Guest Post: Philip Primeau
I’ve always despised the zealous conviction of converts. Be it an infidel turned god fearing evangelist, a chastened comrade trading the red of communism for the red of Republicanism, or a longtime super-gay discovering suddenly his hidden thing for chicks, the act is always essentially the same: Stupefying, predictable, splashed vulgarly far and wide, stinking of caprice. The convenient Pauline moments rankle only slightly less than the I-should-know claims to wisdom.
However, I’ve now come to think the flipside even worse: Deliver us from the scorn of the intellectual apostate! There’s nothing so ugly, so obnoxious, so unconvincing and contemptible as the sight of a change-coat jeering his old club.
If you’re unfamiliar with the phenomenon, check out this dreadful John Cole tirade (http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=18928), which illuminates in hideous detail. The post’s obfuscations and conflations, confusions and contradictions would be embarrassing in an amateur blog; in one of note they are shockingly difficult to explain.
Difficult to explain unless, of course, you recognize that they flow from the mean pen of an apostate. Then you know something vile rather than simply pitiable and regrettable is at work, something deceitful rather than dim.
Intellectual apostasy is a wretched little industry of weasels and those enabling fools who refuse to obey the “Don’t Feet the Animals” sign. The intellectual apostate is part predator, part parasite. He hungrily sniffs out constructive dialogue, proceeding to loudly and rudely insinuate himself into the exchange. Then comes the willful transmission of mistruths, which is always bad, but worse here because the apostate knows better. This is his old terrain, see? The mistruths are laced with gratuitous slurs and fired with the goal of derailing any and all constructive talks.
Consider now the aforementioned Balloon Juice post.
In it, Cole makes zero effort to unpack the benign quote he has snatched from Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher, two heterodox center-right guys who were engaged in the quiet and admirable task of examining their guiding philosophy.
He makes no attempt to distinguish Bush’s “conservatism” from those forms that are almost universally considered more authentic.
He slimes well-meaning and well-established public figures—including maverick Frum and New York freaking Times writer Douthat—as “snake oil salesmen” without the slightest evaluation of their actual beliefs and arguments.
As for one of the most popular governors in the country, a boundary-breaking woman who handily manages a sprawling family life and a busy public one and who, despite many shortcomings, is an inspiration to millions? Cole, oh-so-accomplished blogger (!!!), has her number: “Know-nothing ignoramus.” And the war hero who has given half a century of service to his country: “A geriatric side-kick.”
Following his initial rant, Cole admittedly did a bit of backpedalling, allowing that perhaps passing discussion of Kirk and Eliot aren’t reason for crazy eyed acid spitting. But the gist of the post remains, as does the need to call out such noisy and unrelenting apostasy.
This crude, cartoonish bile bears the idiot stamp of zero tolerance, which is the apostate’s default setting. While the convert sees nothing bad in his new path, the apostate sees nothing but bad in his old one. Blind to distinction by hatred, he lets his wrath overwhelm his higher faculties. The monks of old pursued repentance through self-flagellation: Today’s intellectual apostate pursues it through the scourging of anything and everything that belongs to the other side, which is emotionally synonymous with betrayal, etc.
Why shouldn’t he? After all, apostasy is triggered by a “recognition” of the supposed total and utter bankruptcy of one’s existing doctrine. Cole fashions himself a smart guy (only someone confident of his intelligence would sport such a self-deprecating subtitle). He thinks he has the world figured out. He’s proud of himself for escaping conservative circles. Energized by the apostate’s typically perverted sense of guilt and responsibility, he has set out to lay waste to any idiot who dares not let his convictions be defined by the whimsy of popular opinion.