Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I don't think that's fair, Tom

Writing in the combox:
I would only take issue with the view of Mark being a creeping Paleo. Paleos are ordinarily tradtional Catholics, and Mark is anything but, given his feverish one-mindedness with respect to a single theological source, VS #80.

My characterization of him as a paleoconservative has to do with his political views, not his theological views. While the two tend to flow together among radical traditionalists, it is quite possible to be ideologically consistent and hold one without the other. I've referred to Mark as a creeping paleoconservative because it isn't entirely clear to me at this point that he has a coherent political ideology at this point but merely a vitriolic outrage towards those on the right that he views as continuing to support anything resembling President Bush's foreign policy. I'm sufficiently disenthused with the administration myself these days, but that has more to do with the fact that they haven't done enough, particularly with regard to Iraq, rather than Mark's stated animus towards the fact that they did anything. I find his apparent view that it was perfectly acceptable (or at least not requiring us to do anything other than moral hand-wringing) for Saddam to slaughter his own people in droves so long as he allowed the continued existence of a small remnant of loyal Chaldeans as a museum fixture particularly loathsome. I also find it extremely inconsistent given his stated preference for some kind of military intervention with regard to protecting the inhabitants of Darfur (and more recently Chad) where all of the participants are Muslim. If he has ever explained these apparent contradictions, I have yet to see him do so, which is why I feel quite fine saying that I don't think he has a coherent foreign policy.
I sense he is more akin to the "neo-Catholic" current, which tends to absolutize the post-conciliar revolution, disdainfully discarding whatever in the Church's past that contradicts the conciliar outlook, be it ecumenism, the Mass, the death penalty, or, of course, torture.

It seems converts from Evangelical Protestantism are unusually susceptible to this syndrome, witness Scott Hahn.

I agree that this is a common tendency for Protestant converts as a general rule (of which I am one, thanks in part to the writings of Dave Armstrong, lest I be accused of being uncharitable), but that has more to do with a couple of factors, not the least of which being that Vatican II addressed quite a lot. As a practical matter, I think like John J. Reilly that it would have probably been better to hold it off until the 1980s to ensure that it didn't get caught up in the radical leftist "long march through institutions" in the 1960s and 1970s (maybe by then even the radicals would have been inclined to actually read the concilliar documents), but the Holy Spirit works on His time and not ours. To equate that tendency with the type of irrationality and vitriole that Mark has displayed of late, however, lets him off way to easily. That is why I keep on saying that he is arguing like a fundamentalist: his entire argument consists of an appeal to a text, a claim that his interpretation is the only correct one and that there are no others, followed by a refusal to legitimately engage those who disapprove of his position.
Shea himself has actually begun to sound more like an outright leftist, in his position that the Republicans are somehow morally equivalent to the Democrats and that voting for any of them is an a vote for evil.

No, I completely disagree here. Mark is by no means blind to the flaws of the left, particularly with regard to their support for abortion. He does adopt a view that there is no practical difference between the two parties, but keep in mind that he has never had a great deal of use for either the GOP or Western civilization in general near as I can tell, which is why he refers to the former as "the Stupid Party." His whole model for the war on terrorism is Rome vs. Carthage, which to him seems to mean that both are equally depraved societies with little in the way of redeeming features, which is I still keep expecting him to declare at some point that the US has become so bad that he can no longer grant moral assent to it. This is again fitting with the paleocon MO that the West is doomed no matter what.

If you want to take a look at leftists over at Mark's site, I would really recommend Tony A (Morning's Minion), who to be perfectly honest honest does strike me as little more than a patent shill for the Democrats no matter what and whose primary source for the war on terrorism appears to be Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is the left-wing equivalent of Laurie Mylroie's conspiracy theories about Saddam Hussein as far as serious literature on terrorism is concerned.

And as long as I am singling out Mark's individual readers for criticism, I should also note Marv Wood, who strikes me as a radical libertarian or paleocon who is honestly rooting for al-Qaeda to win to the point that he has more or less defended (or at least excused) the 9/11 attacks as a necessary reciprocity for the actions of the United States.
His view on that score subordinates a host of issues like homosexual marriage, abortion, and national defense to his one all-domitating issue: the supposed intrinsic evil of torture.

I think it's a good deal more complicated than that.

Mark has already stated his beliefs that:

- the war in Iraq was immoral

- the United States should withdraw from Iraq

- the war in Iraq was waged in order to export social liberalism and the Sexual Revolution to Iraq

- neoconservatives are social liberals who seek to export their philosophy to the rest of the conservative movement

- neoconservatism is a kind of internationalist libertarianism

- neoconservatism is a form of secular messianism

- neoconservatives view democracy as utopia

- Catholic neocons like Michael Novak are at best "court theologians" for the secular messianists

- the GOP has no genuine regard or commitment to social conservatives

- the GOP is secretly contemptuous of social conservatives

- no one in the GOP leadership is actually socially conservative

- the Bush administration and Congress have done nothing to advance the pro-life cause

- Alito and Roberts are ambiguous Supreme Court candidates at best

- Talk radio is basically run by the GOP political machine and has little if any independence from its handlers

- Cheney is the real power in the White House

- the Bush administration exaggerated and sought to deceive the public concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

- Mark believes that he was personally enlisted to help with this propaganda campaign

- US foreign policy should consist of more or less of Star Trek's Prime Directive ("Do not interfere")

- the Walt-Mearsheimer view of Israeli influence on US foreign policy is at least ambiguous

- Israel should be regarded with suspicion and its actions held under far more rigorous scrutiny than is generally done by the American public

