Simcha Fisher is Magnificent

So, over at National Review, rich jailbird neocon ["salvation-through-consumerist-hedonism heretic" inserted here since the exquisite sensitivities of some readers require it] Conrad Black is busy telling the Pope to get on board with the rich neocon heretic view that babies are a nuisance and the Church should get over that whole thing with the Pill so as to be better positioned to support the contracepting and child-murdering West should it launch more wars on the Islamosphere.  The man is, like all neocon salvation-through-consumerist-hedonism heretics, full of himself and his utopian certainty that he knows what’s best for the Church and everybody else.  All to be expected from the End to Evil crowd who have been selectively reading the Church’s teaching ever since Garry “Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition” Wills said “Mater, Si! Magistra, No!” and kicked off the pretense of the “Faithful Conservative Dissenter” that immediately bore fruit in the birth of the “Faithful Progressive Dissenter” such as, oh, Garry Wills.

So: rich neocon salvation-through-militaristic-consumerist-hedonism heretic subverts Church.  Dog bites man.  Nothing new.  But here’s the thing: this particular rich neocon salvation-through-consumerist-hedonism heretic is supposed to be a publisher.  You know, somebody who uses language for a living.  Somebody who is supposed to be able to write.  And yet, in his struggle to Keep the Faith and Change the Church[TM] the guy commits this paragraph–and the editors at NRO let him get away with it:

The sex-abuse crisis has been a horrible and shaming problem, but Catholicism’s enemies have amplified and exploited it to incite the inference that most of the Roman clergy are deviates compounding superstition with perversion. The most frequent and wishful version of these events is as a mighty coruscation before the great Christian scam expires in a Wagnerian inferno, an inadvertent Waco. It took the most antagonistic pundits, in their uncomprehending skepticism of the viability of what they regard as a medieval flimflam factory anyway, only one day to assimilate the election of a man none of them had mentioned, in their omniscience, as a contender, before pronouncing his papacy dead on arrival at the Sistine Chapel.

And all the people cried, “Huh?”  Seriously, could anybody follow that?  Simcha Fisher responds with deadly comedic force:

Coruscation?  Uncomprehending skepticism of the viability of what they regard as a medieval flimflam factory?  I’m sorry, has someone checked in on this guy lately?  I think he’s having a stroke.

If anybody has the strength to wade through both pages of this masturbatory mess, please let me know what it’s about.  Furthermore, circumstantial evidentiary horticulture would presume,  one would cogitate, an obstreperous de-regimentation of, if you will, unregurgitated foofaraw, if you know what I mean.

On the bright side, apart from people who already agree with the rich, illiterate, neocon salvation-through-consumerist-hedonism heretic I can’t see anybody being persuaded by this piece since I can’t see anybody being able to understand this pretentious syntactic linguini.  He makes George Bush sound like Shakespeare.

Seriously, even the single most coherent sentence in the piece is an incoherent mess: “I do not underestimate, and am not qualified to discuss, the theological arguments involved.”

Dude: You obviously do underestimate the theological arguments involved or you would not have written this sloppy mess.  And you yourself acknowledge that when you say you are not qualified to discuss those arguments.  Since the Church’s entire argument on this matter is theological, you have just acknowledged that you are not qualified to write this stupid, stupid piece.  Or rather, you are only qualified to write this stupid, stupid piece.  You are not qualified to actually instruct the Church on what she should be teaching.

Update: NRO publishes this rebuttal by KLo.  Bully for them.  They remain a journal where orthodoxy is optional.  But as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was fond of pointing out, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

  • B.E. Ward

    Black’s article is *screaming* for a reply from Tony Esolen…..

  • Dustin

    Looked up the purportedly Buckleian quip just now. Huh. Had no idea it was Wills’, though I know he used to be Bill’s pet Jesuit.

  • Michaelus

    Coruscation is a pretty good word though…..and rather than the cliched onanist reference Simcha should have said “omphalosceptic”.

