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How can we miss you if you won’t go away?


Have you ever heard or read something and dismissed it out of hand but at the same time you have a niggling suspicion your dismissal is based on nothing more than distaste or disgust, and later you discover whatever you dismissed is true and you think Wow, this denial stuff is sneak-ee?

A week or so ago I saw a Tweet that stated Andrew Sullivan was going to start clogging the atmosphere with his ruminations again. And I thought Phhbbft. Citizens of the Twitters can be sooo gullible. And why is anyone making jokes about Andrew Sullivan, anyway?

But then, a few days ago I go to Alicublog and

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP… about the return of Andrew Sullivan to our telescreens.


Great. Obama’s leaving office, there’s another 3,025,809 days left until the end of this wheel of pain known as the 2016 presidential election cycle (or 3,025,815 days until the start of 2020) and now this.

And This probably won’t be restricted to prolonged hand-wringing over how uncivil the GOP has become since he went off to meditate at the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Monastery for Tumid Tories.

By following the links – which I will one day learn not to do – This will likely include Mr. Bell Curve Isreal’s thoughts on race. Because if Mr. Sullivan were capable of figuring out that there are some topics about which he should never share his thoughts, because they are wrong and offensive, he would have quit back in the early days of Bush II, Scene I.

Here’s a snip from his recent appearance on Chris Matthews.

Sullivan: No I didn’t. I said. You mentioned Black Lives Matter. I mean the race. The Left on the race question is now neo-Marxist in a way it hasn’t been at all in the past.

Matthews: Neo-Marxist?

Sullivan: Yes! It believes that race is a structurally, economically and socially imponderable and completely unmovable force. I mean, I’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates. That’s what it is! It’s Marxism without the happy ending!

God help us all, writes Driftglass, who – here’s the silver lining – is reviving Stupid Shit Andrew Sullivan Says. Agreed. And if God won’t help out, I’m willing to give Dagon a ring to ask if he can lend a fin.

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  • N__B

    Marxism without the happy ending!

    That’s the specialty of the house at the Engels Brothel.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      house of the rising proletariat, so to speak

      • Origami Isopod

        Next door to the House of the Raised Consciousness.

        • N__B

          Well, I got one post on the blog site
          The other foot on the train
          I’m goin’ back to Washington
          To wear that ball and gag

          • Origami Isopod

            My mother worked in leather, and
            She sewed my new gimp suit…

            Anyway, if Sully spent the rest of his life wearing a ball and gag we’d all be better off.

      • wca

        Marxism has been the ruin of many a poor boy.

    • toberdog

      My computer monitor is unhappy, because I had a mouthful of bagel at the time I read this.

    • Merkwürdigliebe

      Marxism without the Happy Ending is the new name of my Chumbawamba cover band.

      • toberdog

        Good thing I had already finished my bagel!

      • cleek

        i think it was already a Stereolab EP

        • marduk


    • Manju

      It involves standing Hegel on his head.

  • efgoldman

    I’ve managed, somehow, to do without Sir Bear Tory Bell Curve and his necrophiliac love for Margaret Thatcher all these years, I’ll probably continue to do just fine ignoring him.

    • DrDick

      I, too, shall maintain my ignorance of the (t)wit and wisdom(?????) of the impossibly self-conflicted Sully.

    • MAJeff

      Sir Bear Tory Bell Curve and his necrophiliac love for Margaret Thatcher all these years

      Don’t forget “brothers welcome” so we can’t accuse him of white supremacy.

    • Rob Patterson


  • N__B

    Also, I knew that his presence in Batman Versus Superman, playing himself, was a bad omen.

  • libarbarian

    I’d have thought you’d be happy. Yeah, with Sullivan gone all you had was DeBoer to hate read.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      Freddie probably thinks Sully is more of a True Progressive than you.

      • rea

        Didn’t Freddie guest blog for Sullivan?

        • Leave Freddie alone! He’s only a poor lowly graduate student with a WordPress site blogging at Andrew Sullivan’s place! Why are all these tenured professors with their pleated khakis being mean to him!!!!!

          • rea

            Leave Freddie alone!

            Maybe, if I’m real polite and deferential to him, he’ll explain again what I have to do to be a proper gay.

            • kped

              I believe to be a proper gay, you shouldn’t be polite. Freddie likes his gays like he likes his hot sauce – flaming! And if you want to waste your time fighting for things like equality, go back to the gay store and get more gay, becasue the gays from the good ol’ days didn’t care about that, and you sir or madam, are doing it wrong!

            • Thirtyish

              Or why I, as a woman who experiences at least one sexist microaggression on a daily basis, don’t really understand feminism like Freddie does.

          • kped

            Freddie don’t play that game anymore. Now it’s all about “I don’t need to debate someone with only 12 twitter followers” and “I’m very successful” followed by links to all of his published articles. The boy done let it all get to his head.

            • Rob in CT

              Someone who used status as a defense of his arguments is now using status in defense of his arguments? I’m shocked, shocked.

            • Rob Patterson

              Everyone here surely already knew this, but I learned only last week F deB has 9,000 or whatever Twitter followers and he follows … zero. I just love that.

              • N__B

                As a great philosopher* once** said, only dead fish go with the flow.

                *Not really.

                **A few years ago.

              • Warren Terra

                You don’t really have time to follow anyone on twitter when you’re obsessively Googling your own name.

      • libarbarian

        Freddie knows all about Real True Progressives

        • kped

          I don’t think that’s the same Freddie… name of that guy is Fred Clark

          • Roberta

            Who is a real gem, and really doesn’t deserve a comparison with FdB.

          • Murc

            And Fred Clark is a fucking national treasure, is what he is.

            • Rob in CT

              As is Libby Anne (Love, Joy, Feminism), also at Patheos.

          • libarbarian

            *FACEPALM* I was not confusing FDB with FC :) … although I see how you might make that mistake so I guess I shouldn’t facepalm :)

            Link was reference to the “Real True X” motif – which Fred Clark is great a exposing/skewering. He focuses on Real True Christians … but as he says it is the same psychology for all Real True Believers of all stripes.

