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Mar 14 2012

Definitely disgusting Bren

More showoffy pseudo-knowing ”contrarianism” from Brendan O’Neill. This time it’s the daring dangerous idea that libbruls don’t give a shit about gay marriage itself, they just like having a shibboleth to filter out the unhip masses.

The speed and ease with which gay marriage has gone from being a tiny minority concern to become the No 1 battle in the modern culture wars has been truly remarkable – and revealing.

What it suggests is that gay marriage is more a tool of the elite than it is a demand of the demos. The thing motoring the gay-marriage campaign, its political engine, is not any longstanding desire among homosexuals to get married or an active, passionate demand from below for the right of men to marry men and women to marry women. No, its driving force, the reason it has been so speedily and heartily embraced by the political and media classes, is because it is so very useful as a litmus test of liberal, cosmopolitan values. Supporting gay marriage has become a kind of shorthand way of indicating one’s superiority over the hordes, particularly those of a religious or redneck persuasion.

Notice, first, how lightly and unapologetically he moves from “it suggests that” to ”is.” Notice the initial admission that he’s interpreting as opposed to drawing on actual knowledge, and then notice how quickly and completely he abandons that polite caution for the comfortable note of certainty and its attendant air of omniscience. Then notice how sneery and condescending the whole thing is. We could all do the same thing with him, couldn’t we – what Brendan O’Neill’s relentlessly illiberal commentary suggests is that he loves attention.

More important, third, notice that it doesn’t matter. Even if he’s right, it doesn’t matter; even if people support gay marriage for trendy self-regarding reasons, it doesn’t matter, because it’s still the case that there’s no good secular reason to forbid it in law and there are plenty of good secular reasons to allow it. Notice that it does make a real difference to real people. Notice that all this patronizing palm-reading is in aid of rebuking a move that would make a lot of people’s lives better and hurt no one.

The use of gay marriage as a platform from which to announce one’s superior moral sensibilities can be seen in the way that its backers, those ostensibly liberal reformers, look down with undiluted snobbery upon their critics and opponents. Those who are against gay marriage, whether it is Catholic bishops or conservative politicians, are not seen simply as old-fashioned or wrong-headed, but as morally circumspect, possibly even evil.

Morally circumspect? What can he have meant? Compromised? How sad, and how sad that the piece is a week old and no one has corrected that. Not very circumspect of them. But anyway – this is the bit where O’Neill gets downright perverse. Catholic bishops and conservative politicians are the kind of powerless disadvantaged marginalized people who are the victims of snobbery? Are you kidding me? Here’s a newsflash for Brendan O’Neill: Catholic bishops and conservative politicians have power, lots of it. They have the kind of real power that can fuck up or improve people’s lives. In the case of the bishops, the power is wholly illegitimate, unaccountable, and theocratic. It’s typical spiked/Institute of Ideas absurdity to try to paint them as the disadvantaged proles being bullied by the libbrul elites.

The bizarre emptying-out of political debate from the issue of gay marriage, and its transformation instead into a clear-cut moral matter that separates the good from the bad, shows what its backers really get out of it – a moral buzz, a rush of superiority as they declare, to anyone who will listen, that they are For Gay Marriage. In this sense, supporting gay marriage has become less a declaration of truly democratic instincts and more a kind of provocation. In declaring your support for gay marriage, you can provoke both fusty old religionists and the backward masses into expressions of disagreement or disgruntlement, and then bask in the glow of your own superior, better-informed outlook.

This is the reason gay marriage has become so central to modern political debate in America and Britain, despite there being almost no societal drive or urge behind it – because it lends itself brilliantly to expressions of a very elitist sensibility. It allows the upper echelons of society both to distance themselves from the old and the thick and to advertise their own mental, cultural and moral superiority.

Disgusting man. Playing stupid footling games with other people’s rights – and accusing other people of basking “in the glow of your own superior, better-informed outlook” in the process! He’s disgusting.

Update: forgot to h/t Sigmund.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    Captain Mike

    The speed and ease …

    Fallen at the very first fence. It has been neither speedy nor easy. It’s taken decades and a lot of hard work.

