Remember that chat we had about Nazi analogies?

This kitten will be the only thing compared to Hitler in the comments if you know what’s good for you

The post was “It’s hard for me to hear you over the sound of your Nazi analogies” and the comment thread was… err… frustrating, so I’m not advising you revive it.  But there’s been a positive development: Mark Shea has decided to stop using the phrase “gay brownshirts” (with more comment from him here).

We didn’t exactly come to consensus (he and I still definitely disagree on whether the comparison is accurate), but we can pretty much agree it does bupkis for dialogue.  I want to thank him for making it easier for us to fight.  Putting aside inflammatory language doesn’t mean lowering the stakes of an argument, it just means tightening your focus to your real disagreement, instead of getting aggrieved over phrasing.

So what do Mark and I still disagree on here?  Well, a lot of things probably, but the most relevant seem to be:

  1. How much responsibility does a movement have for the actions of anonymous vandals, and when should it or affiliated individuals apologize for their crimes? The Sierra Club doesn’t apologize or even bother acknowledging every act of ecoterrorism, and that’s about how I feel about my obligation to comment on vandals who smash windows of churches that oppose gay marriage.  Not only do I not have any authority over these guys, I don’t even know who they are, since they haven’t been caught, so I’m not addressing them, I’m just mentioning again that I think vandalism is bad tactics and bad ethics.
  2. Are all acts of vandalism-as-intimidation/anger equivalent? The reason I object to Mark’s Kristallnacht references is that I think there’s a huge difference in the significance of the vandalism and the extent to which it portends future violence.  These are isolated vandals, not, you know, a paramilitary group wearing brownshirts or any other kind of uniform that makes existential threats and has the power to carry them out.
  3. Various other things mostly related to whether homosexuality is morally neutral.

It’s easier to have any of those conversations if you don’t give the other side an excuse to tune out right in the post title, so I’m really pleased Mark made this change.  I understand that sometimes people want to use hyperbolic language to ‘vent’ or don’t intend to a conversation to be read outside their circle.  Obviously the open nature of the internet makes that bad tactics, but I think it’s bad for us, even when we do it in private.

I’m really opposed to the idea that we’re ever entitled to our anger or our hate.  It’s one thing to need privacy to be hurt and vulnerable, but I’m doubtful that we can ever really burn off anger without feeding it or denying a little of our own agency and responsibility.  A while ago, I found this George Will quote though a commenter’s blog, and I heartily endorse the sentiment:

The historian Macaulay famously said that the Puritans opposed bearbaiting not because it gave pain to the bears but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. The Puritans were right: Some pleasures are contemptible because they are coarsening. They are not merely private vices, they have public consequences in driving the culture’s downward spiral.

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  • Joe

    When you say that homosexuality is morally neutral what exactly to you mean? Catholics would say that yes homosexuality is morally neutral so long as the temptations are not acted upon, but Im sure thats not what you mean. Are you saying that living a sexually active gay lifestyle is neither good nor bad? Im sorry if this is a stupid question but most gay people, I assume, would claim that their relationships are a positive good so I am a little confused.

    • leahlibresco

      Particular relationships are good or bad. The general form is not objectionable, same as for heterosexuality.

      • SAK7

        A pot is made to hold water. That is it’s nature. An objectionable pot holds no water but leaks. Something that fails in the essence of it’s nature is objectionable. The homosexual having a close and lasting friendship is morally neutral. To employ sex into that relationship fails in the essence of it’s nature and no longer is neutral.

        • Contrarian

          I don’t know what “essence” or “nature” mean. Would you please give them reasonably precise definitions?

          • SAK7

            Essence – the primary function of being. Nature – the function of being.

        • Kilroy

          The essence of a leaky pot is that it leaks. If it held water, it would fail in the essence of its nature and thus be objectionable.

        • smrnda

          What’s the purpose or nature of relationships? From my standpoint, it’s companionship , and homosexual relationships can do that just as well as heterosexual ones, and for people who are actually homosexual, they do it better for them. The idea that a penis has to go into a vagina for a sexual relationship to be ‘proper’ seems, to me, as silly as the idea that any couple that doesn’t have a candlelight dinner on Fridays doesn’t have the proper relationship.

    • Donalbain

      Homosexuality is neither good nor bad. just like heterosexuality is neither good nor bad. There can be particular instances of homosexual or heterosexual behaviour that is good or evil. For instance, I would say that being in a loving, caring consensual sexual relationship is good, no matter the gender of the people involved, while I would say that rape is evil, no matter the gender of the people involved.

