Monday, August 08, 2005

Conservative For A Day

I'm tired. Defending minority conservatives has drained a lot out of me. It's a thankless job, for obvious reasons. Liberals aren't happy because they don't like being interrupted while flogging an easy target. Conservatives aren't happy because my argument essentially boils down to "her being an idiot is enough--no need to bring her race or sex into it." And moderates are so fed up with the partisan fireballing that they don't pay attention anyway.

It's interesting, though, how things get projected onto you when step out from the pack. In the comments on this post, for example, I was continually described by some folks (but, as I was reminded a post too late, not all as I might have implied) as a "conservative," a man who opposes Affirmative Action, and someone who wanted to see Malkin "shielded from criticism." Part of this I brought onto myself. In the midst of a very frustrated period I wrote, in classic conservative fashion, "apparently Liberals think that being Filipino is 'close enough' to Japanese that she's a race traitor." In anger, I resorted to a crude statement and was rightly called on it. I still think that the underlying sentiment of how minority conservatives were being treated in thread was correct (see here for the elaborated version in the thread). Nevertheless, I certainly didn't help my own cause by that comment. And since I value thoughtful and engaging discussion over trite polemics and flames, I'm upset with myself for stepping out of that model.

That being said, however, it was still amazing how despite my near constant avocation that I dislike Malkin, find her views detestable, and am an overall liberal, it was still continuously implied that I was conservative. It was a perfect example of the "your with us or against us" mentality I deplore in President Bush. I believe it was Erving Goffman, an expert on stigma and author of "Stigma: Notes on a Spoiled Identity," who noted that those who defend an unpopular minority or group often will be assumed to be part of that group. Hence, a gay rights activist is assumed to be gay, or someone opposing anti-Semitism is told to be Jewish. In this context, I was taking the unpopular (amongst liberals) position of defending a conservative, and so I was assumed to be conservative. My protestations to the contrary fell on deaf ears--after all, my actions proved everything they needed to know. Even though I tried to clearly separate the illegitimate sexist assault on Malkin from the very legitimate ideological critique, my opposition to the former was prima facia evidence of opposition to the latter. If explicit disclaimers of a particular intent is not enough to persuade an opponent of the content of one's advocacy, what is? And heaven help you if you don't make everything explicit--even having said that I think Malkin's views are detestable, I still had to content with the assertion that I thought the sexist comment directed at her was "worse" than Malkin's defense of Japanese Internment. It isn't, and shouldn't be portrayed as such.

In spite of it all, I still believe that most liberals and most conservatives do not engage in these trite smears of each other. I take solace in the fact that the leader of the dominant Leftist theory in American legal academia (and a personal role model of mine) has not followed the stereotype of shrill partisanship and anti-Republican paranoia.

But talk about a confidence rocker...


Anonymous said...

You wrote, "I still had to content with the assertion that I thought the sexist comment directed at her was "worse" than Malkin's defense of Japanese Internment. It isn't, and shouldn't be portrayed as such."

Have you read Malkin's book concerning Japanese Internment or are you simply assuming that her argument concerning a matter you might disagree with is on par with racial and sexual slurs? If you have read her book on the subject, what part of her argument is comparable to a crude racial or sexual slur?

Anonymous said...

To some extent, I think that you're exaggerating how much you were attacked and misunderstood on that thread. Yes, some folks mistook you for a conservative, and you had to clear that up. On the other hand, sometimes you mistook statements about conservatives in general as being specific attacks on you, when they weren't. For example...

"...even having said that I think Malkin's views are detestable, I still had to content with the assertion that I thought the sexist comment directed at her was "worse" than Malkin's defense of Japanese Internment."

I don't think anyone actually asserted this about you. Maybe I missed it, but this seems to be a reference to your post #76, in response to Amanda's post #75. But Amanda didn't say she was referring to you, and to me it just reads like she's talking about conservatives in general, a group that doesn't include you.

In general, I think it was the usual problem on all sides, which is people being unwilling to give other folks a reasonable benefit of the doubt.

Anyhow, I'm sorry that your first (thatI recall offhand) "Alas" posting experience was so heated! I'm a big fan of your blog.

Alexandra said...


I was there that Sunday...commenting on Volokh, fighting my own battles. I feel for you. Having read some of your posts, which are incredibly thoughtful, well researched, and eloquently written, I really don't think anyone other than people who are incredibly quick to judge, felt that you were discredited because of the one outburst. Limited minds will always jump on the one part of a long and well articulated argument, and spot the so called 'easy target' i.e. a momentary faux pas. I felt you immediately wanted to kick yourself for it, but then wow, did you fix her in #65. I don't think there has been a comment or post written on the subject in the entire bloggosphere that equals the power of that blow, and explains the issue so succinctly.

I had an exchange of comments on the same subject on the Volokh Conspiracy that day. I wrote a long post about it on my blog, called 'Have we lost our Gallant Heroes', with some incredibly beautiful screenshots from a cinematographically powerful movie called 'Hero'. Have a look, it might make you smile. Next to your comment #65, I would love to have posted one of those. How appropriate.

Keep writing David, you are a pleasure to read. You will go places, whether in law or politics, but I think you might find yourself far more successful than you ever imagined today....