    Supporting gay marriage has become a kind of shorthand way of indicating one’s superiority over the hordes …

    Yes. Yes it has.

    … particularly those of a religious or redneck persuasion.

    Not so. There are many religious people and self-described rednecks that support the rights of gays to marry.

  2. 2
    Sheila Crosby

    I think “morally circumspect, possibly even evil” was probably meant to be “morally suspect…”

    But you know what’s really odd? There he is, assuming he’s entitled to dictate to other people how they should live and who they should love, and he forgot to call us lot arrogant.

  3. 3
    Dave

    I can’t help feeling that he’s almost right… The combination of access to trivial ceremonies and actually very significant next-of-kin rights and social acceptance that makes up the package ‘gay marriage’ ought to be a minor issue; a society at ease with itself and capable of sober judgment ought to have floated over it years, possibly decades ago. It is testimony, one might insinuate, to the inability of right-thinking folk to do the work necessary to secure a comfortable majority in society that this issue is not a simple matter already decided.

    But then I suppose it depends, if you are BO’N, and what bothers you is not the real issues, but the chance to collect a paycheck for annoying smug, patronising liberals, which attitude you think is most patronising and smug: that people with aggressively prejudiced opinions can’t really help it and need to be led towards better things, or that said bigots have to take responsibility for their unpleasantness, be confronted, and get shouted down.

    It couldn’t possibly be, could it, that BO’N thinks such bigots are right?

  4. 4
    Tom Morris

    Let’s see. The reason I support gay marriage isn’t because one day I might want to get married to another man (I don’t know if I do or not, that’s something that should be my choice, just as it is for a heterosexual couple) but because it’s trendy and lefty-liberal. Riiiight. Glad we cleared that one up.

    On the same logic, the reason I’m an atheist is because I’m angry with God, and not because reasoned argument convinced me.

    I don’t particularly care if people get a self-righteous buzz out of being nice to gay people. It’s a hell of a lot nicer than them kicking the shit out of gay people (a cultural attitude that we are still scarily close to in certain places), which presumably we need to encourage for the sake of contrariness.

  5. 5
    Rieux

    You’ve got to give O’Neill this: even given that gay marriage (and GLBT equality more broadly) is an issue that in fact is grounded in serious, real, and utterly legitimate concerns for human rights, once we’ve recognized that it then does indeed provide a “useful … litmus test of liberal, cosmopolitan values.” I’d probably use “humane” and “non-idiotic” rather than “liberal” and “cosmopolitan,” but O’Neill’s adjectives will do in a pinch.

  6. 6
    smrnda

    Though I don’t think it’s the most important issue, I think it’s a good one in determining support for true social justice. To support GLBT rights, you have to respect the idea of human rights without being obviously influenced by lots of ‘tradition’ that condemns relationships for which there isn’t a pragmatic or utilitarian reason to oppose.

    And as for the ‘hordes,’ to me that’s patronizing nonsense. Yes, let’s exempt the ‘hordes’ from the problem of having to adjust to life in the present and to base their opinions on logic and reason instead of traditions that harken back to the dark ages.

    Support for any sort of progress starts with a few people and then spreads to the remainder of the population. Does O’Neill really think that the ‘hordes’ actually spend much time thinking about their positions? I think O’neill is just using them for political purposes.

  7. 7
    Josh Slocum

    I’m so tired of being Not Fully Human. I’m so tired of Not Counting in the Ethical Sphere of Concern. I’m so tired of being Incapable of Having Genuine Legitimate Needs and Desires. I’m tired of being a Prop instead of a person.

    I’m tired on behalf of a whole lot of people similarly situated.

  8. 8
    Aratina Cage

    All I can say is that it damn well took liberals long enough to realize that it is an issue worth taking up. It was appalling how little they (particularly elite liberals) cared for LGBT people in the 80s and 90s, and the timidity toward LGBT rights they (especially liberal politicians) expressed in the 00s was maddening. About damn time!

    But it is utter BS that marriage rights for LGBT people is an elite position. Which elite same-gender couple has been pressing for the ability to get married over the last half century? None that I know of. Not even now; the elite same-gender couples rode in on the marriage surges where they happened but they were hardly on the front line on this issue.

