Friday, November 03, 2006

NOTHING'S SHOCKING. "Astonish me," Diaghilev told his auditioners. Would he were alive today! We are lately seeing such breathtaking leaps (albeit of logic) as would send him into raptures, and make Nijinksy step back with his hands on his hips and go "Day-um!" or whinny jealously or whatever he did.

As Thatcher once told us there is no such thing as society, David Frum now tells us there is no such thing as hypocrisy. Read his essay on Ted Haggard if you have time to waste and a strong stomach. It floored me; I am still on the floor, typing from there, so forgive any misspellings. Frum's opening made me think he was just going to show sympathy for a fallen sinner; later, I thought he would be content to tag on some contempt for a liberal media pile-on; but eventually I realized to my horror this man, a professional writer who had once been employed by the President of the United States, was rejecting a taboo as old as human society:
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.

One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.

The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution...

...the first man may well see his family and church life as his "real" life; and regard his other life as an occasional uncontrollable deviation, sin, and error, which he condemns in his judgment and for which he sincerely seeks to atone by his prayer, preaching, and Christian works.

Yet it is the first man who will if exposed be held up to the execration of the media, while the second can become a noted public character - and can even hope to get away with presenting himself as an exemplar of ethics and morality.

How does this make moral sense?
Because, you hoser, human society depends upon at least a rudimentary concept of justice. We can forgive inconsistencies, and even admire trying and failing, but when someone amasses power from us based on his personal superiority, and is proved a fraud, he has broken the basic bargain of leadership. We mock him not out of meanness, but out of a communal survival instinct.

When such a concept is assimilated, Tartuffery of Reverend Haggard's sort* is immediately and viscerally perceived as unjust. And hilarious.

It's not possible that a functional adult could be as ignorant as Frum portrays himself here. I have to believe that he's just desperately trying to defuse a worrisomely familiar culture bomb. For big-time conservatives on the eve of a big election, it may be that the Haggard case makes a sinister bookend to the Foley case: both instances of sexual scandal that are not really germane to any political issue, but which may excite feelings among the rest of the tribe that our leaders, with their Family Values crests and credos, are not everything they claim to be.

In such circumstances, an outrageous moral lecture on behalf of a hypocrite could be worth a try. If you confuse or cow them, they might stop giggling.

*UPDATE. I hadn't noticed this before, but while Frum and many of his fellow travellers have talked about all this as if it were proved that Haggard had sex with Mike Jones, this is not the case, though Jones insists it is. So I don't know that Haggard has been hypocritical, and apologize for even peripherally carrying the imputation forward. I should know better than to follow NRO's lead on anything.

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