            • rm

              I got it and was just about to ride to your defense. We’re all fans of the same stuff here, huzzah. But yes, the diagnosis of the Real True mindset is on target with Freddie. As would be a feminist analysis.

              To amplify another of Fred’s points: it’s not good to give credence to any identity’s “real true” fundamentalist faction as representing the purest, truest version. E.g., do not give creationists credit for having a defensible “literal” reading of the Bible.

            • kped

              Ah, just saw the name and said to myself “that’s not the same Fred!”

              I’ll read the article now.

    • efgoldman

      with Sullivan gone all you had was DeBoer to hate read.

      I’ve been perfectly content ignoring Freddie just as much as I ignore Sully.

      • Thirtyish

        I didn’t know who Freddie was until the flurry of Freddie articles (both here and at Balloon Juice) began pretty much right at two years ago. Upon further edification, I am grateful for that prior ignorance.

  • Derelict

    Sully is just a mild example of the modern phenomenon of “writers” who are utterly incoherent and, because what they write is incoherent, are taken to be “deep” and “serious.” Take the cited example–decrying racism is neo-Marxism and Sully knows this because he’s read Coates! It doesn’t matter how you squint, turn it around, shake it upside down, or drag it across the ground–it makes no sense whatsoever. It is complete gibberish.

    Yet, because it is delivered with a British accent and it confuses nominally smart people, it must be too deep and too intelligent for the nominally smart people to understand. And thus is nonsense elevated to canon, and fools elevated to sages.

    • Nobdy

      It is more than that. By being incoherent Sullivan is also unchallenging, which corporate media likes.

      Let’s look at Coates, an incisive writer with clear points to make. He ends up churning put a lot of challenging stuff about reparations and red lining and how racism is still a defining social force.

      It’s enough to make a middle manager who fancies himself liberal uncomfortable.

      Now let’s wash Coates’ challenging thoughts in the shallow untreated sewage stream of Andrew Sullivan’s brain mind.

      Neo-Marxism! Unjustifiable despair!

      That feels safer, doesn’t it? Now that it’s covered in Sullivan mind droppings it’s soothingly incoherent and unchallenging. The veil is settling back in. The exposed girders of the structural inequality are disappearing bring cheap drywall.


      And so Sullivan serves his purpose of being a loud voice helping to drown out the other voices that actually have something to say. Power marches on unmolested.

      I think a lot of punditry operates this way. It’s job is to shout enough words that they turn the public conversation into gibberish.

      How else to explain the NY Times op ed page?

      • toberdog

        Fantastically well stated.

        • Rob in CT


          • West


            • Colin Day


      • How else to explain the NY Times op ed page?

        Shub-Niggurath, The Goat with a Thousand Interns?

      • ArchTeryx

        Power always protects and nurtures its own, and makes damn sure that the rabble without it stay out of their halls.

        Sullivan is the smokescreen camoflaging the entrances.

        Wonderfully well stated.

    • DrDick

      It certainly made my head hurt and I am an actual Marxist and an anti-racists. I would observe, however, that I was an anti-racist about four decades before I became a Marxist.

      • Murc

        And it’s good that you’re both, because Marxism by itself, no offense, has a lot of problems dealing with race; it tries to reduce everything to class, which, well… problematic.

        • Rob in CT

          Which is only part of what makes Sullivan’s line nonsensical.

        • DrDick

          I actually agree with this and would add gender to the critique. It is one of the ways I am a heterodox, rather than orthodox Marxist). While I think Marx got the broad outlines correct (much like Darwin), he was working with limited data in the mid-19th century. Expecting anyone (including Darwin) to have gotten it completely correct under those circumstances is self-evidently silly.

          • Linnaeus

            A lot of people – not here at LGM, mind you – seem to think that Marxism was preserved in amber around 1867 or so.

            • DrDick

              There are certainly a number of those here, as well.

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              I, for one, prefer the Marxism preserved in on celluloid in 1933.

              That was when Duck Soup came out.

            • Ahuitzotl

              Amber? well …. its brown and sticky, but …

      • Warren Terra

        Give Sullivan enough time and he’ll probably come up with an argument about Premature Anti-Racism.

        • Bill Murray

          Premature Anti-Racism.

          I think that was when he tried to have sex with a non-white bear and it didn’t go so well and Big Jim Slade had to come by to get the job done right

          • Francis

            “sex with a non-white bear”

            sounds grizzly.

    • rm

      I’ve been trying to make sense of it, alas. All I can think is it boils down to “race = biologically real,” just like racists have said since racism was invented, and any analysis of the cultural construction of race is “Marxism.” That is, he is finding verbose ways to disguise shouting the n-word.

      • DrDick

        I think you may be on to something here. This is just another iteration of the annoying conservative “cultural Marxism” trope.

      • advocatethis

        That has been the horse Sully’s been flogging for the last twenty years or so. Having bought into The Bell Curve, he now revisits it only to freshen his defense of it.

    • elm

      Modern? Have you not read Heidegger?

      • Origami Isopod

        Yeah, this is an age-old problem.

        Nobdy’s comment also made me think of the guy in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People who runs around scolding others that everything should be done “in moderation,” including the prevention of epidemics. Two sides-ism for the 19th century.

    • Thirtyish

      Sully is just a mild example of the modern phenomenon of “writers” who are utterly incoherent and, because what they write is incoherent, are taken to be “deep” and “serious.”

      I’ve got a Camille Paglia on line one.

  • Nobdy

    We’re going to have a Clinton in the white house and Andrew Sullivan in a prestigious nominally liberal magazine.

    Matthew McConaughey was right! Time IS a flat circle.

    • It’s too early for me to be this depressed.Oh, what am I talking about? I’ve loathed this primary season.

      • DrDick

        The whole thing has been unbelievably depressing.

        • Rob in CT

          Really? Even with Bernie doing this well? No sunshine for you there?

