The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Compulsory Approval Doctrine

Posted on | April 8, 2018 | 1 Comment

News Item #1:

Harvard is now determined to ostracize, censor, and ultimately root out orthodox Christianity from a university that was founded to train ministers in the Puritan tradition. That is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the school’s little-noticed decision this year to suspend and defund the largest evangelical fellowship on campus.
The fellowship, Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA), ran afoul of the school’s progressive dogmas last September when it asked one of its student leaders to step down from her post. The student was in a same-sex relationship, which meant that she had “an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards,” as the HCFA’s co-presidents told the Harvard Crimson in February. The HCFA’s character rules on premarital sexual activity apply to students of all orientations, the co-presidents insisted, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Egged on by a ravenous progressive mob, the Harvard administration suspended the group in February, and last month the Undergraduate Council voted to cut its funding.

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.) Evangelical Christians aren’t allowed to be evangelical Christians at Harvard, because disapproval of homosexuality is not allowed at Harvard. Undergraduate Council member Sarah Fellman said: “I think this is, as it’s called, about solidarity. I think this is an important symbolic move to show that we, as the elected representatives of the student body, will not tolerate discrimination.” It would seem doubtful that Ms. Fellman has thought through the potential consequences of the “solidarity” principle she has invoked.

News Item #2:

Kevin Williamson, a National Review scribe with a brilliant pen and a long paper trail of insults and wild opinions . . . was boldly hired by The Atlantic and then quickly jettisoned, after it came to light that he had not only suggested hanging as a penalty for abortion in a since-deleted tweet but also more carefully defended the idea of someday prosecuting women who obtain abortions the way we prosecute other forms of homicide. . . .
The fact that Williamson is an extremist doesn’t change the fact that to hire him for his pen and then fire him for having expressed an extreme opinion was stupid and gutless — akin to hiring Christopher Hitchens and then firing him for antireligious bigotry (and yes, Hitch was a bigot, but worth publishing anyway), or adding Hunter S. Thompson to your masthead and then dropping him because it’s pointed out that he writes under the influence of drugs.

Exactly so. Last month, I defended Williamson at length:

We are living through a Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” moment in our history. There’s something happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear. Williamson’s reporting helps us make sense of why there’s a man with a gun over there telling us we’ve got to beware.
The quality of his reporting, however, means nothing to liberals, who consider Williamson unacceptable because of his opinions.

Some of my friends despise Williamson for his “Never Trump” stance, but that’s irrelevant to the issue involved here. Jeffrey Goldberg brought Williamson into The Atlantic to give their readers access to a point of view they might otherwise never encounter. Douthat’s comparison of Williamson to Christopher Hitchens is apt. In 2007, Marty Beckerman and I spent a summer evening at a D.C. bar buying whiskey for Hitchens just for the pleasure of hearing him tell dirty jokes. His “antireligious bigotry,” as Douthat calls it, was just part of the package with Hitchens, like his taste for whiskey (Johnny Walker Black) and his cigarette habit.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Hitchens took alarm at the reflexive “anti-war” reaction of the Left. Because a Republican was president, the Left adopted a posture that was objectively pro-Islam, and Hitchens (who was half-Jewish) saw the dangerous consequences of such a posture. His disillusionment with the Left was much like Orwell’s disillusionment after the Spanish Civil War, and Hitchens became a formidable critic of the Left. Conservatives and libertarians were therefore willing to tolerate Hitchens’ ideological peccadilloes, for the sake of his ability.

Why couldn’t liberals, who share Kevin Williamson’s loathing for Trump, display a similar “strategic alliance” attitude toward him?

The answer, I believe, is simple: Liberals have become totalitarians.

Or perhaps they always were.

 

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