as a fundamental problem anymore.

This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist. You could see this at the last convention, when an entire evening was dedicated to Latinos, illegal and legal, as if the rule of law were largely irrelevant. Hence the euphemism “undocumented” rather than “illegal.” So the stage was built, lit, and set for Trump.

Bingo.

2. A post that fell through the cracks months ago involved one more example of California morphing into Bizarro USA. Then the post was about a speech-dictating bill passed by the legislature; this month, Jerry Brown signed it into law. The bill was SB-219, changing the laws regarding health care facilities, including nursing homes. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan”

luckyesteeyoreman‘s first comment here was in 2012. He has participated in our colloquy with passion humor and perception through over a thousand comments He has had Comments of the Day before, but not like this one—I’m note sure anyone has made a comment like this one. His catalyst was Andrew Sullivan’s essay on tribalism, and the comment was lost for a day in WordPress Hell, then languished as my time to spend on Ethics Alarms was taken up by transportation and the annoying things called “teaching ethics” and “making money, though not nearly enough.”

I’m sorry it took so long to post this. It’s thoughtful and pure, unadulterated luckyesteeyoreman, which translates loosely into “worth the time to read it.”

Here is luckyesteeyoreman‘s epic Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan:

(I don’t have a title for this – only sub-section titles. I beg pardon in advance for unreadability. Maybe it should be titled “Lucky’s Madcap Mangled Manifesto #1 of 2017.”)

Andrew Sullivan, in his essay “America Wasn’t Built for Humans” (alternately titled, “Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?”) did not address two particular opposed tribes. I will discuss them, giving them my own choices for labels. I will blame one of the two tribes entirely for the current state of human affairs. I cannot envision any resolution of the conflict, other than the virtual annihilation of one or both tribes. Make no mistake: The conflict and its impacts are historically cyclical, humanity-wide, and universal – not some uniquely American problem.

TRIBES IN CONFLICT

In one tribe are the “governists.” One might be more comfortable with calling that tribe “governmentalists.”

Members of the governist tribe view governance and its machinations – created, continually reformed, and sustained by an ever-omnipresent government, a source and repository of ultimate power – as the sole institution that is essential to the fulfillment of human needs. To the governists, governance must embody ultimate means of power and control over all people, over all other life forms, and over all resources known to be required for (1) sustainment of the lives that are subject to control, and (2) sustainment of the needed means for such power and control.

In the tribe that is irreconcilably at conflict with the governists are the “ownwayists.”

Ownwayists view themselves, as individuals, as sources and repositories of need-fulfilling power – power independent of the powers of government. Ownwayists view their individual power largely as sufficient for need fulfillment, but, limited by their own individual human limitations – where that power is not additionally limited by external forces. Thus ownwayists are unavoidably and eternally conflicted within themselves, over the need for government – powers external to themselves – to combine and orchestrate individuals’ powers synergistically.

A PAUSE: A reader might perceive that statists and individualists are synonyms for governists and ownwayists, respectively. I would have used those terms, if I had felt confident that they are accurate for the tribalism I am aiming to discuss here. I leave to others smarter than myself the resolution of any issue about the best, or correct, labels for the two tribes. In this essay, I will proceed using forms of governist and ownwayist.

The conflict between governists and ownwayists is exposed when ownwayists perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that governists are creating, or have created (knowingly or unknowingly) what I am calling Synergy Despoliation (SD). I could elaborate further here on that specific phenomenon, but have chosen not to. SD can evidence itself in, for examples, inefficiencies of governance; failures of governments to enable the meeting of human needs; and impositions of insufficiencies upon governed individuals which often, but not always, stem from excessive government control of the powers of those individuals.

TRIBES AND TRIBALISMS 

DUALITY…

BLENDING, EVEN SWITCHING

Taking of power from individuals by governments happens, whether those so deprived are ownwayists or governists, and whether those with the power to deprive are ownwayists or governists operating within governments. Acquiring, holding and wielding of governance powers is not necessarily more coveted by any given governist than by any given ownwayist. Nor are there (yet) any inherent obstacles to access to governance powers that completely preclude any ownwayist from holding a position in government that is coveted by any governists. Any given individual can be conflicted internally, between co-opting oneself to governism and relying tenaciously and exclusively upon ownwayism, and on what extents one would embrace both.

Governments will hire from both tribes. In some cases governments will “spawn,” even transition and transform, governists and ownwayists such that some individuals re-set, and even switch, tribal affiliations. In the long run, however, any given government and its governance will eventually favor the existence, pre-eminence, and ways of the most “pure” governists.

