How Do You Solve a Problem Like A Bigot?

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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274 Responses

  1. BlaiseP says:

    I simply do not accept Bigot as a New Reserved Word. Bigotry describes axiomatic hatred of certain classes of people, based not on the content of their character but by some Bigoted Classification. I firmly and categorically reject any finger-scraping about the word Bigot and will continue to use it, as I have for all my life. Nobody’s going to tell me what word to use to describe such people.Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I’m not telling you to stop using the word. I’m not telling anyone to not use the word. I am sharing my own hesitations and I am saying we need to be aware of the consequences of using words like bigot. Just because I share this doesn’t mean that you should “go and do likewise.”Report

  2. Kim says:

    One can greet someone with love, can tell them that there are things that they have to fix about themselves. One might do that with someone who beats their children.

    … or one might throw them out.

    It seems to me that true love must serve truth, and must be guided by gentleness.Report

  3. Kim says:

    Would you shop at a racist store?
    Do I have the obligation to tell you which store’s owners are racist?
    Would you stop shopping there because of it?

    What if we’re talking a mild sort of racism — nothing overt, nothing actually insulting?
    What if it’s just ignoring and treating as ignorable, your race?

    … I don’t ask hypotheticals here.Report

  4. greginak says:

    Quoting McMegan is a great way to show the true inanity of an argument. Everybody does have biases and “bad thoughts.” Everybody can and usually does think some nasty things about others. Most of us censor them (as opposed to tweeting or Facebooking them or saying them out loud). But that pretty much is just being human, we get pissed or are having a bad day so we think poorly about others. Most of us, especially us evil liberals, think we need to really try to make an effort to limit/control/eliminate racisms, sexism, basically all forms of bigotry as much as possible. Equating making an effort to stop bigotry to being a bigot, is pretty much false equivalence.

    I know this is going to sound overly snarky, but shouldn’t a good Christian really understand this about trying to eliminate bad things from ourselves even though our humanness means we will fail often. Now say what you want about anything i’ve written above, but none of that says people who say racist things should be absolutely shunned from society. In fact i don’t actually see where that has, you know, happened much at all. I can more easily think of people who have said stupid or vile things and have apologized and moved on with their lives. The better the apology, the easier it was to move on.Report

    • Glyph in reply to greginak says:

      greginak, I know McCardle often prompts an involuntary negative response, so I don’t know how productive this will be; but as I read the quoted passage, she does not appear to be attempting to excuse or equate racism; rather to point out that the strength of the social stigma against racism (which stigma she acknowledges as largely good) also means that accusations of it when they are not totally warranted or particularly remarkable, may do some harm as well.

      If I say, “More black people are convicted of crimes than are white people in the US”, that is not in and of itself a racist statement. It is a true one; of course, we all know there are many factors as to WHY it is true, amongst them institutional racism, drug law/sentencing discrepancies, poverty, and the tortured history of US race relations and policies and cultures and all kinds of things.

      And if I say all those additional things, most probably won’t brand me a racist.

      But if I don’t have the time, or the communication skills, to say all those additional things (or maybe I don’t have knowledge of all of them), someone may call me a racist.

      And now, I am a “racist” forever, unless and until I apologize for what, in and of itself, was not a racist statement, but a factual one. My opinions on matters of race (and frankly, all matters) are going to be dismissed by all right-thinking folks. And this is likely to make me defensive and recalcitrant. I am not going to WANT to apologize, the more I am badgered into being told I *should* do so. That’s just human nature.

      Do you think that really doesn’t happen? Because to me, it seems like it does sometimes, and it doesn’t seem all that helpful. I don’t have an example to hand, but I feel like I have seen it, even in these here environs.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        “More black people are convicted of crimes than are white people in the US”


        • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Is that incorrect? I didn’t look it up. Is that for “Death Row” inmates, or drug crimes, or felonies, or was it a per capita figure?

          Regardless, IIRC it’s for one of those, and I think my central point still stands.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

            Blacks are only 12% of the population compared to 72% for whites. More white people than black are in prison, on death row, convicted of crimes, on government assistance, on food stamps, etc. by pure weight of numbers. What you’re thinking of must be per capita.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

            How’s this, to get the quibble out of the way: if a black man and a white man are accused of the same crime, and have the same access to legal representation, the black man is far more likely to be convicted, and jailed for longer, than the white man, yes? This is uncontroversial?

            But if I say, “Black men are on average more likely to go to jail/spend longer there than white men”, that may get me tagged as racist, if I am not careful with my qualifiers.

            All I am trying to suggest is – if someone makes such a statement, a response patiently explaining the qualifiers and nuances and socioeconomic and historical factors is probably more productive than jumping right away to “bigot/racist!”.

            If we have to repeat those history lessons a zillion times, so be it. It’s tiresome, but less so than “You’re a racist / No I’m not!”.Report

            • Gorgias in reply to Glyph says:

              This kind of misunderstanding is trivially easy to correct. I’m just not seeing why I should be shedding any tears.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Gorgias says:

                Oh, no one needs to shed any tears – was anyone saying that? I missed that.

                My take is simply that people often go to code red too quickly, when a little bit of patience could have sussed out the misunderstandings, with additional understanding and enlightenment, without creating the kind of bad blood that makes further dialogue difficult.

                It’s very easy, and satisfying, to jump straight to “you are a racist!” But it’s not always the best solution. That’s all.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Glyph says:

            The only variables which seems to trend with incarceration in the American life pool are adequate representation at trial, education (and therefore income, which sorta leads to the inadequate representation at trial) and single parent families (often arising from incarcerating fathers). It’s a vicious circle with a great deal of backpropagation.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Glyph says:

        “McCardle often prompts an involuntary negative response”

        It is the same involuntary response that we feel towards rotten meat and feces, which is a rational response, learned over generations by our species.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Shazbot5 says:


        • North in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Odd, I found it kindof embaressing.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            Whose side are you on?!?Report

          • Glyph in reply to North says:

            This was what I was sort of getting at – the reaction is often so viscerally strong as to be frankly puzzling to me. For example, I often find Sully to be a bit hyperbolic, inconsistent, and sloppy. But when that is so, the words I just used would be how I describe his arguments. It’s business, it’s not personal. He’s just IMO wrong in this instance, and right in others, like, you know, everybody.

            If I used comparisons like “feces, rotten meat” and (leaving aside the implications of “rational” and “species”) to describe Sully or his arguments – I dunno, that is an emotional reaction that seems to go well beyond “he’s wrong on this and I disagree.”

            The reaction to McArdle is often viciously personal in a way that makes no sense to me.

            But at least it lets me know who History’s Greatest Monster is, a fact that will surely come in handy if I ever make it on “Jeopardy!”Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Glyph says:

              I said wost bloger ever, and wrong as usual. I didn’t call her Hitler.

              I guess you love her. Glyph and Megan, sittin in a tree…Report

            • zic in reply to Glyph says:

              Much of it is because she’s a woman, I think. There’s a lot of men out there writing as much nonsense; the above mentioned Dreher being one of them. But they’re allowed to get it wrong; to put their foot in their mouths and still speak. McCardle has the burden of women; one chance, and if you blow it, you’re obviously inferior.

              Some of her work, some of her insights, are very worth the time to consider. Even when they’re wrong.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to zic says:

                I’m sure some of it is that. On the other hand, I tend to treat theological conservatives a lot more harshly than economic ones. The latter, I suppose I figure at least are trying, even if they’re a bit lazy. McArdle has a tendency to make lazy arguments, but she’s no worse than say the fat former Reaganite at Forbes whose name I can never remember, or the occasional David Frum piece.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to zic says:

                what were her good posts?Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Apparently none, Shazbot.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I remember a good post of hers dealing with global warming where she actually tried to disabuse her commentariat of some of their crazier beliefs. Her argument was actually very good as were her followup comments.Report

              • Roger in reply to Stillwater says:


                Can you just explain what it is that McM wrote that you disagree with and why? The extremity of your attack plays out more like a misfiring defense mechanism.

                She is an influential columnist and is frequently quoted for controversial insights, sometimes by those that disagree and sometimes by those who agree. This is part of what makes her significant. Interesting insights that spur emotional discussions.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Roger, the only times I’ve known McArdle to be at the center of an interesting conversation it’s because she’s made such ridiculous claims supported by such terrible arguments that people take notice. A recent example was her “the best thing we can do is train the 7 year olds to rush the shooter” post.

                {Hanley is blowing a gasket right now.}Report

              • Glyph in reply to zic says:

                because she’s a woman

                Someone (Ryan I think?) speculated about that the last time she came up. I must admit that explanation had never occurred to me, I thought people just disagreed strongly with her politics and analysis and had gone a bit overboard in their responses.

                But when I see her opinions compared to “rotten meat/feces”, and start to see implications that any rational member of our species should have the same reaction; well, it starts to look like there could possibly be some explanatory power there.

                This has all become an extended distraction to Dennis’ actual OP, so that’s all I will say on the topic here for fear of further derailment.Report

              • zic in reply to Glyph says:

                No, I think misogyny fits right in with the OP.

                Someday, being sexists might be as undesirable as being racist. Someday, we might grow to see the ways sexism negatively impacts men (career choices like Kazzy’s and staying home with the kid like Will Trumwell, you dressing options, etc.).

                If McArdle were a black man and got those kind of responses, the bigotry would be pointed out. But misogyny often goes unchallenged except by women; and when they challenge it, as the punchline to the joke about feminists changing a light bulb goes, that’s not funny.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to zic says:

                When Seth McFarlane hosting the Oscars is viewed as tasteless as say, getting some racist to do the same, we might make progress.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

                She had the very worst commenters at the Atlantic. They generally agreed with her, but accused her of being a squish whenever she showed any common sense at all, e.g. arguing that tear-gassing the protesters at UC Davis was an over-reaction. Didn’t she understand that property had to be protected?Report

              • I do think some of the visceral dislike of McArdle among some is based on the interaction with her commenting followers and her more..shall we say pithy and dismissive pieces she wrote as Jane Galt.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                This has all become an extended distraction to Dennis’ actual OP


            • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

              Shazbot’s answer was extreme. I think McArdle produces a visceral negative reaction is because she can often be a concern troll or say that a person is wrong because it a person is a liberal. Example:

              The Scene: It is raining hard outside.

              Liberal; It is raining hard outside. Let’s order delivery pizza for lunch today.

              McArdle: A liberal might say that it is raining hard but it is actually quite sunny and warm.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Glyph says:

              I think there’s nothing wrong with having a viscerally negative reaction to a writer, or a number of writers. That’s just life in the blogosphere. The only wrong thing is to let it be so strong that it completely shorts out any ability or willingness to engage what is said on the merits. In fact, I don’t even think it’s wrong to just say, you know what, I’m just not going to engage this persons’s arguments. But that doesn’t constitute a rebuttal, obviously. If the person who is the object of a visceral reaction make arguments that seem to score points that you’d like to see and think can be knocked down, those points stay on the board until someone gets over their distaste and does the knocking.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to North says:

            Wait, you are embarrassed by MccCardle or me?Report

            • North in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              I self identify as a liberal (though I’m a a rather running dog capitalist one quite possible a neo-liberal) so while I enormously enjoy short pithy insults from conservatives that reflect badly on them and their movement I wince when I see it come from my own side.

