I had it in mind to write further about learning from the tactics of our opponents in our ongoing ideological war this morning, but another subject has intruded, and quite insistently at that. It’s one of the tactics of the Left that we in the Right should strive not to adopt.
On the Left, you’re either wholly in accord with the party line or you’re swiftly purged. Various persons with major audiences have been exiled from the Left’s “church outside which there is no salvation” for daring to differ on some item of dogma. The name that comes to mind at once is the late Nat Hentoff: a liberal, and an eloquent one, in every respect but one: his condemnation of abortion. It made him persona non grata among the liberal elite, a fact he often mentioned in his later columns.
The Left’s absolute unwillingness to entertain debate on any of its doctrines is the ultimate evidence of its abandonment of tolerance as we the hoi polloi understand the term. It doesn’t fit well with a scholium that claims to be “reality-based,” though that claim has become a term of derision. Thou shalt not differ with the priesthood is a commandment more suited to a low-grade religion than to a community of political belief. Though in light of the Left’s unwillingness to allow conservatives or libertarians the opportunity to speak at all, it’s consistent that it should brook no dissent “within the congregation.”
But the Left’s demand for doctrinal purity isn’t my subject for this fine spring morning. It’s the Right’s pusillanimity about its luminaries’ personal conduct that’s on my mind today.
With the possible exception of parts of Antares, everyone in the known universe will know by now that Fox TV has expunged talking-head host Bill O’Reilly over an accusation of impropriety toward a female colleague. In the wake of that development, it appears the Left, having tasted blood, will now attempt to get Fox to extend its auto da fe to Sean Hannity, Fox’s most popular talk show host after O’Reilly, with the same sort of assault.
Sean Hannity is a Catholic, a happily married man these past twenty-four years, and a father of two. His personal conduct has never been called into question. Yet only a few days ago, persons of the feminist Left lodged accusations against him, on the grounds that he invited female colleague Debbie Schlussel to come back to his hotel with him:
Former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel says Fox News host Sean Hannity tried to pressure her into accompanying him to his hotel room for sex, according to a bombshell report from KFAQ radio.
“Columnist, attorney, and former Fox News contributor Debbie Schlussel appeared on today’s Pat Campbell Show and accused Fox News Prime Time Host Sean Hannity of the same type of behavior that lead to Bill O’Reilly leaving the beleaguered network earlier this week,” said the station’s website.
Schlussel told radio host Pat Campbell that she and Hannity attended a live taping together in Detroit and after the show, Hannity propositioned her, trying to lure her back to his hotel room.
“This kind of stuff is all over the place at Fox News and anything that has to do with Sean Hannity,” she said.
Debbie Schlussel? The Debbie Schlussel? The has-been oversexualized second-stringer who’s strained to insert herself into the major leagues of political commentary for at least two decades? Twenty years ago, I’d have snorted and moved on. Today I’m not so sure – not because the accusations have any substance or merit, but because the Right has become so willing to collaborate with the Left in purging its ranks of anyone touched by the slightest breath of impropriety.
This sort of cowardice is beneath contempt. But then, considering that Fox purged O’Reilly without giving him a chance to answer the accusations against him, I won’t be surprised if it should treat Hannity in the same fashion.
The most ludicrously, blatantly unjust thing anyone could do to a public figure is to accept an accusation against him – especially one from a second-rate hanger-on – as proven, without demanding substantiation or corroboration. Yet the Right has done this more than once. The ouster of O’Reilly is only the most recent case.
It’s especially contemptible when one considers how easily the spokesmen of the Left get away with far worse violations of the proprieties. Bill Clinton didn’t suffer at all for having sodomized Monica Lewinsky in the White House itself. Remember the mantra back then? “It’s just about sex, just about sex, just about sex...
But it persists. When the accusers have covert allies within the organization being approached for the purge – in this case, Rupert Murdoch’s sons Lachlan and James, who’ve been reported as aiming to move Fox away from its conservative op-ed stance – it can happen too swiftly for any effective riposte.
Robert Conquest’s Second Law appears applicable here.
Considering the Left’s infinite forgiveness of the sins and crimes of those favorable to it, that a conservative can be pilloried, and will often be purged by his own people, for having made an innocent remark or having once been seen in the company of a woman other than his wife is among the supreme ironies of our time. It gives special force to Vice President Mike Pence’s policy of never permitting himself to be alone with a woman other than his wife – a self-protective stance the Left has tried to attack as somehow discriminatory against women.
Once again I must cite my favorite passage from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age:
"You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices," Finkle-McGraw said. "It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of climate, you are not allowed to criticise others -- after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?...
"Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others' shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all the vices. For, you see, if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour -- you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all the political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.
"You wouldn't believe the things they said about the original Victorians. Calling someone a Victorian in those days was almost like calling them a fascist or a Nazi....
"Because they were hypocrites... the Victorians were despised in the late Twentieth Century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefarious conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves -- they took no moral stances and lived by none."
"So they were morally superior to the Victorians -- " Major Napier said, still a bit snowed under.
"-- even though -- in fact, because -- they had no morals at all."
"We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy," Finkle-McGraw continued. "In the late Twentieth Century Weltanschaaung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception -- he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course. most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it's a spirit-is willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing."
"That we occasionally violate our own moral code," Major Napier said, working it through, "does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code."
"Of course not," Finkle-McGraw said. "It's perfectly obvious, really. No one ever said it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved -- the missteps we make along the way -- are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power."
If the Right doesn’t learn better and toughen up about such matters, it will be steadily depopulated by those who have “no morals at all.” Really! If they’re willing to spill blood in the streets, as has been demonstrated recently, why would they refrain from politically profitable slanders? Especially since the lily-livered Right has proved so willing to cooperate with its own purging?