Home / General / The Poulos Hoax?

The Poulos Hoax?

Comments
/
/
/
1677 Views

Far be it for me, a lowly adjunct so depressed by the market he let his MLA membership lapse, to criticize Michael Bérubé, the current President of the MLA, but his summary of James Poulos’ definition of what women are for fails to account for the fact that Poulos has forwarded a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made  in such detail or with such care. Thankfully for all involved, Poulos decided to respond to critics of his original post with wit and aplomb. Contrary to Bérubé’s claim that Poulos thinks “tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicillin,” all the founding editor of The Postmodern Conservative meant to say was that:

Those who would restrict officially recognized marriages to one man and one woman are seen by many gay marriage advocates as using the power of the law to atavistically reverse the partly organic, partly hard-fought progress of civilization.

Civilization, you see, is composed of one part “organic” and one part “hard-fought.” Those who support gay marriage want to use the “power of law” to reverse the “progress of civilization” by employing an atavism, which we all know refers to the reemergence of an ancestral trait in a modern species. This reemergence can be genetic—like when babies are born monkeys—or it can be social—like when Buck remembered that dogs are wolves and heeded the call of his wild. According to Poulos, the desire of the gays to revert to a state of nature by finding female bodies disturbing is a social manifestation of a genetic trend, because the gays are atavisms—throwbacks to the early human societies in which partly organic men fought hard against progress by refusing to procreate with women. How they survived has long stumped evolutionary theorists, what with success typically defined in terms of how many half-genes an individual loosed upon the EEA, but Poulos is right to claim that

a column that points out that a society which rejects the premise of a question about sex, gender, and natural purposes might very well have achieved a great leap forward in the progress of human civilization.

That he happened to be the author of this great leaping achievement is immaterial, because “philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Heidegger” are famous people whose names he knows.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • For some reason I keep hearing the phrase “breaking a butterfly upon a wheel. A horrible, horrible butterfly.”

    • herr doktor bimler

      Shirley you mean “Using a sledgehammer to break a butterfly”.

  • Warren Terra

    Is there supposed to be a link to Berubé’s criticism?

  • Matt

    This reemergence can be genetic—like when babies are born monkeys

    Is that possible, and is it very likely? I ask because I sometimes think I’d like a monkey, but they are pretty expensive.

    • SEK

      Is that possible, and is it very likely?

      1) Yes and, according to the leading lights of evolutionary thinking in the 1870s, 2) extremely, if the father is a black man.

    • Jon H

      At one point in development babies have a coat of fine hair all over their body. It normally falls out before birth, but preemies sometimes still have it. I wouldn’t be surprised if, rarely, it is seen on a full-term baby.

      100 or 200 years ago, such babies were probably thought to actually be atavistic ape spawn.

      • DocAmazing

        The hair is called lanugo, it’s actually pretty common, and Poulos’ high school biology teacher is weeping uncontrollably.

        • R Johnston

          What makes you think he ever took a real biology class? And if he did, what makes you think he wasn’t a disruptive incompetent asshole who made his teacher wish fiery death upon him?

      • John
      • Mrs. Ragbag

        My kids act like monkeys.

    • Anonymous

      Now that shit is funny!

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t clicked through your links yet, but if my composition-teacher eye serves me, I think the passive voice construction in your first quote suggests that teh gays think that conservatives are atavistic, not themselves.

    Nevertheless, I’m sure the guy’s general thinking is gross. And his prose obviously sucks.

    • SEK

      It’s possible I deliberately mucked with his incomprehensible argument for comedic effect. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

      • R Johnston

        How, exactly, does one muck with the incomprehensible? That’s like destroying the credibility of Andrew Breitbart or improving the record of Rocky Marciano.

        • Warren Terra

          But … he lost to Apollo Creed!

          (Yes, I understand the difference between Rocky the film character, the person, and for that matter the squirrel).

          • commie atheist

            “Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat” seems somehow appropriate here.

            • R Johnston

              It’s always appropriate to pull a rabbit out of one’s hat.

              I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure it means more than whatever was written in the article instigating this post and thread.

            • pookapooka

              …but that trick NEVER works!

  • thebewilderness

    Where the progress of civilization consists entirely of men fighting among themselves to determine which not men they can buy, sell, and own.
    This is one seriously creepy d00d.

    • Rob

      Pretty sure controlling other men, especially the ones that have TEH GAY is also a big part of the metaphysics of the universe of the Poulosian school which itself is a joining of the No Longer a Virgin So Stop Saying That Shapiro School and the Douthhat Society’s finding of “Women are icky with disgusting lady parts.”