              I read McMegan, she is spectacularly wrong on some stuff and sure hates to admit being wrong. She is due to eat an entire table full of crow for her prognostications during Obamacare’s development for instance but I don’t think her body of writing can be as crudely dismissed as you did.Report

          • Roger in reply to North says:

            Reminded me of this passage from the movie THE ETERNAL *LIBERTARIAN*

            “Where rats appear, they bring ruin by destroying mankind’s goods and foodstuffs. In this way, they spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on. They are cunning, cowardly and cruel and are found mostly in large packs. Among the animals, they represent the rudiment of an insidious, underground destruction – just like the *libertarians* among human beings. ”

            Obviously, I substituted a word. It is just weird to see so much hate in a post highlighting bigotry.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

              Who is hating in this post?


              • James Hanley in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                So rotting meat and feces are how you describe your loved ones? Give them my sympathy.Report

              • Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                Both of my kids could be little sh*+ s at times, so maybe Shaz has a point.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

                Very nice.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:

                Love and hate aren’t the only emotions. McCardle’s work is feces. Lots of liberal’s work and writing is feces too. Lots of student work is feces, too.

                Actually, it isn’t really McCardle’s fault that her work sucks and she has such a prominent position. It is the fault of the people who think she deserves such a prominent position.

                Anyway, I’d point out that I did explain why McCardle’s claim was so laughably awful by analogy in my original comment, and that was relevant, and the rest is some sort of weird attempt to defend McCardle, despite the fact that the comment she made was obviously, indefensibly wrong.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                The only problem is you didn’t read her closely enough to get her argument right. I suppose you don’t need to. Since you already know she’s shit, you know her argument’s shit even if you can’t accurately state what it is.

                Because the unavoidable fact is that you didn’t address the real substance of her argument, which is that if we actually want to deal with that problem of everyone being a little bit racist, we’re making it harder by demonizing them if they admit it.

                You didn’t actually respond to that argument, which tells me you didn’t read her. But of you want to respond to that argument and claim that it’s stupid and only a shitty (“fecal”) person could make it, then chalk me up as stupid and shitty.Report

              • greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

                I think the rub is around “demonizing” people who admit to having some racism. Essentially i don’t think people get demonized just for admitting they have some impure thoughts. They get demonized for full throated defense of their impure thoughts. John Derbyshire got a mess of crap for frequently and openly defending what many people consider noxious bigoted beliefs.

                If someone says they think blacks are more criminally inclined then that will get attention, that is for sure, but it can be the start of a conversation. If they insist that is because blacks are simply a worse kind of people then, yeah, that will get the demon train starting. Is that an effective way to change behavior, well that is a different question.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


                Thanks for the defense of the liberal perspective. That’s sorely been lacking around here.

                And thanks for not taking the time to think about how you might actually do a better job of communicating that perspective to a conservative, because we’ve already had way too much of that at this place.

                Or something like that.Report

              • greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

                James- umm huh. Okay i’m missing something, but thats not the first time. If i had known i was defending the liberal perspective i would have used more invective and elitist words. I thought i was just saying what i had thought. We are better off talking to people as individuals than as reresentives for a label.

                -I think people throw around the word “racist” to much.
                – I think we all have some bigoted bones, but we need to admit our feelings and thoughts if we are to deal with them.
                – Blaming liberals for overusing the word “racism” for why conservatives have trouble talking about the issue is making liberals responsible for conservatives speech and not treating conservatives as mature enough to be responsible for what they say.
                -There is a difference between defending a bigoted point of view and being willing to talk about race and admitting to having all sorts of complicated feelings.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                The claim by McArdle is that the word racist has been used so freely that one group of people now think they can’t say anything without being accused of being racist, so the potential for conversations between your group and that other group are cut off.

                It’s an empirical claim, so maybe she’s wrong. But maybe she’s right. And there’s no way you’re going to figure out if she’s right if you do either of the following: 1) don’t bother to think about the perspective of the people she’s talking about because you think she’s shit; 2) don’t bother to think about the perspective of the people she’s talking about because you don’t think your group intends to, or is, sending that message.

                She’s talking about the other group’s perception, and you guys are still focusing on your own perceptions. How in god’s name can you ever begin to accurately assess the claim about the other group’s perceptions if all you do is keep reflexively defending your own perceptions?Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

            The Libertarian is not a rat. He is a unicorn. A wonderful creature from a mythical bestiary, a denizen of Candy Land. I have yet to meet an actual Libertarian, who, when confronted with a few real-world cases, didn’t fold like a cheap tent.Report

            • Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

              We all cower before your magnificence, sir.Report

            • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

              /Real/ Libertarians are in favor of enough regulation to keep everyone honest.
              And enough regulation to keep the games fair and fun.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

              The Libertarian is defined by what he is Not, never by what he is. We know where the story of the Unicorn arose, from credulous old Herodotus, the first writer of travel guides. Even then, tourists were coming to North Africa and the guides were having fun at their expense. Seen from the side, the ibex appears to have only one horn and Herodotus duly wrote down what those funfun guides told him he was looking at.

              The Libertarian is really too smart by half. In his idealistic world, the individual would wander the earth, bravely protecting what’s his. All fine and good. In the real world, the Libertarian, like the Marxist before him, has become a mouthpiece for economic tyranny of the worst sort. A sort of third-rate Roman poetaster — people used to hire on such folks to write encomiums and panegyric for emperors but they mostly wrote them for the deceased. We know who pays Libertarians these days. They are not friends of the working man or efforts to benefit any class of persons beyond their employers, let’s just make that clear enough.Report

              • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                My friend the libertarian does not work for Koch.
                Have you read the Consumerist? He helped make that site.

                [There’s a bunch of other supporting evidence that goes here, but I probably ought not to mention it too boldly.]

                Of course, You’d probably call him a Liberal.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

                I have previously said the Democrats would do well to inoculate themselves with a dose of Libertarian thinking. The government is not the solution to all our problems. The Libertarians just annoy the bullpiss out of me every time they utter that sentence as a categorical statement. They’re such squishes. Confronted with instances where the Free Market (whatever the fish that means) hasn’t solved problems and government intervention has been required, we may reliably count on the Libertarians to warn us of Untoward Effects in the Distant Future, the underlying present Causes denied and the need for such intervention in the present.Report

              • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Naturally, my friend the libertarian would simply dive in and create a better law. Sometimes laws are better ideas than others…

                (and yeah, the Libertarians can lay off the “government is not the solution to all our problems” until they kick the “veterans benefits are the new welfare” wing out of their fucking party. Oh, wait, they own significant portions of the Party? Kick ’em out anyway, you losers! ;-P)Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                And yeah, it was my friend the Libertarian who brought up that line about the “veterans benefits are the new welfare”Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarians vex me greatly. Conservatives, Kim, I used to be a conservative Republican. They don’t bother me. They’re just so many dogmatic dullards, beyond hatred or reproach. They’re irrelevant. More than better Liberals and Libertarians, this nation needs better conservatives, people who are willing to raise their hands and cautiously question the need to tinker with working machinery.

                We only argue with those we wish to change. Libertarians are very badly needed in this world, real-world Libertarians who are willing to get out of the Ivory Tower and confront America’s constant refrain of government intervention in every aspect of our lives. Neither the Liberals (for whom government is our agent) or the Conservatives (for whom government is the problem) have adequately addressed the premise of a More Perfect Union. Only the Libertarians seem to understand the problem of tyranny: that once a right has been abrogated by government it is never returned.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Perhaps you should join up. You might be amazed at how well you fit in.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Jaybird, that’s why I came here in the first place. I outgrew Conservatism, or more properly, was told enough lies by first Richard Nixon, then Ronald Reagan, to quit wearing either the label Conservative or Republican.

                The Democrats are where it’s at, if you’re playing a thinking man’s game. It’s sorta like that old joke about “what if you were a caveman.. and your wife evolved… and you didn’t !?” The Libertarians ought to quit trying to be a political party entirely, they all think they’re referees and never consider themselves players.

                The Libertarians don’t know how to write, they don’t know how to speak in public: this because they are constantly abusing the English language, coining terms of art which baffle the common man. They simply can’t argue, resorting to analogies and metaphor, incapable of reasoned debate with anyone who doesn’t grok their prophets Mises and Rothbard. As economists they continue to believe in the Austrians as articles of faith, causing others to dismiss their otherwise sound arguments in the field of political theory. Prickly, petty, arrogant, dismissive of people who grasp their principles and reach other conclusions — it’s really a wrench trying to talk to Libertarians.

                And they don’t know how to get elected — in short, they’re the worst exponents of their own philosophy imaginable.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                that once a right has been abrogated by government it is never returned.

                Hmmm. That seems a bit overstated, no?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I really don’t think we’re going to get the Fourth Amendment back, Stillwater. It’s been repealed in all but name. We’ll be taking our shoes off in the airport till the sun burns down to a cinder.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I see the point of the Libertarians to change the parameters of the argument. “Raise Awareness”, if you will.

                There are areas where the country is getting better (according to libertarian types). Libertarians helped turn non-issues into wedge issues.

                The areas where the country is getting worse? Well… Libertarians are doing what they can to argue against those. Maybe we can turn non-issues into wedge issues again.

                If you see it being about elections, Libertarians are pretty much failures. If you see it as which questions get asked during the debates? We’re surprisingly… well, I don’t want to say “successful”. But we’re not failures.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The fact is, until Libertarians hold the reins of power, they will change nothing. That means getting people elected. The Democrats are the party more likely to give the Libertarian principles a fair hearing, if only they were parcelled out in meal-sized chunks. We’re the party more likely to chip away and eventually repeal the PATRIOT Act. We’re the party more likely to put an end to this insane War on Drugs. We’re the party more likely to put an end to discrimination in all its forms.

                If Democrats want to ensure Americans have health care coverage, the statistics are on our side. If we advocate for sufficient market regulation, why haven’t the Libertarians ever chimed in with their familiar chorus about Force ‘n Fraud? It’s because Homo libertarianus economicus still thinks it’s 1929 and Mises is writing Critique of Interventionism.Report

              • M.A. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                incapable of reasoned debate with anyone who doesn’t grok their prophets Mises and Rothbard

                And sadly still beholden to a pair of false prophets, plagiarists both, who dutifully plagiarized their works wholesale from an earlier gentlemen whose theory of the invisible hand is most easily debunked by the simple phrase “in the long run, we are all dead.”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                There are more roads (ROADS!) to Libertarianism than through economics.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Heh, it’s always pretty clear who understands that Keynes purposefully misrepresented the meaning of the long run and who doesn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.Report

              • Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I was complimenting your rhetorical style, not your reasoning. You spew beautiful nonsense.

