Friday, February 01, 2002

CENSURE AND MOVE ON: As a part-time "student of human nature," what I find myself most often struggling to understand is why some people will expend their limited time and energies in an unbiased search for the truth, wherever it shall lead -- surely as noble a goal as can ever be -- while others go to great lengths, performing tortuous leaps of logic and devising fantastic fictions, to avoid facing up to truths that may be painful yet objectively self-evident.

I think that what makes Andrew Sullivan a "complicated" man -- as Michelangelo Signorile has generously described him -- is that, in the course of championing a political and social agenda (which I in no way presume to judge), Sullivan has at some point closed his mind to new information. He may have once set out on a good mission to seek and purvey truth, but lately he has become corrupted by the (real or imagined) power that has been bestowed upon him by his visibility in the mainstream media.

To maintain his visibility, fortify his career, and press his agenda forward, Sullivan must now willfully blind himself to certain difficult, painful truths -- to construct "alternate" theories of the truth where it conveniently suits his purposes -- and most especially irritating -- to designate scapegoats for real and imaginary failures of moral standing, by which to elevate his idols (Bush, Peggy Noonan, et al -- not to mention himself!) by comparison.

Without that support structure, the delicate house of cards from which he issues forth those proclamations would come tumbling down. And yet, the structure is self-defeating, because under close scrutiny the flaws are revealed and it all comes tumbling down anyway.

For one final example -- and this is what drove me to dredge up that quotation from Flatland earlier in the week --

What incredible solipsism -- what unmitigated gall -- for Sullivan to publish on his website that (liberal columnist) Joe Conason "agreed" with him about the (liberal economist) Paul Krugman's "dismaying" ethical failings. To read that throwaway remark without context, you'd think so extraordinary a meeting of minds had taken place that Shiva himself had come down from heaven to broker the deal. And Vishnu too.

In fact, the entire thrust of Conason's latest New York Observer column, beginning to end, was to lay bare the corruption of Sullivan's friend (and conservative pundit) Bill Kristol. In fact, Conason barely at all acknowledged Krugman's involvement in PunditGate with a courtesy slap-on-the-wrist, while giving Kristol a merciless professional drubbing for the far more blatant and profound ethical lapses to which he had recently admitted (and flippantly shrugged off).

Elsewhere, and more than once, Sullivan has duly noted Kristol's conflict and held him accountable. This would have been a fine opportunity to note that he and Conason were, amazingly, of one mind on the issue of Kristol's accountability.

Instead, Sullivan read 1,000 words about Bill Kristol -- the last six of which call for Kristol's resignation! -- and imagined that the point of Conason's column was located in the three sentences which mention Paul Krugman.

Amazing. Like Abbot's Point, the New Monarch of Pointland acknowledges no external facts. He perceives only his own existence, knows only his own mind, and hears only his own voice.

I'm not really interested in being a full-time anti-Sullivan crusader. My own shrillness is hurting my own ears -- and it's probably fair to say that I'm not convincing any of his supporters to look deeper and reconsider. I guess that's the part of human nature I still don't get: that some folks see only what they want to see, and disregard everything that doesn't fit their world view. But no matter. The man's house of cards is collapsing of its own weight. I've censured ... and it's time to move on.

UPDATE: Salon's Eric Boehlert asks the probing question: Why is Andrew Sullivan most angry at the one liberal journalist who cashed in? Also: Your complete guide to whose pockets were lined, and by how much.

UPDATE: WSJ Opinion Journal takes another chink out of Sully's armor for recycling a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece to a foreign paper. Sully calls it a "minor misunderstanding" for which he had profusely (and privately) apologized -- but what does "minor" mean when moral relativism is your stock in trade?

UPDATE: Ted Barlow visits Bizarro Andrew Sullivan's website here. Barlow's been at this for barely a fortnight, but already his blog is on my must-read list. I'm promoting him from Essential Pets to Substitute Essentials immediately!


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