Postcards from the culture wars

“That’s the really revolutionary act – to dare to believe that people can change their hearts and minds.”

I don’t hate myself nearly as much as you wish I did.”

“I am so sorry for the loss of your wife, Rev. Garlow, but I what I grieve for more is your loss of a sense of humanity.”

“From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness.”

The middle spot is unsustainable on this issue. Gravity will win and one side will crash.”

“To suggest in the 21st century that a woman could be prevented from having access to birth control, even as far to the right as I am, that’s going off the cliff.”

I’m still waiting for someone — anyone — to present an argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t boil down to, ‘My religion doesn’t approve’ or ‘I think it’s icky.'”

“A state’s right to discriminate should not trump an individual’s right to love.”

“If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage.”

“Surprisingly, there have been no reports of random violence against other Christians in the wake of this news, and no outraged calls for closing Christian churches as potential dens of child molestation, because when Christians do terrible things, they are an anomaly to that religion’s message of peace.”

“They think government should be there to give orders and solve their problems and give them a handout when they need it.”

“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”

“Many of our Christians … want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. … As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

“Combine a ‘right to revolution’ with the belief that most people voting for Barack Obama are baby-killing looters who are revolting against God’s very specific plan for America as laid right out there in the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution, and you could get some unfortunate consequences.”

“It’s going to be interesting to watch religious right groups such as the Family Research Council spin false portents of doom about gays wanting to imprison Christians and how ENDA will lead to this happening. Of course it’s not as if they haven’t done this before.”

“If only men could take a leaf out of women’s book and express hostility to the opposite sex by wearing clothes women find unattractive, instead of insulting us, harassing us, raping us, beating us or killing us.”

“My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police.”

“Apparently the idea of girls being sold off into early marriage and women being pushed into prostitution is fucking hilarious.”

“If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage without a doctor present, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year.”

“Doctors and health advocates testified against HB 693 on Tuesday, pointing out that imposing obstacles to health services could ultimately dissuade youth from seeking the medical care they need.”

“Believe it or not, getting rid of contraception and abortion isn’t going to lead to improved women’s health.”

“The bill, Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act (H.R. 2030), would make it Not Okay to advertise come-to-Jesus centers as health care clinics, because they are not actually health care clinics.”

“Conservatives are supposed to stand for truth against relativism. But that seems not to be the play in this case.”

“Alex Jones is a long line of tradition going back to the John Birch Society, people who are always predicting impending doom. And the fact that they’re almost never right doesn’t seem to bother their followers in the least.”

“When you go full antiscience, logic goes out the window.”

“When normal people think of the Enlightenment, they think of Newton, Locke, Voltaire, Spinoza, Montesquieu, Goethe, Paine, Jefferson — and the ideas that helped launch the American Revolution. When crazy right-wing Christians think of the Enlightenment, they apparently think of … Nazis.”

“If this isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and all the ‘ism’s,’ I don’t know what is.”


"I watched all three Back to the Futures on Friday. I swore out loud when ..."

LBCF, No. 163: ‘Speakerphone!’
"When it's legal in a state, though - it's a lot safer if they can ..."

LBCF, No. 163: ‘Speakerphone!’
"This is RepublicanWorld, where the right-wing only tell 100% truths 100% of the time and ..."

LBCF, No. 163: ‘Speakerphone!’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Carstonio

    And I’m still waiting for a valid reason why anyone should even care what gender others choose for prospective spouses. One shouldn’t “oppose” homosexuality for anyone but one’s self.

  • Foelhe

    People like feeling good about themselves by looking down on other people. If they couldn’t do that, they might have to, ugh, accomplish something.

  • Charity Brighton

    It’s basically one of the few Biblical proscriptions that they can live up to. They wear their hair however they want (Leviticus 19:27), they listen to Lou Dobbs (Leviticus 19:33), they crack jokes about elderly drivers (Leviticus 19:32), and of course they probably wear polyester and eat animals/plants that have been crossbred or even genetically modified ((Leviticus 19:19).

    Frankly, the proscription against homosexuality is probably the only teaching from that book that they can live up to, so by golly they are going to live up to it as hard as they can. They might not be willing to give up any of their other sins, but they are going to be the New York Giants of not being gay. It’s literally the only thing they will do that will get them into heaven.

  • Carstonio

    I question the wisdom of the “you’re not following your own book” argument. It amounts to a concession that one should treat the book as authoritative.

  • Foelhe

    Really? I’ve always seen it as saying, “Please, I’m not going to follow your book. You don’t even follow your book.”

  • Charity Brighton

    I’m not criticizing them for not following the book.

    I’m criticizing them for picking one rule out of many and enforcing it like the second coming of Draco, while they themselves break almost all of the others.

    I’m criticizing them for the rank hypocrisy of insisting that millions of people obey their religious laws while they themselves do not.

    I’m criticizing them for pretending that they are so holy and mighty because they manage to not be born homosexual, as if that was an achievement or something that reflects on their character.

    If you don’t want to even attempt to follow the teachings of Leviticus, that’s fine with me. Just don’t tell me I’m a bad person because I don’t either.

  • Carstonio

    While that’s a viewpoint I share, I don’t want to make the argument that personal. Obviously their theological stance is inconsistent and hypocritical. I’m saying they should leave the theology out of it entirely when claiming to present a universal morality. They should either make a secular argument for homosexuality being immoral, or stop wasting our time.

  • Lliira

    The argument is personal. They’re trying to tell adults what they can do sexually with other enthusiastically consenting adults. That’s about as personal at it gets, when someone else thinks they can shove themselves into a person’s sex life without being invited. Calling someone who does that only a hypocrite is extraordinarily mild, I think.