          • DrDick

            That has been quite refreshing, but the descent of the debates over the Democratic candidate into absurdity (Bernie is unelectable!/Hillary is a fascist!), along with the Insane Clown Posse that is the GOP race make me want to go to sleep until next December.

            • I never thought I’d say this, but that comparison is really unfair to Insane Clown Posse.

    • postmodulator

      Wonder what I did with my flannel.

      • Rob in CT

        I’m prepared, I still wear mine!

  • kped

    When he says

    I mean, I’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    What he means to say is he got embarrassed by Coates in a long internet kerfuffle about Bell Curve and the disgusting implications of his “questions” about it.

    (Freddie also got involved in that one, trying vainly to say that black people should take the arguments seriously and arguing their humanity against bigots was something they should actively do…cause maybe they aren’t bigots and you need to win them over! If a debate has Sullivan and FdB arguing both sides, i honestly think that’s the only place where being a centrist is valid.)

    • Rob in CT

      Coates is Sullivan’s (intellectual) “black friend.” IIRC, he helped Coates’ career some. And has praised his work, and I have no doubt he’s read it. This, in Sully’s mind, entitles him to name-drop Coates to bolster an argument Coates would probably either shred (or maybe just stare at in puzzlement).

      • kped

        Here is the ultimate article: http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/12/23/excuse-me-mr-coates-ctd/

        Sullivan quoting Freddie on why it’s OK to debate black people and their low IQ’s!

        What, to paraphrase Freddie, is he afraid of? And what happens when liberalism chooses not to challenge its own shibboleths, not to debate certain troubling ideas, not to explore forbidden fields of inquiry? It becomes a tired and tiresome orthodoxy – like much of modern conservatism – preferring feelings over facts, and solidarity over reason.

        Yeah black people! What are you afraid of, let’s have this debate about your IQ’s.

        • Rob in CT

          Yeah, that was something.


          • Rob in CT

            Damn, somehow I can’t edit this. Anyway:

            IIRC, Coates’ response was basically “I’m not going to debate my humanity.”

            • kped

              Yeah, that simple statement brought those two clowns together, “No, it’s not about debating your humanity, see, you just have to debate why black people aren’t as smart, it’s different” “No it isn’t, black people have been “debating” that for centuries, it never ends” “Nuh uh, this argument is different, it’s in a book this time!”

              White bros (and that’s really what both of them are) demanding black people engage the same slurs they’ve dealt with since slavery as intellectually honest conversations, where they must prove to the whites that no sir, they aren’t inferior is infuriating. I think Freddie honestly believes you can convince a racist he is wrong by arguing enough at them about lead paint or some nonsense.

              • Origami Isopod

                It’s interesting how nobody ever seriously challenges whether white guys are all that smart. Oh, sure, there are jabs taken at them on the liberal sections of the internet, but we don’t see books like The Bell Curve written about it, much less books that “public intellectuals” slobber over.

                • Roberta

                  Right, that’s the exact problem with the “debate.” No, Mr. White Guy, you come up with an argument for why Sandy Hook doesn’t demonstrate that you shouldn’t be allowed outside without a female guardian. Give me facts, not feelings. I’ll wait.

                • MyNameIsZweig

                  I’m a white guy, and I’m not really all that smart. Based on the depth of evidence he’s provided for some of his other positions, that in itself should be enough evidence for Sullivan.

                • Linnaeus

                  I’m a white guy, and I’m not really all that smart

                  Neither am I, but “act as if” gets you a long way as a white dude, it seems.

              • UncleEbeneezer

                White bros (and that’s really what both of them are) demanding black people engage the same slurs they’ve dealt with since slavery as intellectually honest conversations, where they must prove to the whites that no sir, they aren’t inferior is infuriating.

                Yup. And the same thing occurs with sexism, homophobia, transphobia etc. People of privilege have this idea that their noble principle of intellectual curiosity/honesty is more important than the goal of not reinforcing oppression with hypothetical discussions that deny people’s humanity. They want to think of themselves as unbiased thinkers or even allies to a marginalized group but then put their fingers in their ears when that group says “Dude, the mere existence of this debate, in and of itself, is bad for us (marginalized group.)” But the Privileged double-down, assure everyone that this has nothing to do with anyone’s humanity and pat themselves on the back for their adherence to openmindedness-at-all other people’s-cost.

                • This can also be a form of bullying. Some self-described allies insist that such debates and conversations (in which the oppressed person must participate!) are essential to ending oppression.

                  Recommended action: Shout NO! and walk away.

        • wjts

          Little Andy and the Scientists

          A Play by wjts

          Sullivan: Are certain races objectively intellectually inferior to others? We should debate these troubling ideas, and not be afraid to follow the evidence, no matter where it leads.

          Scientists: We debated these ideas. We followed the evidence. The Bell Curve was wrong. It was wrong when you published it, and it’s wrong today.

          Sullivan: Why do you insist on repeating these tired liberal shibboleths rather than exploring forbidden fields of inquiry?

          Scientist One: [to Scientist Two] Did he not hear us, what we said just now? We did explore the “forbidden field of inquiry”. It was bullshit. We did do that, right?

          Scientist Two: [Holds up reams of research debunking Murray’s research] Yup.

          Scientists: OK, we checked. We did all those things. Why are you still going on about this?

          Sullivan: Because I just want to have a reasoned debate. As liberals, you shouldn’t be afraid to follow the evidence, no matter where it leads!

          Scientists: We keep telling you, we did that.

          Scientist 3: I’m not a liberal.

          Scientists: We did that, and would like to note for the record that Brian is not a liberal. And the evidence leads inexorably to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe that certain races, however defined, are necessarily more intelligent than others.

          Sullivan: But what if there were a reason to think that? We should follow the evidence, no matter where it leads!

          Scientist 4: [to the Other Scientists] I think I’ve found the problem. [To Sullivan] Unless it leads to a conclusion you don’t like?

