Tag Archives: Michael C. Moynihan

Rage Against The C-SPAN Camera Machine

Rage Against The C-SPAN Camera Machine

Jillian Rayfield at TPM:

The House was debating a bill last night that would provide up to $7.4 billion in health care aid to rescue and recovery workers who have faced health problems since their work in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The bill ultimately failed to get the needed two-thirds majority, 255-159, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was not happy about it. Not one bit.

In a rant that lasted for almost two minutes, a hopping mad Weiner railed against “cowardly” Republicans who claimed they were voting against the bill because of “procedure.” Weiner spat: “It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes!”

Weiner attacked those who “stand up and say, ‘Oh, if only we had a different process we’d vote yes.’ You vote yes if you believe yes! You vote in favor of something if you believe it’s the right thing! If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no!”

“It is a shame! A shame,” he exclaimed.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Yesterday, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner tried to channel Nikita Khrushchev minus the shoe and even some of the dignity, believe it or not. These outbursts aren’t rarities for Weiner, but this hissy fit was especially ‘roid-ragey.


Democrats are starting to make the Taiwanese Parliament look passive.

Update: Rush discusses the spitting mad Weiner in greater detail.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Here’s a clip of Representative Anthony Weiner losing his cool. It’s just the kind of civilized discourse and thoughtful engagement with the issues that the public is thirsting for.

I suppose Representative Weiner could be excused for his outburst; perhaps he just read the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, which Jennifer highlighted earlier today. It shows extremely bad disapproval numbers for Obama on the three issues that are shaping up to be the most important of the mid-term elections: The economy (59 percent), the deficit (65 percent), and health care (55 percent). It also shows Republicans with a double-digit lead on the generic Congressional ballot, which is something I can’t recall having occurred before.

It’s also possible that Representative Weiner had just perused the recent Pew survey, which, among other things, shows that 56 percent of Independents see the Democratic Party as more liberal than they themselves are, compared to only 39 percent who see the Republican Party as more conservative than they are. (h/t: William Galston)

It’s also possible that Mr. Weiner just read the results of the most recent CNN poll, which shows. …

Oh, well, you get the point. These are tough, depressing days for liberals and for liberalism. In both Congress and among the commentariat, heads are beginning to explode. They know what awaits them. And be prepared: it’s only going to get worse as they get more desperate.

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics:

Anthony Weiner does his best Al Pacino imitation. For what it’s worth, I applaud the Congressman’s passion

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

I suppose someone should post this video of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) in full meltdown mode, lighting into Republicans and Blue Dogs opposing the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He’s already being praised from the usual quarters (what calculated passion!), though it seems to me that the Right Honorable Gentleman from Brooklyn might want a refill of his Thorazine


Haha, he cares about his country and likes calling Republicans on their bullshit sometimes. Yeah, that is probably not going to work, but it is entertaining! The bill in question would have provided $7.4 billion in heath care benefits to 9/11 recovery workers, but it failed. Republicans said they voted against it because of “procedure,” according to Weiner’s tirade, and we always listen to people who are yelling, so let’s assume that is the whole story there. Later, Weiner was on Fox News and yelled at Rep. Peter King through the camera, even though King was standing behind him.

UPDATE: Anthony Weiner at NYT

Jerry Remmers at The Moderate Voice

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Filed under Political Figures

When Congresscritters Attack…

Mike Flynn at Big Government:

Maybe it is my Catholic upbringing, but I’ve always been cursed with a bit too much empathy. It is often difficult to witness people bearing the full weight of the consequences of their decisions, even when it is richly deserved. (And, in the case of House Democrats few have ever been more deserving of reaping everything they’ve sown.) We’re human, after all, and witnessing people on the cusp of realizing that they’ve lost everything can be difficult.

Last week, Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC2) attended a fundraiser headlined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was asked by some students on the street whether he supported the “Obama Agenda.” He didn’t take it well.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Getting a little testy, aren’t they?

Newsbusters asks: Did Etheridge commit a crime? Well, Etheridge voted for the health care sham, so he may have done so long before he took a swipe at this kid.

Reminder for Democrats: If somebody comes up to you and expresses a concern for where their tax dollars are going, just do like Charles Rangel and say “None of your damn business” and walk away.


UPDATE: Just another champion of transparency and disclosure.

Reader Joe Glandorf writes: “Why would any sober adult get that animated over a simple question? Why not just ignore it?” And Will Collier is reminded of a movie.

Dan Riehl:

Maybe he felt safe attacking a student because he’s done everything he can to disarm Americans? It’s a thought. His F ratings at links below.

Etheridge displays the all-too typical attitude of a public “official” as opposed to a public servant. I can’t help wondering if a belief that he can slap constituents around with impunity might be one of the reasons he’s big on citizen disarmament, having been rated “F” by both the National Rifle Association and by Gun Owners of America.

Ann Althouse:

How can Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC2) think he can lay hands on someone for asking a question like that? Why did that question make him so angry? Look how much he believes in his own capacity and right to intimidate! Quite aside from the manhandling, where does Etheridge get the idea that someone who asks a question is required to divulge his name? Is he completely deranged? Does he not remember what a camera is? Has he never heard of YouTube? I bet he has now.

Radley Balko at Reason:

Another public official not fond of being recorded in a pubilc space.

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

The Atlantic rounds up the reactions here, and notes this “skeptical” tweet from my pal and former colleague Dave Weigel: “He’s a student! He’s working on a project! He has no name! Nothing shady there.” Sarcasm acknowledged, but what is “shady” about asking Etheridge a simple, if vague, question? First, the Congressman asks “Who are you?” while knocking the camera out of the kid’s hand and, demonstrating that he possesses a limited familiarity with American law, declaring that he has “a right to know who you are.” On a public street, you have the right to walk away, Bob, but members of Congress have no special rights to demand names and affiliations of those asking questions. Should these kids have been more specific? I would have been, though as demonstrated in the video they were attacked before they were allowed a chance to respond.

The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz tweets that the video looks “like James O’Keefe 2.0,” a reference to the conservative activist who produced the infamous ACORN “pimp” videos. If this is meant as criticism—and I suspect it is—it is meaningless. Does anyone doubt that Fernholz would blog with indignation, until his fingers were raw, if the member of Congress doing the shoving and wrist-grabbing was, say, Michele Bachmann?

Also noted by The Atlantic is a post from blogger Doug Mataconis who declares that “sticking a camera in somebody’s face and demanding they answer a question is hardly a form of reasonable political debate, and perhaps not the best way for a constituent to interact with his or her Congressman.” Sticking a camera in someone’s face? Demanding? This is nonsense on stilts, as the video clearly demonstrates. And if Mataconis, the moral arbiter of what constitutes “reasonable debate” (this wasn’t a debate but a flimsy journalistic question; I suspect he means reasonable inquiry), thinks that tracking down a member of Congress on the streets of Capitol Hill is unreasonable, or constitutes some form of harassment, does he hold the major networks and Hollywood studios—think 60 Minutes or Michael Moore—to the same standard?

The only thing new about the “student’s” journalistic methodology is that it bypasses the usual media channels and is distributed via YouTube and Breitbart. And we all presume, though don’t know for sure, that the kids were right-wingers. So just be honest, my liberal comrades, and admit that you hate the questions, not the method.

Rep. Bob Etheridge:

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) released the following statement on the viral video which appeared on the internet today:

“I have seen the video posted on several blogs.  I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved.  Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response.  I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”

Rep. Bob Etheridge (NC-02)

Allah Pundit:

Don’t be too quick to sneer at his apology. Compared to the rest of the left, which has been desperately trying to change the subject by screeching about the fact that the student in the video refused to identify himself, this guy is a model of contrition. In fact, Ben Smith’s got a copy of the Democrats’ talking points on the assault. What’s missing?