  • Foelhe

    *sigh* Every time I get into an argument about gay rights, someone acts like I should be walking around on eggshells. Y’know what, I don’t care if we’re discussing sexuality, religion, politics or what color car you drive, if someone’s using blatant hypocrisy to attack another person, they deserve to be called on it.

  • Carstonio

    Don’t get me wrong – of course we should call these folks on their hypocrisy. I think most of our focus should be on challenging them on their larger agenda, which is shared by folks who don’t engage in that selective reading of the Bible. It’s not just about telling consenting adults what they can do sexually, as Lliira said. It’s about telling others how to live. They don’t believe in a right of the individual to hold whatever beliefs he or she chooses regarding religion. Even if they were thoroughly consistent in their reading of scripture, they would still be wrong in insisting that its rules apply to everyone. I’m reminded of the 1980s when the media focused on the Swaggerts and the Bakkers and their petty personal scandals, ignoring Falwell and Robertson’s plans to gut the First Amendment.

  • Lliira

    Well, I think telling people what to do sexually is telling them how to live, and on the most basic and intrusive level possible. Some people don’t seem to care much about sex. But other people do. If I, for some reason, had been constantly told that being attracted to men was evil and I must never act on it, my life would be completely wrecked. And wrecked through other people thinking they had rights over my body, my imagination, my life.

  • Foelhe

    You’re not wrong, and if we had to pick one argument to focus on this obviously wouldn’t be the right one. But we don’t have to make that choice. And while there are a lot of stronger arguments on a legal and logical level, emotionally this one packs quite a punch.

    Also, this argument isn’t just about tearing down opposition to LGBTQ rights, it’s also about holding the opposition responsible for their choices and their actions. We’ve been having this argument in another thread, about Christians saying their fellows shouldn’t be held culpable because, hey, they were just following orders. Pointing at all the rules they chose to ignore just underlines their selfishness and hypocrisy. In this argument, that’s something that needs to be put on the table.

  • Carstonio

    You’re right that the two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive. I suppose my true interest is in destroying the entire worldview behind homophobia and misogyny. While we should call the hypocrites on their hypocrisy regarding scripture, there are plenty of folks who promote the same hatred without twisting themselves into theological knots. Some of the latter aren’t even religious. They also deserve to held accountable for their choices and actions.

  • arcseconds

    Surely both arguments are cogent and can be argued for?

  • Baby_Raptor

    If they demand that the book be treated as an authority, you can reasonably point out their hypocrisy in failing to treat it as the authority they demand it be without needing to see it as an authority yourself.

    Its just holding them to their own standards. What you think of the material in question doesn’t come into this particular conversation.

  • stardreamer42

    To me, it’s more like saying that since THEY obviously consider the book authoritative, they shouldn’t pick and choose which parts they follow. I can argue that someone is being a hypocrite by their own standards without personally endorsing those standards.

  • FearlessSon

    Quoth the Altemeyer:

    Chronically frightened authoritarian followers, looking for someone to attack because fighting is one of the things people do when they are afraid, are particularly likely to do so when they can find a moral justification for their hostility. Despite all the things in scriptures about loving others, forgiving others, leaving punishment to God, and so on, authoritarian followers feel empowered to isolate and segregate, to humiliate, to persecute, to beat, and to kill in the middle of the night, because in their heads they can almost hear the loudspeakers announcing, “Now batting for God’s team, his designated hitter, (their name).”

    It is pretty much motivated by fear. Illogical, irrational fear, which has little connection to the issues they hawk, but fear none the less. Reducing this fear is part and parcel of encouraging acceptance. You see them do it with homosexuals, you see them do it with Muslims, hell you even see them do it with birth control. Someone got them all spooked, told them that their righteousness is under threat, and they want to bite the hands that reach out to them. Sooth the fear, turn the unknown into the familiar, and the indignation deflates.

  • Foelhe

    That does make a lot of sense, though I do still think cheap moral superiority is the carrot to authoritarian fear’s stick.

  • FearlessSon

    That is vitally important too, according to Altemeyer:

    When I say authoritarian followers are aggressive I don’t mean they stride into bars and start fights. First of all, high RWAs go to church enormously more often than they go to bars. Secondly, they usually avoid anything approaching a fair fight. Instead they aggress when they believe right and might are on their side. “Right” for them means, more than anything else, that their hostility is (in their minds) endorsed by established authority, or supports such authority. “Might” means they have a huge physical advantage over their target, in weaponry say, or in numbers, as in a lynch mob. It’s striking how often authoritarian aggression happens in dark and cowardly ways, in the dark, by cowards who later will do everything they possibly can to avoid responsibility for what they did. Women, children, and others unable to defend themselves are typical victims. Even more striking, the attackers typically feel morally superior to the people they are assaulting in an unfair fight. We shall see research evidence in the next chapter that this self-righteousness plays a huge role in high RWAs’ hostility.

    In his findings, the aggression and hate-on is a two-part reaction. The fear provides a certain emotional pressure to do harm, the self-righteousness provides a release for that pressure and a channel for it toward particular targets. Those in position to help others define who those targets are tend to have enormous influence over such people (see any personality on Fox News.)

  • Lliira

    This is one reason “be nice to them” doesn’t work for the RWAs’ targets. When has being nice to a bully ever stopped the bully? Bullies read niceness as weakness.

    It’s all very well and good to talk about long-term strategies, but there are people trying not to be pounded into the dirt here.

  • FearlessSon

    Oh, I would never suggest that RWA’s targets be nice to the RWAs. That accomplishes nothing, not directly anyway.

    What I think works is when other people be nice to the RWA’s targets, people the RWA’s do not want to be on the bad side of. If the RWAs are attacking gay people, it is important that straight people show support and solidarity with the gays. Heck, back during the civil rights movement, white people showing support and solidarity with black people was a big part of why the movement succeeded.