          Sullivan: Well, obviously not then! Now, can we have a civil discussion about the scientific reasons why black people are so stupid, following the evidence, no matter where it leads?


          • kped


          • sharculese

            I’ve mentioned idiosyncratic evangelical dude I went to law school with before (doesn’t believe in hell, admits to wishing America were a theocracy, was willing to believe us when we told him Al Jazeera English was a good source for world news)

            I had basically this exact conversation with him, except at the end he was willing to accept that hey maybe this had been studied already.

            • rm

              I had this conversation with my uncle. He doesn’t like to think of himself as a racist. Just open-minded, y’know.

              • Origami Isopod

                Shades of “I’m an independent thinker/voter.”

                • Shades of “I’m an independent thinker/voter.”

                  So, pinkish-gray shades?

                • Denverite

                  Shades of “I’m an independent thinker/voter.”

                  Just for the record, some people register as independents because they either work for a government agency that is run by a popularly elected politician and frequently switches between D and R, or they would like to preserve the option to work for such an agency in the future.

          • JustRuss

            Very nicely done, but needs a catchier title. I’d love to help with that, but I’m supposed to be doing something productive.

          • DrDick

            You forgot the really important part, which is that in the course of that debate we came to the inescapable conclusion that humans do not have races, in part because there is simply not enough genetic variability in the species (one of the least variable species on earth) and most of that is completely random variation.

            • wjts

              Well, no. I know this is your favorite factoid to trot out whenever the subject crops up, but it’s entirely irrelevant. The putative low-level genetic variability among humans doesn’t mean there are no identifiable genetic differences between human populations any more than the fact that pygmy marmosets are so much smaller than almost all other primates means that they don’t differ meaningfully in size among themselves. And we can identify clusters of genetic and phenotypic traits that are more prevalent in/exclusive to one population vs. another. So if you want to draw a circle around one of those clusters and call it a “race”, I guess you could (just as one could draw a circle around sparrows on one side of a mountain that have white-tipped wing feathers to exclude their conspecifics on the other side that have brown-tipped wing feathers), but the real question is whether or not that tells you anything particularly interesting. Usually, it doesn’t.

              • DrDick

                There is also the fact that there is more genetic diversity within populations than newteen them and more genetic diversity in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined.

                • wjts

                  Yeah, I know. That doesn’t mean there are no significant genetic differences between and/or among populations outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Early studies of human diversity showed that most genetic diversity was found between individuals rather than between populations or continents and that variation in human diversity is best described by geographic gradients, or clines. A wide-ranging study published in 2004 found that 87.6% percent of the total modern human genetic diversity isaccounted for by the differences between individuals, and only 9.2% between continents. In general, 5%–15% of genetic variation occurs between large groups living on different continents, with the remaining majority of the variation occurring within such groups (Lewontin 1972; Jorde et al. 2000a; Hinds et al. 2005). These results show that when individuals are sampled from around the globe, the pattern seen is not a matter of discrete clusters – but rather gradients in genetic variation (gradual geographic variations in allele frequencies) that extend over the entire world. Therefore,there is no reason to assume that major genetic discontinuities exist between peoples on different continents or “races.” The authors of the 2004 study say that they ‘see no reason to assume that “races” represent any units of relevance for understanding human genetic history. An exception may be genes where different selection regimes have acted in different geographical regions. However, even in those cases, the genetic discontinuities seen are generally not “racial” or continental in nature but depend on historical and cultural factors that are more local in nature’ (Serre and Pääbo 2004: 1683-1684).


                • wjts

                  Variation is sometimes clinal and sometimes discrete? Well, knock me over with a feather! These ideas were certainly never discussed in excruciating detail in any of the genetics/biology courses I took!

                • DrDick

                  Note that the first article (from the American Society of Human Genetics) states:

                  The fact that humans are relatively homogeneous at the DNA level, combined with the fact that between-population variation is modest, has significant social implications. Importantly, these patterns imply that the DNA differences between individuals, and
                  between populations, are relatively scant and do not provide a biological basis for any form of discrimination.

                  And the second article states:

                  Non-African populations appear to have a subset of the genetic diversity present in sub-Saharan Africa and more private alleles and haplotypes are observed in Africa relative to other regions (38, 93, 111, 169, 200, 202, 206, 208, 243) as expected under an OOA model.

                  Both the American Anthropological Association and the American society for Human Genetics have rejected race as a meaningful unit of analysis.

                • wjts

                  The fact that humans are relatively homogeneous at the DNA level, combined with the fact that between-population variation is modest, has significant social implications.

                  Doy-hickey, as we used to say. But neither “relatively” nor “modest” mean “total”, “non-existent”, “unobservable”, “insignificant”, or “irrelevant”.

                  Importantly, these patterns imply that the DNA differences between individuals, and
                  between populations, are relatively scant and do not provide a biological basis for any form of discrimination.

                  See above in re: “relatively”. As for “do not provide a biological basis for any form of discrimination”, see above in re: “[d]oy-hickey, as we used to say”.

                  Non-African populations appear to have a subset of the genetic diversity present in sub-Saharan Africa…

                  “Subset” means “less”, not “absence”; doy-hickey; loc. cit.

                  …and more private alleles and haplotypes are observed in Africa relative to other regions (38, 93, 111, 169, 200, 202, 206, 208, 243) as expected under an OOA model.

                  “More in x” does not mean “none in y“, doy-hickey, loc. cit.

                  Both the American Anthropological Association and the American society for Human Genetics have rejected race as a meaningful unit of analysis.

                  As an occasional member of one of those organizations and a physical anthropologist by training, do tell me more, for I had no idea!

                  Less cantankerous and more generous response: Biologically identifiable human sub-groups exist at one degree or another, both phenotypically and genotypically. The decision to call these subgroups “races” or not should be informed by a judicious examination of the historical connotations this term carries and, on balance, should be rejected. For while certainly ideas like “White race”, “Black race”, “Asian race” and “Indian race” are nearly (but not entirely) devoid of any biological content, it is not the case that no biological distinctions, phenotypic or genotypic, can be drawn between or among various human populations.