1. There is always the part of the story that you can’t see in these gotcha style videos — what were these folks doing, how did they approach him, how were the cameraman and/or others off camera acting?

2. Why would any legitimate student doing a project or a journalist shagging a story not identify themselves. Motives matter — what was the motivation here? To incite this very type of reaction?

3. This is clearly the work of the Republican Party and the “interviewer” is clearly a low level staffer or intern. That’s what explains blurring the face of the “interviewer” and refusing to identify the entity this was done for. The Republicans know if they were caught engaging in this type of gotcha tactic it would undermine their own credibility — yet if it was an individual acting on his own there is no reason that person would have blurred themselves out of the video — and if it was the work of a right wing blog they would have their logo on the video and be shouting their involvement from the roof top.

4. This was a purposefully partisan hit job designed to incite a reaction for political reasons — but it is a tactic so low — the parties involved are remaining anonymous.

5. The fact that no one wants to take credit for this should raise real questions in the minds of voters and the press.

6. Push hard w/ blogs the lack of credibility inherent to anything Breitbart does/posts, given its role in the debunked ACORN videos…

Not a single word is devoted to the idea that asking a question of a congressman shouldn’t mean walking away with his palm print on your neck. Howard Kurtz, Dave Weigel, and Mediaite, among others in the media, have naturally zeroed in on the questioner’s identity as well, which comes as no surprise. As has often been noted, when a government leak hurts Republicans, the story is usually about the information that’s been leaked; when a leak hurts Democrats, the story is usually about the fact of the leak itself. When tea partiers knock off a centrist Republican incumbent, the story is about fringe-dwellers and their insane ideological purity; when the nutroots knock off a centrist Democrat, the story is about principled liberals keeping their representatives honest. Same thing here: If Joe Wilson had answered a question about whether he supports “the Bush agenda” by grabbing a kid by the throat, the kid’s professional affiliation would, I dare say, not be viewed as some sort of mitigating factor for Wilson. But this is the media we have. Second look at conservative “epistemic closure”!

Breitbart and Michael Flynn say they have no idea who shot the video; assuming that the students were indeed Republican “trackers,” paid to shadow Democrats in hopes of capturing a gaffe on film, I wait with bated breath for an explanation as to why these guys are illegitimate but the guy who caught George Allen’s “macaca” line on tape is A-OK. As for why they’re anonymous, R.S. McCain offers a persuasive theory: Given the viciousness of the DNC in trying to make this a story about them, wouldn’t you want to stay anonymous too in order to avoid reprisals?

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald

More Allah Pundit

Jim Geraghty at NRO


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Break Out The Still, Hawkeye, It Looks Like You Have To Go Back

Streiff at Redstate:

At approximately 9:30pm local time on March 26 a ROK Navy Pohang class, the Cheonan, corvette was patrolling off Baengnyeong Island when it was torn in half by an underwater explosion. The explosion killed 46 ROK sailors and a diver died during subsequent recovery operations.

Suspicion immediately focused on the rogue regime now ruling North Korea, the DPRK. Today that suspicion was borne out.

South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world’s most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.

South Korea concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyeongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26 after an explosion rocked the 1,200-ton vessel as it sailed on the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s west coast.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that South Korea had obtained.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) at Heritage:

Will North Korea’s Kim Jong-il get away with murder?  That’s a question Koreans, and many in the region, are asking a month and a half after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk, killing 46.

An investigation, assisted by U.S. naval intelligence, and other international partners, is still ongoing.  Yet it’s all but certain that the Cheonan was torpedoed, an act of war.  While North Korean motives (escalation for aid? Kim Jong-il consolidating his power base? rogue captain?) remain the subject of debate, the destruction is clear.

What to do?  To read the press, the conventional wisdom is that South Korea would not dare retaliate, for fear of sparking a wider war and that any effort to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions would meet China’s veto (Beijing just hosted Kim Jong-il on a state visit).  Some see the most likely scenario as the status quo – public condemnation, Beijing continuing to enable Pyongyang with aid and Washington happy not to rock the boat.  Watching the State Department spokesman dance around this issue, it’s pretty clear that Foggy Bottom wouldn’t be too bothered if the investigation was permanently “ongoing.”

Laura Rozen at Politico:

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put North Korea back on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The request comes as South Korea briefed diplomats today on the findings of an investigation into the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 South Korean sailors died. Reports said the investigation implicated North Korea in launching the torpedo that sank the vessel in March.

“As the recent sinking of the Republic of Korea warship Cheonan has demonstrated, North Korea is, in fact, intent on pursuing the opposite policy of ours, namely, undermining peace and increasing tensions in northeast Asia,” Ackerman wrote Clinton in a letter.

“The apparently unprovoked sneak attack on the Cheonan, by North Korea, and the murder of 46 Republic of Korea sailors sailing in home waters, is a clear potential causus belli, and unquestionably the most belligerent and provocative incident since the 1953 armistice was established,” he continued.

Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, also said Pyongyang’s sales of ballistic missiles, artillery rockets and conventional arms to Hamas and Hezbollah warrant returning it to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list in 2008.

Michael C. Moynihan in Reason:

Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts at reconciliation with the criminal regime in Pyongyang (the so-called Sunshine Policy), which provided North Korea with significant aid while getting almost nothing in return. The policy was abandoned in 2008 by President Lee Myung-bak, having done nothing to alleviate the squalid conditions suffered by the hostages of the Juche dictatorship. Now, how will President Lee respond to news that Cheonan naval ship was likely, though not definitively, sunk by a North Korean torpedo?

Joshua Stanton at The New Ledger:

The sinking of the Cheonan and North Korea’s recent attempt to assassinate a high-ranking defector inside South Korea suggest that we’ve entered a dangerous new phase of the dormant Korean War.  This unstable dormancy began with a 1953 cease fire, which North Korea unilaterally renounced last year.  North Korea appears to have chosen a strategy of provocation like the one it pursued in the late 196o’s, when it seized the U.S.S. Pueblo, killed several American soldiers and dozens of South Koreans in cross-DMZ raids, sent a team of commandos to Seoul kill the President of South Korea, and shot down an American surveillance aircraft, killing all 31 members of its crew.

This precedent suggests that Presidents Lee and Obama will soon face greater tests.  The question of how to respond to the sinking of the Cheonan may be only the first of these.  The last-minute cancellation of U.S. Forces Korea’s annual Noncombatant Evacuation Operation exercise, ostensibly to avoid the appearance of panic, suggest that both governments understand the gravity of the danger.  No one wants the people of Korea to hear “White Christmas” in May.

I’ve already explained why a direct military response would create an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic war and, most likely, would be precisely what Kim Jong Il needs to reconsolidate his rule and bequeath it to his unaccomplished son, Kim Jong Eun, at a time of rising discontent. Just about everyone agrees that a military response would be a bad idea. Here, the agreement ends.  The same foreign policy clique that has long advocated (as Christopher Badeaux has brilliantly put it) “managing” Kim Jong Il out of headlines, inevitably by paying him until he provokes us again, is now extending the argument that we lack good military options into the false contention that we have no options at all, except the one to which they are inextricably wedded:  appeasement.