  • Chris M

    “Look, I know what I know because I have to know it and if I don’t have to know it I don’t tell me and I don’t let anyone else tell me, either.” -Mr. Garibaldi in Bablyon 5.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    For the past 30 years or so, the GOP has at least pretended to care about traditional values. I think most of it has largely been a pretense, but at least they tried to wear the mask. That mask is coming off.

    • Theodore Seeber

      I thought the mask came off with “Read my Lips, No New Taxes” George H. W. Bush (41).

      But I think that rain is wet,so what do I know?

  • Claude

    And all the people cried, “Huh?”

    LOL

  • Blog Goliard

    Points generally well-taken…but I once again urge you, Mark, to retire that all-purpose swear word of indeterminate meaning, “neocon”.

    There’s ever so much to eviscerate in what Black’s actually written–and you’re so good at eviscerating it–that it only lessens the piece and provokes sympathy for the target when you throw in the cheap name-calling (“rich jailbird neocon”…c’mon, Mark, you’re better than that…unless you really do hate the sinner as well as the sin).

    • Mark Shea

      Neocon: A person who claims to be guided by and a follower of conservative ideals and principles, but in reality is primarily and mostly just the opposite. While they may take a conservative stance on a few periphery issues, and even speak in conservative terms and espouse conservative ideas, they are in reality individuals who at their core are functionally anti-conservative.

      Seems to summarize Black pretty well. He poses as a conservative Catholic, in the quintessentially neocon National Review, to tell the Pope to stop conserving the Tradition.

      • Blog Goliard

        A well-chosen link. One can hardly do better than Urban Dictionary when exploring the various possible meanings of amorphous swear-words.

        • Mark Shea

          Actually, Urban Dictionary is pretty useful for getting at the meaning of terms in pop culture. It is, in fact, what people generally mean by Neocon. And the pretense of conserving while in fact trying to destroy is the very essence of what Conrad Black is attempting in this piece.

          • The Jerk

            I dunno, if you can stomach to read it, Black seems to say the Church needs to get with the times to better be able to do battle with radical Islam. Seems pretty neocon to me.
            Black writes:
            “A Church Militant, tolerant but strong, and not hobbled by absurd controversies over contraception, will be a mighty rampart against the outrageous gibe of Islam that the West is a completely profane and blasphemous society.”

            • Mark Shea

              It’s so important that the Church back rich fornicators so that we can make war on Muslims and bring the blessings of “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!” to a new market. That’s what the faith is all about, isn’t it? And man, it’s *outrageous* to call the west profane and blasphemous. Madonna should write a song about that slur.

          • Blog Goliard

            “the pretense of conserving while in fact trying to destroy”

            Really? *Trying* to destroy? Conrad Black is a mole?

            That’s a rather different argument than the claim (entirely justifiable, here) that he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

            But then, he’s in good company. A reference to “the quintessentially neocon National Review” is not a sign that one knows what one’s talking about either.

            • Mark Shea

              Yes. Trying to destroy. In this case, it’s the Church’s moral teaching.

              Nothing brings forth a rush of intense pity for injustice like insulting a rich and powerful guy.

            • antigon

              ‘A reference to “the quintessentially neocon National Review” is not a sign that one knows what one’s talking about either.’

              Absolutely true, since NR is only essentially neocon, faithfully singing hosannas to whatever quintessentially neocon policies get announced by the Weekly Standard. Or is so unless you hold, & for the same reasons, that like ‘abortion’ & ‘torture’ the word ‘neocon’ is simply impossible to define.

          • The True Willl

            “What people generally mean by neocon” is “conservative I dislike and want to demonize”.

            I have noticed that in these comboxes, Buckley (who is surely the icon of “paleoconservatism”) has been labeled both “neoconservative” AND “libertarian” (which would surprise every libertarian I know, and especially David Friedman, who wrote “Is William F. Buckley a Contagious Disease?”)

