it’s not the words that matter, it’s the man

September 18, 2012

At the Slate, political blogger David Wiegel decided to play media mythbuster and publicly clarify Rick Santorum’s instant punch line of a quote about "smart people" not supporting what he sees as the true conservative movement. And he’s right that Santorum was trying to be very bitterly, obnoxiously sarcastic and was really decrying liberal paternalism rather than saying that there’s no such thing as a smart conservative. Even Santorum’s disdain for colleges can’t really come to the rescue of those who desperately wanted to catch him on a Freudian slip because his loathing for post-secondary education is based on the 1960s stereotype of colleges being a communist haven where the evil, godless reds recruited political sleeper cells. What we can say about his argument that conservatives must resist leftist snobs who want to tell them what to do, is that it’s revealingly hypocritical because while he decries liberal paternalism, he very forcefully pushed for rightist paternalism and lashed out at libertarians for not following his lead.

Basically, according to him, liberals telling you what to do is evil because they hate families, and children, and little puppies, and grandma, and apple pie, and they’re sinners constantly mad at God. On the other hand, conservatives publicly declaring what positions should be appropriate for married couples during sex, how to run your household, and who you can date, love, marry, or divorce is perfectly fine because they fall in line with Santorum’s ideology and you better get those listening ears out and pay attention or the terrorists and gays win as America descends into a bisexual-multispecies orgy while Sharia law rules the land. How this would work out since under Sharia law the punishments for premarital sex and homosexual behaviors are extreme to put it mildly, is left for the listeners to imagine in cold sweat. But details and self-awareness are really not Santorum’s strong suits. If they were, he’d at least try to pick whether gays or Muslims are the bigger threat and wouldn’t blatantly advocate doing the exact same thing he opposes from the other side of the ideological divide. The fact that he can’t do that is scary.

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  • venqax

    Wait. This is not a distinction without a difference. Liberals tend to tell you what you can’t do based on their own, self-invented sense of entitled behavior, belief in governmental paternalism, and on a disdain for any tradition in general whether it works or not. Making them personally uncomfortable or restricting their personal desires in any way tends to be the liberal litmus test for behavior that should be prohibited. Religious conservatives like Santorum and Islamists, do so based on what they believe is required by divine dictates, not by personal preferences. Both can be extremely annoying to normal adult people and even dangerous at some point, but they are hardly the same Santorum, unlike liberals, doesn’t see a problem with divine guidance but he certainly sees Islamic guidance as non-divine and that doesn’t make Santorum inconsistent, just a believer in a different religion. Based on this I don’t think you can accurately call Santorum a hypocrite on most of his issues.

    Secular conservatives, OTOH, are much more pragmatic given the context of a belief in small govt, personal freedom, and the value of tradition generally speaking. They don’t expect something to be outlawed just because they don’t like it, nor do they expect it to be outlawed just because some think God doesn’t like it. Being opposed to Sharia is not synonymous with being opposed to religious law.I don’t think Santorum claims to be a secular conservative at all.

  • Greg Fish

    Liberals tend to tell you what you can’t do based on their own, self-invented sense of entitled behavior,

    So when liberals tell you not to dump toxic waste into a river from which hundreds of thousands of people get their water in another city, they’re doing it because they’re entitled? That’s the basis for everything they try to suggest? So what about the Tea Party activist who lives on disability and unemployment, and blames big government on interfering with companies for why he doesn’t have a job?

    belief in governmental paternalism

    Ah and here comes the welfare queen cliche, fresh off the 1980 press. Let’s just ignore that Santorum called for government paternalism in our personal lives on the campaign trail, it’s strictly a liberal thing, right? As said in the post, paternalism is paternalism, the rest is up to the details and despite what Romney and Republican talking points will tell you, the right wing also has a pretty strong belief in paternalism, it’s just that the paternalism they want is a mix of corporate paternalism in the economy and government paternalism in the bedroom and the doctor’s office.

    and on a disdain for any tradition in general whether it works or not.