                Have you ever been employed as a ghost writer?Report

              • Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I so hate the way you write, Blaise… It is so damn good. I wish I had one tenth your way with words. It isn’t fair. We should tax eloquence or something.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Heh. Absolutely fishin right. That’s another type of redistribution I could really, really get on board with.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                It’s a shame that “truth is beauty, and beauty truth,” is more beautiful than true.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                Content is content and beautiful prose is a gift and for some of us (me!) never the twain shall meet. So I remain jealous.Report

              • North in reply to Stillwater says:

                Likewise. I envy so many of the writers here furiously.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                If ever there was a third-rate writer of encomium and panegyric, I am he. I am what a man becomes when pretty much all his illusions have been dispelled. It’s not a pretty picture, really it isn’t. Ideals denied, I resort to mere eloquence, which Blaise Pascal tell us is wearisome.Report

        • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Actually, given recent empirical findings on the nature of moral judgments, this is probably true.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Glyph says:

        For years, I kept a copy of Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah in the bathroom. A few paragraphs of it would induce my costive bowels to instant and violent peristalsis.

        A few McMegan columns in a handy three ring notebook would surely produce the same purgative effect.Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      Glyph- To some degree McMegan does provoke a negative response because i find her to be far more often shallow, trite and poorly thought out. She’s not always bad though, i used to read her at The Atlantic but she more often misses than hits. I’m not signing onto Shaz’s inappropriate response.

      “But this is the natural result of making racism into something so terrible that to utter an obviously racist remark is to brand yourself as an outcast. You can’t have it both ways–say that racism is so terrible that even subtle manifestations deserve to be stigmatized by all right-thinking people, and then turn around and say that everyone’s a little bit racist and you’re just trying to have a conversation about how we can all pull together to build a more race-tolerant society.”

      This is the part i think is really bad. FWIW. It pushes the problem of discussing racism onto liberals for , at the same time pushing a “stigma” she thinks is largly good but then somehow exorcising people from society for talking about racism. I think this is a common and generally wrong charge.

      I’m all for talking about racism. Where the discussion goes awry is when people take that as wanting to validate and justify their “no good, really bad” beliefs. I don’t think i could talk race with John Derbyshire, because he just wants to spout his line of bigotry, not learn and move past. Thats his business if he is fine with his bigotry but i don’t think their is a discussion to be had there.Report

  5. I’m with Blaise.

    There’s a lot to chew on in this post, Dennis, but I don’t think eliminating the terms “bigotry” or “bigoted” is necessary. In a discussion, it may be unhelpful to call someone a bigot, but that shouldn’t stop us from calling out bigotry or bigoted opinions.

    Now, I imagine some will say that there is little difference between calling someone a bigot and calling their ideas bigoted. But it’s really just a twist on the Hate-the-Sin-Love-the-Sinner approach that so many anti-gay bigots espouse.Report

    • Hmmm…I never did call for eliminating the usage of the word bigot. What I am calling for is to be aware of the seriousness of the word. In our modern parlance if we deem someone a bigot, then that person is considered outside the bounds of mainstream society; outcasts for crossing the line.

      My beef is that we toss that term around too easily instead of seeing what it has come to mean in 2013: a person you want nothing to do with.

      So, I’m not calling for banning the word; but if we need to use the word with caution because it has become a very powerful word.Report

  6. North says:

    Great ruminations here, it’s difficult to know where to start with a conundrum like this.

    Certainly the social disdain that has now been attached to racism is generally a very good thing. If it has becomes uncomfortable and inconvenient for racists to express themselves on this topic then their ability to transmit their prejudices to succeeding generations has been crippled. That impediment is how racism truly dies; the old racists die off and their children either don’t share their sentiments or share them to a much lesser degree (and then by that same process their grandchildren likely don’t share it at all).

    At the same time I’d agree heartily that liberals are probably far to swift to fall back onto accusations of racism as a form of lazy argumentation. As a corollary to that, however, conservatives have developed their own lazy argument by accusing liberals of calling them racist even if such isn’t the case.

    With homosexuality things are definitely more complicated. Obviously accusations of homophobia don’t carry the same weight as racism though the underlying logic of both are very similar. Still homosexuality in of itself has some advantages if you will that race doesn’t have. Your average racist is at zero probability of waking up to a child or relative who turns out to be a member of the race of their animus. They are, however, at a non-zero risk of having a gay relative. This is part of the reason, to my mind, that anti-homosexual animus is collapsing so precipitously as compared to racial animus.

    Still, so far the religious and knee jerk ‘ick” factors of homosexuality linger particularly in organized religion. It’s another dividing line between race and sexuality: the religious drove the overt gays from their midst decades ago and by and large homosexuals responded by discarding organized faith entirely. Race wise of course various races have always had faith and organized religion of their own. Part of the reason, I think, that the religious conservatives look on gays with such genuine fear is that homosexuals have demonstrated through their own lives that they’re perfectly capable of living in utter indifference to the fulminations of religious. Read Gallagher, or especially Dreher and one of the fears you can almost palpably feel is the fear not that homosexuals will storm the redoubts of social conservatives but rather that we’ll ignore them.

    That option, indifference, is in my opinion the best course for gays to take. Do we truly have any need to force the religious to change their dogmas and doctrines? No, I don’t think we honestly do. Most certainly not by the force of law! Wherever religious institutions have their fingers pressed down on the scales of civil administration we absolutely have an obligation to push back (and I’d submit that much of the tantruming the religious do now days is accounted for by their indignation at the scales reverting to a balanced state rather than one tilted in their favor) but frankly we don’t have any business (or need) to be arbitrating the secret thoughts of human hearts and minds. We’ve seen that over reach done before by civil rights and liberal orders that came before us and most especially by the religious so we know that it’s a long stony path that leads to nothing but the discrediting of our own ideals.

    The religious conservatives chose long ago to cast gays out and assumed they’d perish from it. The only justice gays need is civil justice and the only revenge they need seek is the revenge of living well and happily indifferent to the malice of the religious. It also, happily, happens to be the cruelest thing gays could ever do to their former oppressors: render them irrelevant to their lives.Report

    • Kim in reply to North says:

      Still plenty of places in this country where racism is alive, well, and well-spoken too. Where even the liberals can state racist views openly, without disapproval.

      Yes, as a collective society, we “often kinda” take racism seriously. Certainly we take certain Bad Words seriously.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to North says:

      “Do we truly have any need to force the religious to change their dogmas and doctrines? No, I don’t think we honestly do.”

      This is true if and only if you’re not a member of the church in question. I don’t have a personal stake in the decision of the Catholic church to be anti-gay; but Andrew Sullivan certainly does.Report

      • North in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Oh absolutely true if you are a member of a church. But since gays by and large are not I think my position speaks to them more pertinantly. But yes if you’re a gay or an ally in the church you have an entire other spectrum of considerations.Report

        • Gorgias in reply to North says:

          I think you’d be surprised how many gays are still people of faith. Moreover, while it’s not for me, faith is a source of strength for many people, many people’s lives are strengthened by it, and it is a shame that many in this marginalized group are driven away from it.Report

          • North in reply to Gorgias says:

            I’m sure if we counted closeted gays the number is a substantial fraction of gays overall (though I’m skeptical that it’s over half). But closeted gays aren’t an issue; they are what social conservatives dream all gays of being: invisible, quiet and easy to ignore.

            Of out gays I’m confident that a significant majority are either a-religious or in highly liberal congregations/denominations.Report

            • Gorgias in reply to North says:

              I’m sure you’re right, though I’m also confused by the blithe equivalence between atheism and liberal Christianity. Moving the goalpoasts a bit, isn’t it?Report

              • North in reply to Gorgias says:

                Maybe, but to be honest if you would like to make a case that the majority or even a major plurality of out gays are members of liberal religious organizations I’d want to see some numbers since it flies against what I’ve read any my own personal experiences.Report

              • Gorgias in reply to North says:

                This is the best survey I could find, though I’m not quite sold on their methodology:


                Adding up, “Protestant, Born Again, and Catholic,” we get 66.9% of the sample identifying as some form of Christian, which surprised me – hell, only 75% of the population as a whole is Christian. I don’t know how participation in services compares to the general population, though.Report

  7. Would we really welcome such a person in our congregation?

    I’m inclined to say yes. Everyone should be afforded the opportunity for redemption.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    Another really excellent post, Dennis.

    It’s coming from an entirely different angle, but I think it’s not so dissimilar from what I argued about the word “bigotry” last summer.Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Tod, just read your post. Bingo.

      We’re probably around the same age, so I remember some of those “very special episodes” that painted the racist in terms that just weren’t real. The thing is, you can meet really nice people that have bigoted tendencies. Things are lot more gray than black and white, to repeat the pun.Report

  9. Pinky says:

    Interesting article to me, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of those accusations on this site. My first thought is about something you missed. You rightly say that people are offended when you call them bigots. But you should also know that when you accuse someone of something, and they’re certain that you’re wrong about it, they greatly devalue the credibility of everything else you say. Greatly. No one gives a fortune-teller a second chance. If you claim to be able to read my mind, and you completely misunderstand my motivation for taking a position, then what am I left with? Anger, sometimes. More often pity and a desire to correct you. But if you’ve written me off as a bigot then you’ve closed off your mind to the possibility of learning from my explanation. It’s a conundrum, but it’s one caused by the closed-mindedness of the accuser of bigotry – who, ironically, is closing off his mind as a proud protest against close-mindedness.Report

  10. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I think Dennis is working more toward the idea of not using a term overly broadly, lest it loose it’s value. ‘Bigot’, ‘racist’, ‘terrorist’ – these words all have commonly understood meanings, but lately a term like ‘terrorist’ is rapidly loosing it’s meaning, since it is being applied too broadly.

    I’ve already started to filter out the word ‘terrorist’ in the media I consume, since I no longer trust that the term is being applied properly. ‘Racist’ is another I look at critically because it is often used hyperbolicly to try & shutdown a speaker.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      These words do have meanings. There are actual bigots, racists and terrorists alive in the world. “Terrorist” is not especially pejorative. It describes a political methodology: warfare in its natural state, devoid of the chivalric nonsense with which we generally surround this subject. The whole and entire point of war is to reduce a population to fear and subservience. Not a whit different than America’s proclivity to aerial bombardment, writ large in our times with the rise of the remotely piloted vehicle, a mechanical Nazgûl to fill men’s hearts with fear.

      The only sin these days seems to be the Sin of Intolerance. Civilised people are no longer at liberty to reject bigots as such. Perhaps the Masters of the Mint of Political Correctness will coin a new phrase. Let’s try “Inclusiveness-Challenged Persons” on for size. The collars don’t quite lie flat on the breast and the buttons don’t quite line up with the button holes, but hey, when did these people ever stand up and oppose anything. Cringing, grinning, skim milk appeasers, they wring their hands and feebly squeak “Can’t we all just get along?”

