Monday, November 5, 2007

Why Does Sully Do This?

On Friday, Andrew Sullivan graced his readers with a snarky one-line post: "Glenn Reynolds vs a real libertarian on torture." The "real libertarian" is the author of Glenn's stalker-site, Instaputz, and the post to which Andrew linked is here.

One reason I am not the biggest fan of blogwars is that if you come in in the middle of one, it's hard to untangle who said what, when, and who is misrepresenting whose statements, etc. And often it seems like it's not worth the trouble. But here goes, anyway:

Glenn's original post is here. Glenn links to this Andy McCarthy piece from The Corner which shows that Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Charles Schumer and Bill Clinton have all, at various times, admitted to the necessity of coercive interrogation (or even torture). Glenn then points out that there is a double standard at work: "Somehow, they are fit to lead the Democratic Party but the suitability of Mukasey — who has taken a more measured stance — to be attorney general is in doubt? What am I missing here?"

From this double standard he concludes that "the 'torture' debate is a political tool, and otherwise unserious." Taken in context, he's not arguing that we ought to have torture, or that the debate is unimportant, or anything of the sort. He is taking isssue with hypocrisy and double standards. He's saying that if you condemn Mukasey you should logically also condemn Clinton, Clinton, Obama, and Schumer. Failing that, he contends, that the torture debate is primarily political.

Now, it is possible to make logical arguments against Glenn's position. One could track down the original statements by Clinton, Clinton, Obama and Schumer, for example, and argue that they are, in fact, less sanguine about torture than McCarthy suggested. One could argue that the Attorney General should be held to a higher standard. One could even contend that both parties are hopelessly corrupt and that all of these people should be condemned.

Does Instaputz do any of those? Does he take issue with any of Glenn's facts and reasoning? No. He simply quotes the sentence where Glenn says that the "The torture debate is a political tool, and otherwise unserious." But he gives no hint as to the chain of reasoning that led up to that conclusion. He's followed up on it, but again, he makes no attempt to come to grips with Glenn's reasoning or argument.

So why does Andrew Sullivan give an uncritical link to this snarky little jab? Note that it's not the first time -- Sullivan is a repeat offender.

Well, if Sullivan can put words in people's mouths, I can psychoanalyze the guy from a distance. Particularly since I am being clear that this is utterly speculative, although it is based on my observation of Sullivan's blogging over the past few years. Let me suggest a theory. Sullivan likes to accuse his opponents (particularly Bush) of having a Manichean world-view.

He may well be right about Bush, but the same is true of Sullivan himself. He seems to think that people are all good or all bad -- there's no in-between, there are no good-faith differences among well-meaning people, not even really any hard issues. Now that he sees Reynolds as a bad guy, well, he must be pro-torture, even though he's never said anything that one could plausibly interpret as being pro-torture. It's enough that Reynolds hasn't worked himself into a high dudgeon about it.

We saw this dynamic in Sullivan's attitude toward President Bush. the immediate aftermath of 9/11. At first, Sullivan saw George W. Bush as our mighty-thewed leader in the War Against Islamo-Fascism. But then, something happened, and Sullivan turned against Bush. Now he writes about Bush like he's a jilted lover. Don't get me wrong, I'm a harsh critic of President Bush myself. But at the same time, I don't feel any great sense of personal betrayal, because I never expected that much from Bush to start with.

And the same is true, though to a lesser extent, of Reynolds. Back in 2001 and 2002, they were fellow warriors in the war against Islamo-fasicism, but not that Sullivan has turned against the Iraq war and President Bush, Reynolds is a doulbe-plus ungood enemy. And he has always been an enemy!

You see the same dynamic now, with Sullivan's blossoming man-crush on Barack Obama. I finally made it through Sullivan's essay on why he wuvs Obama, and it is Andrew Sullivan at his self-indulgent worst. It is nearly as bereft of rational argument as his exchange with Sam Harris on religion. Sullivan admits that Obama's policy views are bog-standard left liberal views, but Obama will unite us all and heal our divisions because he's young, and handsome, and black. Did I mention handsome? Now maybe Sully's crush on Obama will last forever, but I suspect that, this year or next, Obama will dissapoint, and then Sullivan will give him the same sort of spurned lover treatment he now gives to President Bush and Glenn Reynolds.


Anonymous said...

"Sullivan is at war with Reynolds! Sullivan has always been at war with Reynolds!"

Kevin said...

As long as we're talking psychoanalysis, the behavior you describe (on Sullivan's part) brings Borderline Personality Disorder to my mind. Does Sullivan really have BPD? I have no idea, and I'm not a fan of psychoanalyzing people from a distance. However, the shift from "he's all good" to "he's all bad" is a common one among people who do have BPD.