  • Kathleen Wagner

    George Will has a genius for missing the point. The Puritans opposed pleasures per se, not merely ones which the twentieth century West would eventually disapprove of.

    You know, you’re not entitled to rule out a line of argument just because you think it’s icky, or, more probably, you’re accustomed to hearing it objected to. Threats of violence by the apostles of Tolerance, protected by complaisant law enforcement, merit much harsher criticism than the always-charitable Mark Shea gives them. I’d say brownshirts is just about right.

    • If you read the full essay from which Will’s quote is taken, I think his point comes through very well. I don’t always agree with his opinions, but this particular essay I think is one of his best.

  • Too much like Jesus to be Puritan per se. I’m inclined to agree with Mdm. Wagner regarding Mr. Will’s missing of the point.

    • On a side note, Mdm. Leah, I wonder if you would be interested in one last book recommendation. Know nothing before you read it but the following: Farfuture transhumanist trilogy of ideas written by an atheist and a stoic. Indeed, the conceits are so up your alley it is a flavor of insult to suggest you haven’t already heard of it.

  • SAK7

    What’s particularity frustrating here is that damn kitten… we’ll, beyond that… it’s the “heads I win, tails you loose” smiling Jack approach employed so frequently by the tolerant fringe. In any given context, there is almost always a moral hillock to run to and if you get there first, you can employ your defenses around that small slice of land. But turn the tables and the tolerant fringe goes personal, and prepares the scorched earth campaign to lay waste to all who oppose them.

    Let’s look at the NC vote in support of traditional marriage. First of all, we need to agree on the proper name for things. It was not an amendment against homosexual marriage. The word never appears in the text. Twisting of language to claim that moral high ground is a common and unfortunate development now used by both sides I’m afraid… but I digress. So, this issue had no attached political party to it, it was a non-partisan referendum of the people. Not right. Not left. Just all citizens. 61% of the votes cast supported this traditional marriage view and wish to live under that law. They are generally quiet with very few yard signs or other personal proclamations of this opinion. When signs were erected, they were stolen or defaced. Property was targeted for vandalism. A Kristalnacht? No… but you can see the same flavor of brutal oppression of the voice of the people. Step out of line and we will make you pay for it.

    I don’t recall any candlelight gatherings in support of the rights of those vandalized nor great voices of tolerance in support of the differing opinions and the right of all to speak freely without fear. Once need not apologize for the acts of others who share the same goals, but where was the support and public acclimation of tolerance for the rights of all to engage in the market of ideas freely?

    Or how about thought crime? I beat a person to death because he insults my favorite team, one standard is applied… but if I beat him to death because he was a member of a specially protected group, a different standard applies. The life of one has been elevated above the life of the other. All are not equal under the law now, and you better watch out or the thought police might get you. We saw this too in the NC race where a teenager was arrested for shooting a shotgun on his own land into a sign supporting the vote against traditional marriage. Deface the idea of a protected class, watch out. Deface the property of the non-protected class… ho hum.

    What is so frustrating is that Smiling Jack approach where the banner held high is moral neutrality and tolerance, yet it is only directed in favor of the few, not to all. I suspect most Germans were not Nazis.

    • keddaw

      Ah, the good old tyranny of the majority coupled with a nice defence of bigotry based on tradition.

      The majority don’t get to vote on the rights of the minority (okay, technically they do, but it requires a super majority of states, congress etc. to amend the constitution, not a bunch of bigots in any backwards state* that (probably) want to also ban inter-racial marriage if it was not constitutionally protected).

      Why bigoted? They are saying consenting adults A&B can enter into a legal contract with state and federal benefits (legal and financial) but consenting adults C&D cannot, simply based on their gender.

      Don’t get me wrong, when they start to push for churches etc. to perform homosexual marriages, and they will, I will be right beside the people I am currently calling bigots to champion the right of religions to only perform marriages between people they deem acceptable (assuming they’re not receiving public funds).

      *Mississippi in this case:

    • smrnda

      The reason for hate crimes laws is that some groups are frequently targeted for violence based on their identities. An attack against a member a group is basically a message that members of said group can expect to be attacked. It’s the difference between a man making a random threat of violence – which might endanger all equally – and a specific one.

      If people from a team you don’t like become the frequent targets of violence, then they would qualify for special status. Get back to me if they ever get targeted as much as gay people, who are the most likely to be attacked for being who they are.

