Klavan, a genre writer, has produced a genre article: there is no wingnut ritual more beloved than that of gathering around the campfire to tell fairytales about the Other Tribe, the Wicked Liberals. These fantasy pieces are characteristically quite revealing about the structures of conservative identity politics, and as such, are occasionally worth a good dissection.
The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.
One notes first the straw corpses carelessly strewn about in this paragraph: who exactly is claiming that "oppressive cultures" are as good as Klavan's culture, whatever that is when it's at home?
More significantly, this is clearly the recitation of a creed, not a defense of empiricism. One's assessments of the relative literary achievements of Walker and Morrison, or anyone else, are quite clearly matters of opinion, not of hard fact. Neither is there a definite answer to the question of what religions are and what are not "a path to God." That's a question of faith.
Klavan is thus quite obviously not interested in "telling the truth." If he were, he would not begin by drawing a silly equivalence between "truth" and clearly subjective opinions. No. What Klavan wants to do is to create the truth, or the Truth, to enforce it as a new social and cultural reality. He feels oppressed and stifled, horribly and frustratingly so, the poor man, by what he sees as a prevailing belief that Toni Morrison is a great writer. He wants to invent a space where it is "safe" to make such judgments, a space where such judgments are true: today wingnuttia, tomorrow the world, as it were.
In other words, Klavan's otherwise embarrassing confusion of the subjective with the objective is purely strategic: it's meant to consolidate and defend a particular social and cultural position, and is not at all intended to have anything to do with logical coherence or empirical enquiry.
To rewrite the rules of courteous behavior is to wield enormous power. I see it in Southern California, in the bleeding heart of leftism, where I live. I’ve been banned from my monthly poker game, lost tennis partners, lost friends—not because I’m belligerent but because I’ve wondered aloud if the people shouldn’t be allowed to make their own abortion laws, say, or if the world might not be a better place without the UN.
It's all about the positioning. Klavan would have us know that "this is no small thing," although as far as hardships rate, losing a tennis partner is not necessarily the worst calamity one may need to endure (and never mind the comedy here of Klavan declaring in his first paragraph about how his culture is better than ones that are "oppressive," given that he finds oppression in poker disinvitations).
And it's all about adolescent bravado, about an attempt to reap the benefits of Being Bad, albeit in childishly trivial ways:
I sometimes think that I’d rather be deemed evil than a boor. Wickedness has some flair to it, even a whiff of radicalism. If you molest a child, there’s always a chance that you can get the ACLU to defend you as a cultural innovator.
The obvious question is whether there is or is not anything to what Klavan wishes to stand for other than a "boorish" desire to assert that his opinions make him better than others. Based on the article, the answer, unfortunately, is no:
But if you make a remark at table about the destructive social effects of broken homes and then discover that your dinner partner is a divorcée—trust me, you feel like a real louse. It’s manners, not morals, that lay the borderlines of our behavior.
Sure, "manners" are indeed a form of unwritten censorship, though that doesn't make manners culturally invalid: the dinner table behavior Klavan here describes is indeed genuinely lousy. Do we really want a "conservative" society where dinner table conversation consists of making "moral" pronouncements at the expense of other people's feelings?
You don't have to be a radical liberal to get the sense that Klavan would be a rotten person to dine out with if he really feels this way, just as you hardly need to be a liberal to get a divorce (even some conservatives get them, I hear, and even they might not appreciate being told over the soup that they're destroying America). But you would need to be a wingnut to miss this pretty glaring point, to magnify a petty greivance like the ones Klavan cites into something much more epic:
Still, mannerly as we would rather be, truth-telling continues to be both compelling and ultimately satisfying. There is, after all, something greater than courtesy. “Firmness in the right,” Lincoln called it, “as God gives us to see the right.” We find ourselves at a precarious moment in an endeavor of great importance: namely, the preservation of Western rationalism and liberty. It does mankind no good to allow so magnificent an enterprise to slip away merely for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Right. Because "Western rationalism and liberty" depend upon being able to go to a Hollywood dinner party and say things like "women are less scientific," or "that black people bear the same responsibility for their actions as whites," or to point out that a killer in a crime unrelated in any clear way to religion is "a Muslim." That's what Abraham Lincoln was all about, you know -- the freedom to act like a dick at the tennis club.
This article is transparently about how a clearly relatively priviliged individual has patiently nursed minor slights and intangible social resentments until they grew into a new identity, one where as a Proud Conservatives he is able to fearlessly speak Opinion to imaginary Powers. It's fairly pathetic, but there you go: the Wingnut Mind, in all its glory. Of such contradictions are movement conservatives born.
Also, I wish these assholes would make up their fucking minds already if liberals are too civil or too incivil. I just want to know whether people like Klavan prefer being politely or impolitely told to fuck off with their straw man passive-aggressive bullshit. Because as a liberal I of course consider even my rhetorical opponents' feelings to be of prime imortance at all times.