    The aggression of RWA is craven, they pick on the little guy because they see themselves as having an overwhelming advantage compared to them. But when you show them that said little guy has a lot of big friends on their side, suddenly the bullies find themselves very meek and on the losing side of dictating what is “moral”.

  • banancat

    It’s actually fairly obvious once you know what to look for. These people are terrified of not having strict gender roles. They force women (and to a lesser extent, men) into toxic, stifling little boxes by insisting that it is necessary for the good of family/society/god/nature/whatever. If the oppressed women see a same-sex couple living normally and the world doesn’t end, they will have much more leverage to demand equality in their own marriages. If they see a family with two women, at least one of them must be in control of the money or having the “final say”. If they see a family of two men and a child, at least one of them is doing much more childcare work than the average patriarchal father. And if those families turn out all right, then conservatives wives and future wives (daughters) won’t be as easily convinced that their gender roles are so necessary. Misogyny and homophobia go hand-in-hand, hence the importance of intersectionality within feminism.

  • Carstonio

    While your theory is probably correct, fear of elastic gender roles isn’t a valid reason for opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

  • AnonymousSam

    To be fair, I suspect there aren’t many here who think there are any valid reasons for opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

  • Carstonio

    I know of no such reasons. If someone doesn’t like homosexuality, fine. No one is making the person be gay. But that dislike shouldn’t have anything to do with anyone else.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ve tried to open dialogue with SSM opponents and I’ve never succeeded in getting more than a few lines in before it breaks down to howls of outrage and promises that when I have AIDS and am in Hell and the human race has died out, I’ll feel sorry. Apparently they react to logic the way Pacman frogs react to just about anything. Very rare to talk to one who doesn’t seem to be filled with incoherent rage bubbling beneath the surface.

  • dpolicar

    Well, FWIW I think there are valid reasons for opposing same-sex marriage, though I think they are overwhelmed by the valid reasons to support it.

    That said, they are also reasons for opposing opposite-sex marriage.

  • AnonymousSam

    The only ones I’ve heard which even approach reasonable logic have been from libertarians saying that the government should have no role whatsoever in marriage and everyone should either just have civil unions or make their own marital contracts.

    Unfortunately, doing things like that hasn’t stopped the worst from happening.

  • dpolicar

    I also can respect feminists who take the position that marriage is such a historically sexist institution that participating in it at all is a net anti-woman thing to do (since it strengthens the power of the institution, and the institution is on net harmful to women). I don’t really agree, but I don’t consider the position invalid.

  • CharityB

    That may be a good reason for telling women not to marry (well, ‘good’ being a relative term) but you would have to go to an extreme level of moral abstraction before you could really argue that simply permitting two men to marry is misogynistic.

    Hell, to the extent that same-sex marriage successes undermine the notion that only two people of opposite genders fitting a very specific set of gender roles can make a valid partnership, same-sex marriage may even weaken the sexist nature of marriage.

    Invalid might be harsh but I think that argument leads to the same road as, “Letting gays marry will destroy society,” and it even uses similar logic.

  • dpolicar

    There’s a limit to how far I’m willing to go defending a feminist position I don’t actually hold; I was merely pushing back on the wholesale dismissal of it as invalid, and it sounds like you actually agree with me about that.

    But, OK, since I’m here…a few things.

    …argue that simply permitting two men to marry is misogynistic.

    If I understand the argument, it is the marrying which is misogynistic, not the permitting to marry. That is, on this account it is not wrong for me to have the right to marry, merely wrong for me to exercise it.

    That may be a good reason for telling women not to marry [..] but you would have to go to an extreme level of moral abstraction before you could [apply it to two men]

    Yeah, I don’t know. I can respect the position in general that if an institution is ubiquitous, and that institution harms you, then my participating in that institution harms you indirectly.

    I know a number of straight couples who refuse to get married until same-sex couples can legally marry throughout the U.S., for example, through a similar kind of reasoning… they feel like getting married now expresses support for the institution of marriage, and that this institution is unfair to same-sex couples, and they don’t wish to express support for an institution which is unfair to same-sex couples.

    same-sex marriage may even weaken the sexist nature of marriage.

    Yup, I agree, both that it’s true and that it tends to counter the effects of the patterns described above.

    I think that argument leads to the same road as, “Letting gays marry will destroy society,” and it even uses similar logic.

    (shrug) I can see some similarities. I can see some differences.

  • CharityB

    I agree with you, that makes a lot of sense. I can understand arguing that marrying is misogynistic, as long as they don’t argue that it should be illegal. I have a very high line for what should actually be legally prohibited and I don’t think misogyny alone should qualify.

  • Carstonio

    I would have assumed that only a small extremist minority among feminists would hold such a position. Not about the sexist history of marriage, which is correct, but about the moral imperative of boycotting the institution. I side with individual freedom for consenting couples to design their marriages however they wish. I have no objection to couple having a hierarchical marriage instead of an egalitarian one as long as both spouses fully consent to the arrangement.

  • dpolicar

    Sure. I don’t really know what “extremist” means in this context, but I certainly agree that only a minority of thinkers assert a moral imperative to boycott marriage (or sexist institutions generally, or historically sexist institutions generally, or unjust institutions, or historically unjust institutions, or whatever level one wants to address the position at).

    As above, I’m not arguing the position that such a moral imperative exists, I’m merely pushing back on the wholesale dismissal of people who do argue it. It may well be a false position — I think it is, actually — but IMHO it’s a legitimate enough position that it deserves to be considered and rejected for actual reasons.