Tom Ricks in Foreign Policy:

John Byron, our chief contrarian correspondent, recently wrote about stopping what he sees as the runaway military welfare train. The North Korean navy recently has provided an counter-example of what happens when a military is starved for support. North Korean patrol ships are getting pushy in contested waters, apparently because the crab season is about to begin, and (according to proven provider John McCreary) Pyongyang’s military mariners survive in part by crabbing and so in late spring start laying claim to crustacean-rich waters. I have this image in my head of the USS Harry S Truman cruising the Med with seine nets out.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy

Peter Worthington at FrumForum

UPDATE #2: Charli Carpenter and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

More Drezner

UPDATE #3: Dave Schuler

UPDATE #4: Daniel Larison


Filed under Foreign Affairs, Global Hot Spots

God Spelled Backwards Is Dog

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who drew Mohammed as a dog, was recently told that a scheduled lecture on free speech, to be held at Jönköping Högskolan, would be canceled due to “security concerns.” This, of course, is a common evasion, intended to protect the brittle sensibilities of Muslim students while supposedly standing four square behind the right of free speech.

Alas, the administrators in Jönköping had a point. During a lecture in Uppsala today Vilks was attacked by a pack of feral fundamentalists, one of whom managed to headbutt the artist and break his glasses. Police intervened and waged a short battle with the religious nutters who can be heard in the video below, captured by the newspaper UNT, shouting Allahu Akbar! The AP has a quick report, explaining that “Uppsala University spokeswoman Pernilla Bjork said Vilks was showing a provocative film with sexual content to the crowd when the attacker ran up and hit him in the face with his fists.”

Nathan Hardan at NRO:

Here is stunning video footage of Tuesday’s attack on Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, during a lecture at the University of Uppsala. Listen to the students shouting “Allahu Akbar” while Vilks is beaten.

These are the desperate acts of an extremeist movement that is utterly bereft of moral courage, and awash in its own intellectual insecurity. Look at these Western-educatedstudents in their designer clothes, calling down curses on a man who represents the freedom they hate so much, and yet have benefited so much from

Ace Of Spades:

A few points. Vilks’ presentation was, in fact, provocative, as it deliberately juxtaposed pictures of Mohammad (?) and praying Muslims with gay fetish shots.

But, as everyone on the receiving end of artistic provocations for thirty years can tell you — we’re supposed to understand that ideas may incite, and in fact that is the very point of them, and that our right to not be offended doesn’t trump anyone else’s right to give offense.

That lesson was definitely not taught here, as the Violently Aggrieved won the battlefield they turned this university into only on this day, but on future days as well — the university has decided to put an end to this madness, by which they mean they won’t invite Lars Vilks back for any further lectures.

The lesson taught here is, once again, that if Muslims just get violent and criminal, they get exactly what they want.

I’m just curious – I see the police making few arrests here.

If there had been another crowd here — a fired-up anti-jihad crowd, let’s say, which intervened with the jihadists went wild, and started doing their own face-breaking — how many decades of incarceration do you think they’d currently be facing?

Should the law not be changed to reflect the actual law — that Muslims are in fact permitted to create disturbances of the peace and commit assault? Because if you trick non-Muslim citizens into thinking these things are crimes, and then they intervene, believing themselves to be stopping crimes in progress… then you’re locking them up without fair warning, aren’t you?

Eh. They’ve been warned, I guess. Everyone knows what the real law is.

Allah Pundit:

Everything about this is an utter, unmitigated disgrace — the attack on Vilks, the excruciating passivity of most of the crowd, the sheer thuggery of these shrieking, lunatic, barbarian bastards, and of course the killer moment at around 8:45 when they win. Do note, too, how the Aggrieved alternate between vicious threats and civil rights, warning the cops against brutality and reminding them that they pay taxes too. That’s a familiar pattern nine years after 9/11. They’d have torn Vilks apart with their bare hands if they could have but they’re all about proper procedure, you see.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

The fact that so many American media and academic institutions have caved into the imagined fear of such religious fascists is shameful. If the free societies of the world can’t stand up for a person’s right to draw a fucking cartoon without becoming the victim of a multinational assassination plot, well, we lose. And if people’s faith in their god is not strong enough to allow them to laugh off and dismiss an offensive little drawing, they lose. So let’s all get along, or we all lose

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right:

The disruption was thuggish, and the physical attack on the cartoonist was revolting, but the thing that most struck me about the video footage was the level of  hysteria displayed by some of the protestors, a hysteria made all the more disturbing by the fact that it was not the reaction to some sudden, unexpected shock (the protestors can have seen little at the lecture of a nature that they had not already expected) but was instead a manifestation of a deeper, longer-lasting rage that has long since lost any connection it may ever once have had with rationality.

Michelle Malkin

The Daily Caller:

The home of cartoonist Lars Vilks, infamous in the Muslim community for depicting the prophet Mohammad as a dog, was attacked by suspected arsonists late Friday evening, multiple sources confirm. The apparent plot to set fire to Vilks’ home — which comes just four days after a student attacked him at Uppsala University as he showed a film about Islam – was not successful.

Vilks was not at home at the time, according to the Washington Post, and alert onlookers may have helped put a stop to the home invasion:

It was the latest in a week of attacks on the 53-year-old cartoonist, who was assaulted Tuesday by a man while he lectured at a university and saw his Web site apparently attacked by hacker on Wednesday.

Police were alerted just before noon Saturday, as people passing by the artist’s house noted that several windows had been smashed. When officers arrived, they discovered plastic bottles filled with gasoline and fire damage on the surface of the building. Attackers are also suspected of having tried setting the inside of house on fire, but the flames are thought to have fizzled out.

Vilks has long said he would be ready for such an attack:

Vilks has faced numerous death threats over the controversial cartoon, but said in March he has built his own defense system, including a “homemade” safe room and a barbed-wire sculpture that could electrocute potential intruders.

He said he also has an ax “to chop down” anyone trying to climb through the windows of his home in southern Sweden.

“If something happens, I know exactly what to do,” Vilks told The Associated Press in an interview in Stockholm.

Vilks also owns a guard dog named Mohammad.

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Filed under Art, Foreign Affairs, Religion

Paging Al Jolson…

Charles Blow at NYT:

On Thursday, I came here outside Dallas for a Tea Party rally.

At first I thought, “Wow! This is much more diverse than the rallies I’ve seen on television.”

Then I realized that I was looking at stadium workers. I should have figured as much when I approached the gate. The greeter had asked, “Are you working tonight?”

I sat in the front row. But when the emcee asked, “Do we have any infiltrators?” and I almost raised my hand, I realized that sitting there might not be such a good idea.

I had specifically come to this rally because it was supposed to be especially diverse. And, on the stage at least, it was. The speakers included a black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God. It felt like a bizarre spoof of a 1980s Benetton ad.

The juxtaposition was striking: an abundance of diversity on the stage and a dearth of it in the crowd, with the exception of a few minorities like the young black man who carried a sign that read “Quit calling me a racist.”


It was a farce. This Tea Party wanted to project a mainstream image of a group that is anything but. A New York Times/CBS News poll released on Wednesday found that only 1 percent of Tea Party supporters are black and only 1 percent are Hispanic. It’s almost all white.

And even when compared to other whites, their views are extreme and marginal. For instance, white Tea Party supporters are twice as likely as white independents and eight times as likely as white Democrats to believe that Barack Obama was born in another country.

Furthermore, they were more than eight times as likely as white independents and six times as likely as white Democrats to think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

Thursday night I saw a political minstrel show devised for the entertainment of those on the rim of obliviousness and for those engaged in the subterfuge of intolerance. I was not amused.

