Andrew Sullivan: Shutting Down Discourse

If there is one thing I hate more than watching journalists cook up weak or phony examples of left wing wrong doing to “balance” their stories, its when those journalists use that nonsense to attempt to shut down discourse. Andrew Sullivan is a choice exemplar. He gives his Moore award to Sara Robinson for her insightful post about possible reactions to the prop8 ruling.  Sullivan was attempting to dismiss this particular section (emphasis mine):

In the worst case, this decision could become the catalyst for a new round of large-scale domestic terrorism from the right. As I’ve noted, everything I’m seeing points to a subculture that is gearing up for this kind of heroic last stand in defense of a lost cause. And this time, it’s not going to be just a few white supremacist/militia/patriot/anti-choice wackos. The new crop of right wing militants is better connected, better trained, better armed, and absolutely determined to go down fighting. And, as the SPLC keeps telling us, there may considerably more people motivated to support them than there have been in the past. It’s not unthinkable that between 15 and 20% of the country could be inclined to start — or at least support — a civil war over this,

As Sara sharply notes, Andrew had trouble understanding those first 4 words.  Sara explains them for him gently.

What I take issue with is not Andrew Sullivan’s base need to “tsk tsk” a leftwing blogger.  Its that the effect is to de-legitimize extremely useful analysis and criticism.  Prop8 was upheld, but we have every reason to believe it will be crushed when Californian’s return to the polls.  Voters will be resentful of being a hate state, mindful of the dollars a gay-unfriendly public stance could cost them, and angrily aware of massive amounts of out of state financial and religious influence directed their state laws and rights.  Homophobes and theocrats are going down come 2010.

Which is why Mr Sullivan ought to be paying attention to Sara Robinson’s advice:

Most of yesterday’s piece focused on some very specific, well-supported reasons that I think the gay community should question their complacency. It also included a most-likely scenario (assuming the court rules against Prop 8, which is in itself not a most-likely scenario), which is that a few far-right whack jobs around the country would use the event as an excuse for a fresh round of gay-bashing. We might see another Matthew Shepherd, or another Knoxville. Or two or three. And wise people should at least prepare themselves for that possibility.
There’s nothing particularly outrageous or over-the-top about this claim: this stuff happens fairly regularly in America, as I think even Sully would agree. There’s always been that 2-3% of the population who are implacably and militantly on the political extremes, who aren’t burdened by the same social braking systems the rest of us came equipped with, and who are prepared to act out violently if provoked.  I simply pointed out that overturning Prop 8 is the most perfect imaginable example of the kind of event that might provoke them.

Homophobia is on the way out, and some among the pathetic, the ignorant, the fearful and the violent may lash out.  It is essential that we allow ourselves to be aware of this, and develop strategies for stopping potential violence.  We need to make clear in no uncertain terms that whatever heaven the crazies think they are protecting, when they stoop to violence they are only inviting hell.  We need to reach out to religious communities – who in no way would want to be associated with that violence – and ask them to take active steps to ensure their worshippers understand the difference between peaceful and violent opposition.  That starts with taking the potential for violence seriously and not downplaying the people who are skilled and intelligent enough to see the warning signs and sound a wake up call.

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