  • phantomreader42

    WHAT “valid reasons” do you think there are for opposing same-sex marriage? NOT reasons for oppsing ALL marriage, but valid reasons for opposition to same-sex marriage SPECIFICALLY? I’m not aware of any such reasons. When I’ve seen opponents of marriage equality try desperately to come up with a valid reason for their bigotry, all the reasons they’ve had to offer have either boiled down to “god says no” or “gays are icky”, or been based on outright lies (marriage is solely for procreation, gays are pedophiles, the USA is a christian theocracy, and other stupid bullshit falsehoods so glaringly obvious even a child can see through them). So I’m VERY curious to know why you “think there are valid reasons for opposing same-sex marriage.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Didn’t Dave say that he thinks all valid reasons to oppose same-sex marriage are also reasons to oppose opposite-sex marriage?

  • dpolicar

    Yes, Dave did.

  • phantomreader42

    In which case they are not, in fact, reasons to oppose same-sex marriage, because they have nothing to do with the gender of the spouses.

    Therefore, while there may or may not be valid reasons to oppose marriage in general, there are no valid reasons for supporting opposite-sex marriage but opposing same-sex marriage, just as there are no valid reasons for supporting same-race marriage but opposing mixed-race marriage. Even if one has a valid reason to oppose marriage regardless of the gender of those getting married, this is not compatible with opposing marriage for same-sex couples but supporting it for opposite-sex couples.

  • dpolicar

    OK. You win.

  • Lori

    Read the whole sub thread before asking the question, Lori.

  • dpolicar


  • Lori

    I posted asking you a question that you had already answered if I had just read a little farther before posting. What you see is an edit.

  • dpolicar

    Ah! OK, then.
    (Also, I have finally given in and given disqus a password, so I have a face again.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Thank you for coming out in the name of truth, John Paulk.

  • GDwarf

    The Rehtaeh Parsons article is deeply moving, but it also makes me fear. The response to tragedies like this is always that we need tougher laws, harsher punishments, and no mercy for the accused. That’s not the problem, we have those laws, they just aren’t enforced. What we need is officers of the law who actually treat rape as the crime it is. Unfortunately, I’d give even odds that what we’ll get is tougher laws that are just as unenforced as the ones currently on the books.

  • general_apathy

    “If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage without a doctor present, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year.”

    Nicolae would’ve approved. The other one, anyway.

  • MarkTemporis

    And look how he went out. In recent memory, only he and Gaddafi were so awful that their captors broke all discipline and just flat-out massacred the bastards.

  • Baby_Raptor

    That bill will never pass. There’s already precedent for a “right to lie”…Remember Fox News getting sued for their constant falsehoods, and winning because First Amendment?

    Further, people will just cry “Persecution!” and the Republicans will promptly start passing laws against requiring accurate reporting of services in the name of “religious freedom.”

    The fact that actual women are getting hurt doesn’t matter. Lying for Jesus is happening, and the end goal of women being controlled is happening. That’s what this is about, and anything that tries to stop it is going to face the epitomy of Uphill Battle.

  • chris the cynic

    and all the ‘ism’s,

    Oh My God! It’s capitalism! Run and hide!

    It’s conservatism!

    It’s altruism!

    And all of the other ‘ism’s.

  • Christina Nordlander

    FOWLER: I’m sick of this talk of “-isms”. Has an “-ism” ever robbed a bank? Has an “-ism” ever hijacked a plane?
    BOYD: Terrorism?
    FOWLER: Has an “-ism” ever overthrown the government?
    BOYD: Communism?
    FOWLER: Has an “-ism” ever hurt anyone?
    BOYD: Sadism?

    – “The Thin Blue Line”

  • Mr. Heartland

    No no no see, it’s not an ism if it’s my ism. Only the obvious truth that all Those Other People are in willing and evil rebellion against.

    Freedom cannot survive unless they are forced to believe The Truth.

  • smrnda

    I think bashing ‘isms’ is just an avoidance of addressing the pros or cons of any policy. If someone proposes that the government increase the capital gains tax, someone simply denounces it as ‘socialism’ rather than addressing the possible consequences and why they might be good or bad. Or you say your opponents are ‘anti-freedom, anti-individual and anti-reason.’

  • FearlessSon

    I am reminded of some of the lines from the South Park episode “Go God Go XII”:

    “Yes, long ago we realized that isms are great for those who are rational, but in the hands of irrational people, isms always lead to violence.”

  • Aeryl

    People who are all up about revolution need to look at what’s happening in Turkey right now(that our wonderful media is ignoring).

    Now that kind of unarmed revolution is the only kind that will work, in my mind. Eventually soldiers and police will step back from massacring their own unarmed people, IMO, whereas an armed revolution just gives them the impetus necessary to classify those armed as Other.

  • Andy M-S

    I first encountered Phyllis Schlalfly and Eagle Forum in 1976, when I had just graduated from high school and they (the Forum) were operating a booth at the Minnesota State Fair. They had pamphlets explaining how the Nazis weren’t so bad, that “Nazi” meant “National” and that the Nazis were nationalists, which was a good thing. They were Holocaust deniers, explaining how the Jews had duped the US government into fighting the Nazis!

    These people are BAT. SHIT. CRAZY. The fact that they are taken seriously anywhere in this country should be a warning light and siren.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Alex Jones is a long line of tradition going back to the John Birch Society, people who are always predicting impending doom. And the fact that they’re almost never right doesn’t seem to bother their followers in the least.”

    You know, the Second Russian Revolution screwed up more than Tom Clancy’s career. The Birchers found themselves without their number-one enemy, the World Communist Conspiracy. (“Communists! Communists! Communists!” in a funhouse-mirror reflection of the Communists’ own “Imperialists! Imperialists! Imperialists!”) And they’ve been flailing around for a substitute ever since.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “They think government should be there to give orders and solve their problems and give them a handout when they need it.”