  9. 9
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    O’Neill is a true shitlord, but that argument isn’t atypical among his ilk. People without any empathy think everybody else thinks just as they do. They don’t care about x person unlike themselves, so obviously teh librulz don’t, either, and are just trying to boost their “caring” cred, seem “cool,” or score rhetorical points.

    Because using other people’s struggles as JAQoff rags is something they themselves would do.

  10. 10
    Ramel

    Hey look, I can do that too!

    What it suggests is that preventing gay marriage is more a tool of the elite than it is a demand of the demos. The thing motoring the anti gay-marriage campaign, its political engine, is not any long-standing desire among the religious to prevent homosexuals from getting married or an active, passionate demand from below for the to deny right of men to marry men and women to marry women. No, its driving force, the reason it has been so speedily and heartily embraced by the conservative political and media classes, is because it is so very useful as a litmus test of liberal, cosmopolitan conservative, bigoted values . Supporting Attacking gay marriage has become a kind of shorthand way of indicating one’s superiority over the hordes infidel, particularly those of a religious or redneck liberal or educated persuasion.

    Seriously if your argument against someone else’s position is equally effective against your own position then either your argument is crap, or you are a hypocrite.

  11. 11
    Sheila Crosby

    @Ramel: Awesome!

  12. 12
    sailor1031

    This is the kind of polemic we get from O’neill when he hasn’t a rational argument for what he believes in – in this case preventing same-sex marriage. It’s just another ad hominem. He’s just plopping out more feces to throw at the people……fuck him and the Telegraph too. But then, we expect no better from either of them.

  13. 13
    Dave J L

    It’s an article in which he makes his point in the first paragraph then just repeats it in each of the subsequent ones, only rearranging the words. It’s like a first year’s student essay; there’s no through argument, no building a case, just repeatedly asserting the same thing.

    And the comments threw up one of my favourite (or rather most guaranteed to make me want to punch a wall) replies:

    I’m not sure why your specific conception of the Catholic faith should be used to determine civil law. There are Catholics who support marriage equality.

    Because England is a supposedly Christian country.

    Aargh!

  14. 14
    C. Mason Taylor

    As far as I can tell, there are two things going on here. One is pretend-mindreading, which is almost always a red herring.

    The second is also a red herring, but a bit of a more prevalent one. It’s part of this movement toward making real, significant decisions about what to do and who one’s friends are based on superficial bullshit. The creators of South Park famously said something very like this, that they “hate conservatives, but really fucking hate liberals,” because while conservatives were deeply, thoroughly, dead wrong about a lot of issues, and wanted to take away peoples’ rights and so on, liberals are arrogant about their rightness! And apparently being arrogant is apparently worse than being wrong, no matter how important the issue. It’s a very Seinfeldesque way of making decisions, like when Jerry broke up with that woman for eating her peas the wrong way.

    Of course, Mr. O’Neill has just accompished a level of arrogance and nastiness beyond reckoning anyway, so he’s a hypocrite on top of it all. That’s another story, though.

  15. 15
    C. Mason Taylor

    Oops, used ‘apparently’ twice in one sentence unnecessarily. What silliness.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Heh – yes (C Mason @ 14). There’s a lot of that about. Very finicky, supposedly high-moral-groundy, self-admiring “that kind of thing is much too vulgar and arrogant for someone as refined yet humble as I am.” Endless, risible self-contradiction – obsessive following of FTB for the purpose of doing snotty tweets saying how snotty FTB is.

  17. 17
    julian

    shows what its backers really get out of it – a moral buzz, a rush of superiority as they declare, to anyone who will listen, that they are For Gay Marriage.

    To anyone who will listen? I’ve gotten into fights for recognizing the obvious; that any two consenting adults have the right to marry. In Manhattan, a supposedly liberal haven. While I lack any statistics I’d readily wager most gay marriage defenders and those of us who do make our support for them and LGBTs known are careful with where and how we make our opinions known.

    Those who are against gay marriage, whether it is Catholic bishops or conservative politicians, are not seen simply as old-fashioned or wrong-headed, but as morally circumspect, possibly even evil.