      • Kristen inDallas

        Whether or not he IS a neo-con…. I think I’d still prefer to call him a conservative (or republican). Because the best thing about this article is it’s use in disuading a few of my “liberal” (do-whatever-the-republican-party-says-not-to-do) friends in their stance re. birth control. As in “Look! Classic Mysogonist Republican (TM) endorses the pill. SEEEE! The church was right, it really does oppress women!”
        Note- I do not believe all republicans are mysoginists – but I know people who do.

        • http://www.usmc.mil S. Murphy

          Nice. I can think of some people that need that reverse-psych argument bounced off them.

        • antigon

          Ms. Dallas: Since he is not remotely a conservative & only a Republican to the extent it upholds neocon policy, it is arguable your preference is misguided.

  • Dan

    “Since the Church’s entire argument on this matter is theological, you have just acknowledged that you are not qualified to write this stupid, stupid piece.”

    Well, alot of the argument is also philosophical in nature, not that it makes much difference since he’s not made much of a philosophical argument either.

    … Why does it seem like no one teaches Scholastic philosophy anymore?

    • Marthe Lépine

      Because scholastic philosophy does not contribute to training “obedient workers” who will be happy with a small salary and will not ask any question?

  • Tim in Cleveland

    The final paragraph is the best, in my opinion. I especially like this sentence:

    “Until it engages in just a couple of needful steps of modernization, the Roman Catholic Church will be denying Western civilization the ability to respond as decisively as it otherwise could and should to these charges, and denying itself the assumption of its rightful status as a contemporary, as well as timeless, moral force.”

    Nothing says “timeless moral force” like changing your doctrines to appease “febrile critics”.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      And if it isn’t already occupying the “timeless moral force” spot, then how is it capable of “denying Western civilization” anything at all?

  • http://gloriaromanorum.blogspot.com/ Florentius

    The GOP is even less moral than the Democrats. The Democrats are at least honest about being the party of bacchanalian morality. The GOP has been lying about it for votes all these years.

    I am so done with them.

  • Cinlef

    As a Canadian I’m deeply sorry my country inflicted Conrad Black on the world, since he’s i) generally wrong, ii) insanely unutterably pompous to the point that even when he is right one is inclined to disagree with him iii) His prominence in Canadian media circles means that his opinions on all sorts of thing are published regardless of whether he has any idea what he’s talking about.

    • http://gladius-spiritus.blogspot.ca/ bear

      Between Black and Bieber, we have inflicted grave harm upon the world.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Don’t forget Celine Dion and Alex Trebek. Thanks for movie theaters, though!

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

          At least you have apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions!

      • KML

        I’m still waiting for my Conrad Black toothbrush.

        • Mark Shea

          Conrad Black *Singing* Toothbrush.

          • KML

            If it sings ten-cent words absent any context, I’m in.

  • Teresa B.

    Conrad Black converted to the Catholic faith through the late Cardinal Carter of Toronto – a signer of the Winnipeg Statement.

    • Mike Harrison

      Oh, well, then … probably a freemason and a homosexual too!

  • ivan_the_mad

    Kirk was unfortunately wrong about the neoconservatives, they were not then nor are they now an endangered species.. But he was right in his assessment of them, as Black’s logorrhea under NRO’s auspices so ably evidences:

    “In their publications, the Neoconservatives thrust upon us a great deal of useful information, and obviously are possessed of considerable knowledge of the world about us. But in the understanding of the human condition and in the apprehension of the accumulated wisdom of our civilization, they are painfully deficient.” — R. Kirk, The Neoconservatives: An Endangered Species

    • Blog Goliard

      An excellent lecture…thanks for mentioning it. I found a PDF copy available via Policy Archive (http://www.policyarchive.org/handle/10207/13324), and am content with much of Mr. Kirk’s tour of “neoconservatism”. Even in 1988, he found it hard to zero in on precisely what was being meant by the term as it got tossed around:

      “Our difficulty here is very like that I encountered when I lectured, a few months ago, on the Libertarians: the appellation Neoconservative, like the appellation Libertarian, is so widely employed, and so variously, as to seem to include people of radically opposed views.”