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

Filming and interviewing at yesterday’s Tea Party rally in DC with my Reason.tv comrade Meredith Bragg, we met some perfectly normal, clever, interesting people (including a black goth kid from West Virginia who really, really wanted to “end the Fed”) and a cluster of weirdos not entirely convinced that President Obama was a Christian or that he wasn’t born at a madrassa in Swaziland. There were limited government types, libertarians, conspiricist kooks, and a handful of people who desperately need someone to elucidate the differences between liberalism, social democracy, socialism, and communism. One attendee, who was incredibly well informed on a number of issues, nevertheless explained that we were seeing an incrementalist approach to a Stalinist state. Interrupting, I said with sarcasm, “but, ya know, without the genocide.” Oh you naive young lad, he sighed, just wait and see.

Now, I usually preface all discussion of the Tea Parties with links to my criticism of some of the nonsense I have come across interviewing, to clarify that I find some of the rhetoric I’ve come across when reporting from various Tea Party events to be deeply problematic. But most of it, though, is simply a canned case against government spending. As Tunku Varadarajan writes at the Daily Beast, commenting on a recent poll of Tea Party participants, “It is now safe for metropolitan Americans to say—without fear of pillory, or of being waved away as wing-nuts—that the Tea Partiers are not a bilious, lunatic, unschooled, racist rabble out to sabotage our first African-American president, but are, instead, passionate, educated, middle-aged, middle-class and relatively prosperous critics of the Obama administration.”

I think this is largely right, though there are clearly a helping of bilious lunatics milling about too. Then again, if someone tasked me with collecting offensive, racist, misspelled signs from International ANSWER rallies, I suspect I could cobble together a pretty terrifying display from “the other side.” (This isn’t entirely accurate, for many of the people at the Tea Parties are staunch anti-interventionists; indeed, Glenn Beck is drifting towards a Ron Paul-type foreign policy).

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene on Blow’s article:

It’s this kind of piece that causes people on the right to think that on matters of race, they’re damned if they do, and they’re damned if they don’t — if they don’t make efforts to include non-whites they’re unenlightened propagators of privilege, and if they do make those efforts they’re the cynical managers of a minstrel show, but either way, race is used as a cudgel to discredit them in a way that would never be applied to a political movement on the left.

On Moynihan:

What I really loved about this passage was the “black goth kid from West Virginia who really, really wanted to ‘end the Fed’” — as everyone knows who has actually attended any mass political rally, America is a deeply weird country filled with colorful individuals whose identities almost never fit into the categories that are so often discussed in the media.

I’d bet that “the black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God” are all interesting people with honestly held convictions that are understandable outgrowths of their reason and experience.

Mr. Blow, meanwhile, thinks that they are minstrels.

South Bend Seven:

I don’t have a lot of patience for the Tea Party crowd.  For one thing,  I think going to political rallies is a supremely ineffectual thing to do.  I actually think carrying protest signs may be actively harmful, since it  allows people to feel as if they are having an impact while making almost no difference.

Add to that the fact that a lot of them are they’re pretty ill-informed and a hefty chunk are nutso paranoids.  (See Michael Moynihan’s piece here, which Friedersdorf links to.)  But this is a country which has decided the Slanket is a swell thing, so I’m pretty much surrounded by crazy people who’s opinions and decisions I can’t trust.  So I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for those folks, even though we have much common ideological ground.

Nevertheless, I can’t stand having them dismissed out of hand.  The leftward wing of “the elite” are always bemoaning a lack of “engagement” with the other side, and an insufficient amount of bipartisanship and cooperation, but when a serious ideological movement springs up practically over night the only response I hear is that they’re all knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, maleficent cretins who should shut up, go back to the hinterlands, and accept that their betters have it all under control.  I don’t like people who oppose me deploying bad arguments, but I don’t like people who agree with me deploying bad arguments either, and in this case the “ZOMG! Tea baggers = stupid paranoid racists!!” is one part of the latter and four parts of the former.

More to the point at hand, what if 100% of the non-white people at that rally were shills?  What if the whole movement was white?  Saying that an opinion is only acceptable if it is embraced by a sufficient number of members of certain groups is logically the same thing as saying that opinions are only valid if they are sufficiently popular in general.  The validity of an idea is unrelated to the number of people who agree with it, just as it is unrelated to the types of people who believe it.

Jamelle on Friedersdorf:

I wouldn’t say that Friedersdorf is missing the point here, I’m not sure if he’s aware enough to grasp the problem with this particular display of “diversity.” Conor calls Blow’s piece unfair, asserting that “In any context except a Tea Party, the vast majority of liberal writers would praise the act of highlighting the voices of ‘people of color’ even if they aren’t particularly representative of a crowd or corporation or university class.”

But the “minstrelsy” Blow decries doesn’t flow from the mere presence of minority voices at a conservative rally — which is what Fridersdorf seems to think — it flows from the fact that those voices are forced to engage in elaborate tribal rituals to show the white Tea Partiers that they’re on their side. And that’s precisely because there are so few people of color within the Tea Party Movement, and conservative circles more generally. From what I’ve seen, conservative activists have a habit of categorically defining people of color as ideologically hostile, so that their mere presence isn’t enough to convince organizers or attendants that their sympathies are shared. In turn, this suspicion requires those singular voices of color to “perform” and show their loyalty, in order to gain acceptance. The exact opposite dynamic occurs on the left, for the simple reason that white liberals feel they can readily assume ideological sympathy from any given person of color, regardless of circumstance. Which, admittedly, is also very problematic.

Adam Serwer at Tapped on Friedersdorf:

There are cultural and historical reasons for that, which Friedersdorf doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge. More to the point though, Blow’s reaction, which I think was unfair, was a visceral one related to seeing people of color engage in what Bouie refers to as the “elaborate tribal rituals” necessary for them to gain acceptance in a conservative setting.

This isn’t mere conjecture on Blow’s part. Think about Republican Congressional Candidate Corey Poitier calling Obama “buckwheat,” or Michael Steele assuring Republicans that Obama only won because he’s black, or Marco Rubio insisting the president is an idiot savant who just knows how to read from a teleprompter. Is it any surprise that black conservatives feel like they have to engage in baroque gestures of solidarity, considering that merely being a black stranger in a conservative crowd puts one at risk of being mistaken for a member of ACORN?

The disturbing implication of these events is that many conservatives use skin color as a shorthand for identifying those who are “on their team,” and Friedersdorf seems uninterested in addressing this. White liberals can’t really do exactly this because the Democratic Party is much more diverse, but liberals also often make problematic assumptions about black people and their politics. If you think the old tribal instincts can’t be rekindled on the left, I would direct you to some of the liberal reactions to Prop 8’s passage in California. No party or ideology has a monopoly on racism, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t anything implicitly racial or problematic about a movement that claims the mantle of being “real Americans” and just happens to be overwhelmingly white.

In any case, what conservative Tea Partiers are doing in Blow’s piece is not minstrelsy, which implies an active effort to harm other black people for personal gain by reinforcing long-held black stereotypes. The Tea Partiers of color here are instead trying to signal solidarity with a group of people who are suspicious of them because of their skin tones, and that’s both sad and frustrating. But they are ultimately trying to purchase access to a political community that they feel better suits their views, and they’re entitled to that. Being black and conservative does not make you a sellout.

Where Blow is reductive, Friedersdorf is oblivious. Friedersdorf writes that he is certain that the Tea Partiers Blow criticizes are “interesting people with honestly held convictions that are understandable outgrowths of their reason and experience.” Of course. But why is part of their experience having to try so hard to convince their ideological cohorts they’re on the same side? Instead of asking this question, Friedsdorf whines that conservatives are held to a different standard on issues of race than liberals, which is a funny question to ask during Confederate History Month.

