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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Trumwill
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    says:

    If I filled out a binary for/against questionnaire about our views on various topics, I am not sure there is anyone in the upper echelon that I would agree with more than Andrew Sullivan. Ultimately, though, I find him unreadable precisely because of the raw emotionalism that some people find so compelling. It leads him to have little or no respect for people that disagree with him. So even on issues where he and I are mostly in agreement, I find myself cringing at the way that he frames it as a battle of good and evil. That he tempers the goodness of the good (he has negative things to say about Obama, for instance, just as he had negative things to say about Bush when he was a Bush supporter) ultimately does not compensate for his need to demonize the evil.

    I guess I ultimately consider the world to be a complicated place that isn’t always full of easy answers even on subjects where I’ve come to my conclusion. When explains vehemently that the world is not complicated, I am impressed with his writing ability but almost never brought any closer to his point of view. This is in marked contrast to TLOOG.

    All of that being said, the guy is an institution and he has contributed immensely to blogdom. Whatever my personal reservations about his work, that is hard to deny. I think I originally found TLOOG via The American Scene, but I found The American Scene (many years earlier) by way of Sullivan.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Trumwill
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      says:

      @Trumwill, See update 2, above, which is in response to a similar point.

      On the whole, I think yours is an entirely accurate criticism, but I wonder whether that kind of demonization can’t be effective if it’s relatively well-focused. That’s not to say that Sullivan is always, or even usually, well-focused in his demonizations, but at least initially even those demonizations can serve an entirely legitimate purpose.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @Mark Thompson, oh, I think demonization can be quite effective. I do think in the case of Sullivan, though, it becomes counterproductive. If you’re unsure about gay marriage, for instance, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the people he is calling bloodthirsty in his next post about the Iraq war. Or vice-versa. Once somebody is on the receiving end of his rants on Topic A, I don’t know how likely most are to listen to him on the subject of Topic B.

        There are some people I read despite the fact that the writer obviously has a chip on his shoulder about “people like me” so I think there’s something else about Sullivan’s writing that I find to be offputting. But I think for a lot of people, being on the receiving end is enough to get you to tune out. I think he succeeds in hardening people’s opinions, but I question whether he succeeds in really changing minds all that often.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Trumwill
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          says:

          @Trumwill, He played a role in changing my mind about Iraq, both times that I changed it!

          Andrew doesn’t conflate people he disagrees with on one topic with people he disagrees with on another. That’s one of the attractive things about him – he’s not lumping his opponents together into an undifferentiated mass, however strongly he feels about it.

          On some things his extremism is very appropriate in my view – torture, for instance. On others – the parentage of Trig Palin, for instance, its obviously not.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @Mark Thompson,
        In other words, he has no integrity.Report

  2. Avatar RTod
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    says:

    Hey Mark –

    Not to sidetrack any of the Dish’s deserved thunder. But I thought it still need to be said: The part of your post about your thought process surrounding gay issues, your friends coming out, and the honest and open way you just talked about that process, and what it might have been like without the thinking Andrew forced (invited?) you to do –

    That’s the most refreshing, honest and affirmative thing I’ve read in a long, long time. And, as a reader even though I’ve thought highly of you for a long while, my opinion of you just skyrocketed that much more.

    Way cool, dude.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to RTod
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      says:

      @RTod, Thanks for this, it means a lot.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to RTod
      Ignored
      says:

      To further this sidetrack, I sort of came at it from the opposite direction. I supported gay marriage relatively early, but I’ll be danged if most of the gay people I knew I just didn’t like for some reason or another. I didn’t know if this was because I subconsciously held anti-gay emotions despite my public support or because gays most likely to let it be known they’re gay are more likely to be the type of people I don’t like as much or because most gays are that way for one reason or another… but there it was.

      A few years back I attended a non-legal gay marriage ceremony for an old college friend of my wife’s. It was a nice ceremony and the fact that there were men holding hands everywhere and all that didn’t bother me a wit. Due to circumstance (in an odd coincidence, an old high school chum was a groomsman) I spent most of the evening talking to straight people, but the lovely ceremony at least successfully reminded me “THIS is what I am supporting.”

      The advent of facebook helped, too, because I discovered a couple of old high school friends were gay and my thought (with one of them) was simply “He must have a great personality, cause in the physical department you could probably do better” followed by “I hope my state allows you two to marry soon” (he’d expressed the desire to).

      So ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it was probably the second scenario that was true… those gay people I knew and liked were less likely to make themselves known in the conservative part of the country where I was raised. The first scenario is also still possible, I suppose, since finding out I was really down with a gay guy after I find out their orientation doesn’t speak to my overall personal tolerance.

      There was a case, I guess, where I became friends with an openly gay guy who had it rough. He was pretty socially isolated and I don’t think we would have been friends had it not been for a mutual acquaintance (one of the ones I didn’t actually like) requesting that I (a 6’3″, 255lb guy at the time) hang out with him so that he would not be such easy pickings for bullies. He was known to be gay and in the HS ROTC, a bad combination. I don’t know what ever happened to him.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    I actually think Sullivan is capable of moderation – his recent wrestling with the assassination order and his views on deficits and fiscal policy being examples. Indeed, if you read his book on conservatism, it seems to predicated precisely on a philosophy of conservatism that in parctice if not in name amounts to essentially Burkean restraint. (He appeals to this value continually in all his writing.) It’s just that he also happens to be a man of passions and frequent immoderation, which in my view makes his gestural embrace of moderation as a value all the more valuable, however imperfectly or inconsistently he enacts it. In this I mainly see an extremely virtuous whole – self-knowledge combined with what he acknowledges will be imperfect bu nonetheless earnest efforts at self-restraint.

    The one tendency that I do find to criticize is that when he does fail in his attempts at Burkean moderation, he frequently overcompensates in the opposite direction if he finds himself in error (another quality in his thought so ubiquitous and basic to his method that it goes far too much without mention). An example of this is the swing from Iraq War cheerleading to outright denunciations of American Empire in response to a president’s flailing attempts to deal with an unresolved hot war handed to him by his predecessor, and a military and military-intellectual complex so gung-ho and preposterously hung-up on its own competence (and also, understandably, uninterested in participating in a strategy of managed defeat).

    So while it seems that Sullivan does have the tendency to think that Bukean balance justifies wild rhetorical swings to correct one’s course when gone astray, rather than maintaining moderation even after wandering into excess in a particular direction (I think this is a manifestation not of considered judgment, but, again, of Sullivan’s passion and commitment to justice, and it is certainly a failing), I do think that it’s inaccurate to say that he is incapable of, or certainly not at all inclined to, moderation.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    there’s nothing out there today but a bunch of non-troversies and trivialities.

    The Giants won the NLDS today. Heathen.Report

  5. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    “More importantly, though, the same traits that can make Sullivan so frustrating to read at times are also the same traits that make him unfailingly interesting and intellectually stimulating. “

    Really? I just don’t get this. I’ll read Sully sometimes, but I tend to feel like I need a shower afterward. What exactly, is supposed to be intellectually stimulating? Sullivan is probably the most banally predictable major pundit/blogger writing today.Report

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