          • Colin Day

            Should we call Sullivan Ramses? Because he’s the King of Denial!

        • Davis

          One shibboleth with a very long history is the one that says that blacks are inferior. Murray’s book is just the latest one. Stephen Jay Gould, who also taught the history of science, once wrote an article detailing the many instances where a recent scientific discovery or theory was used to “prove” blacks’ inferiority.

          • butcherpete

            He wrote the book on the topic: The Mismeasure of Man.

          • Linnaeus

            Gould’s scathing criticism of the The Bell Curve can still be found here, if anyone’s interested.

          • Bill Murray

            my favorite was when the prevailing theory of why white’s are superior went from because we are less childlike to we are more childlike, but the rankings didn’t change

            • UncleEbeneezer
        • I look forward to debating whether or not homosexuality is a mental illness. I may find it troubling but I still owe to everyone to JUST ASK QUESTIONS.

    • Murc

      I’ll be honest, I kinda-sorta give Sullivan a pass on this a bit. Not on the “maybe the Bell Curve is right” stuff, that’s just him being racist.

      But credit where credit is due, he walks the walk here. Back in the 80s when you could do things like openly call for the chemical castration or rounding up into camps of all gay people and it wouldn’t really hurt your social standing much, Sullivan was out there calmly and patiently making the argument “Well, no. We’re people, as deserving of common humanity and respect as anyone else, and here’s why.” and then he’d engage deeply with people who you could tell wouldn’t spit on him if he were on fire.

      This isn’t to necessarily say he’s correct on his “you should treat the question as to whether or not you’re worthy of basic respect as a human as one worth debating” position, but he’s at least not a hypocrite about it; when people questioned his worthiness as to basic respect as a person he did, in fact, treat that question as one worth debating.

      • Rob in CT

        That is a fair point.

        Of course, I think a fair rejoinder might be to say that being gay and being black aren’t really the same thing (not least, b/c skin colour != sexual orientation).

      • Origami Isopod

        Sullivan only walks the walk when it’s his ass on the line. If it’s a social issue that doesn’t touch him, he doesn’t give a shit.

        • Barry Freed

          He was actually good on torture*. But pretty much what you said, yeah.

          *[Edit, a point that I know see has been made below]

          • Roberta

            It’s even worse than not giving a shit, I think. He’s so fully bought into the conservative hierarchical mentality, and is actively opposed to anyone challenging it, including gay people. He just wants white gay men to have access to the top tier.

            This mentality is moralistic and depends on a self-image of being the good guys. So it occasionally moves him to the right side, like on torture. But the hierarchical nature of it means he’ll never be pro-choice, for example–he’s too obsessed with controlling lower status people’s bodies.

            Which also explains his weird Palin derangement.

            • Origami Isopod

              This mentality is moralistic and depends on a self-image of being the good guys. So it occasionally moves him to the right side, like on torture.

              Yeah – there are definitely lines he won’t cross, but that’s in the service of bolstering his self-image, not because he’s any reliable source of morality. I mean, most conservatives wouldn’t eat a baby live, either.


        • efgoldman

          If it’s a social issue that doesn’t touch him, he doesn’t give a shit.

          Right. There’s a lot of FYIGM, pulling up the ladder about him. Sort of a gay Thomas Sowell or Clarence Thomas.

    • Wapiti

      Coates made some blistering tweets about intellectually lazy thinking – maybe a year or more ago. He basically said that as a black man, he wouldn’t survive making some of the sillier arguments out there (it might have been about thinking IQ was immutable – but I can’t find the tweets). If he was white, he could be the editor of a national weekly (a serious dig at Sullivan), or even the editor (a dig at Peretz), and given that, he (THC) was glad he was black.

      I’d think that Coates winning the MacAuthur award, and getting a rave success on his memoir, must be tearing up Sullivan’s world view.

      • kped


        Gawker “storfied” it. Basically “If i were a white intellectual, I could believe myths” and in the case of Sullivan and Peretz, he had them dead to rights there.

        • Wapiti

          Thanks – bookmarked. I have a feeling I might need to use it if Sullivan is coming back.

        • advocatethis

          I hadn’t seen that. The deftness with which he cut up Sullivan and Peretz could go a long way towards explaining Sullivan’s dismissive “neo-Marxist” hogwash. That has to still sting.

    • Roberta

      This may be unfair, but I partially blame Sully and FdB and their ilk for the number of people I’ve talked to who still seem to think the Bell Curve is brave truth-telling (“no sociologist has refuted it,” one dude told me).

      • Origami Isopod

        I agree with you. Sully, more so than FdB, IMO.

      • DrDick

        It is also just straight up racist.

  • BubbaDave

    If a debate has Sullivan and FdB arguing both sides, i honestly think that’s the only place where being a centrist serial killer is valid.


  • Murc

    For the definitive Sullivan retrospective on this, the eve of his return, what you want is the Village Voice article I linked her a bit back: here.

    Basically, Andrew Sullivan really hates Hillary Clinton. Like, so much so that he’s probably willing to endorse Ted Cruz, a man who would have people like Sullivan stoned to death if he could arrange it, as a “true man of the Constitution.”

    Sullivan has written some persuasive pieces at various times. His writings on torture are worth reading. And I do find him to be a thoughtful person, just wrongheaded.

    But lord, the man writes from his id so much he should be deeply ashamed. And he’s a born contrarian, which will win you all sorts of plaudits in your college debating society but is not a desirable trait in an editor at any large publication.

    In a way, I pity him. If he weren’t gay and were a bit less self-aware, he’d be able to plug into the wingnut wurlitzer and suckle at that teat endlessly. But like Frum, he has just enough sense of humanity and intellect to not be able to do that, but not so much as to make him an actual, you know… good person.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      His views on torture were worth reading only after he repented for his rather over the top pro-war views. Remember those?

