The Rittenhouse Review

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

Thursday, November 21, 2002  

More Notes from the Conservative Media

A DIRTY MIND: One has to wonder how the mind of someone like Father Richard John Neuhaus works. Father Neuhaus, editor of First Things, a conservative monthly magazine about religion and public life, rarely misses a chance to gripe and fret and moan about “the homosexuals” and their imminent takeover of American society.

Father Neuhaus’s latest homophobic spleen venting was sparked by the decision of the New York Times to include gay unions in what used to be known as the paper’s “Weddings” pages.

In his interminable monthly column, “The Public Square,” in the November issue of First Things, Father Neuhaus comments on the September 8 edition of the Times, which included this notice:

Thomas William Leonard and Ralph Christopher Lione will declare their commitment today in a ceremony aboard the Yankee Ferry, a floating museum, docked at Pier 25 in Lower Manhattan.

“We are told they ‘will declare their commitment,’” Father Neuhaus writes with an unconcealed sneer, “which . . . presumably means their desire to be known not just as a couple of guys but as guys who are a couple.”

To Father Neuhaus, this notice stands in stark contrast to the other commitments announced in the Times. “The other announcements are about two people entering the institution of marriage defined by centuries of public custom and law entailing promises, obligations, property rights, and, at least implicitly, the next generation of families,” the good father instructs us.

Then Father Neuhaus, whose respect for his own family’s rich history, traditions, and customs did not prevent him from leaving their faith, continues:

Mr. Leonard and Mr. Lione, on the other hand, “declare their commitment.” Presumably they are friends who really love one another, are homosexual, are living together, and want everybody to know about it. Well, good for them. No, I don’t mean good as in good. I mean that, since I don’t know them and have no direct responsibility for their spiritual welfare, I don’t think their feelings or living arrangements or sexual practices are any of my business. [Emphasis added.]

Excuse me? None of this, Father Neuhaus tells us, is “any of my business,” a statement he feels comfortable making after already having devoted nearly 450 words toward making it not only his business but that of his readers as well. Alas, plunging further into the well of lunacy, the former Lutheran minister writes:

Not very long ago, such publicity would have been condemned as an invasion of privacy. People who publicize the private details of their lives used to be called exhibitionists.

And with these last remarks -- breathtaking in the psychological insights they provide -- we have Father Neuhaus taking his naked insanity into the public square for one and all to see.

Reading about the union of Leonard and Lione is “an invasion of privacy.” Leonard and Lione are “publiciz[ing] the private details of their lives.” In another place and time Leonard and Lione would have been called “exhibitionists.”

If so, then what about Sara Falkenberry and Eric Ridder III? Or Rachel Zimmerman and Seth Teller? Or Anne Carey and Michael Kelly? Or Julie Bauman and George du Pont?

The unions of these four couples were among the many others announced on the “Weddings/Celebrations” pages of the Times of September 8.

Have we not also invaded their privacy? Are they not also publicizing the private details of their lives? Are they not also exhibitionists?

After all, Father Neuhaus himself wrote that these eight people entered an institution “entailing . . . at least implicitly, the next generation of families,” a delicate but unambiguous way of telling his readers that Sara and Eric and Rachel and Seth and Anne and Michael and Julie and George will soon begin -- if they haven’t already -- having sexual relations with each other, or with their respective spouses at least, in an effort to have children.

Indeed, Father Neuhaus told me more -- and more than I really needed to know -- about the private lives and sexual practices of Sara and Eric and Rachel and Seth and Anne and Michael and Julie and George than he did about Thomas and Ralph.

It’s quite clear, to me at least, that Father Neuhaus cannot read a simple notice about a union of two gay men without imaging them in bed together, and that these mental images, which he cannot control, cause him considerable discomfort and perhaps even anxiety, in the clinical sense of that term.

Not long ago I wrote briefly here about the October wedding of Ayala Cohen and John Podhoretz, whose marriage was announced in the Times. In reading about their wedding and later in writing about it, it never occurred to me that Mr. and Mrs. Podhoretz were publicizing private details of their lives. Nor did I think I had invaded their privacy. Nor did I consider them exhibitionists. Nor did I conjure up mental images of the consummation of their relationship. I simply wished them well.

I guess some people are just different that way.


TEMPER, TEMPER: There were no fisticuffs (I really like that word, “fisticuffs,” by the way.), but tempers flared during self-styled free speech advocate David Horowitz’s visit to the University of Illinois-Chicago earlier this month.

Horowitz was so incensed by an opponent’s sign reading “Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay. Don't let him go unchallenged,” and by the school’s unwillingness to have the offending poster removed (i.e., suppressed), that he literally took matters into his own hands: Horowitz grabbed the sign and tore it up. [Link requires registration.]

From a public relations perspective this wasn’t the smartest thing for Horowitz to do, particularly since the episode occurred before he made his speech. However, I empathize with Horowitz’s frustration as the event proceeded. There really is no justification -- anywhere or anytime, but particularly in an academic setting -- to heckle a speaker. Please, my fellow “Bolsheviks” (see article), we are better than that.


DUNCE CAP: Smarter Andrew Sullivan has been knocking Sully around quite a bit lately, taking on the bitter Brit’s recent nonsense about the Bradley Lecture (conveniently delivered on his dissertation subject, Michael Oakeshott: zzzzzzzzzz); the military’s big and brawny, as well as its “small and skinny and young and pimply”; the still-living Osama bin Laden; and Sullivan’s mysterious relationship with the Washington Times.

Smarter Andrew Sullivan also has a few words to say about Sullivan’s usual Howell Raines stuff, in a piece that begins: “Today Andrew Sullivan (R) put on his media critic hat--the tall, pointed, cone-shaped one--for yet another lame rush at New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines.”


THOSE GUYS AT THE STANDARD ARE HILARIOUS: I caught this little nugget in the November 18 issue of the Weekly Standard: “HELP WANTED: The Weekly Standard is looking to hire an assistant art director. Expertise in QuarkXPress and Photoshop is required. Our ideal candidate is someone with strong production skills….” (“Looking to hire”? Let me get out my old “Bone Crusher the Feared Editor” red pen for this one. “Looking to hire”? Come on, Bill, are you hiring an assistant art director or not? You are? Then say so, damn it!)

Anyway . . . “Expertise . . . is required”? Ho! Have you seen the magazine? A monkey with a Quark manual could put it together. Without using the manual.


COINCIDENCE OR INTERNATIONAL ZIONIST CONSPIRACY? How odd, really, that five of the most detestable members of the right-wing punditburo have surnames beginning with the letter “k”: Kaus, Kelly, Keyes, Krauthammer, and Kurtz, belonging, respectively, to Mick, Mike, Al, Chuck, and Howie.

There’s something to this, I just know there is.

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