      Well no we can’t all get along. At some point, people of conscience must take a stand. And that means re-reading Letter from a Birmingham Jail and getting up from the church pew and Doing Something.

      You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

      And that’s what all this greasy capitulation has brought us to — I reject the appeasers. As suffers one, so suffer we all. While one class of people — that class defined and repressed by the bigots themselves — remains so defined and so oppressed — I will call those definers and those oppressors Bigots.Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      The use of words to shut down debate is one of the things I’m getting at. Sometimes we say things like “so and so is a bigot” which is then a reason to not listen to them.

      Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade, but sometimes the words we use aren’t as much speak a truth as they are trying to not listen to the other.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

        The first step to eliminating an evil is to name it. There is no debating with evil, Dennis. The bigot has power in our lives but only if he is allowed to have it. What does the First Psalm tell us? I don’t even have to tell you how it reads, as a minister you know how it begins.

        Happy is the man
        that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
        nor stood in the way of sinners,
        nor sat in the seat of the scornful.

        But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
        and in His law doth he meditate day and night.

        And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water,
        that brings forth its fruit in its season,
        and whose leaf doth not wither;
        and in whatsoever he does he shall prosper.

        First we walk. Then we stand. Then we sit. The happy man, the man who meditates, is planted and puts down roots near the streams of water. It’s a short song, it was probably a prelude. It’s one of my favourite bits of the Bible, certainly one of its best poems. If I ever get to Heaven, I want to know what the Psalms sounded like as songs.

        But Psalm 1 also teaches us something about the nature of unhappy people: they first move along in the counsel of the wicked. The happy are planted and produce fruit. The unhappy sit and mock. That is their fruit.

        What’s true and noble and right in this world never changes, Dennis. Calling someone a bigot when he mocks is never a debate-stopper. While the mocker continues to mock, unopposed, there’s no reasoned debate in his mocking. There’s a further little chunk of Psalm 1 to gloss:

        Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgement,

        yaqumu rasaim bam-mishpat. Mishpat, the outworking of justice itself. The mocker leshim renders his own form of justice.

        Proverbs 9: 7 and 8.

        He who corrects a scorner earns shame,
        and he that reproves a wicked man, it becomes unto him a stain.
        Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you;
        reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

        Dennis, nothing is less wanted than unwanted advice. Forgive me for what I must say next. There is no reasoning with evil, no debate. There is only calling it what it is.

        So what, the bigot seems to stop listening. He was never listening. He was mocking. leshim == the mockers. That root lesh also forms the basis for words which mean “ambassador”, he who relays an unfriendly opinion, a commentator, a wise-ass. If the mocker stops mocking, you’ve broken his power over you. He’s mocking what’s good and therein lies the source of his power. There are worse things in this world than shutting down a bigot and a bully.Report

  11. Mike Schilling says:

    As good as this post is, I feel duty-bound as a liberal to chase Dennis off with the rest of the Republicans.

    Anyway, I think there’s a distinction between being a bigot and making arguments based in bigotry. We need to be free to point out the latter, for instance, arguing wholly without evidence that same-sex marriage harms “traditional” mariage.Report

    • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      oh, they’ve got plenty of evidence. whether they’re willing to admit to the evidence is another matter, of course.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I think there’s a distinction between being a bigot and making arguments based in bigotry. We need to be free to point out the latter, for instance, arguing wholly without evidence that same-sex marriage harms “traditional” mariage.

      I completely agree. A person’s emotional and psychological motivations for holding particular beliefs need to be distinguished from the arguments a person makes in defense of those beliefs. All too often people confuse those things and equate a criticism/rejection of an argument with a criticism/rejection of a person. It goes both ways. Discourse around sensitive subjects can get personal right quick – often enough thru no ones deliberate intent.Report

  12. Shazbot5 says:

    McMegan said “You can’t have it both ways–say that racism is so terrible that even subtle manifestations deserve to be stigmatized by all right-thinking people, and then turn around and say that everyone’s a little bit racist”

    McCardle is wrong, as usual. Wost. Blogger. Ever.

    You can say being a violent person (in external actions) is so terrible that even subtle manifenstations (of violence in the world) deserve to be stigmatized and say that everyone (or most everyone) is (in their internal psychological states) a bit of a violent person (in so far as most of us find an internal drive to be violent in certain circumstances).

    Acting like a racist is immoral. Admitting that you have racist feelings that you are struggling against is honest. So too with violence in general. Being a rapist is immoral, but admitting that you have had rape fantasy’s is honest and that honesty will help lead you to morality.

    We all (almost all?) have racist (and sexist, and violent, etc.) tendencies, and we should all be morally forgiven -usually after some small punishment- for small slips if we are willing to apologize and keep working on improving. The white people who say that they aren’t at all racist and they are worreid about anti-white racism are the problem here.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      McMegan’s horrible. A truly sloppy thinker.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Shazbot – Then you recognize the consistency in the position of those who reject homosexual acts while acknowledging that some people struggle with homosexual urges.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Pinky says:

        Of course, homosexual urges, when acted upon, harm nobody. So that seems like a key distinction.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

          My hunch is that a response might be that harm is done to the individual’s soul and/or relationship with God… something thereabouts.

          Not an argument I’d make or agree with, but one I could see others making sincerely without hate in their hearts.Report

          • Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

            In theory, that might be possible. But most people aren’t Vulcans. If you want a society that truly accepts gay people and treats them as equals, ultimately it will need to rest on a widespread notion that there’s nothing wrong with gay sex in and of itself.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:


              But you’ll have to change the minds of people who sincerely believe that gay sex is an abomination of one kind or another. How do you do that?Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well, there are some people whose minds will never change–the best you can do with them is ensure that they’re unwilling to speak up publicly, by branding them bigots and drumming them out of polite society (this is what happened to the Klan members in the past–they didn’t change their minds, they just stopped talking, or lost their megaphones). Then there are others, who are willing to endorse bigotry but don’t have a deep personal attachment to it–once they see that it’s no longer profitable and in fact harmful to your social standing, they’ll drift away from it as well. The next generation, raised with less open bigotry, will drift away from it, and eventually it will become more and more of a non-issue.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

                I’m not talking about those people so much. What I’m talking about (and which I hope to explore in my new OTC post) is…

                Imagine a child growing up in a world where everyday he is told that gay sexy is wrong, immoral. In much the same way that we grow up in a world that tells us murder is wrong, immoral. This child grows into an adult who genuinely believes that gay sex is wrong because everything about his upbringing has told him such. How do we respond to THAT person?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                “If you don’t want to have gay sex, you don’t have to.”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                More asbestos, more asbestos!Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

                Ultimately, we all have some degree of responsibility for our own actions. I’d suggest focusing on actions, rather than attitudes. You don’t have to turn him into a gay rights ally; you just have to turn him into “someone who’s embarassed to talk about his opposition to gay marriage, or his belief that gay sex is immoral”.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:

                But should he feel embarrassed for believing what he was taught to believe?Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Dan Miller says:

                Nobody’s childhood is perfect, and we all end up with some beliefs that are misguided or inappropriate. Ultimately, the responsibility for recognizing that those beliefs are inappropriate is on him. To say “Oh, I shouldn’t be blamed for my homophobia because it’s how I was raised” works about as well as “I shouldn’t be blamed for my [domestic violence conviction/bank robbery/insert other action here]”. It genuinely is a shame that he was raised in bad circumstances, but that shouldn’t let us deny his moral agency in continuing to hold those beliefs.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Dan Miller says:


                Agreed. But if someone has 20+ years of education and life experience telling them one thing based on a broader ideology that shapes the entirety of their worldview (e.g., why they might not view gay sex as harmless because they consider souls and relationships with higher beings to be real things capable of being harmed), how quickly can we expect them to abandon this when confronted with challenging opinions?Report

              • Just Me in reply to Dan Miller says:

                I am confused Dan. Are beliefs now equal to illegal violent acts?Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                By explaining that they’ve got the bible wrong?

          • Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

            Right. Same as any misuse of the sexual function, be it heterosexual or homosexual.Report

        • Shazbot5 in reply to Dan Miller says:

          I’d go further: when acted upon homosexual and heterosexual desires make the world a better place (provided there is no coercion, no exploitation, there is affection, etc.)

          Homosexual and heterosexual sex are good things (even if they can lead to dangers). The church has picked on the one out of homophobia. By analogy, imagine I said we don’t discriminate against women, but if you want to work in this restaurant, you have to pee in the urinal, standing up. That would be a sexist hiring policy, aimed at keeping women out, while superficially being only against the action of peeing while sitting.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Dan Miller says:

          Of course, homosexual urges, when acted upon, harm nobody. So that seems like a key distinction.

          Maybe that’s true of consenting adults, but I think recent evidence from The Church confirms that acting on homosexual urges can in fact harm other people (tho the issue really reduces to repressed sexuality and power concepts and stuff like that).

          With that cheap shot out of the way, I think the argument isn’t that homosexual acts harm other people, but rather than public acceptance of the normativity of those acts (rather than public condemnation of them) indirectly harms other people. Frankly, I can’t even summarize those arguments (I’m sure you’re familiar with the most common ones) since they seem quite crazy to me.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky says:

        This position is logically consistent, but so are lots of vile and false ideas.

        There is nothing immoral about the homosexual sex act, any more than there is something immoral about the desire to have homosexual sex. (Though you can conceive of the latter being false, and the former true, which is all their logical consistency amounts to.) Do you disagree and think homosexual sex acts are immoral? If so, why?Report

        • Pinky in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Well, that goes to the heart of the article, as I read it. Saying or implying that a position is vile isn’t going to persuade anyone. And as I note in my non-indented comment above, it’s not going to impress anyone.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

        In fact, many of the people who argue most strongly that homosexual acts are evil are struggling with their own homosexual urges. And it’s not inconsistent: they’re torn horribly between their desires and their belief that those desires are evil. It’s tragic.

        The fact that they have no standing to enforce their beliefs on others is a different discussion.Report

  13. Kazzy says:

    A few thoughts:

    1.) Great post. More Dennis, please!
    2.) One of the things I’ve learned about working with children, particularly when it comes to observing and assessing them, is to respond to actions, not to individuals. There is a difference between a bad person and a person who does a bad thing. I’ve tried to transport this view to how I see people in general. When confronted with an act of racism, I try to say, “That’s racist*,” instead of, “You’re racist!” It doesn’t necessarily convey the nuance I intend to, but think it at least starts the conversation off from a place of responding to something said/done rather than someone’s character. It can help eliminate defensiveness, leading to a more productive conversation, and avoids the stigmatizing brand of a very powerful word. It also more easily allows for atonement, correction, and education. It is easier to redeem an act than a person.
    3.) I feel like I don’t even know what “homophobic” means any more. Does it mean discomfort with homosexuality, as in the type of person who might fully support the rights and equality of gay people but who recoil at images of gay sex? Does it mean an explicit hatred of homosexuality? Does it mean a view that homosexual acts qualify as sins but that a gay person is no better or worse than any other form of sinner? If we are going to make “homophobe” the equivalent of “racist”, I think we need to be clear on what we mean by it.

