Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pretzel Logic: Andrew Sullivan Twists in His Own Wind

I have a jukebox in my head that is easily triggered. Today, as I was listening to Hugh Hewitt try to interview Andrew Sullivan about his new book, The Conservative Soul, the Steely Dan song Pretzel Logic repeated on a continuous inner loop that only I could hear.

Sullivan is one of our founding blogfathers and a prodigiously gifted writer. If weblogs are the most personal form of modern public writing, Sullivan is in large part responsible for breaking down barriers between blogger and reader. I used to be a daily visitor to his site, subscribed to his Weekly Dish and corresponded with him to voice my support. Then came Lawrence v. Texas, the imminent possibility of legally sanctioned gay marriage, and President Bush’s advocacy of a constitutional amendment to protect the marital status quo. With a swiftness that gave mental whiplash to loyal readers like me, Sullivan reversed himself on well documented, long held positions, such as his support of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

Sullivan soon turned to empty Clintonesque word games and the absurd pretense of being politically undecided during the 2004 election campaign until he endorsed John Kerry. The breathtaking candor that defined his pre-Lawrence writings has been overtaken, to my regret, by intellectual dishonesty. His blog has become so incoherent and colicky that it depresses me to read it. He seems to value controversy over consistency. I suspect he prefers to be the resentful outsider, a literary sniper taking potshots at those whose standing he begrudges.

Certainly Andrew has delighted in "Fisking" – one of his memorable additions to the bloggers’ lexicon – hypocritical figures elevated by the old media. Likewise I coined my own Sullivan-inspired phrase: to sully. Andrew has been spoiling for a fight with Hugh Hewitt since 2003 and today finally appeared on Hugh’s radio show with a different agenda than book promotion – to Fisk Hewitt as a “Christianist” apologist for the Bush administration. I have not read Sullivan’s blog for many months, but I am astonished that his aim is now so false.

Hugh is an essentially decent man and, in his misguided smear, Andrew draws unflattering comparisons upon himself. Hewitt is the hub of the center-right new media network and uses his considerable influence to serve humanity beyond the political realm. He relishes a well-matched debate and defends his philosophy wherever it is challenged without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric.

Since his ideological U-turn, Sullivan can be seen only in the public company of “yes men” like Chris Matthews and Bill Maher, who never require him to justify his positions – and Andrew’s self-imposed isolation has improved neither his debating skills nor his disposition. Varifrank offers a humorous recap of today's interview.

I feel sorry for Sullivan and assume that anyone so quick to scorn others probably loathes himself enough for both of us. He has carved out a new niche as the preeminent stalker of the conservative blogosphere, throwing rocks at his erstwhile friends’ windows and mistaking them for glass houses.

Meanwhile, my inner jukebox keeps playing these lyrics from Pretzel Logic.

They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah


Anonymous said...

Lawrence v. Texas was the June 2003 decision of SCOTUS that overturned sodomy criminalization laws in the United States. It did not address gay marriage.

Goodridge v. Department of Public Health was the November 2003 decision in Massachusetts that ignited gay marriage.

President Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was announced 2/24/2004; Sullivan's transformation into a Bush-hater can be traced to that date.

It is not clear which of the above events you necessarily had in mind, in referring to "Lawrence" in your post.

Anonymous said...

I've arrived at your post via Hewitt. You haven't engaged a single one of the points of contention in the Hewitt / Sullivan exchange. This is ad hominem. There's nothing else in your post. It's telling that Hewitt would choose to link to this.

GayPatriotWest said...

I think you really get at something when you say Andrew values "controversy over consistency." As one who, like you, one was a daily visitor to his site, I too suffered a bit of "mental whiplash" at his sudden reverse.

Insightful post -- and well-written too!

Methadras said...

Andrew Sullivan has sullied himself to the level of smart aleckey, smarmy, homosexual bully. He tries to beat you silly by trying so hard to be the smartest guy in the room. He sucks all the air out the gap of intellectual debate that he becomes a tool of the diatribe rather than using the gentle hand of dialogue.

All he does is end up sounding like a whiney, shrilly, little man, who wonders why people find some of what he says distasteful and tends to repulse them from 'his' message.

Theresa said...

If you have a valid point, you shouldn't be afraid to leave your name. Anonymous comments are always pointless, in my opinion.

Good job, Terrie!

The Red Rocker said...

The guy at the Corner described Sullivan well: self-righteous and over-wrought.

I would add mendacious and rather dumb as well.

And please...prodigously talented writer? When and how did Sullivan get this rep? It is only because he had that breathless buzz among his fellow comrade fools a person gets for being young when made editor of a major magazine/newspaper or whatever.

Terrie said...

Warm greetings to all Hugh Hewitt readers! Thanks for stopping by my modest part-time blog.

Hi, Theresa! It's so great to hear from you again. I read your recent post about your health issue and you are in my prayers.

I tend to agree about anonymous posts. However, in the case of Anonymous #2 above, the clipped, dismissive tone of moral superiority reads Sullivanesque to me.

Gay Patriot West, I am pleased that you seem to understand the personal connection I used to feel to Andrew's blog and the personal nature of my disappointment. I would still be a loyal reader if he devoted as much column space to soul searching as he does to fault finding.

Anonymous said...

Do you support tornados, Terrie? Why won't you answer this simple question? How many cows have to fly up into the air before you and your Funnelist cohorts will either wake up or finally don the storm trooper fashion you so obviously crave? You Funnelists actually sicken me, and I'm not easy to sicken.

Terrie said...

Anonymous #3, here you are copying James Lileks copying Andrew Sullivan. As Pontius Pilate asked, who are you? Really?

If you see flying cows, I bet you probably see Funnelists under every bed, too. You are the type to mock us as "Funnies," when your comment here proves that YOU, in fact, are the Funny one.

Don't you understand it is your inquisition tactics that are directly responsible for this climate of fear? Say what? I can't hear you. My inner jukebox is playing "Weather with You" by Crowded House.

Anonymous said...

It's ok to copy if you take it a step further, and I've already copyrighted 'Funnelist.'

Which is what tornado supporters like you and Hugh Hewett are. Even though you won't admit it.

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The MinuteMan said...

Re: "Sullivan is... a prodigiously gifted writer."

He exerted his tremendous gifts to deliver this lead today in the TimesOnline for Brit readers:

t is difficult to look into the future when you are going through what America is going through. All I can say about the atmosphere in the United States right now is that it feels as if the country is about to vomit. The nausea is there; the vote is imminent; and the purge necessary. And yet it hasn’t happened yet. Americans are still staring at the porcelain. And those who desperately want a change — as I do — have to wait.

Gag me with a spoon! That took unusual judgment, I'll guess.

Tom Maguire