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.