In the final outcome, throughout history, governments and their governance continue to rise and fall, regardless of their tribal demographics. The conflict between the two tribes continues throughout history, too, regardless of the forms or tribal demographics of governments.

NATURAL SELECTION AND ITS RESULTS Continue reading

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Ethics Essay Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan

I used to read Andrew Sullivan’ blog regularly: he was smart, gutsy,a good writer, and willing to buck conventional wisdom> then the gay marriage controversy heated up—Sullivan is gay– and Andrew lost it. His focus and once-reliable rationality became distorted by anger, bias and emotion. He eventually gave up blogging because he determined that it was emotionally unhealthy; maybe he finally recognized that he needed a break. By that time, I had stopped reading him.

His brilliant essay in New York Magazine suggest that Andrew has his groove back, which means that his observation are thoughtful and worth pondering. The topic is tribalism, and he writes in part,

Over the past couple of decades in America, the enduring, complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race have mutated into something deeper, simpler to map, and therefore much more ominous. I don’t just mean the rise of political polarization (although that’s how it often expresses itself), nor the rise of political violence (the domestic terrorism of the late 1960s and ’70s was far worse), nor even this country’s ancient black-white racial conflict (though its potency endures).

I mean a new and compounding combination of all these differences into two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.

I mean two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own. I mean two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white; where one tribe lives on the coasts and in the cities and the other is scattered across a rural and exurban expanse; where one tribe holds on to traditional faith and the other is increasingly contemptuous of religion altogether; where one is viscerally nationalist and the other’s outlook is increasingly global; where each dominates a major political party; and, most dangerously, where both are growing in intensity as they move further apart.

Sullivan goes on to explain that this development is antithetical to the model the Founders intended for their new nation:

The project of American democracy — to live beyond such tribal identities, to construct a society based on the individual, to see ourselves as citizens of a people’s republic, to place religion off-limits, and even in recent years to embrace a multiracial and post-religious society — was always an extremely precarious endeavor. It rested, from the beginning, on an 18th-century hope that deep divides can be bridged by a culture of compromise, and that emotion can be defeated by reason. It failed once, spectacularly, in the most brutal civil war any Western democracy has experienced in modern times. And here we are, in an equally tribal era, with a deeply divisive president who is suddenly scrambling Washington’s political alignments, about to find out if we can prevent it from failing again.

Bingo.

Sullivan explains the evolutionary basis of tribalism and why it is so deeply rooted in the human psyche. Then he writes, Continue reading

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Catching Up On “Instersectionality,” And Finally Paying Attention

There are more than 22,000 tags used here, even if you eliminate the duplicates due to my typo problem, and still  “intersectionality” is not among them. I have seen the term, mostly recently, but only in contexts that led me to dismiss it as leftist, scholarly jargon, the kind of word radicals throw around to confuse their opposition and make people think they are intellectual when they are really arguing nonsense. I wasn’t wrong: it is one of those words. Still, it is a useful one, because it helps explain several phenomena of great importance, which can be collectively described as the increasing totalitarian tilt of the political left, especially since the election of Donald Trump. I should have realized the importance of the word long  ago and investigated: I apologize. Bias makes me  stupid too.

Over at New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan had one of his lucid moments—when he can bypass his anger at anti-gay attitudes (the bias that makes HIM stupid), Sullivan can be brilliant—, and delivered a perceptive essay about “intersectionality,” beginning with the recent disgrace on the Middlebury College campus, where a student protest designed to prevent sociologist Charles Murray from speaking turned into a violent riot, injuring a professor. Do read all of Sullivan’s article, but here are some key passages:

[W]hat grabbed me was the deeply disturbing 40-minute video of the event, posted on YouTube. It brings the incident to life in a way words cannot. At around the 19-minute mark, the students explained why they shut down the talk, and it helped clarify for me what exactly the meaning of “intersectionality” is.

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required….

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably….Murray’s old work on IQ demonstrates no meaningful difference between men and women, and Murray has long supported marriage equality. He passionately opposes eugenics. He’s a libertarian. But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all. If you think that race may be both a social construction and related to genetics, your claim to science is just another form of oppression. It is indeed hate speech….This matters, it seems to me, because reason and empirical debate are essential to the functioning of a liberal democracy. We need a common discourse to deliberate. We need facts independent of anyone’s ideology or political side, if we are to survive as a free and democratic society. Trump has surely shown us this. And if a university cannot allow these facts and arguments to be freely engaged, then nowhere is safe. Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.