    • smrnda

      Read Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Most Germans were totally complicit. Anti-semitism has a long history in Germany, going back to Martin Luther who, more or less, put together the program for Kristallnacht long ago.

  • Will

    If acts of “violence” by “your” ideologues are not your responsibility…. why do I constantly read that “Christians/whites/fillintheblanks must acknowledge their/our RESPONSIBILITY for the oppression of fillincategory”? It looks like selective disclaimer to me.

    And why do I almost never see any criticism from “liberals” of the lefty habit of routinely calling anyone who disagrees with them about anything “Fascistt”?

    • Alex

      Could you be more specific?

  • SAK7

    So in a move away from the term “brown shirts” we perhaps move to “black shirts”… the Fascists? Here’s a complex term that is so frequently misused. Very good overview of Fascism can be found here A few key items include the government comes before the individual, a strong governmental hand in economic planning, and government/private businesses where the government calls the shots (General Motors? AIG?) to name a few.

    • Contrarian

      Strong feelings of patriotism, a fusion of religion and government, a worship of the military, military adventurism, fusion of government and business, corruption, embrace of a particular exclusionary cultural ideal … now which party does that seem more like?

      • SAK7


        • smrnda

          Any history book, or you can look into the essays Orwell wrote during WWII. The fusion of business and government undertaken by Fascist regimes had nothing to do with a society based on equality where people would have a democratic say not just in the laws, but in economics. A push towards true democratic socialism is that not just political but economic decisions should be made with everybody’s input. Libertarianism is basically just a form of predatory feudalism – the rich own all resources, and you can submit to them or starve and that’s called “Freedom”

          As for the Lew Rockwell libertarians, imagine being a *worker* under such a program – workers would be where they were more than a hundred years ago – your rights would disappear the moment you stepped onto the rich man’s feudal estate. Libertarians are all craving the day when as long as you owned enough property you were an unquestioned lord and master, free to abuse and exploit workers. Care to imagine how many female workers throughout history were raped by employers? How many workers were shot and killed for trying to start unions? It still happens today in many countries – one need only to look into how bananas are produced, or women who work in factories in Mexico who have to demonstrate that they are still menstruating or else be fired for getting pregnant and lowering productivity – source – Twelve Myths about World Hunger.

      • keddaw

        Phew, I’m glad the Democrats won the House, the Senate and the Presidency in 2008 so they could put a stop to all that.

  • Iota

    “How much responsibility does a movement…”

    1) Sometimes we are identified by others and identify ourselves as members of a certain “movement,” feel responsible for it and so on. E.g. a person who both self identifies as a Catholic and is identified as Catholic may also feel that we are all a bit responsible for one another and that yes, it makes sense for me to apologize for my behaviour but also for that of other Catholics. Consequently, for a Catholic it may sound awkward that you wouldn’t apologize for people on “your” team, if they think they would apologize for the people on “their” team (key word “think” – I think I’d apologize more than I actually do…).
    2) The obvious catch here is that different groups of Catholics (i.e. baptized people) have different ideas, so I find it likely somewhere there are “liberal Catholics” who are, right now, apologizing for the behaviour of “stringent Catholics”, even though the stringent ones don’t really think they have done anything bad.
    3) The confusion over responsibility and apologies gets worse when you start thinking of demographic groups as movements (I think you Americans are also making it singularly hard for yourselves with the whole “conservatives” versus “liberals” stuff, which mixes up disagreements about social policy, international politics, morals and culture). E.g. I think some of the stuff relating to the dignity of women needs talking about. I do not, however, identify as a feminist. But in a discussion – especially with strangers – if I start talking about pay inequality, the problems faced by women when men run away from fatherhood, sexual assault or whatever, I either risk being lumped together with feminists, being told: “Yes, but men have hard lives too” (and being given a list of male-specific problems) which is singularly dissatisfying, or misinterpreted as condoning some things I don’t condone (because some other women, who raise those issues, do condone them), or being told the previous generations of women brought this upon themselves, etc. On the other hand, when someone says “My wife unfairly gained custody of my kids, after divorcing me, so don’t talk to me about the plight of single women!”, answering “I’m a woman but not your wife so I don’t think I can or should apologize, and I wasn’t talking about that kind of single women.” doesn’t necessarily work.
    4) This also relates to members each group holding on to their grievances (for various reasons) and expecting members of the other group to be contrite as a condition of dialogue (A: “People who identified as Catholic bullied my gay friend so much he is in therapy over it – I won’t talk to you until you own up sufficiently!”, B: “A bunch of guys in gay advocacy forced an employer to fire my friend for saying, privately, that he thinks homosexual sex is sinful and he can’t find a job now, he’s basically starving – I won’t talk to you until you own up sufficiently!”) If they both stick to their rules, they won’t talk to each other. If one of them breaks the rules and extends goodwill, apologizing for members of the group he is being identified with (which may be tricky, if you think that what happened was fair or that it’s none of your fault and you shouldn’t be made to take responsibility for it), the result might be dialogue, but it also might be just being seen as “the loser” or “the one who admitted to being a bad person” (so a bad political move).
    5) It doesn’t help that we have a general tendency to remember our own apologies or the apologies of our “team” more than we do the other sides’ (and remembering and feeing attacks directed at us better than we remember the attacks we dealt out – you wrote about that). So I might think I’m being sufficiently charitable, contrite and all-round-fantastic, while the other side still thinks I’m an awful beast. Which leads them to think they won’t talk to me because I don’t deserve it, while I think I won’t talk to them because THEY don’t deserve it. Or, alternatively, leads to me apologizing much more than I think is “just”, “rational” or whether, in order to maintain dialogue.