    Yes, that’s why liberals only have gay marriages and live in communes, they hate tradition so much that they couldn’t stand living in a committed monogamous relationship and own property.

    Religious conservatives like Santorum and Islamists, do so based on what they believe is required by divine dictates, not by personal preferences.

    Bullshit. Want to know why? Numerous studies show that people who invoke their faith to support their opinion believe that their deity shares the same ideas, ascribing their personal beliefs to their deity’s will. Here’s a practical example. When was the last time that Santorum said “gee, gays are ok people and I suppose nothing bad would happen if we let them marry, but you see, God would hate that?” Never. He called gay marriage a precursor to bestiality and constantly threatens the country with his God’s wrath should they not listen to his opinions.

    Do you seriously not think that there are a lot of liberals out there who say that Jesus would’ve passed universal single player healthcare because he healed the sick, the lame, and the blind without requiring co-pays or asking about preexisting conditions? Pick a religion, pick a holy book, and you’ll find some sort of justification for your personal opinion somewhere in it. The Safavids found a religious mandate to lavishly finance astrologers, mathematicians, writers, and scientists in a hadith widely attributed to Muhammad: “the ink of scholars is holier than the blood of martyrs.” Henry VIII found a justification to divorce his first wife in the Bible so he could make him mistress queen. History is filled with this sort of thing.

    Santorum, unlike liberals, doesn’t see a problem with divine guidance but he certainly sees Islamic guidance as non-divine and that doesn’t make Santorum inconsistent…

    His inconsistency was supporting claims about Sharia law becoming the new legal codex of the U.S. while at the same time claiming that gay marriage would be institutionalized. These two things are not compatible as the punishment for homosexuality in Sharia is death. Were Sharia enacted and gay marriage widespread, every gay couple would be beheaded upon applying for a marriage license.

  • venqax

    Talk about taking things to extremes. No, that’s not what I said. Overall I was drawing a dichotomy that tends to have liberals AND religious conservatives on one side and secular conservatives on the other. That’s why I used terms like “tend to”, and treat things as probabilitiesrather than absolutes which is always advisable when you’re talking about people, not things, and their behavior.

    The types of liberal blather that they I’m referring to includes language-cleansing, multi-culturalism, so-called “social justice”, and food-policing. Goals that emanate solely from their subjective value system which is completely synthetic. Desirable because they choose to think they are desirable. Religionists, OTOH, claim that what they try to force on others is divinely sourced, not just something they made up.

    Obviously there are real, pragmatic issues in the world, like pollution and poverty. And it’s ridiculous to suggest that only liberals/leftists care about those things. They do, though, tend to have ideas about what should be done about them, by whom, and with what degree of priority, that diverge significantly from what the political right proposes. It is equally nothing but propagandistic to claim that most liberals care absolutely nothing about national security, or law and order, or the protection of private property rights just because those issues don’t rank as highly on their agenda as on conservatives’.

    it’s just that the paternalism they want is a mix of corporate paternalism in the economy and government paternalism in the bedroom and the doctor’s office.

    Wrong. Conservatives don’t call on corporations to take care of people. That’s paternalism—as a parent to a child. Conservative ideology calls for people to take care of themselves. A frighteningly radical concept in 21st century Western civilization, to be sure. And the secular conservatives contrasted above aren’t interested in your bedroom, either.

    and on a disdain for any tradition in general whether it works or not….
    Yes, that’s why liberals only have gay marriages and live in communes, they hate tradition so much that they couldn’t stand living in a committed monogamous relationship and own property. .

    You have the proposition backwards. That is why those in gay marriages, denizens of communes, and haters of traditional marriage and of private property are liberals. Not necessarily the other way around.

    Religious conservatives … do so based on what they believe is required by divine dictates….
    Bullshit. Want to know why? Numerous studies show that people who invoke their faith to support their opinion believe that their deity shares the same ideas, ascribing their personal beliefs to their deity’s will.

