Toxic smugness

Toxic smugness November 24, 2009

Hey kids! It's time to play "Stupid? Or Evil?"

Today's contestant is Chuck Colson:

"If someone walks in our church and says, 'You preach a sermon on [homosexuality], we're going to arrest you as a violation of the hate crimes,' then they'll have to arrest us."

I'm going to have to go with "Evil" here. Colson knows this is utter nonsense. He's enjoying the posture of self-aggrandizing bravado, but he knows full well that hate crimes has nothing to do with his fantasies about Gay Stormtroopers invading churches.

Colson knows that he's spinning falsehoods here. He knows that what he is saying is not true, but he has chosen to bear false witness. He's deliberately lying about the aims of his political opponents, portraying them through the lens of a paranoid fantasy concocted and refined to appeal to those who are prone to such paranoid fantasies. He is lying about the supposed evil of others to stroke his own pride and luxuriate in the feeling of righteousness it gives him.

And that's pretty much evil. Evil means (bearing false witness) in service of evil ends (pride). For bonus points, this is all done in God's name — so add in the evil of blasphemy too.

In a single sentence, Colson manages to break three out of 10 commandments. Not a record, but still impressive.

For another look at the same sordid stew of toxic smugness, see Kathryn Joyce's disturbing look at the "Men's Rights" movement:  "Men's Rights Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective."

Joyce discusses, among many other things, the way "Men's Rights Advocates" abuse or invent statistics to try to show that women abuse men with the same frequency and intensity that men abuse women. She cites Portland State University professor Jack Straton on this disingenuous research:

“The biggest concern, though, is not the wasted effort on a false issue,” writes Straton, but the encouragement given to batterers to consider themselves the victimized party. “Arming these men with warped statistics to fuel their already warped worldview is unethical, irresponsible and quite simply lethal.”

That "encouragement given to batterers to consider themselves the victimized party" is not a bug, but a feature of this research. It's what this research was intended and designed to produce.

It exists, in other words, to fulfill precisely the same function that Colson's lying about the Gay Gestapo exists to fulfill.

The group with the power is desperate to convince itself that it's actually powerless and persecuted. The batterers are trying to convince themselves that they are the victims of battering. The hegemons are trying to convince themselves that they are the ones threatened with legal sanctions for failing to conform.

And having almost half-convinced themselves of this, they bask in the glow of their courageous stand against such hardships, citing that courage as evidence of their moral superiority.

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