      • ThusBloggedAnderson

        ANY repentance was like water in the desert, in the Dubya years.

        • Nick056

          Yeah. By the time Sullivan quit blogging, he’d fallen pretty low in my esteem. (In addition to the Bell Curve nonsense with Coates, he also initially supported GamerGate and he opposed the Brendan Eich resignation as somehow a free speech threat. And the Palin nonsense.)

          But in 2004, seeing a supporter of W. and the war come out and endorse Kerry, as well as condemn torture, was heartening. Sullivan was one of the few people who’d attacked Democrats and stood behind Bush, willing to argue that Bush was a disaster and Kerry was a better choice. He earned a lot of credit for that. Those were despairing times. And he backed Obama in 2008.

          Unfortunately he’s got this tic where, whoever’s “winning,” he seems to turn against them, going back to Clinton. He’s also an asshole. So now that BLM is “winning,” they’re evil Marxists. Now that gay rights is “winning,” it’s important to wine about how terrible it is that being a bigot got Eich in trouble. Contrarianism and insufficient diversity in your reading and intellectual/social circle, for a white guy, is a bad recipe.

          Oh, and he’s a total sexist w/r/t Clinton and Palin. Shamelessly so.

      • Murc

        Did he ever repent them?

        IIRC, what he repented for is thinking the Bushies were competent enough to prosecute said wars.

        This is a position I’m inherently sympathetic to, because I believe that both Iraq and Afghanistan could have worked out if we as a nation had conducted both affairs with the resources they demanded (million-man armies and Marshall Plan levels of reconstruction with robust engagement and oversight) but the way Sullivan and has buddies always used it to make their mea culpas, it absolutely deserved the name it earned: “the competence dodge.”

        • Warren Terra

          Yeah, this. Sullivan eventually turned against Bush, but he never remotely came to terms with just how awful he’d been in those heady first few years and especially months after 9/11 – Sully’s “fifth column” period. To the extent that Sully ever apologized for the “fifth column” comments at all, he certainly never apologized to the individuals he specifically traduced, who had committed the unforgivable sin of being right when Sully was wrong. Premature anti-Bushism, as it were.

      • He was perfectly OK with killing tens or hundreds of thousands Iraqis outright, but locking them in a jail and torturing them is over the line.

    • kped

      And he’s one of the reasons Clinton’s health care push didn’t pass in the 90’s after he published utter lies (which, while he now acknowledges as such, is still proud of…because as you say, he really hates Hillary Clinton).

      • Nick056

        I hate that Sullivan opposed the healthcare plan in the 90s and gave voice to a serial liar. But! I think it had zero effect on whether the bill passed, which was all about Dems not having 60 Senators to break a filibuster, IIRC. Also, he supported the ACA at his blog, which is redemption of a sort. He’s consistently a jerk but not consistently wrong on big questions like who should be president or whether healthcare reform is good or torture.

      • Warren Terra

        Sully on health care is a really interesting area to mine. After all: Sullivan is HIV-positive, has been for decades. Fortunately, scientific progress means we’re often able to control that condition, and give people like Sullivan the decades of healthy living he’s enjoyed. More to the point, social progress means we do give people like Sullivan the decades of healthy living he’s enjoyed. After all, it’s not cheap, and absent the sort of regulation and government intervention that exist in the NHS or (in a very different way) the PPACA people like Sullivan would be completely uninsurable, especially on the individual market.

        So it’s awfully interesting that for most of his adult life Sullivan despised the NHS and worked to kill the Clintons’ health care ideas, including at least a decade in which Sullivan was HIV positive. Sullivan was able to strike out on his own and create an independent blog only because of the exact sort of health care regulation he despised, and yet it took a full year of Ezra Klein making Sullivan look like the poorly informed blowhard he is before Sullivan came around on the ACA, and even then Sully probably did it because he’d decided he likes Obama.

        PS the hatred Sullivan had for Ezra Klein back in the day was utterly palpable, and it was something of a joy to see Sullivan squirm about how clearly Klein was right and he was wrong, while Klein was further committing the aggravating offense of being unforgivably young. Sullivan’s defining feature is his narcissism, so he hated that. Now that Klein is more carefully anodyne and also more powerful I’m sure Sullivan has made peace with him, though.

    • Origami Isopod

      Sullivan is intensely misogynist. His writings on Sarah Palin were equally deranged.

      • advocatethis

        Yeah, his misogyny took me awhile to catch on to. At first I thought he was just oddly anti-lesbian, but then you start to connect that dot with his consuming hatred of Hillary and his weird Palin obsession and then you can’t help but notice that he pretty much doesn’t exhibit respect for any women.

        • Warren Terra

          Except for The Iron Lady, the exception that proves the rule.

          Mind you, Maggie was infamous for her own misogyny, for wanting to be the only woman who mattered, surrounded by a bevy of adoring menfolk.

          • Roberta

            Conservatives love women who dissociate themselves from feminism.

            • efgoldman

              Conservatives love women who dissociate themselves from feminism.

              Conservatives love women who dissociate themselves from the human race.

              • Thirtyish

                Conservatives love women as long as they dismiss their own humanity and bow before the alter of babbies/kinder.

        • Origami Isopod

          His writings on Andrea Yates were … profoundly creepy. There was no acknowledgment of her mental illness, or how Randy Yates or their pastor contributed to her state of mind. She was just a Bad Evil Woman, in contrast to (IIRC) Sullivan’s saintly mother. You certainly don’t have to condone what Yates did in order to be appalled by how Sullivan talked about her case.

  • cleek

    for some reason, i thought i might like reading Sullivan again. there were times when he seemed like an adequate writer of reasonable opinions; and he was always a good link aggregator. maybe he’d taken control of whatever was driving him into those periodic incoherent freak-outs, and i could just enjoy him for his ability to reliably find interesting things to read on the internet.

    nope, and, nope.

    • Rob in CT

      The aggregation function of The Dish was why I read it. Sully would sometimes end up in more or less the right place and that was fine, but taking him too seriously (basically, at all) is a mistake.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I direct you, gentle reader, to The Nope Badger.


