Monday, February 1, 2010
Scott Lively Responds
Scott Lively responded to my last post. Apparently he did not appreciate the fact that I posted his email to me.
Dear Mr. Chinn,
I offered privately what I thought would be a helpful research tip regarding a source you were not likely to have discovered, not a personal conviction to be publicly ridiculed. It was a friendly gesture to a stranger. Your incivility is unbecoming a man of letters.
If anti-Semitism is the dehumanization of people because of their beliefs and values, I'm sorry to say you have become your own case-in-point.
I put the case to my readers whether I did the right thing by putting out a private email, naming the author and subjecting him to modest levels of implied ridicule. In my defense let me say that in this case we are dealing with a public individual, who never gave any indication that what he was saying was off the record. Readers may feel safe in emailing me if they wish to say something directly to me. I would never reveal what they say to the public without their permission. Lively here has written books and has appeared on television to discuss his political views. Clearly he has agreed to surrender the right to privacy in regards to his political views. I posted his email because I believed it was relevant for the legitimate public discourse of the views of this public figure. What this email only confirms about Lively is that he is obsessed with homosexuals and sees them as this dark menace haunting the twentieth century. This qualifies him as a homophobe, the real kind and not just the voted for Proposition 8 variety. This man's work with the government of Uganda makes him dangerous. Conservatives think of it this way. As long as the Uganda issue is on the table, any opposition to the homosexual political agenda is going to be hamstrung. It gives them the excuse to paint all opponents as trying to make laws to physically stop them engaging in homosexual activity. As opposed to people like me who could not care less about trying to interfere with what consensual adults might do in their bedrooms, but see any attempt to redefine the concept of rights as a mortal threat to all free thinking individuals. If rights cover everything, they cover nothing. As such there is no difference between fascists, who reject the very notion of rights and liberals, for whom rights is just a word to use when it suits a particular purpose. The end either way is the death of liberty and the free reign of tyranny.
Similarly with bigotry and anti-Semitism, these terms mean specific things. Anti-Semitism is a particularly type of bigotry, one applied to Jews. I do not use this term for people who casually do not like Jews. I reserve it for a particular mindset that raises the Jew as a dark force beyond other groups. Lively is correct in viewing anti-Semitism as a dehumanizing force. The Jew is denied the status of a human being, subject to the ethical obligations due to human beings. Notice that I never accused Lively of being an anti-Semite. In fact I was willing to accept that he was acting in good faith when it came to Jews. I accept that he came to me in the spirit of honest scholarly discourse. This honest scholarly discourse just happens to be homophobic and I, therefore, wished to have no part in it. Lively has accused me of being an anti-Semite despite the fact that at no point did I ever say or imply that he was subhuman or not deserving of the ethical obligations due to human beings. (He may not deserve the title of doctor, but that is only because his university looks like a degree shop.) His understanding of anti-Semitism would cover all who dare disagree with him. This would allow him to silence all opponents and in the name of liberty no less. Liberals learn a lesson from this as to what happens when you start throwing charges of bigotry around. It becomes cheap and ultimately meaningless to such an extent that you can help put real bigotry into play in places like Uganda and even the United States.