      But that didn’t stop him from presciently scoring some of their flaws:

      “In short, I am saying that a quasi-religion of Democratic Capitalism cannot do duty for imagination and right reason and prescriptive wisdom, in domestic politics or in foreign relations. An ideology of Democratic Capitalism might be less malign than an ideology of Communism or National Socialism or Syndicalism or Anarchism, but it would not be much more intelligent or humane.”

      The overall impression that I get from Kirk’s critique is that he is glad the “neoconservatives” fled the hard Left (the original neoconservatives were largely secular-Jewish Eastern intellectuals who started drifting rightward from the late ’60s through the early ’80s), but also finds them dangerous allies because he’s not sure they really *have* left behind that many of the habits of mind, traits of character, and fundamental assumptions of the Leftist ideologue. Is that still the essential critique of people variously named “neocon” today? (When, that is, the term is being used with any real meaning at all, and not just a swear-word or synonym for “warmonger” or “Bushie” or “Zionist” or “amoral partisan hack” or what-have-you.)

      • ivan_the_mad

        Kirk wrote that “conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.” He later wrote in the same essay from which I quoted above that Irving Kristol “and various of his colleagues wish to persuade us to adopt an ideology of our own to set against Marxist and other totalist ideologies. Ideology, I venture to remind you, is political fanaticism: at best it is the substitution of slogans for real political thought”. There you have neoconservatism, this ideology which asserts everything from the imperial presidency (at least when it’s a Republican), to the triumph of mass democratic capitalism, to torture, and ignores or outright disdains conservatism (cf. Kirk’s six canons).

        I might add that I’ve no trouble with Mark’s application of the term to either Black or NR/NRO, nor Urban Dictionary’s definition quoted above.

      • antigon

        ‘Is that still the essential critique of people variously named “neocon” today?’

        Mr. Goliard: It can’t be, or at least not for those who insist that, like ‘torture’ & ‘abortion’ (and for comparable reasons), the word neocon must be considered infinitely amorphous.

  • Kate

    Neocon is a code word for pro-Israel conservatives and Jewish, former liberals. Its use in media has dropped considerably over the last 5 years to the point of being rhetorically obsolete. It is almost never used wrt state pols, only national pols and pundits. It says more about the one who uses the term than about the one it is referred to.

    • Mark Shea

      Ah! So when you criticize utopian warmongers and chickenhawks who claim to be conservative while perpetually advocating policies that do not conserve but instead ‘creatively destroy’ you are *really* an anti-semite. Got it. So glad you are so concerned about smearing people.

      • Blog Goliard

        Ah, so now it’s back to the “chickenhawk” slur. Classy.

        And yes, some of us are concerned about smearing people even when Mark Shea finds them contemptible, even if in Mark Shea’s personal catechism there appears the line: “you can treat people as uncharitably and judge them as harshly as you like, so long as they’re public figures, and you really, really hate them”.

        • Mark Shea

          There’s always a surfeit of tender tears of pity for the rich and powerful who order other people to go die.

          Yes. The *really* important issue here is not that a wealthy hedonist is attacking the Church’s teaching. It’s that I was so mean to a wealthy hedonist used a disapproved word. Eyeroll.

          • Blog Goliard

            Your defense is always some variation of “don’t you see, they’re BAD PEOPLE and deserve every possible slur, slander, curse word, angry invective, willful misreading, and outpouring of pure hate I can cast their way”, isn’t it?

            • Mark Shea

              No. My defense is “You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”

            • Mark Shea

              And “pure hate”? Please.

      • Kate

        I never said, nor meant to imply, that were ant-Semitic. You are, however, anti-conservative. I say this not to imply that you’re liberal, just as an observation that you appear to be allergic to conservative people.

