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Whether or Not to Buy Andrew Sullivan’s Book

After reading Andrew Sullivan’s comments yesterday on outing and rediscovering the “old Andrew Sullivan whose blog I once very much enjoyed,” I have wondered if perhaps I had been too hasty in deciding not to buy his book when I saw it last week in the Barnes & Noble in LA’s Grove. I did page through it, but it did not grab me as had his previous book, Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival. I had not planned on buying that book, but as its first pages so engaged me, I quickly changed my mind.

It’s interesting because that book gave me a greater appreciation of Andrew’s writing — and thinking. While I had enjoyed his writing in the early 1990s, by the mid-1990s, his style seemed to become sloppier and he seemed to be borrowing increasingly from the trite cliches of gay activists. He seemed to have lost the unique voice that helped him rise to prominence at such a young age.

Similarly, in the past 2 years and 8 months, Andrew has, by and large, seems to have lost the voice that I grew to admire in the years after reading Love Undetectable. Too often, he seems to be mimicking the rhetoric — and anger — of the Bush-haters. While he claimed to be criticizing the president from the right, he sounded too much like the critics of the left. He even endorsed their standard-bearer in the 2004 election.

And he has used language that is just plain silly, calling circumcision, MGM (Male Genital Mutilation) and repeatedly using the word “Christianist.”

To be sure, there are solid conservative reasons to take issue with President Bush. I, for example, have called the president a moderate and noted how he only done a mediocre job of living up to the Gipper’s legacy.

Andrew has gone a bit further than I have, accusing the President of betraying conservatism. But, given that his rhetoric resembles more that of the angry left than that of the Reaganite right, I’m wondering how qualified he is to tell us how to recover what he calls “The Conservative Soul.”

With his latest piece on outing, Andrew proves that while he may increasingly sound like many of the angry left, he has not completely abandoned his old independence. So maybe he does have something to say on conservatism. I was surprised by his last book. Maybe I will be by this one. Or maybe I’ll find the same sort of rhetoric there that I find all too frequently on his blog.

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32 Comments

  1. To be quite honest, I think “male genital mutilation” is an apt description for circumcision. A disfiguring injury is done to the male genitals.

    I guess that there have been many people, especially in the past, who belileved that infant circumcision needed to be done for compelling reasons related to the health of the child. This is simply not true, and I don’t think it ever has been. Nonetheless, my parents swear to me that they had to have me circumcised before they were allowed to take me home from the hospital, and while I’m sure that’s not literally true, I certainly don’t doubt that a great deal of arm-twisting was done by the hospital.

    Honestly, I don’t think this is a big deal to waste too much time over. But, in truth, I think whether it’s for religious or putative health reasons, it is a decision that parents definitely should leave for their children to make when they’re old enough to make such decisions.

    Comment by kdogg36 — October 19, 2006 @ 5:43 pm - October 19, 2006

  2. A guy I went to high school with is active in the anti-circumcision movement. And all I can think of is, “With all the causes in the world, you picked that?

    I think it’s just an example of making a cause of something one fetishizes. But, to the broader point, Sullivan has always been a fraud. Conservatism isn’t a philosophy to Saint Andew of the Hissy-fit, it’s a shtick, a drag get-up. I have no use for him other than as an object of ridicule.

    Comment by V the K — October 19, 2006 @ 8:05 pm - October 19, 2006

  3. I guess Andrew makes the exception for those of us who were circumcised based upon our parents’ religious beliefs, which we also share. I for one do not consider myself “mutilated” in any sense of the word.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 19, 2006 @ 9:03 pm - October 19, 2006

  4. While I respect Uncle Sully for his body or work, lately I feel that he’s allowed himself to be distracted and seduced by a fear that perhaps he was wrong about his conservative stridency…and now he must make amends. Like Larry Kramer, Andrew started-out from a corrcet, needed and righteous position in oppositin to much of the conventional-wisdom DEMANDING that the G/L community and the more heterosexist community beyond take a fresh-look at old standbys. And as with Mr Kramer, over the years he lost his guiding-clarity and became seduced by the P.O.V. that is Andrew Sullivan without the outside feed-back-loop that keep things grounded in the reality of the situation…rather than the high-flung principle that only lead to otherworldly distance and hypoxia. Rtaher than focusing on the core issues, he’s become seduced by being a fountain-source for polemics on obscure positions and shrill denounciations….a prisoner and pensioner of his own press-clippings.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — October 19, 2006 @ 9:27 pm - October 19, 2006

  5. Dan, I hate to say this, but:

    (1) The quality of Andrew’s mind / logic / principles / thinking has unquestionably gone downhill over the years. Despite continuing rare flashes of the “old Andrew”.