    Sorry, Phyllis Schafely, but the Dems are carrying on an old, old tradition of their party by building a base among new immigrants. In the 19th Century, big East Coast Dem political machines like Tammany Hall built their base among the new immigrants getting citizenship in huge numbers. Granted, they exploited these immigrants to stay in office with “handouts when they needed it” — crumbs from the piles of goodies they took in through “honest graft”. And nothing changed in NYC until LaGuardia broke Tammany back in the 1930s. This was just East Coast Political Machine business-as-usual. And the Dems are just repeating the process with a new group of immigrants.
    And in a way, the Big City Dem Machines repeated another tradition — New York vs Chicago — in their 2008 primaries. The New York Machine (successors of Tammany) backed Hillary while the Chicago Machine (Daley) backed Obama. Nothing that would have seemed out of place in 19th Century politics.
    I refer you to a book from that period titled “Plunkett of Tammany Hall”, a series of as-told-to essays by a 19th Century NYC Machine insider.

  • P J Evans

    That was required reading in my freshman American History class. It was interesting enough that I may still have my copy.

  • MaryKaye

    You know, if someone said, “Here’s a list of laws I want changed/passed/not passed, and if I don’t get what I want, I’m going to kill a bunch of random people until you capitulate”–I think that the vast majority of people would be horrified, and would say that under no conditions should we give in to this awful act of terrorism.

    If the terrorist proved to be so superhumanly powerful that we were completely unable to stop him, we might reluctantly give in and acceed to his demands as the best way to save innocent lives. But we would hate him, and that hate would be entirely justified. We’d look constantly for ways to oppose him. And people who worked for or with the terrorist in any way would be treated with utter contempt.

    And yet this is exactly the scenario that the Pat Robertsons of this world are describing when they say that natural disasters are punishments for sin. One can certainly imagine a world (gods forbid) in which this was *true* but my moral sense, at least, refuses to even consider a situation in which it was *right*. If you believe this is true, I think you ought to be apologizing for your God, and/or praying night and day for his redemption; because it doesn’t live up to even very basic standards of morality.

  • FearlessSon

    I have said before, the only reason one should ever negotiate with terrorists is to give the SWAT team (or the SEAL team, or the SAS team, etc.) time to get in position. To do otherwise only encourages further acts of terror.

  • Chris Doggett

    That creates a chicken-vs-egg problem: terrorism is usually the last resort of people trying to enact change. Terrorism is often used when the existing methods of achieving one’s goals are ineffective.

    In other words, the people who become terrorists usually do so only after attempts to peacefully engage and negotiate prove ineffective. If you swear never to negotiate with entities that resort to terrorism, you’re marginalizing them even more, and eliminating non-terrorist options in future dealings.

    A lot of people were critical of England for entering into talks with the IRA because of the ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ rhetoric, but in the long run, it was a choice that paid off well. When was the last time you read about a bombing in Norther Ireland?

  • FearlessSon

    Put it this way, I am thinking of the “We will execute one hostage every hour until our demands are met,” kind of situations.

    You know, like Congress was doing with the budget ceiling a few years back.

    If someone has moved onto that stage, you take them down as quickly and efficiently as possible. You only give them enough leverage to let them walk into the sniper team’s crossfire.

  • Donalbain

    Thank fuck you were never in charge of British policy in Northern Ireland then.

  • banancat

    But Pat Robertson is a white Christian male, therefore he can’t possibly be a terrorist by definition.

  • Lori

    Putting the “war” in “culture war”, that sound you heard earlier was heads exploding all over Rightwingnutistan.

    In every Navy SEAL is a memoir, it seems lately. Retired SEAL Kristin Beck’s new memoir, published on Tuesday and titled Warrior Princess,
    is a bit different, though. In it, Beck describes how, over the course
    of her 20 year military career, including thirteen deployments over the
    globe, she slowly became more and more aware that was she meant to live
    life as a woman — a vexing and often tormenting realization for a
    long-time member of an elite all-male unit that went on to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. Beck, who identified as a man (and went by the name Chris) while in the Navy, explains that she decided to undergo hormonal therapy some time after retiring in early 2011, and eventually came out to colleagues by
    posting a picture of herself dressed as a woman on LinkedIn earlier this year:

    How much do I love the title Beck chose? This much.

    Beck was prepared for negative reaction from her former comrades, but apparently they were mostly supportive, including the ones who freely admit they don’t really understand Kristin’s situation or decision. The world moves on, and I appreciated the reminder today in light of the failure of Illinois to get its shit together and join the 21st century.

    ETA: I bought a copy, both to be supportive & because I’m interested. It will probably be a couple weeks until I get to it, but if anyone is interested I can try to remember to pass on a review.

  • ShifterCat

    Excellent! Mr. ShifterCat has been vocally supportive of Fallon Fox on the UFC forums, despite a lot of opposition from macho idiots. I’ll point him at this.

  • FearlessSon

    That reminds me of someone that I know. I met them through a cosplay group we were both part of when they were in the marine corp. Since leaving the corp, they made the transition from male to female, and says that most of her marine buddies have been completely supportive.

    Also, I get to make puns like “pretty badass” on Facebook pictures of her posing in Halo armor.

  • Foelhe

    “You’re right that the two arguments aren’t mutually exclusive. I suppose my true interest is in destroying the entire worldview behind homophobia and misogyny. While we should call the hypocrites on their hypocrisy regarding scripture, there are plenty of folks who promote the same hatred without twisting themselves into theological knots. Some of the latter aren’t even religious. They also deserve to held accountable for their choices and actions.”

    I like to think humiliating some of the people involved helps. Make some homophobes look foolish and people look askance at anyone who agrees with them. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but I’m kind of okay with that.

    (Responding to this in a new post, because goddammit Disqus. EDIT: Oh, now. Now they fix the problem.)