    Sorry, that doesn’t make it. Most life-long atheists don’t understand religion and this is probably the result. OF COURSE their religion reinforces their personal beliefs. So what? All that matters is that THEY BELIEVE IT. Nothing shows causality vis-a-vis the deities’ teaching and the personal beliefs. It’s a chicken-egg problem. The only relevant example would be if you could show that Santorum did not personally believe something that his religion demands. And you can’t. Of course he would never say, “gays are ok people and I suppose nothing bad would happen if we let them marry, but you see, God would hate that?” Because he doesn’t believe that. And, except for your own assumption of his hypocrisy, you have no evidence to the contrary. Done.

    His inconsistency was supporting claims about Sharia law becoming the new legal codex of the U.S. while at the same time claiming that gay marriage would be institutionalized.

    If he says those are concurrent things, then he would be inconsistent. Maybe he is. If, OTOH, he is foreseeing a “European” situation, where Sharia is applied to some situations—and the fear is eventually it would be across-the-board—while at the same time Western values are deteriorating into no values at all, then the 2 fears are not incompatible, just not contemporaneous. And it is not hard to argue that the latter situation IS the current reality in some places. Makes you wonder why feminists and gays are not more on-board with the fight against Islamism. Hell with women and gays in the US Muslim “community”, let alone Afghanistan.

    BTW, I am not a supporter of Santorum. IMO his political conservatism is overburdened with concerns that aren’t just religious but sectarian (Catholic)…even “woo”-ish LOL.

  • Greg Fish

    The types of liberal blather that I’m referring to includes language-cleansing, multi-culturalism, so-called “social justice”, and food-policing.

    I would agree that going too PC is often ridiculous, but things like trying to ensure that all citizens of the United States have the same rights and that we don’t insist on wiping out people’s native cultures as long as they respect American cultural hallmarks as well are hardly blather. Muslim extremists in the UK are easy prey for jihadi groups especially because they feel like their culture is being lightly and quickly dismissed by the British and as a result, are more likely to hang out in close knit pockets where other extremists can recruit them.

    We know this from the UK’s own study of the London bombings, just like we know that allowing Muslims to publicly profess their faith and fighting to make sure they’re not blamed for all things al Qaeda does by virtue of being Mulsim goes a long way to make radicalization much harder in America. America has always been a melting pot and when I came here from the former USSR, I met many Americans genuinely interested in my home culture and who thought it was cool that I spoke with an accent and came from a distant and very different land.

    To label this attitude “liberal blather” is a huge spit in the face to the message of “give us your poor, your hungry, your huddled masses” and the idea behind the original motto of the United States: out of many, one. Both religious and secular conservatives are trying to make a more xenophobic, religiously dogmatic America, an America not nearly as open, welcoming, and exciting as the one which this immigrant embraced as his new home.

    Wrong. Conservatives don’t call on corporations to take care of people.

    Then why does their platform rely on corporations telling the government how to run its economy and betting the farm on the idea that if we do what they say, they’ll start hiring millions of people which will take care of the economic malaise we’re in now?

    Sorry, that doesn’t make it. Most life-long atheists don’t understand religion and this is probably the result.

    Ah, yes, condescension is the cornerstone of any good argument…

    Nothing shows causality vis-a-vis the deities’ teaching and the personal beliefs. It’s a chicken-egg problem.

    And that’s the problem at hand. I’m not sure why you skipped over the examples of how people tend to pick and choose support for their ideology from holy books, but this is the exact issue with what people like Santorum are doing. They have no ground to declare what a deity thinks and yet they’ll read a holy text that says 5,642 self-contradictory things and proclaim that the deity wants gays to be shackled and publicly whipped and would you like at that, they’re totally 100% behind that too because it’s obviously the right thing to do as it says in Whatever 88:55…

    Makes you wonder why feminists and gays are not more on-board with the fight against Islamism.

    Thank you for using Poisoning The Well™, the fallacy of choice for most political pundits. Liberals are more than happy to put examples of radical Islam front and center when they want to offer an analogy for where radical Christian Reconstructionists want to take the U.S. American Taliban is meant as an insult, not as indifference. What liberals don’t want to see is all Muslims demonized for beliefs they don’t hold and to be held responsible for the actions of violent lunatics.