    * Even “That’s racist” is sub-ideal because it is quickly conflated with “You’re racist.” At my best, I might say, “I think what you said risked being offensive to Group X and here is why. I don’t think you meant that, but that is how it seemed” or something to that effect.
    I am not often at my best, I should add.Report

  14. NewDealer says:

    There was a great video that came out a few years ago on Youtube about how to tell someone “You said something racist” over “you said something racist.”

    The problem is that I think Dreher is just biogted against homosexuals. He is rooted in his Orthodoxy and will never be brought around to having a positive feeling about homosexuals or gay marriage. His social conservatism is of an old school that still is not used to any social change that happened in his lifetime. Many of which started before well before he was born. The dude was born in 1967 according to wikipedia. His social views are of a person born in 1922.

    Sometimes someone is just a bigot and yes they are going to be offended by it but it doesn’t make it less true. People love to be offended these days. Everyone takes umbrage at everything.

    Though I don’t understand biblical literalism. Reform Judaism decided that humans wrote the Torah as a way of searching for the divine and truth/explaining their world. Many parts are still relevant today and give us meaning but other parts are not. To me Torah, should be treated as we treat Plato and Aristotle. A document worthy of study and a source for how to live life and codes of conduct but it is an old and allegorical document. Not a literal one containing the sole truth.Report

  15. James Hanley says:

    I’m not wholly in agreement with Dennis’s post (although I’m largely on board with his general direction), but I am intrigued by the, may I say reactionary response to it.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      Can you elaborate on this?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        “A conservative asked liberals for some introspection! Fish that monkeyfisher!”Report

        • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

          He got introspection from /me/.
          I’m still trying to puzzle out in my head why I understand so much how a /Christian church/ ought to handle this, but not my own religion.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

          Introspection? I’m not sure that’s the right word, since the OP is the expression of conflicting conservative values and a couple of conservative’s views on bigotry and SSM.

          “Extrospection”, maybe?Report

        • North in reply to James Hanley says:

          I’m not getting that James. The responses have been generally constructive and frankly the majority of the “Fish that noise” responses have been directed at McMegan rather than Dennis.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to North says:

            Yeah, in addition to, “I’ll call bigots bigots and if they don’t like it it’s their fault for being bigots,” there was also the “You quoted McMegan which proves you’re stoooopid and I don’t have to listen to you” contingent.

            It all sounds to me like, “a conservative spoke, let’s quickly find reasons to justify not actually think about what he said.”

            And if that gets me flamed, fish it. Y’all know I’m not a conservative. I’ll just head over to MD and check out Glyph’s music picks.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

              there was also the “You quoted McMegan which proves you’re stoooopid and I don’t have to listen to you” contingent.

              Go Team Go!Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well, that’s sort of my point, isn’t it? If anyone cares to listen.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yeah, and I’m making fun of it. People who dislike McArdle do so for pretty much the same reason: she’s a really sloppy thinker. Her arguments are bad. TeamMembership has very little – next to nothing – to do with it.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well, I do agree that this is about something other than team membership.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Make fun all you want, Still, but let’s note that the responses didn’t begin by noting any errors in McArdle’s argument, but with “you quoted her so you’re discredited.” And I’m making fun of that.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                Well, that’s a fair enough point. But this seems like a fair one as well: each of the two writers who began their initial comments with casual dismissals of MM’s argument went on to defend exactly why they rejected it. Instead of reflexively jumping to accusations of Borg-thought-circularity, maybe a well phrased question about that dismissal would have been more productive.Report

              • Johanna in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yeah, shift the blame to the critic so you can escape the need to actually examine your own side’s actions.

                But in fact I am the guilty party. I sinned by daring to try to poke a hole in the intolerable smugness of the League liberals.

                Object more in return, please. Far better that you take note of how unfair I’m being than that you actually spend a moment thinking about whether there’s any element of truth in my criticism.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                That obviously was me.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                your own side’s actions.

                Go Team Go!Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yes, my friend, that’s exactly what I am accusing them of. And I’ll add that I am accusing you of it as well, for I don’t think you’d fail to see it if they had been conservatives so casually rejecting–and best, rejecting their own misinterpretation–a liberal writer.

                I don’t much care if you don’t care for what I’m saying. I’m grimly amused at the circling of the wagons in defense, rather than you folks who are so convinced of your intellectual superiority to McArdle, etc., having the courage to actually be intellectually superior by taking a harder look at your own responses. You all don’t sound much different from what you accuse her of.Report

            • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              This is one of the best posts in the thread, James! Funny, witty, and incisive.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to James Hanley says:

              McCardles main claim was pretty dumb.

              If asked to introspect on dumb, I will and conclude it is dumb.

              What should I have said that I haven’t?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Maybe what Glyph said in the first paragraph of his response to you.

                There’s also the what you did say that you shouldn’t have.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                You know, I’m going to go farther. If you think McArdle’s argument in the post Dennis linked to is satisfactorily described the word “dumb,” I’m going to assert that you didn’t really read it, and didn’t spend one moment actively contemplating it.Report

              • That the more broadly a term is applied, to more and more common activity, weakens the potency of the charge, ought not be controversial statement. I’d suspect if someone else were saying it, it wouldn’t be. Or maybe it would, and I should keep my opinions on this to myself.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

              You quoted McMegan which proves you’re stoooopid and I don’t have to listen to you

              Which is the classic ad homine aliae quam Jonah Goldberg fallacy.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                “Don’t look at what we did here; see, that guy did it, too!” Way to step it up, Mike.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                I think you’re misunderstanding the rule.

                “That can’t be true, McArdle says it” is a logical fallacy.

                “That can’t be true, Jonah Goldberg says it” is a fact of nature, like gravity.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I’d laugh at your joke more if I thought more folks realized it was a joke.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’m entirely serious. The man emits a force-field of stupidity. We could end the threat of an Iranian nuke simply by infiltrating him into their weapons research team.Report

              • That would explain that new out of the movies stealth fighter.Report

              • James K in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Beware, reversed stupidity is not intelligence. A perfectly stupid person would utter statements at random, which means some of them would incidentally be right.

                Being negatively correlated with truth wouldn’t imply the absence of intelligence (stupidity), but rather its opposite and I have no idea how that would work.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to James K says:

                Beware, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

                I want to put that on a bumper sticker.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James K says:

                Reversed stupidity is ytidiputs.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Should I feel bad about being harsher on conservatives who are Jewish like Goldberg? There is something about members of the tribe being stupid that makes me want to hang my head in shame?

                The NY Times had an article last Sunday about Michael Goldfarb and his ultra-conservative Washington Free Beacon. Reading the article, I could only conclude that Goldfarb’ raison d’etre is annoying liberals in the most junior high school way possible.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to NewDealer says:

                I am in absolutely no position to make that judgement for you, but I have thought a bit about the issue of conservative Jews. It seems to me that there’s really no more reason why Jewish people should span the political spectrum about as much as Christians/Gentiles, stopping short, of course, of Naziism. Why shouldn’t a Jewish-American person be persuaded that the country needs a strong military, that taxes are too high, that free markets are good (or alternatively, that the U.S. needs a strong policy protecting industries of national interest) and that our ever-more-secular-and-irreligious popular culture is bad for people? Not that I want people to have all those views, but what about being Jewish would in any way preclude that?Report

              • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

                naziism is in the middle, isn’t it? ;-P

                The real answer is Jews tend to stay in cities/streetcar suburbs. Maybe we’re less racist? 😉

                And your orthodox jews are hard core republicans. it’s part of The Deal (where The CrazyChristians stop hating on Jews and start hating on Muslims)Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer says:

                We’re mostly liberals, which is pretty much the same as Naziism. Didn’t you read Goldberg’s book?Report

              • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


                I sort of agree with you. In an ideal world, a person’s race, ethnicity, sexuality, or other ID factor should not have anything to do with their politics.

                Except we don’t live in an ideal world.

                Michael Goldfarb engages in the same kind of juvenille race-baiting that one finds on the Rush Limbaugh show.


                His race baiting is a disgrace to Judaism. As Jews, we are morally required to be aware of the dangers of bigoted language and what it is like to be the victims of hatred, prejudice, and wrongful conspiracy. We are morally required to deplore when other minorities are treated with hatred and bigotry. This is a mandate from history.

                I also don’t see how Tikkun Olam is compatible with the current fiscal practices of the Republican Party.

                My Judaism is marked by more than Zionism. While Jews do very well economically often, there is still the social justice aspects of Judaism.

                Plus the 20 percent or so of Jews who are Republican are really annoying about their despair with Jews staying in the Democratic camp.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to NewDealer says:


                I got distracted and forgot to write down a couple of points I meant to make, one of which would have gone directly to your response.

                1. Jews are every bit as much individuals as anyone else, so we ought to expect there to be conservative Jews, just as much as we’d expect liberal Jews, middle of the road Jews, and–based on American electoral results–about 0.4% libertarian Jews.

                2. Jews do have one particular Very Big ThingTM that we would expect all of them to be responsive to, and that VBT ought, we would expect, make them particularly sensitive to one particular type of issue–racial/ethnic issues. So I think a person reasonably could expect a Jewish person to be opposed to race/ethnicity based distinctions without implicitly stripping away their individuality.Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to NewDealer says:

                There’s also a degree to which you might expect Jews, more so than the median individual in American society, to be repelled by stuff like the Texas school board, prayers before football games, etc, which is currently tied up with the modern GOP and conservatism.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                I think Dan has this one exactly right.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

          I haven’t read enough of the comments to say whether or not that is an accurate summation.

          But I do think that Dennis is somewhat uniquely positioned to challenge people in some new ways here… to force many of us into states of disequilibrium that we will not be comfortable with.

          Fortunately, it is those states of disequilibrium where the best growth and learning tend to happen.Report

  16. zic says:

    Dreher repeatedly speaks of the ills of LGTB; in very harsh terms. Yet his speech shows absolute ignorance of the people who are LGTB, most particularly, of the differences. He often seems to conflates LGTB with sexual deviance that harms innocent people; most particularly pedophiles. He things being gay is a choice. He doesn’t understand that being trans is not about attraction, but about self identity.

    Since he’s gone to such extremes to denounce something he knows almost nothing about, I don’t know how you can call him anything but a bigot. I’m sorry he doesn’t like the word; that it hurt when it’s applied to him. But ya know, sometimes the shoe fits.

    Yeah, I know. He’s got a friend who’s gay. He’s got a friend who’s gay.Report

  17. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Our society has rightly deemed that being a racist is something reprehesible. I would add that bigot falls into the same category.

    I don’t think this is actually a helpful framework. In fact, I think it’s backwards.

    To me, a racist and a bigot are different in two connotations – in the U.S., that is. They ought not, but we’ve debased “racist” by making it far more inclusive than it should be.