      • thebewilderness

        It depends on which part is organic.

        • DocAmazing

          The part you buy by the pound at Whole Genitals.

  • herr doktor bimler

    partly organic men

    I am deeply concerned by the implication that they are also partly inorganic, and accuse SEK of trying to sneak in a reference Dr Who & the Cybermen.

    • SEK

      I plead the Fifth.

  • latinist

    Finally looked at that Poulos article. Honestly, I’m not sure why anyone is bothering to read beyond the first sentence, which is sublime:

    “In a simpler time Sigmund Freud struggled to understand what women want.”

    That’s enough. There is no need to read further, or indeed to read anything else ever again.

    • Dave

      That really should be the first line of the voiceover for this, in appropriate basso profundo, of course…

  • Scott Lemieux

    Suggested title of his forthcoming book: “Plato, Rousseau, and Heidegger: Three Names Next to Each Other.”

    • R Johnston

      You presume, almost assuredly falsely, that he can count to three.

    • ripconstitution

      Subtitle:
      “Or, How I Defeated the Liberal Agenda By Remaining a Virgin Until God Ordained It.”

  • Charlie Sweatpants

    In honor of yesterday’s Simpsons quote post (may have gotten a tad carried away here):

    1.

    At the heart of the culture wars is a very deep-seated disagreement over whether or not women’s natural bodies give women unique or particular purposes — and, if so, what those purposes are, and how our morals, politics, and laws ought to treat the relationship between those purposes and women’s choices about how to actually live.

    “Chauffeur, seamstress, curator of large mammals?” – Marge Simpson
    “Marge, have you seen my lunchbox?” – Homer Simpson
    “Oh, I see.” – Marge Simpson

    2.

    This despite the fact that many on both sides of the culture war are frank about their desire to craft an enforceable consensus on issues like abortion, birth control, prostitution, gay marriage, and gay adoption.

    “Ashley Grant! You gave a talk on women’s issues at my school on how we don’t have to be second class citizens.” – Lisa Simpson
    “Mom! How can you leave us with this maniac?” – Bart Simpson

    3.

    Supporters of the right to choose to have an abortion are believed by many pro-life people to support a barbaric, uncivilized act.

    “I’m telling you people, the Earth revolves around the Sun!” – Principal Skinner
    “Burn him!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

    4.

    “Captain’s log, stardate sixty-fifty one. Had trouble sleeping last night, my hiatal hernia is acting up. The ship is draft and damp. I complain but . . . nobody listens.” – Captain Kirk
    “Star Trek XII: So Very Tired. See the original cast in their latest, greatest adventure!” – Narrator
    “Captain, Klingons off the starboard bow.” – Mr. Sulu

    Those who would restrict officially recognized marriages to one man and one woman are seen by many gay marriage advocates as using the power of the law to atavistically reverse the partly organic, partly hard-fought progress of civilization.

    “Again with the Klingons. Mr. Scott, give me full power.” – Captain Kirk

    5.

    It’s more difficult to understand how the most measured invocation of some important social contributions by women drawn from the functions of the female body can produce shock waves of horror and derision — especially from a column that points out that a society which rejects the premise of a question about sex, gender, and natural purposes might very well have achieved a great leap forward in the progress of human civilization.

    “I know those words, but that sign makes no sense.” – Lisa Simpson

    6.

    After all, as some have pointed out, Christianity itself — often associated with Aristotelian views tightly tying sexual biology to social role — is in fact a creed that in many ways profoundly liberates individuals from their natural bodies.

    “You see this? It symbolizes that she’s my property and I own her!” – Homer Simpson

    7.

    In practice, however, and probably inevitably, Christianity has become tangled up in an institutional mess of competing moral and natural claims.

    “But isn’t that a sin?” – Marge Simpson
    “Marge, just about everything is a sin. You ever sat down and read this thing? Technically we’re not allowed to go to the bathroom.” – Reverend Lovejoy

    8.

    As I’ve written for a symposium at Cato Unbound:

    “Screw Flanders.” – Homer Simpson

    8.

    “Traditional marriage” is an institution without a fully authoritative account of which moralities, which traditions, and which human characteristics command us to say no, by varying degrees, to which others.

    “Oh, Andy Capp, you wife beating drunk.” – Homer Simpson

    9.

    The same is true for the meaning of the relationship between women as sovereign individuals and as beings with female bodies.