        • Mark Shea

          No. I’m conservative by temperament. What I am is opposed to is the Thing that used to be conservatism, of which NRO is exemplary and of which this deeply stupid article by Black is, in particular, an archetype. That you choose to drag in a bunch of irrelevancies about Jews is, to paraphrase somebody, more indicative of your state of mind than of mine.

        • ivan_the_mad

          You are misinformed. Read Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind”. See this link for a high level overview of his thought: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/detail/ten-conservative-principles/

        • antigon

          ‘You are, however, anti-conservative. I say this not to imply that you’re liberal, just as an observation that you appear to be allergic to conservative people.’

          Sorry, Miss Kate, but it is you, not Mr. Shea, who is anti-conservative. I say this not to imply that you’re liberal, just as an observation that you appear to be allergic to conservative principles.

  • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

    “Mater, Si! Magistra, No!”

    That article was in National Review too, in response to Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra. I had no idea that Wills wrote it though.

    • http://proecclesia.blogspot.com Jay Anderson

      There was no article in National Review titled “Mater, Si! Magistra, No!”. Ever. It was a “quip” by Garry Wills:

      “Going the rounds in Catholic conservative circles: ‘Mater si, Magistra no’.”

      That’s bad enough that any “Catholic conservatives” were reacting that way, and that Wills seemed to think it pithy and humorous, without conflating it into a full-fledged article, or, as I’ve heard others claim, a “cover story”.

  • vox borealis

    WHat a very strange post. Black’s position is risible, and that he is Catholic, embarrassing as well. The writing is pompous, but that’s Black’s schtick. Is he a neo-con? Could be, though I’m not sure Mark Shea understands the meaning of the word. It historically refers to disillusioned liberals who became more conservative after getting turned off by the social upheavals and reactionary, anti-war, anti-American sentiment of the far left of the 1960s and 1970s. It tends to refer to those with classical liberal leanings on social and economic issues (i.e., tending toward libertarianism) but are more interventionist in foreign policy that so-called paleoconservatives (who are usually seen as either socially conservative [i.e. religious right types] or protectionist/isolationsist, or both). And yes, the interventionsism also tends to be expressed in strongly pro-Israel policies as well. Again, I think Shea misuses the term, though the what he thinks it means may indeed apply to Black.

    Lastly, why the repeated reference and obviously derisive reference to Black being “rich.” Is that now a sin? I don’t get it.

    • Claude

      Yes. Though my impression is that “neo-conservatives” came to refer more narrowly to signatories of the Project for the New American Century and their sympathizers, that is, neo-imperialist adventurers. Perhaps that is how Shea was using the term. And isn’t the Weekly Standard more identified with neoconservatism than the National Review.

  • Mike Harrison

    A startling misreading of an article! Dislike his style? Okay. Disagree with him? Fine — but the scope of mean-spirited ad hominem is ridiculous. (“Jailbird?” What does his status as a victim of the American “justice” system have to do with it?) Canadian-born, British citizen Lord Black of Crossharbour is a not a Republican — nor, for that matter, an American. A horse’s ass of epic pomposity? Yes, of course, but that’s part of Connie’s je ne sais quoi, a sort of in-joke to which he himself is very much party. And since it’s obvious that the vast majority posting here, including some Canadian naysayers who should know better, are unfamiliar with Black’s written work; I’ll invite you to start with his critically acclaimed biographies of Richard Nixon and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Y’all need to inform yourselves about Connie’s idiosyncrasies, and sense of humour, before letting loose the unworthy verbal vomit you’ve expelled herein.

    • Mark Shea

      Why do I need to inform myself about a horse’s ass when he contributes a brain fart to the GOP Scripture that is NR? I think it is much smarter to read real Scripture and listen to an actual pope than to bother with fake imitations of both.

      Seriously, few things seem to elicit tears of pity faster than harsh words directed at a rich fool.

      • Blog Goliard

        The tears are not for the rich fool.