    A racist is someone who resents people on the basis of race. A bigot is someone who resents people on the basis of some sort of classification. All racists are bigots, not all bigots are racists. Granted.


    Whether we like it or not, racism (again, in the U.S.) has the connotation of action. It’s not enough that you like or dislike someone based upon skin color (really, that’s all racism *ought* to be), but it’s that you *do* something about it.

    “He’s nice… for a black guy” is racist, by the pure definition of the word. But in the U.S., when you call somebody a racist, it’s not just calling them someone like Miss Daisy, it’s calling them someone like David Duke. Generally speaking, all the hubbub about the word “racism” comes when people call Miss Daisy a racist, because they think you’re equating Miss Daisy with David Duke.

    I mean, she is a racist, right? There’s no doubt about that. But she’s not David Duke, either.

    We’ve corrupted the word, “racism”, and added the connotations of institutional racism and oppression and a number of other things to all types of racism. We’ve taken all types of racism and made them equivalent with the worst types of racism, and thus we now need to argue, all the time, about whether or not someone *is* a racist, as opposed to just letting an accusation of saying something racist be just an accusation of someone saying something racist.

    Let’s not do the same thing with bigot. It’s too late to undo it with racism.

    If you’re a bigot, you don’t like somebody merely by their classification. That’s it. That’s all the word ought to mean. If you don’t like somebody based upon their classification, you’re a bigot. That doesn’t mean that you don’t think they should have the same rights as other people, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t do business with them, and it doesn’t mean that you make zoning laws to keep them out of your neighborhoods, it just means that you don’t like ’em.

    If you think homosexual behavior is squicky, that makes you a bigot. It doesn’t make you anti-LGBT-rights, it doesn’t make you oppressive, it doesn’t make you generally a bad person. It just makes you a bigot.

    Hey, I don’t like stupid people who deliberately try not to learn things. That makes me an intellectual bigot. That means when stupid people who have a track record of saying ignorant things say something, I’ve got a load of confirmation bias coming down the pike on a freight train. Part of owning up to the fact that I’m an intellectual bigot means that when stupid people say ignorant things, I need to be aware that the train is coming down the track and compensate for it before I open my mouth and retort. It doesn’t make me a bad person (sometimes, there’s justifiable reasons to be bigoted against groups. I’m bigoted against the Westboro Baptists, too.) It makes me imperfect.

    It’s my job to recognize that. It’s the job of the LGBT bigot to recognize that their personal dislike of gay activity, or gay people, influences them, and compensate for it, and not let it affect their idea about social justice or what ought to be the law.

    Because once you do that, then you’re more than a bigot, you’re an bigoted oppressor.

    And really, that is the thing that everybody ought to frown upon.Report

    • zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      To me, a racist and a bigot are different in two connotations – in the U.S., that is. They ought not, but we’ve debased “racist” by making it far more inclusive than it should be.

      Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that this is a good thing; that racism has become so diluted that to make the point of others having privilege, it now includes 47% of the population. I’ve grown to think of it as back-handed progress.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      I don’t think most people are capable of saying “I think gay sex is a sin, and yet gays should have exactly the same rights as everyone else, and I’m perfectly willing to cater their wedding”. The vast bulk of people will fall into one of two camps: “Gays are gross and shouldn’t be allowed to marry”, or “There’s nothing wrong with gay sex.” To pretend that we can maintain a middle ground as a society is to misread human nature IMHO.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Dan Miller says:

        To discard accuracy (and the actual existing middle ground) for ease of establishing group membership is just sloppy.

        Because I have to say, there’s a lot of people out there who probably think gays are squicky who don’t vote against gay marriage, and let gay people buy stuff at their store, and the influence of their bigotry is small on their behavior and we ought not to convict them of crimes they’re not committing.

        I mean, “person refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple” is a national news event. It’s happened twice that I can think of in the last two years.

        Are you seriously telling me that out of all the thousands of cakemakers in the country, there are two that think gays are squicky and all the rest are all for gay marriage?

        I expect that there’s a lot of people who either don’t care or aren’t invested in the battle, and lumping them together with the two guys who won’t make cakes for gay people is going to just piss them off, because they’re not the sort of folks who will refuse service to gay people.

        One of the problems with diluting bigotry the way we’ve diluted racism is that we now get to argue about semantics instead of substance. I’m not convinced that this is progress, overall (although zic’s citation of TNC and the point of privilege is a valid counterpoint).Report

        • Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          I didn’t mean to conflate all people who oppose gay marriage with the people who won’t cater a gay wedding; that was overbroad, and not everyone is that dedicated. But I think there are very few people who think gays are squicky and yet vote for gay marriage. That tends not to be how humans operate.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Dan Miller says:

            I think this is absolutely wrong. I think this used to be right. I think one of the great successes of the SSM movement is that this has ceased to be right.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

              Yeah. Even at Redstate (full disclosure: banned), when I got into arguments over the difference between Marriage As Religious Ceremony and Marriage As Manila Folder Stuff, there wasn’t *ANYONE* who was willing to defend, say, denial of hospital visitation rights. People weren’t willing to defend parents who had disowned their children then going on to contest the wills of these same children. The nuts and bolts of contract and civil protections were waved away as stuff that they weren’t against. It was the, ahem, “redefinition of marriage” that they opposed.

              And that turned into “so get the State out of Marriage and give everyone civil unions!” argument, or the “they shouldn’t call their civil protections ‘marriage'” argument (which I always giggled at, myself… as if that weren’t a First Amendment issue in itself), or the “I am not a bigot!” argument which was as tedious as any/all “I am not a bigot!” arguments end up being.Report

          • Kim in reply to Dan Miller says:

            it’s one thing to find /gays/ as people squicky. but I’m certain many people who are pro gay marriage (da principle) are probably still squicked out about gay sex.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

              Transgenderism squicks me. In a way that homosexuality doesn’t but used to. But I don’t support withholding rights on that basis. The same applies to me and homosexuality fifteen years ago, when I supported gay marriage but was still squicked by homosexuality. Transgenderism is further back than homosexuality, on the popular radar, but it’s an ongoing process, I think.Report

              • Dan Miller in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think that you’re underestimating how unusual you truly are. Most people spend very little time thinking about morality and how it relates to public policy; the average person on the street, who would be bored to tears by discussions at the League (no offense!) tends to default to a “squicky=should maybe be illegal, although I’m not necessarily going to get up off the couch and march about it”. The key to ensuring gay rights (or transgender rights, interracial marriage, or what have you) is to make it so that fewer and fewer people find these things squicky. This can come through exposure to the phenomenon; it’s hard to be grossed out by gay people when your best friend is gay. This can also come through shame–if you feel unpopular and shunned when you express that you find homosexuality squicky, you can actually train yourself not to find it so (or, as an intermediate step, to not talk about your belief). But eventually we need to ensure that people aren’t squicked out by gay sex any more than by straight sex.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Dan Miller says:

                I think that’s true on an instinctual level, and an immediate one, but I don’t think it’s impervious to other considerations.

                Remember the Seinfeld episode “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”? They clearly had issues with homosexuality. Their protestations were actually indicative of this. Yet, I don’t think either of them would have hesitated to support marriage equality, though.

                We may not be disagreeing here as much as we think. There’s a difference between “squicky” and “they will burn in hell for eternity.” In the latter case, you’re right that they’re not going to support gay marriage no matter how much you appeal to other values. In the former case? I think there are already a lot of people out there that are already doing it.

                Heck, Eminem supports gay marriage.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Dan Miller says:

                There are lots of things that I’m told heterosexual couples do that squick the hell out of me.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                You should avoid playing Cards Against Humanity then. 😉Report

              • NewDealer in reply to M.A. says:

                I might be the last person who does not get the appeal of this game. It seems to me that I know a lot of liberal’s who play it in private and make the comments that they would condemn people for.Report

              • Glyph in reply to M.A. says:


              • Bob2 in reply to M.A. says:

                It’s a matter of intent NewDealer.
                What the game teaches one person is not the same as it may teach another. The premise of the game is that you’re looking for the most wrong thing to say, meaning it’s reinforcing that you shouldn’t say it in public and that it’s also WRONG.

                Unlike, say, Family Guy.Report

      • zic in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Your comment reminds me of how we used to view slatternly women; and how this has changed. There was not much middle ground 100 years ago; as fictionally demonstrated by a recent episode of Downton Abbey where Lord Grantham goes to retrieve his wife, mother, and daughters who are dining in a house where a former prostitute works as housekeeper/cook/maid. Unsuccessfully retrieve, I might add. The pudding was too good to waste; this slatternly servant had some redeemable skill after all.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic says:

          I can understand, from the perspective of women, gays, minorities both racial and religious and all that… I can understand frustration with the pace of progress. I can understand the frustration that soft bigotry still exists.

          I can understand the desire to appear equal in the minds of everyone is as important… if not more so for many people… than the desire to actually *be* equal.

          But particularly for the case of political activity, pushing for actual equality is more important than appearing equal. And there is no systemic way to convince people that you are equal.

          At our Little League opening ceremony, the guest opening speaker was a former MLB player with an impressive string of credentials. He talked a lot about the virtues of hard work, and practice, and good sportsmanship, and he did just an excellent job of speaking. Except for one thing, he consistently referred to the players as, “the boys”.

          Now, granted, our co-ed little league is massively skewed towards boys. But the girls are there. They don’t deserve to be excluded as part of the audience. Now, granted, most of them probably wouldn’t notice it even if you pointed it out to them, they’re almost all little ones.

          Now, granted, what the guy was saying was indicative of his growing up environment and he’s probably given that speech 50 times and the first 45 times he gave it it was probably all boys. He’s probably a great guy, he’s got all the earmarks of it. He probably doesn’t go around trying to implement sexist social policy. He’s speaking from a place of privilege that he doesn’t know he inhabits.

          I’m sure that if he came to the recognition that he’s got implicitly male language in his speech, it’d be good for him. I’m sure that somebody pointing this out to him will have mixed results.

          I’m pretty sure if “bigotry” follows the same road as “racism”, tagging him as a bigot will make him feel like you’re saying he’s a guy that beats his wife. I’m not sure this leads to progress on his part. I’m not sure it leads to progress on society’s part, either.Report

          • zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            I think my point is that were you asked to give a similar speech, you would not gender it toward boys, but to boys and girls. That progress does happen, and the things we think squishy and horrible and unthinkable last year or ten years ago we find acceptable and take pride in now.

            Just imagine when, some day in the future, boys aren’t afraid to say they want to play field hockey. Or learn how to knit. (Cause, you know, girls do really cool stuff, too.)Report

      • Aidian in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Maybe not, but it’s something we should personally aspire to, and it’s exactly that kind of thing that should be a principle of our public policy.