  • venqax

    Yes, we want recognition of all peoples’ rights for all people. Legally speaking— which is the only concern of government, as opposed to social attitudes— they pretty much do. What exactly constitutes a right is usually where things get messy. Wanting or even needing something doesn’t mean you have any right to it. And even having a right, in theory, doesn’t justify any government action. You may well have a right to be “treated with dignity”, but there is nothing for the state to do in that regard except in its dealings with you. To claim as broad a definition of rights as the Left often does is going too far.

    The UK and other European countries do a poor job of assimilating immigrants. No one here talks about “wiping out” other cultures. Don’t know where that idea comes from. But assimilation means absorbing people from an alien culture into the mainstream or predominant one.

    True, America has always been a melting pot. A melting pot. That means melt and merge. Many recent immigrants don’t like that metaphor, preferring the “tossed salad” one. That is unacceptable, doesn’t work, and is not assimilation. It’s nice for you that many Americans thought it was cool that you spoke with an accent and came from a different place. But that is simply pop-culture and typical fascination with the exotic; it has nothing to do with the quality or strength of a nation. I’m sure a lot of Indians thought the Europeans were fascinating too. We know how much that mattered. No one is saying that becoming an American means you have to completely disown your pre-American heritage, religion, social customs, etc, unless they are in conflict with those melting pot American values. Most aren’t and there is nothing wrong with Italian-American festivals, or fiestas, or Chinese New Year celebrations in Wherever, USA. But, inevitably, there are going to be aspects of some cultures that are not compatible with the American culture. Those have to go if you are going to become part of this society. Period. We aren’t saying you can’t spread chicken blood all over the place (from a case in Florida). We are saying you can’t do that here. Allowing Muslims to simply profess their faith isn’t a problem. Allowing Muslims to cover their faces for ID pictures, to blast a loud azaan over a whole city at 6 am, let alone to kill their wayward daughters is a problem. Here, anyway.

    Both religious and secular conservatives are trying to make a more xenophobic, religiously dogmatic America, an America not nearly as open, welcoming, and exciting as the one which this immigrant embraced as his new home.

    No, secular conservatives are not. I am one, and I go to the meetings, LOL. That’s what makes them secular. Religious dogma is not part of a secular or traditional conservative agenda. Respect and recognition for religion generally, accomodationism, yes, but nothing theocratic. Xenophobia and openness and “excitingness” are relative and subjective terms. Bosnia in the 90s was exciting. Chechnya is exciting. Fear of radical Islamism overall is rationally based, not phobic. Immigration itself is neither good nor bad. Like everything, it’s a double-edged sword. Purely in terms of the nationalities involved, I would personally say immigration from the former Eastern bloc and Asia have been a net positive for the US. Those are generalized observations at the group level, nothing to do with individuals.

    Then why does their [corporations] platform rely on corporations telling the government how to run its economy

    Whose economy? It’s not the government’s economy. It is the producers’ and the customers’ economy. Corporations have more “right” to speak about how the economy is run than govt does. That is called capitalism. It differs from state-socialism or commandism in that pretty fundamental way. OTBE, the only “demand” corporations would have is for govt to provide legal and physical infrastructure. But, since govt insists on being not only an economic player, but a HUGE and dominant one, it benefits corporations to play politics instead of economics. The corporations didn’t create this situation of corrupted incentives. The govt and politics did. Sometimes with good intentions granted, road to Hell being paved, etc.

    Most life-long atheists don’t understand religion and this is probably the result….Ah, yes, condescension

    Not intended as condescention. Just an observation. A very common mistake of atheists is to misapprehend what the nature of religion is. It is a non-rational system. A true believer’s religious convictions and personal beliefs are merged. They don’t just seek out “holy books” that will reinforce their a priori beliefs. The beliefs come from the teachings. That is not to say that religious people don’t act contrary to their beliefs and “misbehave”. But violating one’s beliefs and not really believing what one professes are 2 different things. In Santorum’s case, there is no reason to think he doesn’t truly believe the religious tenets he advances. Likewise you never hear a jihadist say, “I personally like Jews and think America and Israel are great countries. But, regretably, the Quran says I have to do this terrorism thing.” It’s not a job, like a policeman having to enforce an ordinance he disagrees with peronally.