  • FearlessSon

    That reminds me of something else Altemeyer said. While authoritarian followers tend to be more homophobic than the mainstream, their degree of homophobia has been steadily going down at a similar rate to the rest of society (they just have further to go.)

    Apparently, this is because they want to be seen as the moral people opposing the degenerates, but as homosexuality has come to be more accepted by society as a whole, the homophobic position has increasingly come to be seen as the more deviant one.

    In other words, they are increasingly finding themselves in exactly the kind of position they do not want to be in.

  • Hexep

    If I were in Paulk’s position, I think the only left to do would be the noose. When it’s something as big as leading a ten-year campaign of malicious and destructive slander against other people, I can’t imagine any other way of making it right. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of people who can make a direct claim that he by his words has done them injury; what but blood could possibly satisfy that?

  • themunck

    Blood satisfies nothing and changes even less. Remorse can lead to atonement and change, though (emphasis on “can”, I suppose). But suicide to atone for all the innocents shamed into suicide? Either way, we end up with one more corpse, and one less voice against the people who still haven’t seen the light.

  • Hexep

    I disagree with you. I think blood does satisfy; I think there is such a thing as a right to vengeance, albeit in developed societies to be conducted on one’s behalf by the state.

    I look at it this way – here is a human being who deserves to be reviled and scorned for his misdeeds, and for all right-thinking people to express that revulsion and scorn alongside those he has directly wronged. If he goes out and does something nice for someone, then that someone might be tempted to think that he had some good in him, and those someones might then not revile him properly – a response that is, I can only see, a wrong done to those to whom he has done evil.

    I’ve… I’ve had to spend some time thinking about this, alright? I come from some pretty bad stock, and I can’t think of any other way to deal with it.

  • AnonaMiss

    I disagree that Paulk has done badly enough to qualify, but in the Godwinny case of someone who did, wouldn’t the better course of action be to spend the rest of their life in a campaign to educate people in why it’s wrong?

  • Hexep

    I can’t articulate a really good reason why, but I can’t help but shake the feeling, hmm, how to articulate this…

    Let’s imagine two people, person A and person B. Person A commits a crime against Person B for which there can be no possible restoration – murder, or mutilation, or the most gruesome sort of assault, or some other crime. Something where no amount of penitent work, however heartfelt or enormous, can ever put things back the way they were. Moreover, there are no mitigating circumstances that can defend Person A – the reasons for which Person A did their crimes is universally regarded as an evil.

    Person B has now been Wronged, in the utmost sense. Even if Person A underwent the most hideous or strenuous of ordeals in the name of penitence – either in the form of self-flagellation or in the form of reparative good works – then it can not be counted against Person B, as an individual, if they continue to hold a grudge and wish ill on Person B, and even to cause A misery and unhappiness as law permits.

    But let us imagine that Person A sees the error of their ways, and wants to turn over a new leaf. They start with self-flagellation of the most gruesome sort – use your imagination – but since no amount of it will ever be enough, then no amount of it will get any closer to the conclusion and the project is quickly abandoned. Failing that, Person A embraces philanthropy and good works. They donate their personal fortune, whatever it might be, to the very best charities, and with their means exhausted, they toil like a donkey to improve the lives of human beings until they die, taking nothing for themselves and regarding themselves only as a laboring machine and caring for themselves only as it improves their productive output. In short, they do the right thing.

    Somewhere down the line, Person C becomes a beneficiary of Person A’s labors.

    To me, C’s benefit is, in some way, a crime against B, because it tarnishes the legitimacy of their grievance. If there are people who can speak to A having done well for them, then the essential rightness of B’s vendetta is called into question. It suggests, on some level, that B is wrong for holding their anger, and it ultimately puts C in the position of having to be simultaneously grateful for A’s assistance and yet on B’s side against A, if only rhetorically.

    I am unclear; it’s to my discredit. I can give a specific example if necessary.

  • themunck

    *hugs* I do remember that (or at least, I think you’ve talked about your past in another thread, might be mixing you up with someone else), and I’m not saying I do not understand. But the story of someone who did this and regrets it is a far better weapon to combat the shamers than the voice of someone like me, on the outside saying it’s horrible.
    However, forgiving the repentant is, as always, secound priority. Caring for the victims (and making sure there are no more victims) must come first.

    But I suppose all I’ve said is, at best, unimportant, anyway. I will most likely never meet this man, nor do I have any power to restrict his campaigning abilities to only good causes.

    tl;dr – I respectfully disagree as well, and hope you do not think less of me for that. I certainly do not think less of you.

  • Hexep

    I suppose the missing piece of the puzzle here is that I believe in moral essentialism; I believe that by their motivations, a human being can be described as ‘good’ or ‘evil.’

    Look, let me put it this way. I’ve met people who have done deeds that shock the conscience of the human race. I’ve met the kind of people who have willingly and gleefully made a living doing the kind of things that we are lambasting President Obama for permitting in another thread. Let me put it another way – I have met people who insist to this day that they are Rhodesians.

    V unir sryg gur grkgher bs gnaarq uhzna fxva orarngu zl svatregvcf. V unir uryq n xavsr hfrq gb phg bss crbcyr’f unaqf.

    If one of them pulls a total volte-face tomorrow and decides to dedicate their life to doing good, then somewhere down the road, they might change their ways to such a point that they could be described as good. In the grand scheme of things, they might genuinely put more good in the world than evil.

    And then, one of their victims (or, as is more likely, their widows and orphans) might one day have to undergo the torment of hearing someone say, ‘that man put more good in the world than evil.’

    And to me, those words, however true, would be the most awful cruelty in the world.

    It is my belief that some people, based on their deeds, do not have the right to be well-regarded, and as such anything they do that make them well-regarded – even if it’s only as a side-effect of a larger program of human welfare – is, in some way, a breach of their parole, and an offense against their victims.