Jamelle responds to Serwer:

In that last post, my emotion definitely got the best of me. Adam is right, the Tea Partiers of color aren’t minstrels, and their signaling — though extremely problematic — isn’t minstrelsy. Being black and conservative really doesn’t make you a sellout, and it was unfair of me to imply otherwise (and runs counter to my long-stated goal of wanting to see more black Republicans). That said, like Adam, I wish Friedersdorf could see what’s problematic about the conservative tendency to see skin color as a way to discern ideological sympathies. Confronting it won’t be pleasant, but if Friedersdorf is interested in building a conservatism that’s hospitable to Americans of all colors, he’s eventually going to have to accept that racially, there’s much work to be done on the Right

Friedersdorf on Jamelle and Serwer:

Look, I do think some conservatives have a problematic tendency to see minorities as others — and that liberals, for their part, tend to assume that “people of color” must be “on their side” — but the right’s “real Americans” nonsense isn’t about race. Trust me, Sarah Palin is denigrating Ivy League colleges, the richest households in Manhattan, and coastal dwelling white liberals far more than, for example, black folks in Mississippi or Hmong in Wisconsin.


ad the column by Mr. Blow offered evidence for all these assumptions, its problematic elements might have been less egregious. But if we look at what Mr. Blow wrote, there is nothing to suggest that the folks at that Tea Party rally defined minorities as ideologically hostile, or that the minorities were “required” to “perform” to gain acceptance, or that they engaged in “elaborate tribal rituals” — perhaps there are “historical and cultural reasons” that cause Mr. Bouie to assume that all these things happened, but in fact, all we’re told is that “the speakers included a black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God.”

Mr. Serwer writes:

Where Blow is reductive, Friedersdorf is oblivious. Friedersdorf writes that he is certain that the Tea Partiers Blow criticizes are “interesting people with honestly held convictions that are understandable outgrowths of their reason and experience.” Of course. But why is part of their experience having to try so hard to convince their ideological cohorts they’re on the same side? Instead of asking this question, Friedersdorf whines that conservatives are held to a different standard on issues of race than liberals, which is a funny question to ask during Confederate History Month.Again, this assumption that the minorities at that rally had to “try so hard” to persuade ideological fellows they were on the same side. I am hardly blind to Confederate History Month, or the subset of Southern conservatives whose ideas about race in America are quite wrongheaded. I just think its nonsense to invoke those conservatives in order to defend a New York Times column that Mr. Serwer himself calls “unfair” and “reductive,” or to call someone oblivious because they don’t include in every blog post on race a paragraph that says, “To be sure, it is understandable for a writer to pen a wrongheaded, reductive column attacking conservatives as minstrel show managers given the fact that some other conservatives who are completely uninvolved in this particular controversy hold problematic views on the subject of race.”

Serwer responds to Friedersdorf:

What is Friedersdorf’s priority? A conservative movement not seen as widely hostile to people of color because it isn’t, or a conservative movement that doesn’t have to deal with being seen as widely hostile to people of color? The above statement suggests the latter, which goes a long way toward explaining conservatives’ ongoing difficulties on matters of race.

That the Tea Party is so overwhelmingly white isn’t seen as a symptom of a larger problem (which is that most people of color view Republicans as hostile to them or their interests, because, well, they often are). Instead, the problem Friedersdorf hones in on is that people notice the undercurrent of racial hostility at some of these events and write about them in ways that make conservatives look bad on matters of race. He’s mistaking the symptom for the disease.

I think liberals bear some responsibility for this in that they often seem satisfied with similar superficial gestures of “diversity,” but liberals also get into internal conflicts about these things all the time, precisely because they see this kind of inclusiveness as being genuinely important in a way that the right doesn’t. Conservative criticisms of such empty gestures would also bear far more weight if they weren’t so generally dismissive of racism except when directed at white people or when the target happens to be a self-identified conservative person of color.

As for the “Real Americans” conceit, Friedersdorf argues that “the right’s ‘real Americans’ nonsense isn’t about race” since it’s also applied to presumably white liberal academic elites on the coasts, etc. This isn’t an either or, and it’s pretty clear from the lengths people of color have to go to qualify that the definition has a racial dimension as well as a cultural one — and that neither are ultimately very inclusive of people who don’t happen to be white, Christian, and heterosexual.

Andrew Sullivan, who links to Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I think what Conor is missing here is a real historical context for the exchange between modern liberalism and black America. Old school liberals will recall exceedingly nasty conversations between blacks and their would-be white allies stretching back to the days of the Scottsboro Boys through the James Baldwin’s meeting with Robert F. Kennedy, to the Weathermen and the Panthers, through Hillary’s run against Obama.
The sense among some white liberals that they were “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” was part of the work. The sense among some blacks that white liberals didn’t actually get it, and were just rebelling against Daddy, (or some such) was part of the work. In a modern context, many of us who supported Obama thought that Bill Clinton’s Jesse Jackson riff was appalling and low. And many of us who supported Hillary thought that, while liberals had an eye out for any whiff of racism, sexism was basically yawned at.
And yet through it all, blacks have allied themselves, in the main, with liberals. They haven’t done this because they support the entire liberal agenda, or because they think liberalism is an implicit cure-all for racism. They’ve done it because because reconciling the country to its own diversity is at the core of modern liberalism–it’s the foundation to the house, not the paint-job. This is about history. Lyndon Johnson didn’t simply look for black people to window-dress existing policy, he expanded existing policy in a way that showed a policy commitment–at great political cost–to healing the country’s oldest wound, and, in the process, he purged the party of people who had vested interest in jabbing at the wound.

And Jon Bernstein:

You know what I think?  We’re all grown-ups here; we can speak plainly.  Republicans made a choice to appeal to people who didn’t like blacks (and gays, and a variety of other “others”).  They have reaped benefits from that; there are also costs.  Some people now who weren’t even born when Republicans made that choice and who are attracted to conservative ideas — and are not bigots in any way — don’t like the fact that conservatives including themselves have to suffer that extra scrutiny, because it ain’t their fault, so why are they pegged with the it?  Well, tough luck.  You choose who you hang out with.  Politics isn’t just about ideas; it’s also about groups, and teams, whether one likes it or not: you choose who you hang out with.  Not that Conor Friedersdorf has anything to apologize for in my view and to the best of my knowledge; he’s generally quick to call out conservatives who misbehave, and in my opinion has long since earned the right to be regarded as well-meaning and well-intentioned.  But not so for the leaders of the Tea Parties, and not so for many of the leaders of the Republican Party.  Friedersdorf is wrong to believe that race is unfairly being used as a “cudgel to discredit them.”  It’s their own acts of commission and omission, their own tolerance of ugly signs and rumors and slogans, their own fealty to Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of it, that discredits them.

UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Conor Friedersdorf

UPDATE #2: Adam Serwer at Tapped


Filed under Politics, Race

“You Know, I’ve Learned Something Today”

David Itzkoff at NYT:

An episode of “South Park” that continued a story line involving the Prophet Muhammad was shown Wednesday night on Comedy Central with audio bleeps and image blocks reading “CENSORED” after a Muslim group warned the show’s creators that they could face violence for depicting that holy Islamic prophet. Revolution Muslim, a group based in New York, wrote on its Web site that the “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker “will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh” for an episode shown last week in which a character said to be the Prophet Muhammad was seen wearing a bear costume. Mr. Van Gogh was slain in Amsterdam in 2004 after making a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some Islamic societies.