This outburst was apparently too much for Andrew, his old libertarian/conservative persona emerging full-force after a long hiatus, so his piece suddenly shifts into a standard issue anti-Trump rant. It’s fascinating to see, because Andrew apparently hates the President so much that he can’t perceive that the same antipathy created by “intersectionality” that he rebuts regarding Murray (after all, Sullivan is friends with Murray), applies to the President (whom he detests) as well. The proof is how Trump’s misogyny and opposition to illegal immigration has led the Left to presume that he is racist, classist and homophobic as well. He’s not. But, to quote Sullivan against himself, “But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all.”

Thus Sullivan pivots to blaming all of the social and political tilt he correctly deems as dangerous on Donald Trump, and in doing so, he becomes the partisan hack he so often appears to be: Continue reading

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Holiday Ethics Reading Assignment: Ken White, Eric Raymond, And The New Republic

Mother And Daughter Reading At Fire Place On Christmas Eve

Each of these would sustain a separate post, but there are a lot of issues looming, and I promised myself not let the 2016 Ethics Alarms Awards get swamped by events, like what happened last year. (Oh–if you have nominations for the Best and Worst of the year’s ethics, send them in: jamproethics@verizon.net.)

1. The New Republic published a transcript of what it calls a discussion among “five leading historians and political observers” regarding President Obama’s legacy. The group was really made up of two hard left journalists, two hard left historians, and Andrew Sullivan. No, balance was not a concern. Dropped in among the transcript were various other historian’s opinions, based on what appears to have been a questionnaire. I read it to learn: surely these devoted Obama supporters would be able to explain why Barack Obama should be regarded as a great President, a conclusion I find complete unsupportable. What I encountered was something very different: five partisans desperately spinning and distorting reality to try to manufacture what all of them appeared to know didn’t exist. In this respect, it’s a case study of how bias eats integrity. That none of these purportedly rigorous thinkers had the integrity to correct their colleagues when the self-contradictions and rationalizations reached toxic levels was shocking.

The big revelation for me was that when you come right down to it, the only major accomplishment the group agreed on was that being the first black President was his legacy. Stumped for substantive accomplishments, the discussion kept defaulting to Obama’s style. Infuriating but familiar for his failures were repeated ( Explaining the Trump election: “I don’t think it has anything to do with him personally, except that he’s a black man. The election of Trump was a gut-level response to what many Americans interpreted as an insult eight years ago, and have been seething against ever since.” Explaining Hillary’s loss: “I don’t think she was a lousy candidate. But for a candidate to lose to someone who’s never been in the military, who’s never held public office—he’s not like any candidate who’s ever run before. So there were other forces at play here, most notably her gender.” This is a petri dish to observe the mechanics of progressive self-deception.

Notably, nobody corrected certified myths, lies and howlers, like claims the Republicans vowed to make Obama a “one-term President” from “day one,” that its difficult for any party to win three straight terms (ARRGH!, and here’s the debunking of that convenient fiction), and the utter fake news that the Obama Administration was virtually scandal free, which is another way of saying that if the news media refuses to report your scandals or call them scandals, it’s amazing how easy it is to be “scandal free.”

There was also no serious mention of what I would finger as the single most destructive legacy of Obama’s years, the complete collapse of racial trust. Instead, we get this kind of self-parodying hagiography, and I’m not making it up, it’s really there:

ANDREW SULLIVAN: At some point in the future, with the possible bloodshed and civil unrest in this country that we’re about to engage in, he may be a key person as a post-president—a bit like a monarch who might be able to hold us all together.

NELL IRVIN PAINTER: [Applauding] Well said, Andrew, well said! 

ANNETTE GORDON-REED: That’s exactly right.

Good lord. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us”

—-Blogging pioneer and gay rights advocate Andrew Sullivan, writing yesterday about Mozilla’s craven capitulation to gay rights bullies who demanded the removal of new CEO Brendan Eich “who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000.”

Corporations, as the Duck Dynasty flap depressingly illustrated, tend to be spineless, irresolute and principle-free. This instance of that tendency, however, is more alarming and harmful than most. Capitulating to arrogant, self-righteous, power-hungry forces on the left or right only makes them more voracious: we will know who to thank first when boycotts abound demanding that anyone who questioned Al Gore’s climate change hysteria be sacked.

Thank you, Mozilla.

Continue reading

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