Friday, October 5, 2018

Helping the abortion crowd move the goal posts

Anyone with a brain who has watched the disgraceful spectacle of the Kavanaugh lynching will have noticed something this last week.  The ol'goal post has been moved so many times it's in danger of breaking.  At this point, nobody but radical protesters are making it about the uncorroborated sex assault accusations. That ship has sailed.  They're using the circus to establish a new order.  And it's clear what that order will look like.

Mark Shea links to a Washington Post op-ed by Liz Bruening, a well established Catholic liberal who lays out the case for - wait for it - Kavanaugh?  Not really. Defeating Kavanaugh?  No.  It isn't about Kavanaugh if you read it. It's really about defending the Left's practice of attacking the motives, heart, mind and soul of those who dare oppose the political Left.  Her contention is that because of the typical lies and rhetoric of politics, we must 'unearth the real reason politicians and political movements are doing what they're doing.'  That is, bypass facts and get straight to their nefarious motives.

In other words, she is making a case for just what my boys noticed here.  She is saying why it's right to avoid debating the details and the particulars, the policies and the issues, the evidence and the proof, and move toward judging the inner heart and real reasons that anyone would dare question the political Left.

Step aside witch hunters.  We no longer need to dunk witches in water for a confession.  We need no confession at all.  It's enough that you've dared question the efficacy of the political Left.  You must obviously have a wicked heart and soul and only reject the Left because your real motive is hatred of the poor, the wrong skin color, the wrong gender, the wrong sexual orientation, the wrong nationality, or whatever.  Guilty.  Not charged.

In a single generation we're watching that long march toward democracy and freedom dashed on the rocks of movement wanting to look more like the tyrannies that wrought so much death and misery in the last century.  And good Catholics like Mark Shea, and Ms. Bruening, are willing to grab the banners and rush ahead, destroying whatever human being is in the way, advocating any evil, and laying the ground work for the eradication of the rights and liberties that have kept us free and have freed so many others.

UPDATE: Yes, it was already pointed out on another site.  The irony of Mark standing behind what any sane person knows is an attempt to destroy a man with false and slanderous accusations sitting on a high horse over lying. 


  1. It's really about defending the Left's practice of attacking the motives, heart, mind and soul of those who dare oppose the political Left.

    No, it isn't. Read it again.

    What she's saying is that, due to a fundamental problem in the political philosophy that underlies liberal democracies, we have reached a point where society has aimed to be so tolerant of conflicting conceptions of the good that there is no longer any shared conception of the good. Consequently, this radical tolerance has forced us to adopt an absurd approach to talking to one another in political matters -- we have come to habitually "translate" our true reasons for holding the views that we do into vague, unsubstantial "public reasons" that we think will be most persuasive to others.

    Bruenig says that everybody knows this, which is why we're always constantly trying to unearth the "real reasons" behind someone's actions and utterances. In other words, on some level, we recognize that we don't have a shared conception of the good, and consequently don't have a shared moral vocabulary and must therefore "translate" our views into something vague and insubstantial. This leads to a breakdown of trust, since we know, on some level, that others are merely translating what they believe into something that they think will be most effective at persuading us to adopt a particular view.

    Bruenig doesn't defend this. Indeed, she seems to lament it:

    Our entire democracy functions under a noxious haze of justified mistrust. What does anyone really believe? Do they even know? Is it even possible to determine? ...

    The truth is inaccessible; all that matters is which side has the power to win the day.

    It’s a self-destructive cycle. I wish I saw a way out of it. If I did, I would tell you. But who would believe it?

    As I was reading her piece, I kept expecting Bruenig to mention Alasdair MacIntyre, since he discusses exactly what she's talking about in his book After Virtue. MacIntyre basically says what Bruenig is saying here -- that, because of the nature of modernity, we no longer have a shared conception of the good, but strive to be tolerant of a myriad of conflicting conceptions of the good and thus don't have a shared moral vocabulary. As a result, our moral utterances become mere expressions of feeling and an attempt to shape the feelings of others. We may think we are reasoning with one another, but we are not. And deep down, we know we are not. Instead, says MacIntyre, we as a society have functionally, if not explicitly, adopted an emotivist stance in all of our discourse.

