Quote of the Day

The problem is not and never has been that having good manners must interfere with acknowledging the truth. By suggesting that it is, one is pandering to the cretinous lack of judgment that falls into confusion or rage at social rules about “a time and a place for everything”. Thus the “love of truth” is mixed with and debased by the preening thuggery of “keepin’ it real”, as if Larry Summers’s attempting to open inquiry on the subject of sex differences in scientific aptitude is of a piece with some talk-radio boor’s trash-talk. Klavan is correct to say that there are things “greater than courtesy”. But if both Summers’s speculations about women in science, and insulting comments about someone’s appearance, accurately illustrate your definition of “discourtesy”, you’ve been spending too much time in lefty charm school.
I don’t think we’re going to advance the battle for “the preservation of Western rationalism and liberty” by accepting the “bad guys” confusion of courtesy with obsequiousness, with its concomitant confusion of real debate with consensus-seeking.

Moira Breen

3 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. The Big White Lie by Andrew Klavan in CityJournal for Spring 2007:

    The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

    Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

    This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on -— indeed is defined by -— describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

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  2. The marketplace of ideas just doesn’t work if we are either rude (which is generally, let’s face it, done by someone who’d rather attack the man than the argument anyway; someone who’d rather have the last word than the best reasons) or too thick-skinned (which sees opposing arguments as personal attacks). To do either is to betray the core beliefs of our system, but, of course, few of us don’t have these weaknesses.

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