    Yes, they are seen as morally suspect. They deny the rights of others for lousy reasons. Exceptions for security would be one thing but the objections to recognizing this obvious right are either insistence on observing a religious text (and in doing so impossing that brand on people who don’t follow it) or tradition (which is a piss poor argument for any law.)

    Denying the rights of others because of your religious bias is morally wrong.

    That these conservative politicians and Catholic Bishops turn out to be evil is another story. Hypocrisy plus gross negligence of others tends to keep you out of the good guy camp.

  18. 18
    GordonWillis

    Supporting gay marriage has become a kind of shorthand way of indicating one’s superiority over the hordes, particularly those of a religious or redneck persuasion.

    And in the meanwhile gay people who desperately need to be recognised as fully paid-up members of homo sapiens get ignored. It’s not as though they really mattered, or that their plight as victims of zealotry, bigotry, baptistry, or even “normal” Christianity really mattered. No, you can reduce the impact of their campaign by putting it all down to the politicking of the liberals and atheists. How to get rid of the under-privileged in one little post. I hope he’s pleased with himself: “They have their reward”.

  19. 19
    ArabiaTerra

    I think O’Neill has this exactly 180 degrees the wrong way round. This was only an issue to those directly affected by it, homosexuals.

    It was only when the bigots and bishops started making such a fuss, claiming the world would end, etc, that it became a larger issue. It was the conservative, evangelical/catholic, right that unleashed the shitstorm.

    Unfortunately for them, they forgot to check the direction the fans were facing and it’s blown straight back in their faces.

  20. 20
    Chris

    So according to O’Neill the fact that the issue has gained popular support means that it is elitist. Makes perfect sense. The rest of it is just how much he hates liberals.

  21. 21
    Boomer

    The speed and ease …

    Fallen at the very first fence. It has been neither speedy nor easy. It’s taken decades and a lot of hard work.

    UH..wait a minute here.

    Back in the early days of gay rights and women’s rights, marriage was portrayed very negatively; it was seen as an institution, the tool par excellence, of patriarchal contrôle and oppression.

    IN the years immediatly following Stonewall, no one with any influence in the gay community talked up marriage. In fact, I can remember most of them denouncing the very concept as a bunch of patriarchal BS.

    Here in Canada, legislation legalising gay marriage was passed several years ago.

    There was a huge debate, gay after gay came forward to express how diminished and second class they felt because they couldn’t obtain a marriage license.

    So the legislation was passed, but afterwards virtually NO gay marriages were performed.

    So if O’Neill is wrong, and if the push for gay marriage is really a grassroots initiative, then where are all the gay couples whom we’re constantly told desperately want to get married?

    There’s another issue, quite a sinister one in fact, that O’Neill never touches upon, and it concerns the unpleasant, unintended and unexpected consequences of opening up the definition of marriage: polygamy.

    In Ontario, particularly Toronto, there are now hundreds of polygamous marriages, for religious reasons mostly, and we know this from the welfare rolls.

    Yet, the authorities do nothing about this for fear that any judicial challenge will be defeated owing to the fact that if marriage can be defined as a union between two men or two women, it can then also be defined as the union of ONE man and SEVERAL women.

    For decades gay rights and women’s rights dovetailed nicely.

    The days of that grand alliance are now finished because a divergence of interests has appeared.

    By granting gays the right to marry, we’ve opened up a breach through which, mostly for religious reasons, the proponents of polygamy, an institution that ultimately degrades women and which thretens certain of their basic rights, have now entered, and who are doing so in increasing numbers.

    Yes, I’ve witnessed the whole process. Me and my fellow gays watched as a whole abrahamic parade of Catholic priests, Anglican priests, Orthodox rabbis, Reform rabbis, Liberal rabbis, Evangelical reverends and Baptists ministers ( have I forgotten anyone?) stepped up on the soapbox to warn us about redefining marriage.

  22. 22
    Liam

    Upper echelons of society? I don’t suppose he would care to define what he means by that. Polls indicate that somewhere around 50% of American support Gay Marriage. If that is accurate, thats quite the upper eschelon.

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