(4) Writing about the TNR attack on Sullivan, Yglesias writes: "when I raised this issue on a liberal listserve some people said they had no sympathy for Sullivan because of one or another of the things he’d done to piss them off over the years”….This reminded me of how grateful I am to people whom I have come to know (and who have come to know me), to the extent that this is possible online, who have come forward to object to the baseless insinuations and allegations against me. This has included several people I have had strong disagreements and less-than-cordial dealings with in the past, such as heddle and Russell Blackford. Given what I’ve seen in the atheist/science/skeptical blogosphere, I’m happy to say that I’m not surprised by this. My most heartfelt thanks.
What Yglesias' fellow listserv members are saying, in essence, is that they determine their political commentary not based on the merits of an issue, but rather based on whom they like and who their friends are. Even if I find Wieseltier's anti-semitism accusation to be pernicious and ugly, I won't say so because Andrew Sullivan isn't my friend and I don't like him. The converse of this juvenile mentality is: even if I find that critique to be true and compelling, I'm going to object to it and attack the critic because it's aimed at my friend. The accompanying worldview is: I'm not going to criticize that politician, even when he's wrong, because he's a Good Democrat and is on my team. I find it amazing that this small-minded, clique-based "thinking" persists beyond the sixth grade, but it obviously does, and it particularly thrives among Beltway denizens.
What one thinks of Andrew Sullivan, or how angry he's made one over the years, ought to be about the most irrelevant factor imaginable in determining one's reaction to this TNR attack. Sometimes, even people you don't like are the targets of odious and harmful accusations, and sometimes, even your Bestest Friends, fellow party members and listserv pals might do wrong things that merit criticism. Wieseltier's polemic is a classic example of anti-semitism accusations tossed around with no conceivable basis and for purely ignoble ends. It's the very tactic that has caused significant damage in the past. So obviously unhinged is this particular assault that it actually presents a good opportunity to discredit behavior like this once and for all. That's all that should matter; how many grudges one nurses towards Andrew Sullivan is nice fodder for gossipy listserv chats, but no responsible or even adult commentator would allow it to influence one's views on this matter.
*I am not asking anyone to go there and contend with Laden, Wormtongue, and the Dingbat Sycophants. Their intellectual dishonesty renders any discussion impossible, and Greg Laden’s ethical breaches of the past few days – in addition to the spurious charges and their repetition without basis, intimidation, altering comments without noting it, and revealing the personal email of a commenter – should lead everyone to be wary of interactions there and to question why Scienceblogs would tolerate such behavior.**
**I just saw that Laden has closed the thread (with a stunningly obnoxious and self-serving characterization of the situation and a ludicrous demand for an apology from Paul W.) due to a death in the family. My condolences.