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Douthat Doubts

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Mother Jones has a surprisingly sympathetic article on Ross Douthat, the New York Times’s resident “conservative”; a 30-year-old “wunderkind” with a heart, apparently, of glided platinum; a privileged Harvard baby who, after one drunken fornication too many, had a religious epiphany and decided he was a Catholic. He’s a conservative who cares, you see – he sure doesn’t like Obama, Abortion, “government intervention” (except on behalf of big business), or welfare in general – but still, his trust-fund heart lies with the poor.

But let him explain in his own words. What do you think of gay marriage, Ross?

Ross Douthat doesn’t know what to say…. He is struggling to explain his position on gay marriage—to me, to himself. “Gay marriage? I’m…” He pauses, groping for the right words. “I’m opposed to gay marriage but do not…” He pauses again, looking genuinely vexed, as if anything he says will come out wrong.


“You either intuitively believe certain things about cultural change or you don’t,” he finally says. “And it may just be I intuitively believe those things”—that marriage is between a man and a woman—”because they dovetail with my own theological premises about the nature of sex.” And so, in this important cultural debate, Douthat has chosen silence: “One way to think about this is, I am not comfortable making arguments against gay marriage to my gay friends,” he says. “And if you’re not comfortable making arguments against gay marriage to your gay friends, you shouldn’t be comfortable making them to anybody, probably, so I don’t tend to make them.”

One glance at the boiling soup in which we find ourselves should convince Mr. Douthat that we have far more pressing social matters than the possibility that *gasp* gays might want to get married. But since it’s one of his trademark “conservative” positions, it apparently dominates much of his politics. A pity, for one would have expected a Harvard education to afford some modicum of critical thought.

He’s not comfortable with offending his gay friends, so he just chooses not to talk about it. But let it  not be said he favors gay marriage! No, as a “conservative” it is sworn duty to repudiate it. Of course, he realizes that Mother Jones (and the Times for that matter) have lots of gay sympathetic readers – and to express his true views on the subject would be to turn them off. So he just leaves the irrational arguments unsaid and chalks it up to “religious belief”. In Mr. Douthat’s fantasy world, religious belief and policy decisions go together like wine and crackers.

His views regarding abortion are similarly superficial, logically inconsistent, thoughtless and trite:

He began with the boilerplate position: “It would probably be a blanket ban on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.” He went on, however, to say such a ban would require “radical experimentation with the welfare state” and likely “a lot of new welfare agencies of one kind or another,” plus orphanages and an expanded “network of crisis pregnancy centers.” Nobody involved would go to jail, he said, as “it is possible to believe that abortion is murder and also believe it is a completely unique form of murder. Abortion would be, you know, if you have first-degree murder, second and third degree…it’s like seventh-degree murder or something.”

“But,” he quickly noted, “those things aren’t on the table.”

They’re not on the table because those suggestions don’t make a lick of sense. If you believe abortion is murder (even a “completely unique” form of it), why is it suddenly okay for children of rape and incest? What, they’re not real people? Would it be okay to murder them once they’re born? I think not.

He also opines that “Nobody involved would go to jail” – that is, neither the doctor nor the mother. Then what, Mr. Douthat, is the point of making abortion illegal in the first place? What, are you going to fine people who get abortions to raise a little revenue? What punishment should a “seventh-degree murder” carry with it? And what is that even supposed to mean – “seventh degree murder”? Is that something you just made up to be synonymous with “abortion”?

The murder “degree” system measures premeditation and intent. When you plot to kill someone and do it, that’s first-degree murder. When you kill someone in a fit of rage, you didn’t plan to kill them beforehand,  but you intended it at the time – so we call that second-degree. And when you neither plan nor intend to kill someone but end up doing so accidentally – that’s third-degree murder. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but Mr. Douthat’s comments leave significant doubt as to whether he understands how murder sentencing works.

So, with what we’ve just learned: if you consider abortion “murder”, what type of murder would it be? Keep in mind that abortions in this case are by definition intentional and almost always planned ahead. If you answered “first-degree” then congratulations, you’re smarter than Ross Douthat! Of course you could just drop this dishonest and logically inconsistent line of appealing to emotion and calling abortion “murder”, but then you wouldn’t be a “conservative” – something which Mr. Douthat gets paid to be.

Ross Douthat is, in the last analysis, a hack, a huckser, a charlatan and a propagandist, paid to make unpalatable policies acceptable to the public. By all means, read the Mother Jones article if you want an unintentionally hilarious review of Ross Douthat’s “struggles”: being made fun of in middle school, going to Harvard, hooking up with random women, seeing the light, and landing cushy positions at The Atlantic and then the Times. Try to hold back your emotion. The poor baby!


Written by pavanvan

January 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

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