The new episode of “South Park” on Wednesday night tried to revisit this character, but with the name and depiction of the character blocked out. It was unclear how much of the bleeping was Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker’s decision. In a message posted on their Web site, SouthParkStudios.com, they wrote that they could not immediately stream the new episode on the site because:

After we delivered the show, and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional audio bleeps throughout the episode. We do not have network approval to stream our original version of the show.

On Thursday morning, a spokesman for Comedy Central confirmed that the network had added more bleeps to the episode than were in the cut delivered by South Park Studios, and that it was not giving permission for the episode to run on the studio’s Web site.

Andrew Sullivan:

I know I’m a broken record, but the two-part 200th episode was about as close to genius – and hardcore fan-pandering – as you can get. Hennifer Lopez, Mr Hat, Mephesto and Stan Tenorman: what more could you ask for? Well: you could ask for a reprise of South Park’s pioneering decision not to pander to idiotic Islamist threats by treating the figure of Mohammed the way they treat every other religious icon. And that’s what Matt and Trey delivered.

They had done it before with no problem. In 2001, they’d already run an episode with the Super Best Friends, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammed, and Seaman – pronounced SeamAAAn – portraying Muhammed with no fuss or complaints. Then after 9/11, when all media should have been even more insistent on not caving to Jihadist thugs, Comedy Central forbade a reprise in a subsequent episode. Viacom looked really stupid, but that’s hardly unusual.

Then the last two weeks. In the first part of the 200th episode, South Park went to hilarious lengths to have Muhammed but cloaked in various disguises – a U-Haul van, a bear mascot, Santa Claus. But any actual depiction,as in 2001, was covered with a block of black with the word “censored” on it. In some ways, this act of censorship wasn’t too big a deal. It actually helped illuminate the unique intolerance of Sunni Islam among world religions today. SP has long had Jesus and Satan, they have ridiculed Mormonism, eviscerated Scientology, mocked Catholicism and showed the Buddha actually doing lines of coke. None of the adherents of these other faiths have threatened to kill Matt and Trey, but, of course, some Sunni Islamists did so.

Ann Althouse:

Did Revolution Muslim truly threaten Stone and Parker or was it merely warning them? That is, were they indicating that they would commit and act of violence or were they only opining based on their prediction of what others, more extreme than they, would do? Revolution Muslim says it’s just a warning:

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a member of Revolution Muslim, repeated the group’s assertion that the post was a prediction rather than a threat. He said that the post on the group’s blog “was intended in a principle that’s deeply rooted in the Islamic religion, which is called commanding the good and forbidding the evil,” tying the group’s complaints about “South Park” to larger frustrations about U.S. support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.They have freedom of speech too, so the question is whether it’s a true threat.

ADDED: I have no end of respect for Stone and Parker. What brilliant artists! What political heroes!


Obviously, Christians — and Sarah Palin fans, and lovers of My Mother The Car — should take heed of this incentive system our modern media is creating. Don’t want things you treasure satirized? Just issue a “prediction” and — voila! Meanwhile, note how entirely real radical Muslim threats and violence are treated as just part of the weather — something you have to adapt to — while nonexistent Tea Party violence is an existential threat to the Republic.

But here’s a warning of my own: Those who have no backbone will do the bidding of those who do.

Allah Pundit:

One mystery lingers: In the final scene, in vintage SP fashion, a bunch of characters gave mini-soliloquies about the moral of the story. The twist this time is that they were all bleeped out — roughly 30 seconds’ worth of airtime, filled with nothing but bleeps. I thought for sure that that had to be a joke — the moral of the story was how absurd censorship can be, and that was a perfect way to show it — but now I’m not so sure. Says the AP, “Comedy Central also censored 35 seconds’ worth of a conversation toward the end of the show between the characters Stan, Jesus Christ and Santa Claus. The network wouldn’t say Thursday whether this contained any reference to the warning [from jihadists].”

New York Times:

The “South Park” creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have issued a statement in response to Comedy Central’s decision to alter an episode after a Muslim group’s warning:

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

Aziz Poonawalla:

Most other blogs and news sites are not providing a link to RevolutionMuslim.com – which appears to have been hacked, possibly by angry fans of the show – but I think it’s important to let these idiots know that they are being critiqued. And my critique of them is much the same as my critique of Anwar al-Awlaki: they are cowards, who seek to gain publicity for themselves. In a lot of ways, they have much in common with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, except that the latter are at least funny on occassion.

The Prophet SAW has been depicted by non-muslims with respect many times in the past – including a marble frieze of the Prophet as one of history’s great lawgivers, on the South Wall inside the Supreme Court building in Washington DC (photo at right). Muslims themselves, particularly in Iraq and Iran, are fond of depictions of the Prophet, with many public paintings and billboards of him and Ali ibn Talib AS. These are expressions of respect or love, and are not in any way an insult or an undue reverence.

In fact, it is precisely the over-reaction of extremist muslims who wave around threats of violence that leads to more depictions and insults to the Prophet, not less. The right way to inculcate respect for the Prophet among non-muslims is not to act like a barbarian but to simply express ourselves and explain our beliefs – and then excercise our own right, to walk away. It is by their own actions, supposedly in “defense” of the Prophet, that these extremists actually cause greater offense to the Prophet’s legacy than any mere cartoon. After all, the Prophet SAW is judged by non-muslims solely by the behavior of those who profess to follow him.

I don’t watch South Park, and likely never will. But I much prefer their attempt at depiction of the Prophet SAW, which is rooted in a simple need to assert their creative freedom, rather than any genuine intent to defame or insult Islam – quite unlike the Danish newspaper cartoons, which were created with only malice in mind. To understand this, compare and contrast the images of the Prophet as a super hero or a bear, versus a dark figure with a bomb in his turban. The real insult to the Prophet is in refusing to make a distinction at all.

Related: The muslim women lawyer organization KARAMAH visited the Supreme Court to investigate the frieze of the Prophet SAW and have a very nice report on their findings.

UPDATE: A conversation with a reader about muslim sensibilities, assimilation, and tolerance.

UPDATE 2 – it wasn’t Mohammed after all in the bear suit, but actually Santa, according to people who’ve actually seen the episode. This revelation makes me realize that the South Park creators Matt and Trey are, quite simply, brilliant demigods. Well played, sirs. Well played. Of course, that didn’t stop Comedy Central from censoring the episode anyway…

manas at Ijtema:

Fox news seemed to revel at the episode. God forbid, if one of the writers get killed, they get a double bonus. South Park is something they don’t like. Islam too.

It is true that most Muslims believe that the Prophet (SAW) should not be drawn, but drawing him will cause more annoyance than offense or anger. The reason Muslims were offended and angered by the Danish cartoon is not because it drew the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him), but rather because it portrayed him as a terrorist.

When the Muslims conquered Mecca, they forgave the persecuting Quraish. They destroyed all the idols that were there in the Kaaba, which was built (or rebuilt) by Abraham (AwS). However, there was a picture of prophet Jesus (AwS) and his mother Mary (may Allah be pleased with her), which the prophet carefully put away.

Muslims love and respect all the other prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus (AwS). Whenever they are ridiculed, we are hurt too. The difference is, as Jesus (AwS) is “shared” between us and the Christians, so we do not feel we (Muslims)  are being picked on.

The episode of South Park in my opinion was not trying to offend. It was trying to engage/incorporate the Muslim faith into the dialogue the way they know how. That’s the problem. Americans do not understand other cultures, not even European ones, and do not attempt to understand them. They expect them to ‘know what we are talkin’ about.

It just does not work that way. You can’t converse in Bengali with a Chinese.