  • Simon

    I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of actual Nazis that were just elected to the Greek parliament:

  • Alex

    Positive development? You got my hopes up and Mark Shea utterly destroyed them. I’m not sure why I read the comment thread: the masochist in me I guess.

    • leahlibresco

      Yeah, the most recent thread was really disappointing. I weighed in, but I don’t know how much good it will do.

  • @b

    >>I’m really opposed to the idea that we’re ever entitled to our anger or our hate.

    More on this please.

    In the linked post “In Anger, Truth” (Jan 2012) Leah mentions Greta Christina.

    Fast forward to Mar 2012, she has a new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

  • This tight lipped white knuckle civility cracks me up.
    I’ve never encountered such vigorously delicate “don’t step on any toes” prancing before. This discussion appears to be a type of accommodationism, a grotesque caricature of argument clearly related to that level of debate I encountered in first year seminary – which in itself was nothing more or less than a type of mental masturbation designed specifically to silence the screams of cognitive dissonance.
    Civil discussion is one thing, but would anyone else prefer a good old fashioned fist fight over this inane choreography?

  • smrnda

    This nonsense:

    “I don’t recall any candlelight gatherings in support of the rights of those vandalized nor great voices of tolerance in support of the differing opinions and the right of all to speak freely without fear. Once need not apologize for the acts of others who share the same goals, but where was the support and public acclimation of tolerance for the rights of all to engage in the market of ideas freely?”

    If your ideas demand that other people be denied rights, rights which if granted would take no rights of your own away, then I think such opinions should not be tolerated by anyone with any sensibilities. Gay marriage does not take any rights away from anyone who doesn’t like it any more than building a temple to Zeus takes away rights from Christians. The idea that tolerating gay marriage (even if you are not gay) and believing that gays should be denied the right to have marriage are viewpoints which are equally tolerant and therefore deserving of equal respect is nonsense – one viewpoint gives both parties the same rights, and in one, the minority group is denied rights because of people being offended. I would hope that anyone opposing gay marriage would soon be viewed the same as someone standing up promoting slavery – an idea that would be shouted down in any setting.

    As for candlelight vigils, you can get killed for being gay. I have heard of candlelight vigils for that, but for having your sign defaced? I would love it personally if everybody who flies a confederate flag had their flag stolen and burned right in front of them. My respect for private property is somewhat limited, given higher causes. If the voices of the people stand for bigotry and discrimination, I hope all their signs get taken down. The idea that you can compare actions taken against a majority who seek to oppress a minority to Kristallnacht – actions taken by a majority against an oppressed minority, is appalling. You should read the book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” about how the vast majority of ordinary Germans were TOTALLY COMPLICIT in crimes against Jews and other minorities.

    And SAK7, the typical privileged white boy response to hate crimes. They reason why we take crimes clearly directed against members of certain groups more seriously than actions taken against random strangers it that a person who attacks a gay person, or a Black one, is sending a message to an entire community that they will be singled out for violence by virtue of having a certain identity. It’s kind of how if a random belligerent guy on the street is overhead by a cop to be talking about violence, he might get a talking to, but if he makes specific threats against particular people he’ll get in much more trouble. It’s not that gay people’s lives are more valuable, it’s that they are more likely to be targeted simply for being gay.