The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, October 25, 2002  

Andrew Sullivan’s Latest Witch-Hunt

In yet another breathtaking display of projection, one that might on its own generate a new field of study known as “devious political psychology,” Andrew Sullivan today attacked his opponents, some named, some not, for lowering the bar on contemporary American political discourse.

In an article written for Salon, “The Bigotry of Belafonte,” one that editor David Talbot strangely chose not to publish as the latest “Idiocy of the Week,” Sullivan worked himself into a lather over “liberal bigotry,” focusing largely on a stray comment about Secretary of State Colin Powell by that most influential of political theorists, Harry Belafonte.

Not content to embarrass himself with all manner of misguided accusations and imprudent conclusions on this subject, Sullivan extended his reach, sleuthing out evidence of something he calls “left-wing homophobia” by observing, “When a gay man can write a column asserting that another man is a ‘nasty faggot,’ it’s hard to think of how much lower the discourse can get,” writes Sullivan. [Emphasis added.]

This sentence would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. The notion that Sullivan, who has debased political discourse every time he placed his fingers on the keyboard of his beloved and much ballyhooed Mac, and with a particular vengeance since Sept. 11, 2001, can self-righteously tag others with his own sins reveals as much about his character as anyone need know, that is, in the unlikely event they hadn’t already discerned the gaping vacuum that constitutes Sullivan’s conscience.

For those not clued in to Sullivan’s roundabout way of not quite discussing what he is discussing, the unidentified “gay man” to whom Sullivan refers in this quote is journalist and author Michelangelo Signorile. Signorile used the phrase “nasty faggot” in an article published in the New York Press on May 28, “Spreading Drudge’s Sludge.” Signorile is, of course, Sullivan’s nemesis, just one of many the British pundit has engendered over the years spent haranguing, taunting, and otherwise slandering anyone who dares disagree with his sanctimonious pronouncements from on high or otherwise errs in crossing his narrow path of self-defined rectitude.

But getting back to decoding Sullivan, “another man,” as he has employed the term here, refers to Matt Drudge, the West Coast web personality best known for his dopey hat and for trafficking in lies, smears, and innuendo, all the while calling himself a “journalist,” a ludicrously unearned descriptive that Sullivan has promoted with obsequious admiration.

With this all too clever construction, Sullivan avoids telling readers that Signorile’s “nasty faggot” comment was not exactly a case of “a gay man calling another man” the pejorative in question, but more accurately an instance of a gay man directing his obloquy at another gay man, namely Drudge, whose existence here on Earth as such is a fact demonstrated and documented by others, including David Brock, to my satisfaction. That Drudge was apparently more offended by the second half of this label than the first, and that Sullivan is too horrified by the whole exercise to portray the incident’s full particulars, is only the latest example of their shared dishonesty and their collective wallowing in still another form of homophobia.

And once again, we have Sullivan here practicing his selective approach to, and disgust with, what is called “outing.” Although not one to “out” Drudge, perhaps for fear of offending their rabid and shared core constituency, Sullivan in the past has thought nothing of performing the same public service upon various members of the Clinton administration.

For a man, gay or straight, to call a straight man a “nasty faggot” is one thing. Were the target a heterosexual man, he might well take offense, though if he were confident in the grasp of heterosexuality on his very being, knowing full well that such status is indeed his birthright, he might not be insulted. Rather, he might be more amused than anything else. (Don’t laugh: The moralistic fire breathers on the right wing, religious and otherwise, despite their protestations of revulsion seem to find homosexuality so appealing they are certain their children and even mature adults will sign on immediately upon their first exposure to it.) But a gay man calling another gay man a “nasty faggot” is a different situation entirely. Sullivan knows this. He’s simply not honest enough or brave enough to admit it.

