The People Love to Hate

My friend Conor Friedersdorf comes dangerously close to violating the Dougherty Doctrine. You see, Mr. Friedersdorf is an unfailingly polite, open-minded, sympathetic, empathetic, irenic, well-mannered guy. An utterly non-self-aggrandizing, calming, unflappable, gentle man. And over at The Atlantic he notices how unpleasant are those partisans that lack his virtues.

But if you spend time talking politics with people who identify as hard core progressives or movement conservatives, you’ll find that a significant percentage believe their ideology would prevail more often if only their partisans were more angry, their attacks more pointed, their operatives more ruthless. This is most often expressed via the use of metaphors that draw on the language of war and fighting. Usually it doesn’t make any sense. In war, the victor kills as many folks as possible on the opposing side. Political winners persuade more people to join their coalition.

Mr. Friedersdorf goes on to produce examples of negative campaigning that failed or proved ineffective, as part of his argument that irenic persuasion of the sort Friedersdorf (and I) prefer is a winner politically.

Unfortunately, he’s wrong. Politics may not be about killing your opponents (at least here it isn’t), but it certainly isn’t about gently persuading them. Politics is often about humiliating, discrediting, and shaming people and their ideas. Only rarely or at the elite margins is this done with argument. The reason words like “fascist”, “bigot”, and “racist” are an everyday feature of our discourse is because they are powerful weapons for marginalizing and shaming people.

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Lindsey Graham’s Poses

Lindsey Graham is probably one of the most loathsome men in the Senate. (Of course he has been recently hailed as a “New Maverick”) Anyway, Graham is making news today with his suddenly harsh ideas about illegal immigrants. From the Politico:

“I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here,” . . . → Read More: Lindsey Graham’s Poses

America Going Down the Shore

We’re all going to take a long trip to the Jersey Shore this year. First culturally: Just a few years The Sopranos departed, and we have a revival of shows examining the spray-tanned sub-culture of New Jersey. Most notoriously there is MTV’s guiltiest pleasure Jersey Shore. Pulling up the rear are The Real Housewives of New . . . → Read More: America Going Down the Shore

Naturally Boring Religon

Gerald O’Collins S.J. surprises me with his contribution (warning:PDF) to the latest American Theological Inquiry. The author of Chistology has set out to respond to British children’s author Philip Pullman, who decided to make his stance against traditional Christian religion even more explicit with his book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Like Thomas Jefferson and other 19th century rationalists, Pullman has removed the miraculous events out of the Gospels altogether. But Pullman goes further than Jefferson by inventing a twin brother. In this retelling, Mary conceives a charismatic Jesus and a sickly Christ. Basically Jesus says everything that Pullman finds salutary, and Christ becomes the inventor and spokesman for those things Pullman doesn’t like: Scripture, authority, the supernatural. Here is an excerpt.

The Jesuit, O’Collins, takes on the problem of the miraculous in his article. The attempt to find a naturalistic explanation for miraclulous events ends up creating a laughable character, hardly worth the laconic tragedy Pullman attempts here. His Jesus is a master of autosuggestion (making lepers ‘feel’ better), magic (fooling people into thinking water was wine), and transforming sympathy, (“some people who were sick felt themselves uplifted by his [Jesus’] presence and declared themselves cured.”) In other words, Pullman’s good Jesus becomes a televangelist mixed with David Blaine. Not exactly the type who could convinclingly deliver a portentous moral parable or the Beatitudes. O’Collins writes:

Pullman cannot entertain the idea of Jesus being more than merely human. That failure robs his Jesus not only of his genuinely miraculous activity but also of his unconditional authority and reduces him to being a tragic example of a noble and passionate preacher finally crushed by the powers of this world.

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This is Unreal, I’m Blogging Again

Wait: Who are you again?

I’m Michael Brendan Dougherty. But people call me “MBD” to cut down on syllabic exhaustion. You can read about me on the bio page. Basically I write about political ideas, culture – that sort of thing. Normally I do it for money. But since you don’t have to pay to read . . . → Read More: This is Unreal, I’m Blogging Again