Personally, I did find the show a bit offensive. One, because it showed the Prophet (SAW) clad in a stupid teddy bear costume. Two, it made innumerate references relating Muhammad (SAW), Muslims and violence. (Three) nor is Muhammad (SAW) immune from criticism. Even Muslims believe that he was a fallible human. We just believe that overall he was an excellent person- an example for all humanity to learn from. We are open to sincere criticism, but we do not like him ridiculed.

So, in short, I am a somewhat offended by, and a bit dissatisfied with the show, but in no way angry with it. I urge my fellow Muslims to engage the larger society- including the media, and use this opportunity to create some positive atmosphere. I urge the media to talk to representative Muslim organizations, and emphasize that they are such, before talking about fringe groups.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in NYT

Doug J.

E.D. Kain at The League

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason

UPDATE #2: Glenn Greenwald on Douthat

Daniel Larison on Douthat and Greenwald

UPDATE #3: David Schaengold at The League

Peter Worthington at FrumForum

1 Comment

Filed under Religion, TV

Paging The Lesbians At Smith College

Alex Knepper:

My colleague Nate Gunderson caught me as I was nearly out the door. I was walking back from the bloggers’ lounge with a friend in the Virginia newspaper business, and Nate tapped my shoulder to tell me that Ryan Sorba, the kid who embarrassed himself in front of the world by denouncing GOProud to a round of boos, was standing twenty feet away from me. He had a few people near him, probably curious about who he was and what he stood for.

After deliberating for a few seconds, I decided to let Adam Brickley and a couple of guys from The Lobbyist walk to Murphy’s, where the FrumForum party was being held, by themselves. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet this guy.


My recollections are not perfect, of course, but Nate should be able to help me fill in the details. The exchange is roughly as follows.

“So, you’re the infamous Ryan Sorba,” I said.


“You’ve made quite a name for yourself.”

“Haha, yeah. Where are you from?”

“I go to college around here, American University.”

“What are you studying?”

“I was double-majoring in Political Science with a political theory focus and International Relations with an Islamic Studies focus, but I think I’m going to drop the latter. I can’t take the relativistic preaching, the whitewashing of the burqa, Sayyid Qutb, the entire religion.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. So what did you think of my little tirade, then?”

“Oh, I thought it was quite evil, actually. I’m gay.”

“You mean you think you’re gay.”

“No, I’m gay. Do you think it’s a choice?”

“I think it’s the result of a complex process of social and environmental factors, but that it’s reversible.”

“So, like, why is it that over one hundred animals have been observed engaging in homosexual sex in nature?”

“Well, only 0.2% of animals are known to do that — ”

” — I mean, mammals, obviously, not ants, birds — ”

” — you know, animals masturbate, your dog humps your leg. Does your dog talk with a lisp?”

“Do I talk with a lisp?!” I yelled.

“A little bit.” (I later asked a couple of gay friends if I have a small lisp; both of them said I have no lisp whatsoever. Aron, who is straight, has said my voice is sometimes theatrical, but that I don’t have a lisp.)

“Rudy Giuliani has a lisp — is he gay?”

And then he went off on what he affectionately called “his tirade” — giving the same mangled pseudo-Aristotelian spiel about how natural rights have to be grounded in natural law, meaning substance, and the final result of the reproductive organ must be a reproductive act, and all of that.

“Yeah, yeah, I get your argument, I understand it, ” I tried to interrupt, But he said that I didn’t, and he finished.

“But the vast majority of married couples partake in sodomy — oral sex, anal sex, fetishes. Hasn’t your girlfriend ever given you a blowjob? I think the government should just get out of the whole marriage business!”

Everyone around us agreed with that statement. Sensing some momentum, I went on: “I’m the one who says that my values shouldn’t have anything to do with government. It’s you who wants to impose his own biases upon the rest of the world!”

Nate Gunderson pondered why it was such a burning issue for Ryan.

“Because conservatives should not be upholding groups who support homosexual marriage and sodomy.”

I said something I don’t quite recall, and he mentioned something about how he could “take me on” physically if he needed to, to which I mentioned that his quick resort to force and threats said a lot about his political philosophy.

He said at around this point that he needed to go, and put out his hand to say goodbye. I stared at him, refusing to shake his hand, and he said “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.”

We all started walking away, with him talking to his girlfriend, and me talking to Nate, blasting Sorba more.

Someone who was with him asked Sorba: “Really, though, he had a point: why do you care about this so much when the economy is in shambles and the debt is growing and spending is out of control?”

“Because it corrupts the youth and the culture,” he replied.

When we reached the area near the escalator downstairs, he turned on his camera. I put out my arms, striking a mocking pose, but realized he kept holding the camera at me.

“Wait, are you recording or taking a picture?” He was recording.

“Ah! OK…Well, I’d like to say, then, that the person behind the camera is a Hitler Youth waiting for a fuhrer to sweep him off his feet into a grand national project so he can sacrifice individuals like stock-fodder to his own biases.”

He turned off the camera and approached me. I told him he should get his girlfriend to give him a blowjob so that he could experience the joys of sodomy. He put two of his fingers an inch from my face and said that he’d want to fight me if a girl wasn’t around. “Ah, the use of force!” I said again.

It essentially ended, there. May this story make the rounds to further expose Sorba’s blithering idiocy!

John Guardiano at FrumForum:

Ryan Sorba’s brief remarks before CPAC inadvertently depicted social conservatives as an angry, snarling bunch. For starters, of course, he “condemned” CPAC for accepting co-sponsorship from GOProud, a group that represents gay Republicans. When the CPAC audience booed him, Sorba retorted:

“Bring it! The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do!” And to someone in the audience named Jeff, I think, Mr. Sorba said: “You just made an enemy out of me; thanks a lot.”

There is a principled conservative case to be made against conferring special legal privileges, and a consequent special legal status, on gay men and women. However, that’s not the case that Sorba made. Alex Knepper, then sought out Sorba and the two almost came to blows.

I hope, as they grow and mature, that Alex and Ryan will realize that good and decent people can harbor seriously mistaken but well intended views.

I know and like Alex. I especially liked this post by Alex, which prompted me to email editor David Frum with a note that said in effect: “Wow, who is this guy? He does great work!”

Unfortunately, Alex’s post about his CPAC altercation amounts to a tasteless and nasty ad hominem attack on Sorba, whom he calls a closet homosexual.

Here are two young men, understandably quick-tempered. But the conservative tradition which both young men inherit is not so young. I hope that Alex and Ryan will study and learn this tradition and benefit from it; for it has much to teach them. Among its myriad lessons: the importance of social and intellectual tolerance, good humor and good cheer, and personal grace and decorum.

Knepper responds at FrumForum:

FrumForum contributor John Guardiano and many others have criticized me for accusing Sorba of being a closet homosexual. Growing up gay, I know what it’s like to want to hide it — and I know every trick in the book that’s used to go about doing so. There are certain behaviors that only those of us who have been there can really pick up on — it’s a dog-whistle kind of thing. When I was closeted, I opposed same-sex marriage, figuring that it was the ultimate way to hide my sexuality. When I was 14 and 15, I would spout the typical anti-gay lines, albeit less eloquently than Sorba. All of the gay men I showed the transcript to were laughing their asses off, recognizing exactly what was going on.

But the greater, more important point is this: my insults and Ryan Sorba’s are not morally equivalent. He is wrong about what he is telling me: homosexuality is not a “lifestyle,” and it is not an ideology. This is not an opinion. And when he tells me that he wants to use the force of the state to ban sodomy — including oral sex, anal sex, and fetishistic sex among consenting married couples — he is advocating a regressive, authoritarian policy that has no place in conservatism, libertarianism, or any belief system that honors freedom.