    “I’m trying to teach my son here about treating women as objects.” – Homer Simpson
    “That’s a good idea.” – Wet T-Shirt Nite Proprietor

    10.

    Increasing numbers of Americans on both sides of the culture wars think that barbarism will win and civilization will lose unless the federal government establishes that relationship by law, on birth control, abortion, prostitution, and other issues.

    “But gambling is illegal!” – Marge Simpson
    “Oh, only in forty-eight states.” – Homer Simpson

    11.

    Nevertheless, there may be a successful way to talk about how women’s bodies might equip them to play a particularly important social and political role. Since my original discussion of this point has led a number of people to imagine that I must want nothing more than to reduce women to bio-serfs, it’s worth rearticulating.

    “Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else – and it hasn’t – it’s that girls should stick to girl’s sports, such as Hot Oil Wrestling, Foxy Boxing, and such and such.” – Homer Simpson

    12.

    Relative to men, women have a naturally privileged relationship with the process of creating and recreating human life.

    “Ms. Bouvier, I think we’ve found the reason why you’ve been throwing up in the morning.” – Dr. Hibbert

    13.

    If you think this claim is an act of patriarchal essentialism, consider that this claim helps justify the right of a woman to freely choose an abortion without regard to the interests or opinions of the inseminating male.

    “Did you have to be so graphic?” – Marge Simpson
    “It’s okay, Marge, they pave the way for this kind of filth in school.” – Homer Simpson

    14.

    In most ways, in fact, that naturally privileged relationship — call it the power of fertility or fecundity — doesn’t actually carry much moral weight, as the development of our civilization has made clear.

    “How would you like to marry Apu so he doesn’t get deported?” – Homer Simpson
    “I’d rather eat poison. My name’s already Selma Bouvier-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure.” – Selma Bouvier

    15.

    Women are largely freer than ever to pursue their life plans without the burden of a moral obligation to center their activity and their ambitions around exercising their unique reproductive capabilities.

    “Thanks again for taking the children while I’m away.” – Marge Simpson
    “Don’t worry yourself.” – Selma Bouvier
    “Uh-huh, we’ve got six months of maternity leave we’re never going to use anyway.” – Patty Bouvier

    16.

    Yet the story doesn’t end there. We still argue and wonder about which life plans to choose in a civilization that has greatly and productively loosened the once-intense moral link between women’s fecundity and women’s lives as unique individuals.

    “So, Marge, a little about yourself?” – Herb Powell
    “Well, I met Homer in high school, we got married and had three beautiful children.” – Marge Simpson
    “Wow. We have so much catching up to do.” – Herb Powell
    “Actually, I just told you pretty much everything.” – Marge Simpson

    17.

    And one area in which patriarchal dominance has persisted is in privileging some kinds of human pursuits over others.

    “Mom, you’re blocking the TV. If you need something to do, you can fill out my form. Here.” – Bart Simpson
    “Parent’s Occupation. (Please note: homemaker is not allowed as it is not real work, that’s why you don’t get paid for it.)” – Marge Simpson

    18.

    Philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Heidegger have disapprovingly warned of the apparently natural propensity of men to fill up the world with stuff — machines, weapons, ideologies, and so on — that often objectifies and instrumentalizes people, and often distracts us from its own sterility as regards fruitful human living.

    “It’s a tool that every home handyman needs! It’s a jigsaw, it’s a power drill, it’s a wood turning lathe, it’s an asphalt spreader, it’s sixty-seven tools in one!” – TV Announcer

    19.

    Difference doesn’t presume or ordain inequality. I’m not alone in thinking that women are uniquely able to help humanity avoid becoming enthralled to the more sterile cultural creations of men. But this sort of insight is far more circumspect and modest than the central principles of virtually all social conservatives.

    “Now, why are we doomed to this Quimby quagmire, you ask, oh, reasonable listener? Because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tie-died tree-huggers who would rather play hacky sack than lock up the homeless.” – Birch Barlow

    20.

    If my claim is doomed to be met with an avalanche of contempt, it seems likely that in our lifetimes social conservatism as we know it will be mocked, despised, and shamed right out of existence.

    “Where you been Homer? Entire steel industry’s gay, yeah, aerospace too, and the railroads. And, you know what else? Broadway.” – Moe

    21.

    You might be deeply uncomfortable with that even if you do hope to see an America without a social conservative movement.

    “Mr. Hutz, when I grow up, I want to be a lawyer, just like you.” – Bart Simpson
    “Good for you, son. If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers.” – Lionel Hutz

    • SEK

      I’m honored to have inspired this. Also, stop showing me up.