  • witlesschum

    Trig truthers, dude.

    • Murc

      I’d forgotten about that!

      Wow, that was without a doubt the weirdest thing he ever flogged.

      It’s like Sullivan is incapable of hating a woman (and to be fair, Palin is super hateable) without drinking the kool-aid on the most bizarre conspiracy theories about her.

    • rea

      Oh, sweet goddess, the only writer on the planet who can make you think that Sarah Palin is being treated unfairly

  • toberdog

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around the irony, if that’s what it is, of a guy who defended The Bell Curve criticizing the “left” for thinking “race is a structurally, economically and socially imponderable and completely unmovable force.”

    • Rob in CT


    • Bruce B.

      Beautiful. :)

  • tsam

    The beard oil as a representation of an annoying thing that should have been strangled before growing legs is a brilliant touch.

    • Murc

      … is that what it is? I thought it was just to mock Sullivan’s well-known bear fetish.

      Because I use beard oil. It’s a useful product, because without it you could probably scour pots with what’s on my face. It’s like razor wire if I don’t treat it; I’ve cut myself on my beard.

      • Rob in CT

        Wow, worse than mine! I haven’t found beard oil (or conditioner) helps much or really at all.

        • Murc

          I’m in an awkward situation of having a massively wiry beard and very sensitive skin. Which means my choices are having a beard and maintaining it, or shaving regularly and having a face that looks like a war was fought on it.

          And before people say; yes, I use high-end shaving soap and carefully wet my skin. I’ve also tried a straight razor. It helps a lot! But basically I’ve got really tough hair and realy delicate skin, and you can only achieve a certain degree of gentleness when it comes to scraping a sharp blade of metal over said skin to lop off that hair.

          • Rob in CT

            Oh, I see.

            I don’t have that level of trouble shaving. My skin is sensitive but not that much. I solve this by: #1 – shaving every other day. I get away with this b/c my growth rate isn’t too high to make it bad. #2 is that I do the obvious stuff like shave with wet skin (shower), though I don’t use expensive shaving soap – mine is cheap. I use Mach III razors, not a straight razor. It works fine, though I’ll admit if I try to go for a really close shave (against the grain on my face, as opposed to my neck) I can tear up my face. I don’t find that it’s necessary, so I don’t go there.

            My beard is scratchy and the wife & kids aren’t huge fans of said scratchiness. So I try conditioner and/or oil and it doesn’t really help soften the beard. I’m still scratchy, but also now kind of oily, which can lead to zits. So that’s kind of frustrating.

            I’m beardless at the moment b/c I promised one of my daughters I’d shave it off in the spring. Of course the other one immediately decided I should grow it back.

            • Murc

              So I try conditioner and/or oil and it doesn’t really help soften the beard.

              Well, you should still condition it, assuming you’re using conditioner on the rest of your hair.

              I’m still scratchy, but also now kind of oily, which can lead to zits.

              If you get that you’re probably using too much. It’s like, two drops on a comb and then work it in. If you can tell you’ve used beard oil you’ve used too much.

              Of course if it’s not working it’s not working, so no point.

              • Rob in CT

                I don’t use conditioner otherwise.

                I use the right amount of oil. It just doesn’t work.

        • rea

          I have quite enough trouble with strange stuff accumulating in my beard without intentionally adding things

          • DrS

            Can be a handy place to store a snack for later.

      • tsam

        When “bearding” turned into a thing, and all these memes started showing up everywhere insisting that having a long beard gets you massive poontang because that’s how a real man rolls….that’s where I decided that the beard fetish was gross.

        FWIW, I have a short, trimmed beard at the request of my fiance.

        But I don’t let it make me think I’m cool or some shit.

        • kped

          I had grown beards on occasion, short and trimmed, but once it became a “thing” that every guy did, I’ve been clean shaved ever since. And I actually looked pretty good with one! But I just can’t do it now that it’s become a face fedora for so many young guys.

          (yes, I liked my line about face fedora so much I bolded it!)

          (and to the guys who just have beards and always have, no issue with you!)

          • Murc

            There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good and embracing the newest trends in doing so. Beards are in right now. So are trilby hats. If young men want to look stylish and trendy, I say go nuts.

            • tsam

              Right–but my issue with some people is that they feel like they need to make it into a thing.

              “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”
              “Look at my cool beard”
              “That’s nice, son. Now go play with your Legos.”

              • kped

                Yes! That’s my issue with it. It’s not the having it or trying to look good, I’m OK with that. It’s the “look at me” aspect of a lot of these young guys. The endless talking about the style choices, the accessories to the style choices…it all becomes a lifestyle. Can’t do it. Don’t want to get associated with it. So clean shaven is the way I’ll stay!

                • Thirtyish

                  The sooner the beard craze ends, the better, I say. Can’t stand facial hair myself (except for sideburns. Sideburns are cool).

        • leftwingfox

          I too have a short trimmed beard, and have since high school.

          I tried shaving clean once since then, looked like the bastard lovechild of Quentin Tarantino and Alan Alda, and said “Never again”.

      • njorl

        I get beard splinters when I let it get to around 1/4 inch long. The hair sticks in my hand and comes right out of my face. When they get longer, it stops happening though.

  • Whidby

    If the Bell Curve isn’t true, how does one explain Trump supporters?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      What I’ve always wanted to ask all the white fans of Charles Murray is, “Well why aren’t you ceding power to the Asians, then? They have better test scores, you know. Must be genetic. 3 points difference, the test doesn’t lie. You’ve got to do the right thing and put the best people in charge.”

      • Origami Isopod

        Be careful what you wish for. The “race realists,” a/k/a the HBD crowd, are happy to talk about how smart “the Asians” are. (In quotes because huge continent covering huge percentage of earth and containing innumerable ethnicities)

        • tsam


          This makes me want to naturally select some motherfuckers.