    <i<They have no ground to declare what a deity thinks

    But they believe they DO. That’s what is relevant. And they believe that what they believe is authoritative, however they might treat what someone else sees as contradictory. It is not as if they decide what to believe, then go back post hoc and look for supportive scriptures in whatever text they can find. Religion doesn’t work like that.

    Makes you wonder why feminists and gays are not more on-board with the fight against Islamism…Thank you for using Poisoning The Well™, the fallacy of choice for most political pundits.

    Don’t see how that’s poisoning the well (tm?). I wasn’t generalizing from the question, just asking it for its own potency. The most common pundit fallacy is the one you are making—the fallacy of moral equivalence. E.g. comparing Christian extremists of any kind to radical Islamism. Are we missing the thousands of people that extremist Christians of any and all types have murdered recently? The over one-sixth of the world that lives under the very real oppression of “Islamic” govts? It’s a lot like comparing American Nazis with the Third Reich. One is a nearly irrelevant group of odd-balls. The other made a lot of progress toward destroying the world. No one reasonable wants all Muslims blamed for jihadism. But it is very foolish to pretend that some aspects of Islam specifically—not just “any religion” in general— bear no responsibility for the violent lunacy. There is no global network of radical Buddhists, extremist Pentacostals, or rabid Mormons calling for death to America, murdering thousands of people at time, blowing up Aussie tourists, torching embassies and whole towns because of cartoons, or ruling entire countries like gangs of homicidal thugs. Islam seems to have a near monopoly on large-scale, barbaric insanity of the slobbering, bug-eyed, howling variety in the world today. That is simply true, if inconvenient for some, especially for normal, responsible Muslims and some political liberals who want to completely disassociate any kind of anti-Western sentiment from indefensible behavior. In both cases they want the beliefs they share with a group separated from its behavior and possibly other beliefs they do not recognize. E.g. a respectable Muslim believes in Allah, the Quran, etc, but does not believe in mass murder or terrorism. A western leftist may believe America is a malignant entity, but does’t condone violence or…maybe… believe in a deity. And no, to be clear, I don’t equate atheism with any moral turpitude.

    To label this attitude “liberal blather” is a huge spit in the face to the message of “give us your poor, your hungry, your huddled masses” and the idea behind the original motto of the United States: out of many, one.

    Come on, really? That poem was written by an immigration activist and put on the Statue years after its construction. There’s nothing to spit at. The Statue is of Liberty not Arrival and had no intended reference to immigration at all. Immigrants inferred that meaning themselves. It is by no means an official “policy” of the US. And the motto refers to 13 states (which actually had their own power and authority at the time) forming one country or nation. It has absolutely nothing to do with multi-culturalism. I think maybe we’ve just seen a couple of examples of the ideological nonsense that passes for history classes in public education. I’ll wager that’s where most pick up those bits of misinformation.

  • Greg Fish

    I really don’t see your goals in these rants of yours. Your entire point seems to be “well people like Santorum really believe what they say when they want to government to boss people around, but when liberals want to boss people around it’s because they’re all egotistical children.” I’m not trading partisan slurs back and forth so as far as I’m concerned, this exchange is pointless and you’re going around in circles.

  • venqax

    “I was drawing a dichotomy that tends to have liberals AND religious conservatives on one side and secular conservatives on the other,”

    Pretty straightforward.

  • Jypson

    Ah, so you identify yourself as a secular conservative, thus your point of view is superior….gotchya.

  • venqax

    Well of course I think so. Why else would I be one, detective? Although like all labels it’s only partially acurate. I ID with quite few conservative heresies. And a POV is a bit different from an ideology.

    BTW, I think the rumors that GregFish is an atheist skeptic have some truth to them, too. Just a suspicion maybe,,,