    (2) HIV is known to attack the brain; its reasoning centers in especial. As the quoted scientist put it, with HIV “You have an increased propensity for cognitive decline… we have thought that this would go away with anti retro virals [but] this study claims that it will not.” (I can think of a couple reasons for that: the brain shelters viruses indetectable in the rest of the body, and HIV permanently alters your cells’ genetic code, even if HIV is quiescent.)

    Comment by Calarato — October 19, 2006 @ 10:12 pm - October 19, 2006

  6. #3 Peter: That’s fine, but you should have been allowed to make that decision for yourself, as I should have also. I have deep respect for my parents (they are hard workers and very responsible, virtuous people), but I do not share their religious beliefs. I just don’t think it’s right for parents to make permanent changes in their children’s anatomy based on that factor or any other, excepting emergency situations. I hope I don’t come across as anti-religious; I just think that that’s a decision to be made by the individual, not imposed on him before he has a chance to decide for himself.

    V the K: I agree that, with all the big issues surrounding us, circumcision is not something on which to base one’s personal political crusade.

    Comment by kdogg36 — October 19, 2006 @ 10:28 pm - October 19, 2006

  7. #5: I have been ripped on a lot for raising the same possibility, and people act like it’s a form of hate speech. Why? Dementia can result from HIV, or be a side-effect of HIV medication. If Sullington had cancer, and lost a lot of weight, it wouldn’t be ‘hateful’ to speculate that the weight loss was related to his cancer or the treatment for his cancer.

    There is also some speculation that long-term use of drugs like ecstasy can lead to cognitive impairment as well, and AS was long a champion of ‘circuit parties’ and has admitted to heavy Ecstasy use.

    Which brings the question, how did a guy who favors drug use, promiscuous sex, tax increases, do-it-yourself religion, court-ordered social engineering, and embraces 9-11 conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones … ever come to merit the label ‘conservative?’

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 8:02 am - October 20, 2006

  8. I find it very inappropriate to use the term “male genital mutilation” to refer to circumcision, because I think it lends credence to the euphemism “female circumcision” (by way of confusion). To circumcise is to cut around something. In so-called female circumcision, they do not cut around the female genitalia, they cut it off. The two procedures are clearly not comparable.

    There actually is a potential health benefit to circumcision, but it is a health benefit for women–the practice is associated with a greatly reduced risk of cervical cancer. Which does make for a very strange public health policy debate, especially in the context of homosexuality.

    Andrew Sullivan used to be someone I relied on for thoughtful, if emotional, explorations of complex issues like this. Now… Well, I think “silly” is a putting it kindly.

    Comment by Sarah Rolph — October 20, 2006 @ 9:47 am - October 20, 2006

  9. I have tried to look past Andrew Sullivan’s liberal anti-Bush rants, but I just can’t . The fact the LCRINO gave him an award this year confirmed my suspicions. I don’t think he’s conservative anymore. I’m afraid he’s a gay Ariana Huffington .

    Comment by Wesley — October 20, 2006 @ 9:50 am - October 20, 2006

  10. VdaK writes: “Which brings the question, how did a guy who favors drug use, promiscuous sex, tax increases, do-it-yourself religion, court-ordered social engineering, and embraces 9-11 conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones … ever come to merit the label ‘conservative?’”

    Great question!

    It’s like newsreaders or morning chatshow hosts calling themselves “journalists”… or weather reporters who become “meterologists” over night in order to boost credibility without a single moment studying the science… or the worst part: aging politicians who become “statesmen” just because they’re older.

    But sometimes it’s a comparison thing… like the MSM titilations over Obama’s presidential qualities… he looks good because the balance of the Democrat field looks so so so SO bad. Heck, you don’t even need to be a part of top level decisionmaking in govt to be a likely Democrat presidential contender now… just look good compared to your competition.

    AndieSullivan is a “conservative” because he self-describes that way and compared to most gays, he appears to have conservative “thoughts”.

    Plus, most MSM producers love a man with an accent. he reflects the shallowness of his audience.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 20, 2006 @ 10:25 am - October 20, 2006

  11. I’m afraid he’s a gay Ariana Huffington .

    Hence, Andrianna Sullington: Another faux-conservative with a weird accent who sleeps with gay men.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 10:30 am - October 20, 2006

  12. The quality of Andrew’s work has indeed exploded to new heights, its too bad that because you disagree him you dismiss him…
    Further because he criticizes the way the GOP wages war, spends, and ties itself to the Dobson Christians does not mean he is not a conservative.
    I think it is you rightists who have forgotten what it means to cut government, perhaps its because Clinton did it better than Bush….

    I have said it before and I will say it again, you rightists (especially gay rightists) should be championing him instead of dismissing him. He is doing more to smash gay stereotypes, take on homophobes, and save your party than any of you ideologues.…and read the book!

    Comment by keogh — October 20, 2006 @ 10:36 am - October 20, 2006

  13. #7 – Two things, V.