- Anyone who continues to defend the administration in light of the above is a partisan shill or has suspended their judgement in favor of political tribalism

Let me know if I missed anything. Near as I can determine, this all started from his disenchantment with the war in Iraq and has since grown to encompass much of his still-formulating political views. As with most people, Mark's political shift was a process rather than a lightswitch, though I personally think that much of it stems from the failure to find WMDs in Iraq as I think is clear enough on its own right from the list above. I also disagree with him on every substantive point listed above and believe that his disillusionment has now reached the point to where he has seeped so far into the Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) that he is willing to engage in unwitting slander (you can read my post here on one such incident) in order to advance his hatred of the administration. With regard to his criticisms of neoconservatism, I would pay a lot more attention to them if he were actually familiar with their arguments rather than simply relying upon the American Conservative cliff-notes version. My offer still stands to send him a free copy of Irving Kristol's Neoconservatism, Michael Novak's Universal Hunger, and even Richard Perle and David Frum's An End to Evil (the title of which prompted his accusations that neocons were secular messianists in a similar manner to Andrew Sullivan's disgraceful demonization of Ramesh Ponurru's The Party of Death, with the detractors in both cases relying soley on the title) provided that he actually bothered to read them with charity and see whether or not they still strike him as such evil things after all.

One thing I want to make a distinction on, however, is that these are secular political disagreements and I have never disputed his Catholic credentials in the course of them. The reason why torture has taken such a predominant emphasis here is because that is where his rhetoric has gotten so nasty and where he has accused myself and Victor of being "alleged Catholics" and "apologists for Satan.


Iacobus said...

I have to side with Tom. Mark is no paleoconservative.

torquemada05 said...

I didn't mean to imply that he was, hence my use of the term "creeping." He certainly doesn't appear to share their views on illegal immigration, for instance.

How would you guys characterize him, then? I certainly don't think that "leftist" is correct for the reasons listed above.

Andy Nowicki said...

I'm a card-carrying paleocon who agrees with most of the list of opinions you cite as representative of paleoconservatism in your latest post. However, while Mark Shea and I agree on these matters, this hasn't prevented him from being anything but a self-righteous dick to me, as he has been to you, presumably a card-carrying neocon, albeit over different issues. I really don't think ideology is the rub here.

What both you and Victor and I and others have experienced with Shea is a spiteful man who gets his jollies from calling people names, heaping anathemas upon them, banning them from his site, and inviting his cronies and flunkies to join in the pile-on. It doesn't strike me as terribly different from a big fat bully electing to mock and abuse those whom he perceives as being too weak to fight back (due to lack of connections, lack of fame on the neo-Cath lecture circuit, lack of supposed credentials, etc.). Only Shea is even more insufferable than a bully, becasue most bullies don't pretend that their own base pettiness and meanness is a righteous defense of all that is holy.

torquemada05 said...

I'm trying to refrain from personal arguments here whenever possible, but I have in the past noted that there is much Mark's general argumentation style that I find rather distasteful, particularly his emphasis on triangulation, straw man, and ad hominem arguments. I hold these objections to his general style of discourse regardless of whether I agree with the topic that he is arguing or not.

Dare I ask, what exactly happened between you and Mark?

Iacobus said...

Sorry, I accidently clicked 'Publish' too quickly. I think its more that he sounds like a leftist (and the whinier "paleocons") in these political rants.

I would agree that his particular philosophy is hard to place, though I haven't been reading his blog long enough to really know. But other than agreement on Iraq (and the associated attacks on the neo-cons' failures) I just don't see that he's very traditional. More of a guy who has been disabused of his political anchorage reading John Paul for answers. That's cool in my book though, because I am the same way with the "real" Popes. Quas Primas, anyone?

Andy Nowicki said...

Torque, thanks for your interest. I recap the whole sordid affair at

I hope you'll be able to notice the similarities in how I was dealt with by Shea to your own experiences with him, whether or not you agree with the opinions or observations I make in the exchange that is described.

I have in recent months made common cause with others of the neocon mindset, notably Joseph D'Hippolito (with whom I have many disagreements politically/socially), in having a shared revulsion towards Shea's tone, attitude, and propensity for vicious ad hominem invective and overall assholishness. (By the way, I understand and respect your desire to avoid getting personal whenever possible, but with Shea I really think the problem relates to his personality, so it's hard to avoid making negative remaks of a personal nature.) That's why I want to repeat that I don't think this whole thing is really about ideology, although it's manifested itself that way between you guys and Shea over the torture issue.

torquemada05 said...


There are articulate leftists and paleocons. I try and define Mark as best I can and his take that "the current conservative movement sold out" strikes me as fundamentally paleocon, as does his sort-of-embrace of the Constitution Party. If that isn't the correct term to describe his still-forming ideology, I am more than open to hearing another.


There is ideology and then there is argumentation or how they present it. You can oppose the former in an individual while respecting the latter. The reverse is also true.

You and I clearly disagree strongly on many issues (as I think that is fairly apparent from my own stated views and those of your own that I got from reading your website), but as I mentioned earlier my problem with Mark (that I think has brought us to this point, whatever the particulars) is that he doesn't argue in a manner that is terribly persuasive to anyone who doesn't already agree with him. He certainly isn't the only one in blogosphere who does this, but he is currently the only one (to the best of my knowledge) questioning the faith of myself or my friends.

Andy Nowicki said...

The problem with Shea isn't that he's unpersuasive, it's that he's a jerk. Again, I know you hate for things to get personal, but it does come down to a defect of personality here; there's really no avoiding it.