        • Mark Shea

          Are they for the Journal of Neocon Scripture that saw fit to publish his encyclical to instruct the faithful? Why strain at this lexical gnat while swallowing the camel of NRO publishing the fatuous blatherings of this horse’s ass?

          • Blog Goliard

            Some of them are, yes.

            Why do you presume I’m swallowing the camel?

            • Mark Shea

              Allocation of your rhetorical resources. Arrogant rich guy spits on Church’s teachings and tells them to get with it on facilitating fornication? A small complaint. Blogger criticizes arrogrant rich guy? Multiple posts fretting about lexical details and accusing the blogger of “pure hate”.

              “Pure hate”. Love that. Sure glad you are so worried about judging others.

              • Blog Goliard

                I did not mean to accuse you of having pure hate in your heart. And, just to be clear: it would certainly have been wrong of me if I had tried to so accuse.

                I apologize that my clumsiness and rhetorical overreach caused hurt feelings.

                • Mark Shea

                  Thank you. FWIW, my feelings are not hurt any more than they are hate. I think Black is a fatuous ass, but I’m not seething with hatred toward him.

          • LeeP

            There are two responses to Conrad Black’s piece in NRO – both disagreeing with him and both linked from the homepage.

            • Mark Shea

              So orthodoxy is optional there. Goody. “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” – Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

              • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                One of the advantages of conservatism over liberalism in US politics is conservatism’s willingness to publish the heterodox, grapple with their arguments, and identify their flaws, destroying their credibility. This has been going on for decades, before there even was a neoconservatism. Conrad Black’s assault on the Church’s position on contraception is so risible as to raise the question of whether he’s throwing his own argument under the bus. “There must be a dogmatically respectable way to execute a dignified climb-down and declare the sexual act a consequential moral commitment appropriate to and generally reserved to marriage, but sometimes unexceptionable when undertaken with contraceptive precautions, and reprehensible only if entered into wantonly.” Can anybody actually be taken in by this hand waving? I think the population that might stopped reading at the previous page, faced with the daunting prospect of looking up coruscation.

                Mark, while you’re not engaging in traddery, there does seem to be a bit of urine and vinegar in your invective here. What is your objective to U&V traddery that doesn’t apply to this article?

              • Robert Zeh

                Ok, the bit about orthodoxy being optional at NRO is confusing me. Why shouldn’t it be? NRO isn’t a religious publication, and they don’t claim to be. Why should they restrict themselves to publishing orthodox Catholic thought? Is anyone actually looking to NRO for Catholic Orthodoxy?

                • Mark Shea

                  Not me. Which is kind of the point, since lots of Catholics still imagine that neocon publications like NRO care about what the Church teaches when, in fact, they care about exploiting Catholic sympathies for their own agendas and deliberately undermine Church teaching when it gets in the way. Conservatives actually conserve. Neocons corrupt.

              • Kate

                Fr Neuhaus (GBGTH) was a neocon. I thought Shea had a thong problem with neocons. He only goes ad hominem on the living? (pause for laughter) Just kidding.

                • Mark Shea

                  I’m aware of that. It’s called “irony”.

  • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

    Elsewhere he points out that the sexual abuse crisis and the Churches ban on contraception haven’t damaged the ability to draw in converts or priests. If he looked at the numbers, those converts and young seminarians find the Churches ban on contraception a feature, not a bug. Do away with contraception to accomodate the world, and the seminaries empty out even faster than the 1970′s. at least back then all that was nearly destroyed was the liturgy, not an actual doctrine.

    Someone should just call this what it is: concern trolling.

  • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

    I know little about Conrad Black and what little I do now doesn’t make me want to learn more. So no opinion there, other than to comment that if his argument is indeed that conservatism should surrender on social issues so it can make a united front (a la Pym Fortuyn) with libertinism in some bloody anti-jihad, then, yeah, that’s a terrible idea, since it would be trading virtue (social conservatism) for sin (unjust war).