    I am willing to accept that this point of view makes me utterly insane, but there I am nonetheless.

  • themunck

    For what it is worth, I do consider that a sane viewpoint. Maybe even more sane than my own :/

  • AnonaMiss

    I believe very strongly that that view is incorrect. Not quite Wrong, but definitely incorrect.

    I mean, what if the crime was the torture and genocide of a small and insular community that no one on the outside had any attachment to. No one who was wronged remains alive to hear the perpetrator praised. By your reasoning, it’s OK for the perpetrator of this act to remain alive, but it would not be OK for a person to remain alive who ‘merely’ tortured exactly the same group, but left them alive.

    Your reasoning for retribution is based on a sort of inverse sunk cost fallacy. But in truth, A’s suffering gives no restitution to B. A’s death gives no restitution to B. A has done something horrible, but that’s a sunk action. If A then kills hirself, the world is objectively worse off than if A tries to give back to it – even if A can never make their total world contribution positive, they can still make it less over-all negative than it would have been if their contributions ended at the low point. Of two otherwise identical worlds, in one of which A hanged hirself, and in the other of which A dedicated years to service? The one with years of service would be better off (barring unforeseen consequences).

    I’ll preemptively answer the criminal justice question: IMO, just punishment is preventative (the follow-through of a deterrent), protective (protecting the public from possible repeat offense), and/or rehabilitative – preferably all three. Retribution is inherently unjust, for the trite principle that two wrongs never make a right.

  • Hexep

    I got here and found three replies; I’ll start with AnonaMiss because yours is the one to which I have the most ready answer.

    Even if there is no specific victim who can press an immediate claim – even if nobody can prove tangible harm – I maintain that the execution of non-reparable deeds (deeds to which no status quo can be restored) shocks the whole conscience of the human race. We are, all of us, wounded by such conduct, even if it never tangibly affects us as individuals in any way – even if we never learn about it.

    To give a tangible recent example, I myself and many around me felt wounded by the Boston bombings, even though neither I nor any of my group are American and most have never been there. Some things are not only crimes against their physical victims, but also crimes against the entire human race.

    It is my conclusion, thus – and in making it so plain I am beginning to realize its ridiculousness, though I cannot look away from it – that moral people have a duty to loathe the loathesome, that being loathed is a just (element of) penalty for evil deeds, and that anything that makes this loathing more difficult is an unjust impediment to humanity.

  • AnonaMiss


    I feel like you’re onto something with “a duty to loathe the loathsome.” Not so much the internal loathing, but a duty to share the attitude of loathing and so to enforce community standards. Though this mechanism of social regulation is often misused, it does seem appropriate for sufficiently heinous offenses.

    However, I think it’s important to distinguish between loathing a person as a whole, and loathing a temporal part of that person. The turning over of a moral leaf, the ending of that temporal segment, in my view should be sufficient to divorce a person from moral liability (bearing in mind that as fellow-travelers we can’t see if the segment has truly ended – this is from an omniscient observer standpoint). The cliche of “They’re a different person now” seems appropriate.

    Editing to clarify: When I say “divorce a person from moral liability”, I don’t mean that the person must be forgiven, or that it would be unjust to punish them. We fellow-travellers have every right to continue to distrust that person – especially given that it’s much easier to fake a turnaround than it is to effect one. I just meant to say that Person A circa 2013 can be and be recognized as a good person without contradicting, negating, making up for, or dulling the fact that Person A circa 1963 was, and is now recognized as, a monster.

  • Foelhe

    To be honest, I think the problem isn’t the person doing the about-face but the person weighing his about-face against his original position and saying, “Wow, all the awesome stuff he did totally makes up for all the terrible stuff he did.” Being good doesn’t make up for being evil. You can try to prevent your previous actions from causing any more harm, but that doesn’t erase the harm they’ve already caused. You always have to carry that weight.

    And I wouldn’t describe someone as irredeemably evil because I wouldn’t describe someone as incorruptibly good. Even the best person can turn around and cause harm, and that harm isn’t less important because of what happened beforehand.

  • FearlessSon

    I have always thought of punishment and redemption in terms of social utility.

    Would the cause of gay rights be better off if Paulk were dead? I doubt it. Were he still aligned with the ex-gay movement, he would be held up as a martyr to the homophobes and fodder to further call gay people degenerates in assumed guilt for his death. Even as someone who has left the ex-gay movement, what would his death accomplish now? I would get no satisfaction out of it, and I doubt many of his previous followers who suffered because of what he promoted would either. Some might feel a little better, but there will always be more ex-gay crusaders to take up his torch.

    But as a living ex-ex-gay evangelist? Now we have something potentially useful to the cause of fighting homophobia. How many of his older followers will feel relief at this? Sure, many of them will be angry, and some may never forgive, but others will realize that the demons they have been wrestling with for so long that they guiltily failed to permanently slay, are not the demons they were told they were. This is a guy who has the experience to denounce repetitive therapy with substantial authority, having been a proponent of it for so many years. Given how much guilt he must feel over that, it is hard to doubt his commitment to the cause, he has a lot to atone for.

    He might never be completely forgiven, but redemption is more about the efforts done along the journey than arriving at the destination.

  • Hexep

    Once he writes and signs his confession, what more is there to do?

    I am going to admit a weakness in my doctrine, which is that I had considered it primarily in terms of tactile, physical deeds – how to deal with my kin and their checkered pasts, the whole of which is shunned by the entire human race. There isn’t really much of a discussion left to have about, say, Nyadzonya, and there’s no real moral that anybody could impart to it that isn’t already common knowledge.

    I consign myself to the point that my prior considerations do not adequately reflect the reality of this situation.