          • Rob in CT

            They’re fine with “the Asians” because they’re a small % of the population and (at least the RR’s assume) aren’t asking for anything.

            If/when either of those change, all of a sudden it will become critically important to disaggregate “Asians” into the various subgroups and question IQ’s meaning, also too.

            • Roberta

              They have a racist meme all ready for that occasion: the “Asians” are smart but docile, unlike the strong real Western men, and are therefore unsuited to be in charge.

              So-called “race realists” have what I think of as the Goldilocks Theory of White Supremacy: Asians are too cold (smart but weak), black people are too hot (tough but stupid violent thugs), and white people, the happy medium between the two, are just right.

              • Rob in CT

                How convenient.

                • Linnaeus

                  Indeed. No one ever argues for their own inferiority.

        • Thirtyish

          The “race realists,” a/k/a the HBD crowd, are happy to talk about how smart “the Asians” are. (In quotes because huge continent covering huge percentage of earth and containing innumerable ethnicities)

          They’re typically only referring to Chinese/Japanese/Subcontinental individuals. Sometimes Koreans. Oddly enough, we almost never hear talk in those circles of how intelligent Hmong people are, or Vietnamese people. Or Thais, Indonesians, or Malaysians. Kinda makes you wonder why that is.

      • Murray actually badmouths people at both ends of the bell curve. The blacks are inferior because they aren’t smart enough, but the the scientists and liberals are inferior because they are too smart. Murray favors a golden mean theory of intelligence. He is painfully aware that people with PhDs tend to be more liberal than mere college grads; and, like many another right-wing intellectual, he bitterly resents the disrespect he gets from the profs.

        • Thirtyish

          Murray’s vision for America is a powerful legion of incurious, folksy white people, and blacks/Latinos/minorities who feel the sting of oppression but can’t do anything about it.

          • Linnaeus

            It’s basically “know thy place and keep it” with a patina of social science to make it look more credible.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Yes, that was a later book of his, basically hinting that people in big cities who sit around and know detailed things about fancy stuff and are experts and have professional jobs, er, throw up roadblocks in the path of the good decent Chrisitan white people of the heartland…. yeah, it smelled like cryptoantisemitism to many.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    I don’t understand how he could have retired in the first place…

    All conservatives and neocons who want to lecture all of the little people about how they must work until they’re 70 years old… must work until they’re 70 years old. THE HAT HAS SPOKEN!

    • Warren Terra

      One unfunny reason he could retire is: Obamacare. Or (if he still lives in MA) maybe Romneycare.

      Absent the sort of regulation provided by the ACA or by its Massachusetts-specific precursor, Sullivan is completely uninsurable on the individual market, and so as not to die (or perhaps to avoid impoverishing himself to qualify for Medicaid) would need to join the health insurance of a large employer. He literally owes his independence to the sort of regulation found in the ACA.

      Mind you, he spent most of his adult life fiercely denouncing such regulation.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Well, he is a putz. Has anybody pointed that out today?

      • Murc

        To be perhaps overly fair, he was in favor of the ACA almost from day one. Of course, he expressed that by relentlessly flogging it as a conservative plan.

        • Warren Terra

          Yeah, really, no. Ezra Klein was making Sullivan look like the dumbass blowhard he is with some frequency for at least several months and perhaps a full year before Sullivan came round on the ACA, and boy did Sullivan resent Klein for it.

          • Murc

            Huh. Okay. It’s been some years and I can’t keep track of all Sully’s intellectual grande-jetes.

  • AMK

    If Sullivan insists on diving into the Nazi science dumpster, he has to dive all the way in, not just dip his feet in the parts he likes. Sure the blacks and the browns are genetic garbage, but so are the gays.

  • apogean

    Wait, isn’t one of the core assumptions of Marxism that “human nature” is sufficiently mutable that we could upend all traditional economic relations and still build a successful society? So the assertion that some aspect of society is NOT mutable or inherent in human nature would be profoundly anti-Marxist?

    • apogean

      It’s probably just Kantian Nihilism rearing its ugly head again.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Much philosopher fun at this web comic strip:


        (Just a general link. Kant & Marx appear in many others.)

    • Murc

      Here’s the thing, though. Coates doesn’t actually argue that structural racism is imponderable and immovable. That’s Sullivan either lying or being an idiot, maybe both.

      • Coates is pessimistic. He’s not ideologically committed to the notion that structural racism is immovable. Those are not the same thing.

        Sullivan confuses them because he’s a shallow pseudo-intellectual, like someone declaring John Kasich a moderate because you can take him out in public.

        • Okay, that last sentence is theoretical. Supposably, you can take John Kasich out in public. Supposably.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            You can take Kasich out in public, provided you never turn the lights on.

            Similarly, you can have an intelligent, reasoned discussion with Andrew Sullivan, provided you never remove his ball-gag.

            Peretz, Ferguson, Murray and Sullivan – the Harvard racists reappearing in public just in time for their other gig as misogynist thugs in the age of President H.R. Clinton. O joy!

  • “Neo-Marxist” my ass.

    You shouldn’t use big words to sound smart unless you actually know what they mean.

    • N__B

      Neo means new.

      Mar means to damage slightly.

      Xist means to be.

      Add it up: my self-worth is destroyed when someone keys my just-bought beemer.

      • Ha ha ha!

        Did you just come up with that on the spot? That’s clever.

        • N__B

          I wrote all my comments years ago. Obama lets me borrow the time machine.

          • Awesome! You could go to the exact moment that the campers put down the pic-a-nic basket and turn their backs.

      • Warren Terra

        No, xist functions in X-inactivation – which is something only women have. I’m sure Sullivan’s denunciation of this ties into his misogyny somehow.

  • Something horrible just occurred to me:

    We’re going to start seeing mainstream and conservative media outlets bringing in Andrew Sullivan to represent the view from the left again.

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      Well, now that Rush Limbaugh’s scrappy little media empire is effectively bankrupt, they do need someone to fill that “truth-telling moderate” slot.

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