    I know more, though about the political media I spend too much time reading. There, Mark I think Blog Goliard is making some useful points that deserve a hearing.

    For one thing, although Rich Lowry (editor of the hard copy National Review) might be a bit of a neocon (although I don’t know enough to say for sure), your fellow Patheos Catholic Channel blogger Kathryn Jean “K-Lo” Lopez (editor of the loosely affiliated NRO website) is really far more of a Catholic social conservative, focused on issues with which you, Mark, are probably pretty sympathetic. Indeed, when I think “neo-con magazine,” I think not of NR/NRO, but primarily of something like the Weekly Standard or Commentary (they have something by Max Boot up on their website at the moment, e.g.) or, to a certain (lately-diminished with the passing of both Fr. Neuhaus and the GW Bush Administration) extent, First Things. National Review and NRO are pretty much just “Republican,” rather than neocon (like the Weekly Standard) or paleocon (like the American Conservative, and I think, you, Mark).

    As an economic bleeding-heart who is also a pro-life social conservative (i.e., a Christian Democrat, in European terms), I am usually more in sympathy with what I read in American Conservative than with what I read on NRO, and more in sympathy with NRO than with the Weekly Standard. NRO in particular has some of the more interesting voices in the GOP on a pretty regular basis. Even the neo-con Weekly Standard just published Andrew Ferguson’s wonderful cover story on Thomas Nagel’s new book, complete with shout-out to the indispensable Thomist philosopher Edward Feser. I’d hate to have missed reading that out of misguided contempt for all things neo-con.

    TL;DR: I agree vehemently with your disgust at torture and unjust war. But NRO/National Review isn’t especially neo-con, and even neo-con journals often edify outside the foreign policy area. Lastly, I think saying “neo-con” when you mean “imprudently utopian free-marketer and bloodthirsty foreign entanglements enthusiast” might obscure more than it illuminates at this point, since, however unfairly, it really does just parse as “anti-Semite” to some readers.

    • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

      I think we are back to the whole “Neo-Con” means “Crap I don’t like.”

    • Blog Goliard

      I think that’s a keen survey of publications; and yes, Andrew Ferguson is always worth reading, whether the publication in which he appears is (to use Mark’s own perfect phrase) ritually impure or not.

      In the specific case of this article and its publication on NRO, I am glad to see that more than one regular has already pushed back on their group blog, The Corner. It will be interesting to see if Black offers any subsequent reply of his own (and if so, if it is coherent!).

      “…however unfairly, it really does just parse as “anti-Semite” to some readers.”

      Horribly unfairly in the particular case, yes. But that’s one of the conundrums a writer faces when encountering a word that is the proper term to describe a certain thing, and therefore seems needed…yet at the same time has been terribly abused, both by people who don’t know or care what it really means, and also by people with unsavory agendas (and yes, anti-Semites have been making liberal and sleazy use of “neocon” for decades).

      • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

        As to the conundrum of abused-yet-wanting terms: I think we had a bit of that hereabouts with “Cultural Marxist” recently. There’s actually a really interesting bit of intellectual history to be learned in tracing the roots of political correctness to the New Left, and then back again to the New Left’s ideological roots in the work of WWII-era refugee scholars from the Frankfurt School and its culturally (as opposed to economically) focused Western Marxism. Marcuse, in particular, is just a fascinatingly symptomatic postwar libertine thinker. But even though “Cultural Marxist” would be in many ways the perfect term for that sort of tendency, and once was the perfect term (I gather), nowadays the phrase “Cultural Marxist” occasionally means “I watch Glenn Beck on his website and worry that Obama is an Alinskyite implementing the Cloward-Piven strategy” and far more often means “I am a ‘race realist’ who is really interested in ‘human biodiversity.’”

