The Other McCain

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

The Value of Silence

Posted on | May 27, 2018 | Comments Off on The Value of Silence

So, this happened, and this happened, and this happened.

In 2011, there was a party at the Right Online conference in Minneapolis. Glad-handing my way around the party — I’m the King of Schmooze — I encountered a handsome young man who wrote for a conservative site and, as is my habit with young people, inquired how soon he would be getting married. Some conservatives seem to believe “traditional family values” is a matter of electing Republicans and passing legislation, but I consider active personal encouragement to be more effective.

Whenever I’m at a social gathering and meet young couples, I ask them, “When’s the wedding?” Or I’ll say something like, “You two look so good together, y’all need to get married and have a dozen babies! There’s not enough beauty in the world, you know.” Sometimes I’ll go into a little riff about my Victory Through Breeding™ agenda — liberals are aborting themselves into extinction, you see, so all conservatives have to do is have lots of babies and we’ll control the future. This is expressed humorously, as a sort of conversational ice-breaker, although the subject of demographics is something that I can also discuss seriously.

The future belongs to those who show up for it, as Mark Steyn has remarked, and young conservatives ought to think about this subject. You can ask such of my young friends as Vinnie Vernuccio and his wife Katie how consistently I pursue my program of active personal encouragement. It is good to vote pro-life, or to protest against abortion, but what’s the point of activism if pro-life people aren’t actually having babies?

So there I was at the Right Online party in 2011, doing my usual thing, cheerfully complimenting this handsome young man on his good looks, and telling him he ought to get himself a wife and make a bunch of good-looking conservative babies. He didn’t seem to find this amusing.

It’s OK — not everybody appreciates my Schmooze King routine. My extreme extroversion and my style of breaking the ice by deliberate breaches of decorum is often misunderstood, and I’ve learned to live with the fact that some people get offended by the glad-handing stranger with the habit of saying crazy things to people he’s just met.

Am I thoughtless? Rude? Inconsiderate? Well, you can tiptoe your way through life trying to avoid being “controversial” or “offensive,” and that’s fine, but it’s just not the way I am. All my life, I’ve been a joker and a clown and, while I can put on a façade of  seriousness when the occasion calls for it, my natural tendency is to be humorous. So when my opening joke fell flat with the handsome young writer at that party in Minneapolis in 2011, I played it off with another joke which also fell flat.

Seeing that he was not amused and that my ice-breaking efforts were futile, I cheerfully bid him adieu and circulated around to meet and greet other party-goers. (Like the shark who constantly swims to keep water flowing through his gills, the Schmooze King must always circulate.) Because it’s not unusual for my extroverted style to rub people the wrong way, I considered that encounter just another clumsy social blunder on my part, and did not at that time realize how clumsy it was.

“Oh, that explains it,” I said, four years later, when he came out.

But my public reaction to his coming out? Nothing. Silence.

Which is the best policy, in such cases.

Being a conservative in the post-Obergefell era requires greater discretion on this subject than was hitherto necessary. A concern for the preservation of liberty means that we must be prepared to defend unpopular opinions against the tyranny of those who would demand that everyone approve of homosexuality, and who would silence all voices of disapproval as “hate speech.” In the face of a #Resistance that includes all the major social-media operations, which can suppress or demonetize conservative content, we must be careful how we express ourselves online. Furthermore, to maintain coalition solidarity, we ought not to pick fights with our friends whose labor on behalf of the conservative cause is valuable even though (a) we don’t agree with them on everything, and/or (b) we personally dislike them.

Success in politics requires about teamwork and, in a two-party system, we must build coalitions on the broadest possible basis. Richard Viguerie has often spoken of the “three-legged stool” — economic issues, foreign policy issues and social issues — around which the Reagan-era conservative movement was organized. More generally, I would argue, conservatism is not an ideology. While the history of conservatism as a movement and philosophy has been traced by Russell Kirk and others, the real unifying theme of that history is opposition to liberalism. Because American liberalism is a mutant creature, constantly evolving and shifting its beliefs, its opponents cannot succeed by a static defense.

A dynamic conservative movement is not unprincipled. “We the People” are defending constitutional liberty against its enemies, and this requires constant vigilance against new threats. Conservatives did not invent the fictitious claims by which a Supreme Court majority turned the Fourteenth Amendment into a pretext for same-sex marriage, and therefore we are not responsible for the consequences of Obergefell. However, we must deal with these consequences as they occur.

What I’ve called The Compulsory Approval Doctrine is one of these consequences. It would appear that, in the wake of the Lawrence (2003), Windsor (2013) and Obergefell (2015) decisions, many “social justice” types believe that Americans are required to approve of homosexuality. By this logic, disagreement over public policy becomes “harassment” and disapproval is considered synonymous with “hate.”

Well, I am an American, and you can’t tell me what I’m allowed to think. The monsters who have attacked Christian florists and bakers for refusing to provide services for same-sex ceremonies — seeking to use the force of law to compel such participation — are enemies of liberty.

If you are not a baker or a florist, you may imagine that the monsters will never come for you. Yet the use of “gay rights” as a litmus test is, I suspect, likely to be expanded in the future under the aegis of “inclusion” and “diversity,” so that personnel policy will be used to compel at least tacit approval of homosexuality as a condition of employment.

What are we to do? How should we conduct ourselves, now that Pandora’s Box has been opened? Rod Dreher (whom I have criticized quite sharply in the past) has outlined The Benedict Option — a sort of neo-monastic enclave strategy to preserve Christian culture in the new Dark Ages that seem to be approaching us. Dreher’s pessimistic assessment is looking increasingly like pragmatic realism, but as a great man once advised, “Never take counsel of your fears.” Amid chaos and uncertainty, we must remain calm and plan for victory, no matter how dim the prospects may seem, or how long the war may endure.

Americans love our First Amendment right to free speech, but in the present climate, we ought to also cherish our Fifth Amendment rights. You cannot be compelled to testify against yourself, and if you have the right to your own opinion, this doesn’t mean that others have a right to interrogate you, or to demand that you take sides in a controversy.

Because I’m an old man who has a long history of expressing outrageous opinions, I am somewhat inoculated against such pressures, but I have occasionally advised young people to be more cautious: No need to burn any bridges for yourself by loudly voicing unpopular truths.

Politics in the age of online social media offers many opportunities, but we also incur many risks in an environment where we are constantly being invited to take sides, to join a mob, to endorse some kind of hashtag crusade and express solidarity with one or another “cause.” Young people should be judicious in such matters, and carefully consider the potential ramifications of their online activity.

Here we have an excellent example: When others rush to congratulate someone on an occasion that you do not consider cause for congratulations, you are under no obligation to express your objections. While you are free to state your disapproval of homosexuality, and to offer arguments in defense of your opinion, there are occasions when silence is the more effective response — and certainly the most courteous.

We need not discuss, here and now. how disappointed I am when conservatives decline to participate in my Victory Through Breeding™ program. Nor do I wish to argue whether the handsome young man could have feasibly been expected to be a successful participant in this program. However, it should be obvious that I do not consider his homosexuality a cause for congratulations, but rather a misfortune.

You don’t have to agree with me. Lots of people disagree with me.

Nearly 66 million Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. I don’t have time to argue with all of them, nor am I prone to argue with #NeverTrump Republicans or “alt-right” Jew-haters. As one of my college professors liked to say: “The dogs may bark, but the caravan rolls on.”



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