As I told a radio host earlier: even assuming Sorba is right, he hasn’t a clue how to go about reversing homosexuality. In the meantime, he wants not for us to engage in loving, monogamous relationships, but to condemn us to loveless, sexless lives, devoid of passion, romance, and sexuality. I cannot fathom the warped sense of life that a person must possess to want to tell his fellow beings to deny such an essential part of what makes them human. So yes, I absolutely rained down ad hominem attacks on Ryan Sorba: for there can be no respect toward the disrespectful, no kindness to the cruel.

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

When a California conservative activist named Ryan Sorba denounced homosexuality from the lectern, he was roundly booed and forced to slink off the stage (muttering “bring it” and warning a heckler that he had “just made an enemy of me, buddy”). GOProud member Alex Knepper confronted Sorba after his speech and was told that his homosexuality was an immoral choice, not a genetic predisposition. When Knepper attempted to shake Sorba’s hand, the Golden State’s foremost amateur geneticist replied: “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.” So wait, is he intrinsically evil or, with a bit of counseling, can Knepper be “fixed”?

Megan McArdle:

Andrew Sullivan has been doing a lot of blogging about Ryan Sorba, the [expletive deleted] who got up on stage at CPAC to condemn them for inviting GOProud.  Andrew’s mostly given a lot of space to illustrating what a [censored] [redacted] Ryan Sorba is, and I fully agree.  One can only cherish the hope that thirty years from now he will writhe in shame at this performance, and given the vagaries of youth, there is a good chance that eventually, he will.

But [expletive deleted]s getting up at political conferences and saying asinine things are not exactly a surprising happening.  To me, the news story was this:  Sorba got booed off the stage.  At CPAC.  This seems like great news.  So why focus on the sad truth that yes, there are still homophobes out there?  Maybe this is just heterosexual privilege, but this seems like a genuinely great moment in gay rights–and the gay conservatives and libertarians who sent met that clip seemed to take it as such.  The culture war may not be over, but the allied forces are advancing on Berlin at an astonishing pace.  I feel like we should be kissing nurses in the street (male or female!)

E.D. Kain:

That’s pretty astonishing if you ask me.  While Andrew and others lament how awful conservatives have gotten lately, I see quite the opposite.  Never before in the history of this country have gays and lesbians received such support from conservatives – and that support is growing at a pretty incredible pace.

John Aravosis at AMERICABlog:

We’re talking about our lives. And when the Republicans increasingly say the right things, like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell now, and even supporting marriage, and all the Democrats show is political homophobia, gays get the message.

Some gays and lesbians will vote for Democrats regardless of how blatantly the Obama administration and the Democratic party back away from their promises to repeal DADT, repeal DOMA, and pass ENDA. Regardless of how clear it is that the White House will appoint an openly gay cabinet member or an openly gay Supreme Court justice when hell freezes over. But I think, come November, and come many more Novembers in the future, a lot of gays and lesbians, are going to realize that we’re talking about our lives, rather than our right to attend a cocktail party. And when it comes to our lives, and voting for someone who treats us with the same kind of shame every single one of us grew up with, I think you’re going to see an increasing number of gay Americans distancing themselves from the Democratic party with their donations and their votes. They may not vote Republican, nor should they – they simply may not vote at all.

To the White House, the DNC, and our leadership in Congress: You are messing with people’s lives, and we know it. And the day that an anti-gay bigot gets booed at CPAC, you all better start being very afraid.

Bruce Carroll at Big Journalism:

This moment at CPAC is even more important for the conservative movement as it happened at an important time when there is already a generational change going on in America.  Boomers are fading, Xer’s are ruling, and Millenials are finding their way.  Forty-eight percent of those who participated in the CPAC straw poll last week identified themselves as students.  They are the future of conservativism.  And they shouted down an anti-gay bigot.

There will surely be other homocon-related clashes within the conservative movement, just as the Democrat Party has regularly used the gay community as pawns in their re-election schemes for decades.  But as the late gay political icon Harvey Milk, who started out as a Republican, famously said:

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying silently in our closets… We are coming out. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

Last week at CPAC we saw the many years of work by dedicated conservative gays and lesbians standing up for their values and the principles of freedom and liberty finally pay off.   There was a tipping point for gays in America last week at CPAC.  It happened because they have been coming out to their parents, friends and relatives over time… as American conservatives who just happen to be gay.

Ashley Herzog at Townhall:

The lack of bigotry must be painfully puzzling to liberals. My fellow Ohio College Republican Jesse Hathaway, a white, Christian, “anti-choice” straight guy, sat on the panel with Sorba.

“Every single person on stage with him was fighting the urge to facepalm,” he told me. (Urban Dictionary’s definition of “facepalm”: A spontaneous reaction to an amazingly stupid statement, where the face of the listener meets with his palm in a smacking manner.”)

That sentiment isn’t just shared by college-aged conservatives. On HotAir, a site founded by Michelle Malkin, a blogger had this to say:

“We are all stronger together, and gay conservatives are as much an ally of the conservative movement as heterosexual conservatives are. We are stronger by emphasizing our important commonalities rather than our less important differences. Fortunately, it appears the attendees at CPAC ‘10 agree.”

Another video you won’t see on any liberal blog features Alexander McCobin, the founder of Students for Liberty and one of Sorba’s co-panelists.

“In the name of freedom, I’d like to thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a sponsor of this event,” McCobin said. “If what you truly care about is freedom, limited government and prosperity, then this symbol is a step in the right direction.” His remarks are met with applause. In fact, one of the only people booing is Ryan Sorba.

Bryan Caplan:

Ryan Sorba, author of The “Born Gay” Hoax, was recently booed at the CPAC convention.  Since I recently read all of the main twin and adoption studies of sexual orientation, I wondered what he had to say.  He focuses on Bailey and Pillard’s 1991 twin study, which he correctly reports, “found that 52% of the identical twin brothers of gay men were gay, as were 22% of fraternal twin brothers, and 11% of genetically unrelated brothers.”  Sorba’s critique:

[I]n order to show that “homosexuality” is genetic using identical twins, one must demonstrate that when one twin is “gay” the other will also be “gay” 100% of the time. The results of this twins study however, fell a long way short of the mark.
If the claim is that 100% of the variance in orientation is genetic, then Sorba’s right.  But by this standard, no complex human trait is genetic!  Identical twins are not 100% identical in height, IQ, personality, or criminality, either.  In each of these cases, however, identical twins are much more similar than fraternal twins, indicating that these traits have strong genetic components. We are not “born gay” any more than we are “born tall,” but our genes definitely push us in these directions.  Sorba’s just attacking a straw man.

His other complaint is better: “[T]his study shows that unrelated step‐brothers are both ‘gay’ more often than genetically related brothers.”  This is indeed a piece of evidence against the genetic hypothesis.  If Sorba had merely observed that the results of this study were “inconsistent” and then turned to the broader literature (which confirms a strong genetic component, a mild family environment component, and a lot of randomness), I’d commend him.  But instead, he bizarrely picks one hole in one study, then claims complete vindication for environmentalism.

Razib Khan at Science Blogs:

Until they find the “gay gene” Sorba & company will reject the behavior genetics findings. Unfortunately, if the “gay gene” hasn’t been found yet, we might have to a wait a while (i.e., probably not a common variant of large effect). It would be nice to do a survey of the rejection of specific behavior genetic results as a function of ideological differences. The is-ought problem doesn’t seem to be a problem for most people; it seems a background assumption, so that what is is actually back-derived from what ought to be.

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