        To suggest that your view on sin should be a basis for law is a scary prospect. Perhaps a larger issue is that a lot of people believe there is no separation of church and state.Report

    • James Vonder Haar in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      I don’t think this is something that “we” do. I think the knee-jerk reaction that calling someone a “racist” means that you’re willing to turn the fire hoses and dogs on peaceful civil rights protesters is a psychological defense mechanism first and foremost. It’s trivially easy to imagine some kind of “other,” then convince yourself that what you’re doing is okay because you’re not as bad as that “other.” So you have a cartoonish caricature of a racist in your head, you know you’re not that, and in affirming that you’re conveniently off the hook for taking the criticisms seriously.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

        Well said. I think this is part of the problem.

        Many people especially on the right see racist as someone very open and cartoonish like Bull Connor. They think anything less than Bull Connor=Not Racist. Or at least that is what I get from their columns and writings on-line.Report

  18. Jaybird says:

    Dennis, there’s an argument that I used to use that, I think, planted a few seeds. I don’t get much opportunity to use it anymore because, well… I don’t really have conversations with anyone who needs to hear it anymore. I suppose that’s on me.

    Anyway, the argument comes from Acts 10:9-16. It’s the story of Peter’s vision of all manner of “unclean” food being lowered from heaven in a sheet and The Lord saying “Peter! Eat up!” and Peter saying “Lord, I have never eaten anything unclean!” and The Lord saying “What The Lord has made clean, do not call it unclean.” Like anything interesting, this happens three times.

    I’ve seen this argument used not only for why Peter was to give The Gospel to gentiles, I’ve seen the argument used for why it’s okay for Christians to eat bacon. I’m sure you’ve seen the same.

    Well, I tried to explain to Christian folks that they shouldn’t call people clean or unclean anymore. Like, even if they’re gay. We live under a New Covenant. It just took us a while to understand what that means.

    I don’t think I changed any minds with this argument… but I did get some folks to stop to think. Or, at least, I think I did.Report

  19. Nob Akimoto says:

    I think as a society, the US has a serious problem in dealing with bigotry as a reality. Whether it’s sexism, racism, classism or homophobia, Americans have a very difficult time dealing with the reality that cultural norms do color us in ways that lead to blind spots, but are in fact pervasively bigoted.

    Bigotry has been so thoroughly elevated as a great evil that most people will rationalize their prejudiced policy preferences as being based on some other reason than bigotry and be content to do so. The typical “I have an xyz friend” excuse is a key indicator of this sort of thinking.

    In so far as society asks for bigotry to be contained, the US at least does so on the basis of action. You can’t fire people for being a classification. You can’t attack them or deny them housing or loans. Whereas speech or thought is not regulated and we’ve seen during the past four years an increasing show of just how far there is left to go through the off the record speech of a lot of white politicians.

    I suppose one could go the route of Germany and thoroughly stamp out the very notion of Nazism/bigotry as a separate approach. I don’t think this would be particularly productive.Report

  20. M.A. says:

    Wow, Dennis.

    We JUST got done in another post deconstructing what sort of a bigot Dreher is and showing it with his past writings, and here you are defending him.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

      What’s your point? Are you criticizing him for daring to favorably reference Dreher, or are you praising him for his bravery in going against the crowd?Report

      • M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’m simply shocked and going to assume he wasn’t paying attention to the other discussion. Dreher’s protestations of “waah conservatives are mistreated by the media” are the kind of crocodile tear nonsense I’ve zero patience for any more.

        Or to put it another way, as was stated previously:

        As Ryan said, it need not be meeting every argument with “that’s just like the Nazis.”

        But it should include not bothering to claim that their side has legitimate points when they don’t. And not taking seriously their claims of “unfair” coverage when the news coverage of the issues doesn’t agree with their bigoted worldview.

        We don’t go looking for a Klan member every time there’s a story on race relations.
        We don’t go looking for a flat-earther every time there’s a story on space exploration.

        And we are in no way obligated to dignify the homophobes of the far right wing with even a single column-inch or scant second of airtime to “reflect”, and thereby validate, their bigoted views in the public discourse.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

          I’m simply shocked and going to assume he wasn’t paying attention to the other discussion.

          Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was writing about above. Thanks for reinforcing my point.Report

        • Dave in reply to M.A. says:

          I’m going to cover both of M.A.’s posts here.

          We JUST got done in another post deconstructing what sort of a bigot Dreher is and showing it with his past writings, and here you are defending him.

          No, but it was a cute attempt by a few of you to do it. I don’t mind seeing a defense of Dreher’s post here because it gives me the opportunity for me to agree with some of what you wrote below:

          But it should include not bothering to claim that their side has legitimate points when they don’t. And not taking seriously their claims of “unfair” coverage when the news coverage of the issues doesn’t agree with their bigoted worldview.

          Why not? Have you read Robert George’s What Is Marriage? The arguments were plenty legitimate to me, but I wasn’t convinced by any of them. I know that Professor George’s socially conservative leanings could very well take him to the right of someone like a Rick Santorum, but that does not mean the arguments he put forth in his most recent article (which was expanded into a small book) are illegitmate.

          Ok, so you have no patience for Dreher’s whining? That’s fair, but since people that don’t believe the other side has legitimate arguments are the cause of it (and for no good reason seeing as his arguments are easily countered), I say we put some sunlight on the other side’s arguments (those of a legitimate nature – including the fact that a substantial portion of the opposition to SSM is rooted in bigotry as opposed to defending an institution) and go from there. What’s the harm if you can knock down everything they throw at you and take away the victimhood card at the same time?


          And we are in no way obligated to dignify the homophobes of the far right wing with even a single column-inch or scant second of airtime to “reflect”, and thereby validate, their bigoted views in the public discourse.

          I agree, and it disappoints me to see someone like Dreher lament about the perception of bigotry and ignore the fact that his side of the SSM debate is chock full of bigots. I can appreciate Dennis’ concern, but there is a sizable group of people in this country that will not stop until gays are relegated back into the closets. There is no other word to describe people like this.

          Because of this, Dreher’s definition of fairness is a red herring. He implores journalists to read Robert George’s book on marriage as if that is what is defining the debate while ignoring the real bigotry that is the far more powerful force outside of his intellectual bubble and one that has already been dealt with by journalists by rightly casting it out of polite discourse.Report

    • Chris in reply to M.A. says:

      This comment not only convinced me that its author’s position is self-evidently correct, but will undoubtedly convince the author of the original post, to whom this comment is addressed, that he has been led astray, and should alter his thinking to make it more in line with this comment. It, the comment, is invaluable, and I think its author for adding so much to the discourse on this issue with it.Report

  21. Burt Likko says:

    When we speak of bigotry, aren’t we at least implying a degree of intent or will to the bigot’s attitude? Whatever other flaws one might find in the prolific Ms. McArdle’s writing, surely we can agree that she is right in the excerpt that all people have stray thoughts now and again to which they mostly do not give voice and do not overtly act upon but which are present and are ugly. There’s a little bit of a racist in each of us; we socialize to keep that inner racist under control.

    But the word “bigot” implies, at least to me, someone who has been confronted with the fact of racism or some other sort of invidious attitude. And that person resists attempts to change. Instead of putting a leash on those stray ugly thoughts like the rest of us do, instead of relegating that inner racist to a dark closet far in back of the mental house away from where any guest might see it, the bigot is quite happy to yield that inner racist a soapbox. The bigot is told, “Dude, that wasn’t cool what you just said,” and responds by repeating it, louder and more stridently. The bigot tap-dances out rationalizations and justifications for broadcasting the indefensible.

    So the resistant pastors and church leaders Dennis writes about? Are they bigots, by that definition? I suspect the answer to that question is “yes,” since the very purpose of the conference that brought them together was to share thoughts on openly including LGBTQ people in congregations and clergy and community. That implies that the thoughts were had, that each individual spent some time considering the issue before sitting down to share their attitudes.

    As for a Christian church, if there’s one thing that I can commend evangelicals for, it’s their popularization of the rhetorical question “What would Jesus do?” I don’t have to be Christian myself to have some appreciation for the moral message Jesus preached. And it was most certainly an inclusive message. He reached out in his ministry to all sorts of unpopular segments of his society and deliberately preached that they could be morally superior to the elites, that they could and should be valued within the community.

    The most Christian thing I’ve ever heard of, one which still brings a little choke and tear, is the story of a Muslim community in suburban Memphis, Tennessee. Local leaders got all up in arms when the Muslim community began to try to acquire land and build a mosque; prejudice against the Muslims was manifest and ugly. So a Baptist church got together and sent a message to the leaders of the Muslim community: “We aren’t using our buildings all that much on Fridays. Please borrow our buildings, and hold your services there until you get up an running.” The pastor said something like “We asked what Jesus would do in our situation, and the answer we came up with was, he’d welcome his new neighbors with open arms and no questions, offering up whatever he had available to make their lives better.” And that’s the right answer, the generous and loving answer, the answer that builds communities and exhibits strong morality, and most importantly, the easy and obvious answer. Even for an atheist like me, it was the answer that optimally reflected the very best that Christianity has to offer the world and made me want to hug all my Christian friends.

    So why should it be any less easy or any less obvious for an LGBTQ person than a Muslim?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Excellent Burt. And one part in particular strikes me as the crux of the issue:

      That implies that the thoughts were had, that each individual spent some time considering the issue before sitting down to share their attitudes.

      I think that’s where things get sticky for most people. For me, it’s where they start to become unstuck.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I feel as though this might be setting a standard that might be too hard for most to live up to.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Which attitude is that?

        A) The attitude of unquestioning openness and love manifested in Christianity.


        B) The attitude of acknowledging imperfection within oneself and exerting conscious internal effort to improve and control those imperfections.

        I agree that both are indeed challenging and I agree that a lot of people, including many who claim to aspire to those standards, in fact do not do all that much to actually fulfill them.

        But I disagree that either is impossible for reasonable, ordinary people. Christians do fulfill the moral mandates of their religion. People do tame their inner racists. In my more optimistic moments, I see the world through a lens in which both these things happen with some frequency. In my more cynical moments, significantly less so, because behaving in either way carries a cost that many people seem to be reluctant to pay. All the same, it’s at least common enough that likely each and every one of us knows people who do these things.Report

  22. Nob Akimoto says:

    Also I’m not actually sure if someone who approvingly continues to link to Steve Sailer is NOT the equivalent of a racist….Report

  23. ThatPirateGuy says:

    Fine to quite McCardle she does repeat the standard ‘we can’t discuss race anymore because racists will freak out if you push back argument.’

    I can’t say that I find the ‘racism is over’ why can’t I use racial slurs argument very convincing. I am not moved by it. Growing up in the south and hearing to this day my father use racial slurs while at home I can’t believe that racism is gone and that liberals are just smearing conservatives.

    Flying the confederate flag is simply too prevelent, too many people make racist jokes. Too many Brooklyn assemblymen(D) dress in blackface, too many people make racist tweets for me to pretend that the problems of racism are over or limited to one region or party.

    So I must withhold my sympathy for those upset that someone perceived them as racist. I save my concern for those on the receiving end.Report

  24. greginak says:

    I apologize for even discussing McMegan.
    I think there is an oddity in this conversation that most of us on the left side feel although its been expressed in different ways. There is a point being made that the way to discuss anti-gay ideas is not by calling people bigots since its counterproductive. As an aside i don’t particularly disagree with that.

