The type of thought known as contrarianism that is taking the contrary opinion when it is not popular but still right in the mind of those applying it has mutated to the point where it is now divorced from logical argument . On the international front, think of Christopher Hitchens’s more and more torturous, winding, logically and morally impaired defensive diatribes in favor of the Iraq war.
Or on an another topic, more domestic and local, one can look at the writing of Katie Roiphe to see someone whose ego, whose own vision of themselves has gotten in the way of their writing.
Now let me just quickly say that there is nothing wrong with being contrary. While many liberals have rallied around President Obama due to hot buttons issues like abortion and contraception not mention the whole racist birth certificate issue, I have not due to Obama’s shameful embrace of Bush era neoconservative foreign policy and the willingness of progressives to ignore this.
However, this latest article by Roiphe http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/roiphe/2012/03/liberal_slut_shame_as_much_as_rush_.html is based on the argument put forward by conservatives after the public outcry against Rush Limbaugh following his sliming of Georgetown student Sandra Fluke as a slut for speaking out on the issue of public funding of contraception, that there is a double standard when condemning public speech that is deemed hateful or demeaning against women. Conservatives get slapped for it, liberals get a free pass.
In particular, she is discussing the notion of “slut shaming” and she divides her argument into four examples/sections
1.) The first example is that of photojournalist Deborah Copakan Kogan who wrote a memoir wherein she discussed a number of her love affairs as part of the story. Roiphe links to a review of the book to buttress her argument that this was held against Kogan. However, the review she linked to says nothing of the kind and instead I would say makes the argument for female empowerment much stronger than Roiphe has ever done mentioning that Kogan ended up acquiescing to the desires of men and acting out their promiscuity as well as marrying and having children giving up her career also an expectation of a woman’s role in society. She did not stake out a role for herself in a feminist identity. Here’s an example from the review:
Photojournalism goes with sexual adventurism the way big-game hunting goes with colonial conquest. When I think of great photojournalists, Robert Capa, so dashing and daring and dead at 40, comes to mind, but so does Ingrid Bergman, the world-renowned beauty he seduced and abandoned. In the mythology of the profession, a photojournalist is a man who seeks scoops first, danger second, and sex third, each with the same intensity and urge to depart in the morning. Deborah Copaken Kogan is a woman who embraced this image wholeheartedly, not aiming to change anything about it except the rule that says only men get to act that way. That she should have pursued photojournalism and one-night stands only briefly before trading them in for marriage, motherhood, and a less risky line of work seems, somehow, inevitable. Being a woman does impose different rules and require other accommodations, and it isn't sexist -- or Darwinian -- to admit it.
2.) Roiphe mentions Elizabeth Hardwick’s literary critique of the works of Mary McCarthy as another example. Again, a total twisting of facts and context. Hardwick was a literary critic writing about a writer. She wasn’t a social commentator or a columnist (like Roiphe). She is seeking to analyze the work of the writer through her life (that’s what the literary critic does). There’s no judgment that I can see there. Roiphe also tries to say that Virginia Woolf calling Rebecca West a “gypsy” is another example. Writers feud all the time and I am not sure what “gypsy” meant in the parlance of the times Woolf and West lived in but this seems like an awfully big stretch. Also is Woolf (who died in 1941) considered politically a liberal by today’s political definitions?
3.) Roiphe also discusses the media reaction to John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter focusing on the fury directed at her. Again, I think she twists the story to make it fit her narrative. The reason people hate Hunter (and John Edwards too) is that his wife was dying of cancer (perhaps due to the fertility drugs she took to have more children after their first son died) at the time the affair was exposed. Public sympathy with Elizabeth Edwards was the motivating factor here. Roiphe then goes on to talk about media reaction to Mimi Alford, a woman in her 70’s who recently came out about her affair with JFK. Here again, the issue is not sluttiness but another bottom feeder feeding off the legacy of a dead leader. By the way, in both cases, Roiphe seems to imply the men got off in the court of public opinion. She’s dead wrong there. There are very few politicians, heck, I would people in general, past and present as unpopular as John Edwards and Kennedy? Well the gossip pages have been full of his affairs and the sordid details of his family for decades.
4.) Roiphe’s last point is her most far out and tenuous. She goes on to describe the college hook-up scene in detail and the promiscuity of young women. I am not sure what this has to do with her original argument about a liberal double-standard. When I was in college, those engaging in organized decadence like the activities Roiphe describes were those involved in the Greek life (fraternities and sororities) they were almost all conservative Republicans (Reagan lovers at the time-the 1980’s). I don’t see how she makes the connection between this behavior and liberalism. By doing this, she is just as bad as Limbaugh himself.
Al Franken said “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts” Roiphe has provided examples that in no way support her argument. This is also a cautionary tale on using article links. Don’t be so lazy as to assume an article on a subject matches what you are trying to say. Remember to read the article first. Any idiot can embed lots of links but will be exposed as such by anyone who takes the time to read the links
The issue of false equivalency the idea that liberal hatespeech (if it exists and I am unconvinced of that) is just the same as conservative hatespeech is not supported by specific case by case details. Bill Maher went after a public figure, Sarah Palin, who herself was insulting others with horrible abuse some of it I think was an incitement to violence . Rush Limbaugh, through repeated rants, defamed a student who at the time was making the point that contraception is sometimes needed for other medical conditions and, on top of it, he also lied about the specifics of what she said.. There is no comparison there.