Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sully's Problem

I suppose this is one of those "blogger insider" things that most of the rest of humanity cares little about. All the same, when an influential writer in any field removes any pretension of intellectual respectability, it might be time to talk about it.

Andrew Sullivan is an accomplished writer and political commentator. He was editor of The New Republic, once upon a time the most respected liberal political journal out there. He has been writing a column called "The Daily Dish" at The Atlantic for years now. "Sully", as he is known, is also openly gay, a fact he often exploits for sympathy points from his audience.

I first started reading his name, then reading his column, during the 2008 Democratic primaries. While many liberals held a grudge against the Clintons from the 1990's, Sully's venom, spewed only at then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was not contaminated by the usual liberal complaints regarding welfare reform and other heresies her husband practiced during his Presidency. The reality, as detailed in this 2008 piece from Shakesville, is Sullivan couldn't hide his contempt at the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman:
Sully calls Hillary's candidacy a "corruption of feminism," and says that ads recorded by Bill to support Hillary are a "sad, final betrayal of feminism."

Certainly, Sullivan shows a great respect for feminism. Looking at his site right now, he's running a letter from an unnamed reader that compares her unfavorably to Eva PerĂ³n. Another correspondent says she's got big balls. Yet another worries that Bill Clinton will be a corrupt freelancer in a Hillary Clinton administration, worries that evidently didn't apply to Hillary, or, for that matter, Laura. Certainly all these correspondents are pro-feminist, right?

But let's not stop there -- let's look at all of King Andrew's fine contributions to women's rights. Sullivan, of course, endorsed the rabidly anti-choice Ron Paul for President. He has referred to differing women's differing opinions on Clinton as "Paglia women vs. Steinem women," in which says he's "long sided with Camille Paglia." He defended Larry Summers from women angry at him for suggesting that women aren't as smart as men, saying "Scientists are finding out more and more about the differences between the male and female brains. One thing that endures across cultures and populations is a male edge at the very top of the bell curve for spatial and mathematical reasoning." And in a 2000 article in the New York Times, Sullivan praised testosterone, and said, "Since most men have at least 10 times as much [testosterone] as most women, it therefore makes sense not to have coed baseball leagues. Equally, it makes sense that women will be under-represented in a high-testosterone environment like military combat or construction. ... [G]ender inequality in these fields is primarily not a function of sexism, merely of common sense."

So clearly, Andrew Sullivan is a feminist, and a strong one.
Folks "in the know" have understood that Sully has issues with women. He is kind enough to flaunt them.

Fast forward three years or so, and we learn that Sully is now raising the tattered banner of race and IQ. Fellow Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisis Coates provides details and some context.
Andrew's ahistorical approach to race and intelligence has always amazed. The contention, for instance, that "research is not about helping people; it's about finding out stuff," may well be true in some limited sense. But it's never been true, in any sense, of race and intelligence. In the 19th century helping out white people (however that is defined) was very much the point of intelligence research. Into the early 20th century, the rise of eugenics was equally linked the field to the advancement of "people." Even the intelligence theorists whom Andrew, himself, has advanced over the years are motivated by a desire to presumably help people, if only in the form of deciding how a society should expend its limited resources.

Advocates of the "p.c. egalitarianism" theory, such as Andrew, evidently believe that the notion that black people are dumber than whites is a cutting edge theory, as opposed to a long-held tenet of slave-holders and white supremacists. They present themselves as bold-truth tellers who will not bow to "liberal creationists." In fact they are espousing firmly established views that date back to the very founding of this country.
A commenter on Coates' piece provides even further context regarding Sullivan's footsie-playing with academic hood-wearers:
My introduction to Andrew Sullivan was some ten years ago. The right wing talking point du jour was that the media was proven to be liberal because it identified conservatives as "conservative" more often than it identified liberals as "liberal". Even apart from the silliness of this argument, an actual linguist used actual academic tools to perform actual research and found not only that the assertion of fact is untrue, but indeed that it had the facts backwards. A minor frenzy followed among the usual commentariat. Sullivan's contribution was that he didn't know the facts, but he knew the correct conclusion so the facts didn't actually matter. I have never for the life of me understood why anyone with any pretension to seriousness has ever taken him seriously.
When Tucker Carlson said of then-Sen. Clinton that "there's just something about her that feels castrating, overbearing, and scary" and " I have often said, when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs", he was mocked for his hostility. Sullivan, for some reason, continues to have a certain cache among some liberal commentators, including Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo and Matt Yglesias.

Schlepping for the pseudo-science linking race and intelligence reveals Sully as not only a misogynist, but a bigot as well. This may sound harsh, but the reality is simple enough. The pedigree of the "blacks are dumber than whites" idea is old. And rotten to the core. That The Bell Curve attempted to give it a fine sheen of intellectual respectability doesn't disguise the reality that it is no different than craniometry. As with Sullivan's insistence that evidence regarding naming this or that person liberal or conservative is irrelevant, having made up one's mind about an issue without reference to any facts is the garden variety definition of "prejudice", pre-judging.

It is an important thing to expose this kind of thing, call it what it is. Whether it's some kind of visceral hatred of women, or this or that particular woman; or a long-time expressed support for long-debunked ideas regarding race, Sullivan has a history of antipathy to both women and racial minorities that betrays what lies in his sad little heart.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More