    (1) There were times, however brief, when Andrew (a) seemed like a credible advocate of “gay responsibility” – LOL; (b) could slightly tolerate at least some form of Christianity; (c) defended pharmaceutical companies which continually save all of our lives; and (d) seemed to favor America in the GWOT.

    That puts him an inch to the right of the Gay Left establishment. So to them (and it is all about them, right?), he seems conservative. When they look at him, they have to crane their necks right. They can’t tell real conservatives from fake, the secular libertarian centrists from the religious, etc. because “we all look alike to them.”

    (2) David Brock syndrome. In other words: Now that Andrew has joined or at least “validated” the gay Left, they gleefully shove him down other peoples’ throats AS IF Andrew were conservative. The one smart one who finally saw the light and agreed with the Left, became emotional and senseless, blah blah blah. They’re invested in it now.

    Comment by Calarato — October 20, 2006 @ 10:37 am - October 20, 2006

  14. (correction – point (2) should say, “Now that Andrew has started telling the gay Left what they want to hear, …”)

    Comment by Calarato — October 20, 2006 @ 10:40 am - October 20, 2006

  15. because he criticizes the way the GOP wages war, spends, and ties itself to the Dobson Christians does not mean he is not a conservative.

    The exact same thing could be said of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Howard Dean, Paul Krugman, Susan Sarandon, Dennis Kucinich …

    keogh remains a very silly person.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 10:50 am - October 20, 2006

  16. Not too mention the raw comedic value of keogh, proud member of the Bush-hating ultra-far-left, telling us that in his opinion, Andrew Sullivan is rather moderate.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 10:54 am - October 20, 2006

  17. “The exact same thing could be said of…”
    Your argument is illogical.
    Just because a person agrees with some liberals on one or two topics does not mean one is not a conservative?
    Try again.

    Comment by keogh — October 20, 2006 @ 10:56 am - October 20, 2006

  18. The third paragraph of my #7 spells out a few of the ways in which Andrianna Sullington is in no way conservative. I could also add the way he hysterically shrieks ‘torture’ whenever a terrorist is given anything less than four star spa treatment. Were it up to Sullivan, the most coercive form of interrogation available would be polite questioning over tea and crumpets.

    It’s not that Sullivan criticizes Bush, it’s from the position he criticizes Bush, solidly from the left. He criticizes Bush’s spending only because he thinks Bush should have raised taxes to pay for it. A Conservative argues that the spending should be cut. Sullivan endorsed John Kerry, who wanted to spend $2.3 Trillion more than Bush, so he can not claim to be a fiscal conservative.

    His attacks on the Religious Right are indistinguishable from those made by any left-wing Christophobe, no conservatism there.

    Learn to read, silly person.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 11:22 am - October 20, 2006

  19. Were it up to Sullivan, the most coercive form of interrogation available would be polite questioning over tea and crumpets.

    And if the tea were too hot or too cold, Sullington would shriek “Torture!”

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 11:24 am - October 20, 2006

  20. #19 – No, He would say that the tactics used in the Gulag are torture and we shouldn’t legalize them.
    #18 – Are you actually trying to argue that the GOP is fiscally conservative? If you so you are blind to the facts.
    And he does not argue that spending should rise. He argues that spending should be cut. He also says that if we are going to spend we should pay for it. How is that not conservative?

    #7 Your little dig doesn’t have much to do with conservatism but instead your dream of the gov imposing your version of a conservative lifestyle.
    Your true colors have been revealed

    Comment by keogh — October 20, 2006 @ 12:59 pm - October 20, 2006

  21. Sillier and Sillier.

    Conservatives criticize Bush for spending. Sullington criticizes Bush for not taxing enough, and then endorses John Kerry, who wants to spend $2.3 Trillion more than Bush. Andrianna also applauds Bush when he spends lavishly on causes he favors, like $15 Billion in AIDS spending for Africa.

    Conservatives oppose court-ordered social engineering and believe courts should be limited by the constitution. Sullington, like most lefties, applauds judicial activism when it promotes social policies, like gay marriage, that he favors.

    And what I said about torture is true. Sullington endorses the view that any discomfort suffered by a terrorist, no matter how minor or how temporary, is “torture.”

    And anyone whose faith criticizes Andrianna’s right to promiscuous anonymous sex is a “Christianist” who should not be allowed to serve in public office.

    Perhaps Sullington looks “conservative” to a silly ultra-leftist like you, and you are welcome to claim him as one of your own, but let us real conservatives judge who really does and does not uphold conservative principles like lower taxes, limited government, constitutionalist limits on the courts, and respect for religion.

