The Decline of Sullivan

Until recently, Andrew Sullivan’s blog used to be one of the 3 or 4 blogs I checked every day. He seemed to “tell it as it is” and had few if any sacred cows. This is no longer the case. This is not a matter of disagreeing with any of his positions as I’ve always disagreed with some but instead his transformation into a shrill ideological hack; a rigid believer rather than the questioner he was before. Kevin Holtsberry does a pretty good job summarizing this recent rhetorical decline:

It seems to me, that he rarely argues in good faith and his animus and personal obsessions color almost everything he writes.

Sullivan is a skilled polemicist. He is obviously smart and can be, or at least has been in the past, an effective advocate for a particular type of conservatism. It is not, nor has it been, the dominant form in this country, but it is a legitimate form worthy of debate and discussion.

But I am afraid I can no longer take his arguments seriously on a host of issues when he blatantly over-generalizes and argues from bad faith based on emotion and sloppy rhetoric rather than logic and first principles. As I noted above, Sullivan would not tolerate this type of argument from others regarding homosexuality or any of the issues important to him. His double standard is a mile wide: trust those who support your ideas and distrust everything the other side does.


Ben said...

Andrew Sullivan's was the first blog I came across, and for some time, my favorite. I've not been reading him regularly of late, for similar reasons. Basicly, since he mentioned that he was writing a book I've found his posts to be a little lacking. They've tended to feel like one-note rants (justified or no) as opposed to a comprehensive dis of a particular POV.

However, I can't say that this lack has persuaded me to think Sully's full of crap. I've still tended to agree with him more often than not. He simply doesn't give me as many novel reasons to do so. I hold out some hope that when he's done churning out this book, he will return to form. If not, well, that's where the rest of my bookmarks come in...

Either way, I'd be interested to see a comprehensive critique of Sully's posts, this Holtsberry guy's attempt didn't really do it for me.

Andrew said...

Admittedly the Holtsberry post doesn’t go into great depth (which would be hard giving the volume and nebulous nature of Sullivan’s posts) but his point regarding Sullivan’s sacred cows I think is valid and reveals a lack of intellectual integrity on Sullivan’s part. As a thought experiment imagine if you substituted his generalizations about most members of the religious right being motivated by a hatred of non-believers with generalizations involving the gay community; something as reckless as saying “most gays would not make suitable parents because studies show their relationships are brief and frequent in comparison to the hetero community”. I’m fairly certain Sullivan would not tolerate such an ignorant statement, particularly if there’s no supporting argument, for obvious reasons. However he’s discredited himself a great deal over the past year by making similarly extreme pronouncements without supporting arguments (posting sycophantic emails from readers doesn’t count) all too frequently.

If you read something in the NYTimes you can be pretty sure you’re getting the liberal viewpoint while NR is reliably conservative. You can triangulate between the two but it can be difficult to figure out which side is spinning more at a given moment. The value Sullivan originally had for me was that he was very much somewhere in between, but not consciously so. He didn’t give party spin but rather an opinion based on the thoughtful application of principles; some of which I don’t share but their application was transparent. This all changed when the Bush administration decided to support the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004. Since then he’s been regularly winning his “Begala Award” with posts regarding the Bush administration, red-state culture, torture and NSA spying. His arguments on all of these topics have just been awful; and again not because I disagree with them. Ramesh Ponnuru did a superb job arguing for the McCain torture amendment (something I don’t agree with) by lucidly explaining his principles without browbeating those that disagree with him as being morally inferior.

You should read this exchange: (www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2006_01_01_dish_archive.html#113641217357698914)
(corner.nationalreview.com/06_01_01_corner-archive.asp#086217) where Andrew Blegs for stats regarding ratio of failed Zygotes and summarily rejects information that doesn’t fit within the parameters of the argument he wants to make. This isn’t laziness, this is same arrogance that caused me to start reading blogs in the first place. Which is fitting considering Andrew is now paid by Time Warner as a contributor to Time magazine.

Andrew said...

My contention that the FMA act in 2004 was when Sullivans integrity left the tracks is in no way original.