        Both “neocon” and “Cultural Marxist,” I sadly think, are ideological descriptors that are so tainted by racists’ use of them as mere slurs that it’s not worth fighting for their more precise technical definitions anymore. “Hawk in the War on Terror” and “Frankfurt School thinker” may have to do. Speaking of “neocon,” employment of the descriptor “Straussian” is headed in the direction of just being a codeword meaning “I am an anti-Semite,” too, which is a worse shame than the other two, since I don’t know what else to call a student of Leo Strauss.

    • The Jerk

      Oh please, K-LO is the buffoon who once wrote that the reason John McCain isn’t a “real conservative” is because he doesn’t support torture. That whole publication is a sick joke.

      • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

        K-Lo . . . once wrote that the reason John McCain isn’t a “real conservative” is because he doesn’t support torture.

        Yikes. That is really too bad. Hadn’t known that about her.

    • antigon

      ‘NRO/National Review isn’t especially neo-con.’

      Mr. Irenist: NR’s spotless support of neocon policy might justify those who consider it, accordingly, especially neocon. And shouting HITLER at that reality is not an honest argument, or in fact an argument at all.

      I think we are back to the whole “Neo-Con” means “Crap I don’t like.”

      Mr. Kevin: We? Speak for thyself, tho one suspects you aren’t back to a nonsense you never left. See instead Mr. Shea’s use above: A person who claims to be guided by and a follower of conservative ideals and principles, but in reality is primarily and mostly just the opposite.

      • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

        NR’s spotless support of neocon policy might justify those who consider it, accordingly, especially neocon.

        Well, outside of a few sadly marginal paleocon precincts, interventionist foreign policy is the default and ubiquitous GOP position. So in NR’s case, I still think their support for such foolishness just makes them “Republican.”

  • Tom

    I emailed Conrad Black about his article and he responded to me twice today. I related to him the Church’s view on marriage and how it represents His love for mankind and nothing should come between that love (like the Pill) and therefore using NFP replicates that unburdened love. Black stated he wanted to retain the sanctity of marriage and only wanted to evolve their position. I told him his evolution idea was really dilution of God’s plan and we cannot change it. He respectfully disagreed, and it appeared he was more concerned with the politics vice the understanding the Word.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      Nice of him to respond, and to respond respectfully. I’ll give him that.

  • CV

    I see that Simcha Fisher’s husband, The Jerk, has weighed in. “Magnificent” indeed.

    Mark, when you trash all of NR as a result of Conrad Black’s verbose and woefully misguided column, you are also trashing the likes of fellow Patheos blogger Kathryn Jean Lopez, who among others wrote a thoughtful and charitable rebuke of Black’s opinion on this issue.

    She is no buffoon. She deserves better.

    • Mark Shea

      Um, I noted KLo’s response.

    • The Jerk
      • CV

        So you have a problem with Lopez’ reflections on the role of women in The Passion of the Christ movie? Seems pretty astute and thoughtful to me. In fact, thanks for the link. Good Lenten timing. Of course it doesn’t exactly bolster your case.

        • The Jerk

          I think you just made my case. Thanks, and have a good Lent.

  • Karen LH

    Honest to God, Mark, could you dial it back a notch? The level of contempt and condescension in this post is really rather stunning. Black is unorthodox (and ignorant) on the subject of Catholic teaching about sexuality, and he uses unnecessarily big words. Stop the presses. On the National Review website, he was roundly criticized both in the comboxes and by other writers (not just K-Lo).

  • Michael Brooks

    “On the bright side, apart from people who already agree with the rich, illiterate, neocon salvation-through-consumerist-hedonism heretic I can’t see anybody being persuaded by this piece”

    Pretty much how I feel about everything you write, even when I agree with you. Your writing is severely harmed by the excessive use of personally abusive language. Whether the label is accurate or not, it harms your evangelism to repeatedly use labels that end up treating people with insufficient courtesy. Your blog is like one big internet comment thread, with you as the chief troll.

    • Mark Shea

      Fair enough.

  • http://hindinayhee.blogspot.com Nayhee

    “He makes George Bush sound like Shakespeare.” Ha!


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