    But, as MacIntyre writes, if emotivism is true, then

    evaluative utterance can in the end have no point or use but the expression of my own feelings or attitudes and the transformation of the feelings and attitudes of others. I cannot genuinely appeal to impersonal criteria, for there are no impersonal criteria. I may think that I so appeal and others may think that I so appeal, but these thoughts will always be mistakes. The sole reality of distinctively moral discourse is the attempt of one will to align the attitudes, feelings, preference and choices of another with its own. Others are always means, never ends.
    After Virtue, p. 24, Third Edition

    Bruenig says she wishes she could see a way out of this. Well, I would suggest that (perhaps in a follow-up column) she engage with MacIntyre's After Virtue as a useful beginning in terms of diagnosing and understanding how we got here and seeing a pathway out of our present terrible condition.

    1. Hello, and thanks for visiting. First, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I might modify the statement, but I won’t change it entirely. Here’s why.

      While certain points she made are quite correct, especially about the loss of a shared conception of the good, her entire post is wrapped up in the context of a lament over the Kavanaugh nomination. How could this happen? That is the question around which the entire piece is written. It seems less an observation than an explanation. And one which explains away the result she clearly opposed, using the very thing she appears to bemoan.

      As such, while much of what she says rings true (at least if not taken to the extreme), she then seems to do the very thing she is lamenting.

      “What’s needed, when one political faction honestly intends to understand whether a member of an opposing political faction is guilty of a nigh-impossible-to-prove — but extremely serious — allegation of sexual misconduct, is trust.”

      Though she appears to include both sides in the context of the problem, note the qualifying modifier regarding the case: honestly. When one faction “honestly” intends. But that remains to be demonstrated. In fact, of all the allegations we’ve seen, the most plausible is that the circus we’ve witnessed for the last three weeks is the direct result of one side not acting honestly, or at least anywhere near in good faith.

      Ms. Bruening, however, uses the ‘we all lie and no longer trust’ to level the playing field. Were the Democrats, who sat on this for weeks and drew it out at the last minute, who declared their condemnation of Kavanaugh before the hearing began, and who insisted that innocence or guilt is irrelevant, really the same as the Republicans who said, “This looks like a political hit”? I would say no.
      Her piece appears to be the last Hail Mary of a lost game. When everything else has failed, just say everything is the problem. There was nothing here but everyone lying, the whole system is broken, and nobody trusts anyone, which is why we all assume ulterior motives.

      The irony is, she does just that. Instead of accepting that there is a valid beef with destroying a man’s reputation over allegations without a molecule of evidence or corroborating witnesses, she simply ‘judges the motives.’ In this case, she judges the motives as the result of the greater context. But she still bypasses dealing with the substance of the claims. She may lament the move to judge motives, but she does that very thing to avoid the facts of the case at hand. Which, itself, might be a symptom of the problem that she, and of course MacIntyre, notice.

    2. Good response. You may be right that Bruenig is guilty of the very thing she rightly diagnoses. Before I read your reply here, I posted the following to Mark's blog, some of which is simply copied from my original comment here:

      I'm not convinced that Bruenig's piece simply amounts to a "Hail Mary of a lost game", whatever other shortcomings it may have. I'm familiar with some of her other writings, and even though I might disagree with her on some things, I find her to be a thoughtful writer. So I think she is genuinely trying to grapple with an underlying problem that has probably contributed to this entire mess. Her only failing, as I indicated, is not grappling with it deeply enough and, as you indicate, perhaps not consistently enough.

      In any case, two days ago, Senator Ben Sasse gave what I think is one of the best speeches on the Senate floor that I have ever seen. His thoughts pretty much sum up my own regarding this whole affair.

    3. Without even clicking on it I have every reason to believe Sasse did give a great speech. I've yet to be disappointed by anything I've heard from him.

      In my dream world, after Trump's 2nd term, Sasse gets elected president for 2 terms and the nation starts getting sane again.

      Hey, I said it was a dream.


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