    • Tehanu

      Brilliant! All their arguments should be dealt with like this.

      One other small addition, from Futurama: over the gates of Mars University it says “Socrates … Vos Savant … Cognitron.” They should change Vos Savant to Poulos. Just sayin’.

    • Colin Day

      At the heart of the culture wars is a very deep-seated disagreement over whether or not women’s natural bodies give women unique or particular purposes — and, if so, what those purposes are, and how our morals, politics, and laws ought to treat the relationship between those purposes and women’s choices about how to actually live.

      Isn’t that already normalizing male bodies? Would Poulos have asked the analogous question of men’s bodies?

      • snurp

        I’m pretty confounded by the “unique[ness]” of slightly-more-than-half of humankind. And what’s killing me is how blatantly that quote makes absolutely no sense in the context of the culture wars if you substitute “male” in for “female,” even though their reproductive activities are also unique, since we’re apparently using unique to mean “belonging to about half of the species at some point in their lives.” Women aren’t reproducing via parthenogenesis, Poulos.

    • Angry Geometer

      “Smithers, are they booing me?”
      “No, they’re saying Boo-urns! Boo-urns!”

  • Pingback: Poulos, Through the Simpsons - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Mrs Tilton

    If my claim is doomed to be met with an avalanche of contempt, it seems likely that in our lifetimes social conservatism as we know it will be mocked, despised, and shamed right out of existence.

    The one good sentence buried under 20 tons of Poulos’s overripe horseshit. It’s just sad that, as literally everything else he has ever said is wrong, we have no good reason to think he’s right about this.

    (Oh, and by the way, hitherto I have not been a very religious person, but I am now founding a church that will worship Charlie Sweatpants’s comment. We are not worthy!)

    • R Johnston

      That which is completely incoherent has no truth value and is therefore neither right nor wrong. Poulos may have been trying to say something wrong, but he failed miserably at doing so.

    • Spud

      I am in such profound love with those comments that I hope they originated in one of the 7 states where I would be allowed to marry them.

    • mjfgates

      You’re mistaking “don’t we all just WISH” for “good.” I can’t even SAY that sentence out loud. And I can read “Fox In Socks” double-speed.

      DAMMIT! My daughter managed it. Curse her and her voice training!… Well, at least we all know the special purpose of women’s unique bodies now.

  • mds

    That he happened to be the author of this great leaping achievement is immaterial, because “philosophers from Plato to Rousseau to Heidegger” are famous people whose names he knows.

    “Let me put it this way: You’ve heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?”

    “Yes … ?”

    “Morons.”

    Anyway, Professor Kaufman, may I just say that it wasn’t genocide “The Poulos Hoax?” was quite the evil choice of title, considering. Kudos!

  • James Paulos

    This reemergence can be genetic—like when babies are born monkeys—or it can be social—like when Buck remembered that dogs are wolves and heeded the call of his wild.

    I have given this some thought and see some deep connections to the contra-accepted, feminist, social paradigm of women in modern society.

    Richard Leakey, while on a dig at the Omo, once…

  • doxastic

    I’m gonna sit back and let Heidegger slap his own name out of Poulos’ mouth. Marty in response to a speech given by poet turned pop philosopher of racist biology, Erwin Kolbenheyer (Jan 30, 1933):

    Every age and every people has its cave, and the cave dwellers to go with it. So do we today. And the prime example of a contemporary cave dweller and of the gossipy entourage that goes along with him is the popular philosopher and cultural politician Kolbenheyer, who made an appearance here yesterday.
    […]
    He is bound to the shadows and takes these as the only definitive reality and world; that is, he thinks and speaks in the schema of a biology that he got to know more than thirty years ago-at a time when it was the fashion to fabricate biological world views.
    […]
    But it is not enough to recognize, perhaps, these manifestations of human Being (after all, they are hard to deny), merely in order then to distort them into biological functional capacities. One thereby perverts decision-engagement-freedom-the courage for sacrifice into a process that is encumbered from the outside and fit into the biological reality which has been presupposed as the only definitive reality, without seeing and grasping that in engaging oneself and enduring and sacrificing, a way of Being that is different in principle becomes powerful- different in principle from, say, the functioning of gastric juices and sexual cells and tending to the brood (159, 161).

    [Shorter: Being is bodily, not biological. Poulos keeps ramming the two together and calling it “civilization”].

    Bonus Plato joke: Poulos? More like Polus, amirite?

  • Pingback: I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused « AbsurdBeats()

It is main inner container footer text