    Aside from a grudging acknowledgement that the free market works, Sullington is no conservative. If he were, he wouldn’t be featured at Huffington Post.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 1:22 pm - October 20, 2006

  22. V&K – If you follow your flawed logic you reach this conclusion:
    Since Bush is supported by the Dobson Christians-and probably on their blogs-Bush supports the idea that all gays are pedophiles (thus should be barred from society and put into prison) –

    Further what you call making someone uncomfortable for a short period of time were classic torture tactics endorsed by the Nazis, Japanese, Soviets and even Sadam himself. And though I doubt you support those regimes, it is strangely interesting that you defend those tactics only because they are endorsed by many rightists.
    Further still, he views marriage rights as a civil rights issue. And as a conservative, you should agree that the gov. should stay out of people’s bedrooms and private lives. Being pro gay marriage and being a conservatives are not opposites – don’t you want to get married?
    And as usual, you are wrong about something else: a Christianist is someone who wants their view of religion enshrined in the government or brought about through the force of law– Like K. Harris – not someone who would only criticize an action

    Comment by keogh — October 20, 2006 @ 2:54 pm - October 20, 2006

  23. Let’s see, responded to any of my points — No. Repeated his own silly arguments after I refuted them — Yes.

    Silly, silly, really silly, person.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 3:09 pm - October 20, 2006

  24. Ahhhh the typical V&K….
    After your failure to admit that your logic is flawed, (or show how its not) , you simply revert back to the word “silly.”
    When my 14 year old nephew argues with my 9 year old niece, she often does that too…
    You are proven yourself vapid…
    You can go away now.

    Comment by keogh — October 20, 2006 @ 3:38 pm - October 20, 2006

  25. #6 – “That’s fine, but you should have been allowed to make that decision for yourself.”

    Uh, kdogg, that was kind of hard since I was a week old. What was I going to do, spit up on the doctor?

    Anyway, just because you are anti-religious doesn’t mean you need to stigmatize those of us who are not. Frankly, as I said in my original post, I don’t feel mutiliated in any way. There are others out there in my humble opinion who are worse off, both physically and mentally.

    Most of them show up on this board in lower case letters. But I digress.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 20, 2006 @ 3:46 pm - October 20, 2006

  26. #11 – “Andrianna Sullington: Another faux-conservative with a weird accent who sleeps with gay men.”

    V da K, you da bomb. I couldn’t stop laughing after reading that oh-so-true epigram. Especially since those relatives on my mother’s side remind me so much of Arianna Huffington nee Stassinopoulos.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 20, 2006 @ 3:47 pm - October 20, 2006

  27. #22-24 – just my observations, but either 401k plan is still cutting-and-pasting arguments from other sources, or got a crash course in spelling, grammar and punctuation usage.

    Plus, some of his comments (“Try again,” “You can go away now,”) sound SUSPICIOUSLY like those of another poster (ahem). I guess now he’s gone to plagiarizing posters on this board as well.

    Checkmate.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 20, 2006 @ 3:49 pm - October 20, 2006

  28. #26: Thanks, Peter. I appreciate that.

    #27: keogh the silly is a very silly person. He believes himself to be serious, but he also believes Andrianna Sullington is a conservative.

    Comment by V the K — October 20, 2006 @ 5:05 pm - October 20, 2006

  29. #25: h, kdogg, that was kind of hard since I was a week old. What was I going to do, spit up on the doctor?

    What I’m saying is, your parents should have let you make that decision when you were older. I think that parents should raise their children with the values they cherish, but should leave any permanent, irreversible commitment for the child to make when he is old enough to make such decisions. There is no hostility towards religion on my part. In any event, I am thinking that the vast majority of circumcisions performed in the world aren’t for religious reasons, but dubious health reasons, and I’d be glad just to see that end. :)

    I think you should also note that I’m not talking about laws being passed about this, just about how I would like to see parents handle the matter, and how I’ll handle it if I’m ever a parent. And, also, this issue isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things, and I probably shouldn’t have started it. :)

    There are others out there in my humble opinion who are worse off, both physically and mentally.

    Most of them show up on this board in lower case letters. But I digress.

    Could you clarify what you mean by this? If this is a jibe at me, I think that’s totally uncalled for. If it’s not, please accept my apology for thinking that it might be one.

    Comment by kdogg36 — October 20, 2006 @ 7:35 pm - October 20, 2006

  30. #29 – No, kdogg, it was NOT about you. No apology necessary.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — October 20, 2006 @ 11:36 pm - October 20, 2006

  31. Peter, thanks for clarifying. No worries.

    Comment by kdogg36 — October 20, 2006 @ 11:43 pm - October 20, 2006

  32. Is that bitter , tired , british socialist still around .I thought he ended it all after he couldn’t wear that wedding gown he kept ranting ABOUT .
    He is still trying to pawn himself off as a conservative . That scam artist was editor of the New Republic ! Can ya say wacko socialist !!!!

    Comment by BURT — October 21, 2006 @ 12:17 pm - October 21, 2006

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