A few days ago Andrew Sullivan put on his George Will hat and did a big harrumph about political correctness run mad. Apropos of what? Why, poor browbeaten (or should I say pussywhipped?) Sam Harris. I usually don’t expect to see Sullivan leaping to the defense of vocal atheists.
Writers are not just condemned any more for being wrong or dumb or rigid. They are condemned as sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, blah blah blah – almost as a reflex in trying to discredit their work. That’s particularly true when it comes to fascinating issues like race or gender or sexual orientation, where liberalism today seems to insist that there are absolutely no aggregate differences between genders, races, ethnicities, or sexual orientations, except those created by oppression and discrimination and bigotry. Anyone even daring to bring up these topics is subjected to intense pressure, profound disapproval and ostracism. This illiberal liberalism is not new, of course. But it’s still depressingly common.
Bullshit. There’s a difference between saying there are no aggregate differences at all, and saying it’s both lazy and destructive to point to such differences as the explanation for all forms of inequality. Oh and it’s a third thing, too – self-serving. “It’s just the difference between men and women, I don’t have to do anything, shut up and go away, but first bring me a beer.”
Sam Harris is one of its latest victims. There sure is plenty to disagree with Sam about – and we have had several such arguments and debates. But the idea that he is a sexist – and now forced to defend himself at length from the charge after a book-signing discussion – is really pathetic.
Why? Why is it pathetic? How is it pathetic? Sullivan doesn’t offer one word to substantiate the point; he just announces it.
Then he quotes what Harris said to Boorstein about
Y women so dumm why his audiences skew male*.
This is impermissibly sexist because it assumes that there are some essential biological and psychological differences between men and women, and for a certain kind of leftist, this is an intolerable heresy. If that truth cannot be suppressed or rebutted in a free society, its adherents must be stigmatized as bigots. It’s a lazy form of non-argument – and may have been payback from Boorstein after Harris and she differed quite strongly on the power of fundamentalism in American culture.
But Boorstein’s premise – that because many more men than women seem to buy and read his books, there must be some sexism at work – is preposterous.
Cheap, lazy, and mindless. You know what’s much more likely to explain why there are fewer women than men at talks by Sam Harris? The fact that guys like Sam Harris, and Sam Harris himself, talk cheap lazy mindless bullshit like this. Before maundering about women’s womany natures, maybe pause to think about jeers and sneers like these. Ahhhhhhh! The light dawns. Women have better things to do than sit at Harris’s feet listening to him explain about women.
*Hyperbole crossed out in favor of more accurate summary in deference to a reasonable objection by Ron Lindsay.