Although I don’t do so in public forums such as the Review, I’ll call any gay man I want to “a drama queen,” “a theater queen,” “a steroid queen,” “a silly faggot,” or “a nasty faggot,” and I couldn’t care less what Sullivan thinks, even if I were to choose to do so here. Such terms, and much worse, are bandied about with what I have to say is deafening and mind-numbing frequency among gay men and their friends. Sullivan knows this as well, or he should, assuming his social circle is anything like mine, though that perhaps is an unfair assumption given his propensity to knock a few back with the likes of Jonah Goldberg, the proudly self-confessed “you-know-I’m-not-all-that-comfortable-with-the-whole-gays-as-decent-human-beings-thing” editor of National Review Online. That Sullivan is so utterly humorless almost sparks a touch of pity.

Make no mistake: Signorile is not solely at fault in the soiled mind of Andrew Sullivan. “Left-wing homophobia is now having a resurgence -- in Democratic ad campaigns and political discourse,” he writes, offering precious little evidence, indeed none whatsoever, to support the claim. Yes, Sullivan, with all the partisan führer of a charter member of the National Republican Committee, repeatedly has chastised the reelection campaign of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Baucus himself, with “homophobia,” this for the transgression of airing a political advertisement drawing attention to the scandalous past business practices of former beauty-school operator Mike Taylor, the on-again, off-again, oh-so-principled Republican candidate for Baucus’s Senate seat. But saying something -- even over and over again -- does not make it so, and Sullivan has found few, if any, reasonable people, and none of prominence, to join him in his vociferous indignation over this issue.

Beyond the Baucus-Taylor campaign, where is the evidence of the “resurgence” of “left-wing homophobia”? Sullivan provides none because there is none. Readers who make the rounds of the political weblogs likely noticed a few mutterings about “left-wing homophobia” within the last week. I wrote about the subject extensively here on Oct. 19 in a post that has yet to be rebutted by any of those who are so blithely throwing around this newly invented term, one that Jesse Taylor of Pandagon astutely discussed under the apt heading, “Left-Wing Homophobia and Other Things Only Theorized By Lewis Carroll When High.”

What’s odd is that surrounded as Sullivan is -- as we all are -- by vicious, hateful, and influential right-wing homophobia, and worse, actively anti-gay agendas pursued by right-wing politicians, political parties, lawmakers, interest groups, and churches, even the mildest of this insanity warrants nary a nod from the Bishop of Adams-Morgan, even when he places himself within the very heart of the beast. For as we all have recently learned, though not from Sullivan himself, who has been uncharacteristically silent on the matter, Sullivan last week became the house homosexual of the Washington Times, the unselfconsciously right-wing and rather happily anti-gay newspaper of the nation’s capital.

The decision by the Washington Times to hire Sullivan or at least to print his material -- regardless, Sullivan is making money on the venture -- is inexplicable on so many different levels I scarcely know where to begin. Notably, though, the right-wing watchdog group Accuracy in Media certainly did. Upon learning that Sullivan would appear regularly in the Times, AIM’s chairman, Reed Irvine, quickly denounced the paper for “endors[ing] sleaze.” Irvine called Sullivan “an HIV-positive homosexual who supports gay marriage” and someone “who is often presented as a conservative homosexual,” abruptly, and in my opinion without cause, denying Sullivan his hard-earned and well-deserved right-wing bona fides.

Taking things a step further, as is his wont, Irvine added some choice words about a recent unpleasant episode surrounding the public exposure of certain details about Sullivan’s personal life, coincidentally the same episode that made Signorile a marked man of the Princess of Provincetown. About this outrage, this outburst of what those in their perpetual state of high dudgeon should properly consider homophobia, albeit “right-wing homophobia,” Sullivan has been, again, uncharacteristically silent.

The inevitable, and only honest, conclusion is that Sullivan is out on nothing more than a witch-hunt, and not his first, I might add. Perhaps when he actually finds a practitioner of “left-wing homophobia,” this newfangled form of voodoo, and I mean finds one, not invents one, he will actually take the time to provide his readers with the details needed to make their own decisions. Until then, he’s just our own little Joe McCarthy and he deserves to be treated as such.

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