  • FearlessSon

    The way I see it, the man was an evangelist before, and he can still be an evangelist now. The difference is what he is evangelizing.

    He used to reach out to gay people in devoutly religious communities, telling them that they could “pray the gay away”, giving them hope that could never be realized. Odds are, he believed his own message with genuine devotion, but only time and painful experience has convinced him that he was wrong.

    But now he has something else he can do. Again, he can reach out to gay people in devoutly religious communities, but the message now will be that they can accept who they are, that God accepts who they are, and that they are not the devils that they may think they are. This message will be unpopular with many, he will receive much scorn and vitriol for saying it, and considering how much he valued those communities before this will probably be quite painful to him.

    But for many of those, stuck deep in the church’s closet, afraid to come out and face their peers for the scorn they would no doubt have, who are stuck in a cycle of self-hatred and fear, this message will hit home. This message will let them known that they are not alone, they are not “broken”, and that they have somewhere to go. And because of who Paulk is and what he has done in this past, this message might strike more deeply and be felt more keenly than someone who can from outside the tribe, even if he is now exiled from it himself.

    That is what I think he can accomplish.

  • Hexep

    The moral situation in which he finds himself is not one in which I have any experience or prior knowledge. As such, my advises should be disregarded.

  • AnonaMiss

    Please don’t take the disagreement here as hostile disagreement Hexep. I’m really valuing reading your thoughts on, if not this exact situation, ‘unforgivable sins’ and what the committer should do about them. Your family situation puts you in a unique place wrt this issue on the predominantly-from-the-States Slacktivist board, and I think it’s super important that we hear what you have to say.

    And /hugs if you’d like them.

  • Hexep

    I’m just gonna give a shot totally from the emotional dark, stating what seems viscerally correct to me, with the knowledge that I cannot support it with rational argument and that any attempt I make to do so will disintegrate.

    A person is good or they are evil. A good deed can be done by an evil person for evil reasons, an evil deed can be done by a good person accidentally or through false or insufficient information, and many people are good or evil entirely as a product of mens rea, of their acceptance or rejection of the Melian Dialogue, and do not perform any acts of outstanding morality or immorality. To quote White, either you choose Might or you choose Right.

    And to be sure, there are degrees of goodness and evil-ness in a person; some are more good than others, and some are more evil than others. But a person is one one side or the other. Either they viscerally accept that Might trumps Right, or they don’t.

    And I do not believe in moral redemption in this life. A person who was evil /remains evil until they die./ No matter what they do, the fact remains that for whatever reason, they do not possess the inherent human aversion to doing evil.

    Even if they intellectually reject Might in favor of Right, that’s insufficient – Might and Right and one’s allegiance thereto are not rational calculations but rather are inherent states of nature. Even if they undergo some sort of Pavlovian self re-conditioning to learn to viscerally oppose Might in favor of Right, that, too, is insufficient – even if this aversion functions exactly the same way as one’s inborn or integrally-formed nature, it’s still just an ersatz. It isn’t one’s true self, as integral to one’s self as gender or orientation.

    A person is good from the moment of their first conscious thought, or they are evil. I do not believe in exceptions.

    And hence my position. If a person is, in fact, evil – if they haven’t done their evil deeds out of genuine ignorance or out of misinformation or by accident, but if those deeds are a genuine expression of their heart-felt allegiance to Might over Right – then that’s them forever. And if they attempt to change their ways, then I cannot but view them as counterfeiting themselves. I view this as an insult to Good, to suggest that Evil can simply toil their way into it.

    For an Evil person to attempt to make themselves Good is a forgery; it’s a blasphemy; it is a direct challenge to the notion that the Good are in fact Good. It is a slander against the moral order of the universe.

    That’s my testimony.

  • dpolicar

    I really appreciate the cogency of how this is expressed. I mean, I completely disagree with your position, don’t get me wrong, but you set out to articulate it and you did so admirably.

  • Hexep

    Thank you; I find myself well-pleased by your approval. I have always found you a very skilled writer and rhetorician, as well.

  • Carstonio

    While you express that philosophy well, it’s still morally repugnant. The only possible purpose for classifying people as good or evil is to decide who is worthy to live or die. And it’s impossible to have a truly objective standard for classifying someone as good or evil. Humans shouldn’t attempt to decide who deserves to live or die, or who deserves to prosper or suffer. People do make decisions that cause death or suffering for others all the time, often because the alternatives cause these for many more people. But this shouldn’t be about whether the others had it coming to them.

  • Hexep

    I would respectfully like to say that I cannot follow your comment or understand your meaning, or how this follows that.

  • Maniraptor

    Having spent a whole lot of time thinking about how the only thing left for me to do is kill myself, I have to say I’m a little uncomfortable with seeing anyone come to that conclusion for someone else.

  • Hexep

    I rue your discomfort, but I don’t regret saying what I said. I hope we can get past this.

  • Kristina Hildebrand

    And this constant concern that the vaccine migth cause promiscuity – even if it does, so what? Even if you think promiscuity is bad (which I’m not at all willing to concede), is the risk of death in cancer so much to be preferred?

  • Charity Brighton

    If you die of cancer you still have a chance of going to heaven.

    If you have sex Satan will spend all of eternity poking at your uvula with hot needles.

    Pick one.

  • FearlessSon

    Again, it comes back to the “Calculus of Hell”, in that once you accept that as a definite source of eternal suffering than any amount of temporal suffering is justified to get people to avoid it.

    Perfectly logical, if you take Hell as a given. However, Hell is taken on faith as much as Heaven is, while temporal suffering is a matter of fact and requires no faith to validate.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “If this isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and all the ‘ism’s,’ I don’t know what is.”

    I’m just waiting for someone to start “Ismism”…