    But the point being made seems to be that the problem with talking with people who are “anti-gay”/against gay marriage/bigots/whatever is those darn liberals. Its liberal fault for polluting the term bigot or racist. For the official record i’ve said many times i think people overuse those words and that is not helpful. But its just rings odd that people seem to be stating that liberals are the problem in having discussions with “bigots” etc. Why wouldn’t the people with the “bigoted” beliefs or who think gays are going to hell on high speed train built by government funds be the issue. Maybe i’m missing the point, but that seems to be what i’m seeing.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      It’s easier to talk about whether so-and-so is a bigot (or about whether what he said was bigoted) than it is to talk about the appropriateness of using force to prevent people from exercising their rights.Report

    • zic in reply to greginak says:

      Nice point, North.

      Part of this very well trend on lots of socially contentious issues stems from the perceived horrors, both real and imagined, of ‘politically correct’ speech. If you point out that something’s racist/bigoted/misogynistic/homophobic, you must be a liberal spouting PC nonsense and not worth hearing.

      I really suspect most of you are too young to have witnessed the full force of that development, but it’s now a leftover tic; and it constantly fails to actually parse the importance of speech that includes people in civil life and the damage of policing of speech as a litmus test.Report

      • greginak in reply to zic says:

        I hope your not confusing me with North…….not that there is anything wrong with thatReport

        • zic in reply to greginak says:

          I did. It’s storming today (we’re supposed to get 18″ to 2′ of snow,) and it rattle my brain. North’s name was stuck in my head when I replied, and I humbly beg both of you to forgive the unintended confusion.

          (This is why I stopped writing professionally; brain inflammation scrambles my language abilities, and I cannot conduct an interview, take good notes, or write a finished piece in this condition. Sadly, I often don’t know it’s happening until someone else points it out. Thank you for doing so gently.)Report

  25. Will Truman says:

    Dennis, I hope that this derailed conversation doesn’t inhibit future participation. I’ve been mainly deciding whether or not to do a follow-up post, which is why my participation has been minimal. In the event that I don’t…

    I tend to agree with the substance of the post. The more depth we wish the charge of bigotry to have, the more limited we should be in the application of it. If it’s progress that we can define these things down, though, that’s progress! And I don’t object to it, though I don’t respond the same way when I hear someone accuse someone else of being a bigot or a racist than I did fifteen years ago, when I associated these terms with more severe behavior than they are often currently associated with.

    I do view there as being more parallels between interracial marriage and gay marriage than I think you do. Whether, tactically speaking, it is best to follow that blueprint or another I am not sure. I do think that in the Civil Rights movement, the biggest game-changer was the application of shame. The same can be said of the progress that SSM has been making in recent years. I think a lot of more hard-pressed people on the SSM and LBQT side often overapply it, though and the result is a hardening.

    The strongest image for the cause of gay marriage is a loving couple. Though I was already in favor, I remember how much more empassioned I became on the subject when I went to my first gay wedding. When it ceased to be abstract and became more real. Meeting Russell, Jason, and Scott, went even further. As a straight man, it’s not my place to talk about whether gay people should be in the closet or out of it, but it’s been the cause of a lot of progress, in my view. Seeing gay couples as loving couples – the way that we eventually moved towards seeing black men and women as men and women* helped make a lot of change possible then.

    * – This should not be construed as a statement in support of the notion that racism is a thing of the past.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

      Derailed and off-on-a-tagent conversations are what make the League great!

      Though if we were really a League, we would have secret decoder ringsReport

    • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

      I should note that while I was a major contributor to that derailment, it was in fact because I thought Dennis’s post was worthy of a lot more than the simplistic dismissals that were among the first responses. Perhaps my approach did more harm than good so far as getting anyone to think about what he’d written, but if it led to hell it had good intentions toward the OP.Report

  26. John Howard Griffin says:

    Give a brother (Dennis) a break.

    Y’all are like pirhanas, sometimes, just waiting for the next tasty bit to be thrown in the water. And, of course, so am I, sometimes.

    Less volume. Don’t take 100 words to say 5. More listening. Better Editing. For all of you.

    Mr. Saunders, I hear you, but I don’t want to give up the hate. It feels too good. Keeps me alive. Peace.Report

  27. greginak says:

    Here’s a question for the assembled masses. There have been a lot of questions asked about whether calling someone this or that is likely to change their behavior. Certainly a valid question. But how many people here, or in any poli forum, are thinking about changing others behavior? Who comments here to evangelize for their POV. I know i don’t nor did it really occur to me. I think about this place as a spot for interesting conversations, exchange of different ideas, learning from others and hearing different POV’s. Changing other peoples beliefs comes somewhere way after all those things.

    So who is here to evangelize?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

      I am here in part for defensive evangelion. Which is to say that I do not expect to be able to convince people of anything (I do have a couple notches in my belt, but over a long period of time), but I do want people to have a better understanding of where the other side is coming from. Which is one of the reasons I tend to be contrarian. I don’t need to explain why people support gay marriage, for instance. (It’s also why I am among the more anxious here about The League achieving too much consensus.)

      But beyond that, even if the point isn’t to convince, the point should at least be able to communicated. If a particularly charge or take derails a conversation, or shuts down the mind of the other, then what am I accomplishing? What’s the point? I can yell at a poster on the wall, if that’s what I am interested in. Not only will the wall not change its mind, it won’t sharpen mine.

      (There is a place for a discussion about whether opposition to SSM is inherently bigoted. It’s not a worthless discussion. But in discussing the issue of SSM, it’s better not to levy that charge, in large part because that’s what the conversation is going to be about. Not the subject itself, but whether the other side is or is not bigoted. If the other side chooses to participate, that is, which they often choose not to.)Report

  28. Michael Drew says:

    On the McArdle dispute, here is the full section of her post dealing with racism as a powerful label (as a case to consider alongside child molestation). I don’t think anyone who has attempted to summarize it in this thread, in good faith or otherwise, has gotten it right. So I think we should let it speak for itself:

    This does not, by the way, apply only to legal crimes. We’ve stigmatized racists in much the same way: to be a racist is almost by definition to be a terrible person, or at least, a person who has very terrible thoughts. But now liberals complain that they cannot have a discussion about race with conservatives without the conservatives taking horrible offense and acting as if the accusation of racism were worse than racism itself.
    But this is the natural result of making racism into something so terrible that to utter an obviously racist remark is to brand yourself as an outcast. You can’t have it both ways–say that racism is so terrible that even subtle manifestations deserve to be stigmatized by all right-thinking people, and then turn around and say that everyone’s a little bit racist and you’re just trying to have a conversation about how we can all pull together to build a more race-tolerant society.
    That taboo is a good thing in many ways; I believe that social sanction keeps quite a bit of racism from being expressed, or acted upon. But the flip side is that there is no such thing as an accusation of “mild” racism, any more than there are moderately bad child molesters. If you call someone racist, you are invoking a huge social taboo. (Something that, I must confess, I don’t think all the complaining liberals are entirely unaware of.) But inherent to a taboo’s power is the fact that it’s only rarely invoked.
    In the cases of child molesting and racism, I think we’ve chosen the right tradeoff. (In the case of probation, I think we haven’t, as I’ll outline in my book). But we should understand that it’s a tradeoff: the stiffer the social or legal punishment, the steeper the burden of proof that accusers must climb.


    • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

      See, I’d think it was 250 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow that made racists by definition terrible people. And the fact the McArdle thinks it’s liberals being mean that did it just shows what a fundamentally unserious lightweight she is.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:


      • This is a bit uncharitable, I think.

        I do think that McArdle overstates the degree to which it’s liberal social conditioning that makes racism such a taboo subject, to some degree I think it was the white middle class writ large who decided somewhere in the late 60s to define the most egregious Jim Crow practices and George Wallace style racism as the qualifications for “Racism” perhaps as a means of preserving some of their status without guilt.

        In so far as that segment of society was liberal, it’s a liberal problem, one that we struggle with now that our coalition is less white, less middle class.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Michael Drew says:

      To be fair, I checked blogpost review aggregator, and McArdle’s post only got a 27%. Here’s a representative sampling of audience reviews:

      Mork4Eva – “THE WORST EVA…The Michael Bay of blogging…feces….rotten meat. “

      Pascal’sBagel – “Purgative poppycock!”

      CalmPond – “Horrible. Indubitably, Blogging’s Greatest Monster. A must-read.”

      $ymb0l – “I. Loved. It. Would totally gay-marry McMegan’s post, if it didn’t squick God out to see a man lie with pixels as he would with a woman!”Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Glyph says:

        You owe me a new keyboard.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

        Everyone lies with pixels!

        But seriously, I don’t get the hate. It’s not a tremendously insightful post, and it’s possible she’s just wrong, but the response really seems to be overboard, and of the “how dare she suggest we that might be any part of the communication problem,” type. But the very outrage of the response to such a claim tends to reinforce rather than refute it.

        Honestly, I’ve personally been part of the communication breakdown she talks about. Before Jason K’s Positive Liberty folded, I wrote a post titled “No Good Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” and in the ensuing discussion I suggested that anyone who had any opposition to it was a bigot. I still tend to think that’s true, but it wasn’t conducive to good argument, it didn’t sway them, and if anything it just put their backs up–just as my critical comments here put the liberals’ backs up.

        If anyone thinks McArdle is saying much more than that, they’re engaging in the kind of uncharitable reading that we supposedly discourage at the League. Maybe she doesn’t deserve a charitable reading because she’s not a Leaguer, or because she’s evil and stupid, but I find that a hard sell.Report

  29. Damon says:

    This may be slightly off point..

    but I really don’t care about anyone’s personal views, as long as they can get along with folks in society. All that requires is a minimal amount of politeness and courtesy. I may disagree with someone on a particular issue, or many, but even in the intensity of an argument, I’ll not attack them personally. I expect the same from everyone else.

    If you find my presence objectionable, leave the area. If you own the place, ask me to leave politely. What you think or do in your home is none of my business, I expect the same from you.

    Note: I’ve actually worked with a Neo Nazi. Have any of you guys actually worked/interacted over a long term with an “extremist”? How do I know? He was in a band and played a demo record for some co-worker. Co-worker informed me that the lyrics were, how should we say, pretty much akin to “white power”. As long as he’s not rocking the boat at work, I frankly didn’t care that much. I’m happy to counter demonstrate against him, or vote down anything he might want to propose, but as long as he was polite and courtesy at work, I didn’t care what he did at home, frankly, he was the mildest mannered, polite person I’ve ever seen. That was the only thing that really raised an eyebrow with me.Report

  30. GordonHide says:

    Have you ever considered that this problem might be caused by an over fondness for labels? Every human being is many faceted, (and I don’t mean two-faced). Any label that you apply to them serves to mask this fact and is therefore not necessarily a good thing.Report