I'm a libertarian who has written, among other things, an essay on "Conservatism for Punks" (the slogan and at least occasionally the theme of this blog) for the book Proud to Be Right, which is a collection of essays edited by Jonah Goldberg. In it, I espouse a sort of "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" worldview, urging that the government be kept small and unobtrusive to foster both prosperity and the space for experimental subcultures to thrive. I was part of a panel discussion featuring contributors to that volume, during which I hit on a few of my favorite themes, including markets, punk, sci-fi-like technology, and skepticism about supernatural claims. The whole ninety-minute discussion can be viewed here thanks to C-SPAN2 -- and you should certainly order the book, which, as the subtitle puts it, features twenty-three "Voices of the Next Conservative Generation."
(You might also contact me about the monthly Manhattans Project social gatherings I host for politics and media people, now that I'm no longer organizing debates at Lolita Bar. And you should read this blog, which has some broken links and other flaws at the moment, having recently migrated to Blogger, but I'll fix those things. It has been a time of transition.)
But the brief clip from the panel discussion that went viral yesterday (you'll find a long list of links to that clip and to articles about it below the break) featured me criticizing my fellow contributor to that volume, Helen Rittelmeyer. Though Helen broke up with me about three days before we found out we would be co-panelists, after a tumultuous two-year relationship, I was not (as a few of the less-careful online observers have implied) criticizing her for not dating me (a choice some 3.5 billion women make every day, after all). Rather, in my comments, I alluded to the fact that Helen's ostensibly Catholic-conservative philosophy is actually an ironically-veiled, far darker philosophy, a sort of Nietzschean valorization of cruelty for the sake of cruelty that even Nietzsche would not endorse.
The only manifestation of her philosophy that I revealed in my comments that was not already publicly known was her willingness to engage in cruel personal gamesmanship, as for instance by playing matchmaker for a couple, planning in advance to break them up later by seducing the male, in part to raise and dash the hopes of the female (an accusation that she did not deny in her later comments to Daily Caller, tellingly). That action of hers is horrible enough by any conventional moral standard, including Catholicism, but Helen, if she's reading this, knows there are countless other examples I could give of the way in which her dark thinking is paralleled by dark behavior. I don't want or intend to say any more about such examples, though, even though I know I risk being thought by many to be merely griping about an ex for light and transient causes.
Rather, because I believe in loyalty and in the possibility of redemption, it is my sincere hope that Helen -- instead of making revealing jokes about wanting to beat me up (as in her statement to the Daily Caller, which really got the viral ball rolling, to mix metaphors) or feeling that she is the put-upon party -- will seize this opportunity to examine her life and adopt a code of ethics and personal behavior rooted in kindness, not another layer of irony disguising darkness and cruelty. Reform, Helen. Reform. Make this the most positive turning point in your life and everybody wins.
Some think me a bully, but in fact I have shown incredible restraint (and a generous willingness to take a small reputational hit by appearing cruel myself), engaging in a sort of public intervention in perhaps the only way open to me that is likely to alter Helen's behavior. Nothing would make me happier than to learn that it had been effective, that she was thankful for it, and that her life had been transformed for the better on multiple fronts (rather than that she'd simply begun urging people to take her "side" over mine, a battle that would not likely leave her looking good in the panopticon of public examination, if either of us were pressured into more detailed explanations). I really don't want more beating up of Helen, though, and hope to move on to fresh topics tomorrow, both online and in my head. Please stick around.
And now, just a handful of yesterday's dizzying array of links (and I'm not even on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking systems where I assume much of the action is). Most of these feature the controversial clip (which came from about 40-47 minutes into the full ninety-minute program linked above):
•Daily Caller (where Helen briefly worked -- but it was Mary Katharine Ham who wrote the piece and, on Twitter, is was Daily Caller contributor Amanda Carey who said she "kinda sorta" has to support Seavey on this one, which I greatly appreciate, though, again, I'm the one who doesn't want everything to degenerate into mere combat)
•A small Twitter sample -- and, oddly, I have also been condemned by Bruce Bartlett and Dave Weigel, the latter pronouncing that I should no longer be taken seriously, since Weigel is now an expert on no longer taking people seriously, apparently (I'm planning to attend a gathering of right-wing Twitter users tonight at 7pm in NYC, in fact, so I'll endeavor to be circumspect in my comments). Responding to Bartlett (the political commentator, not the Aaron Sorkin character, who I assume would love my witty banter), Dave Henderson, I think it was, observed that despite me looking harsh at first glance, closer examination suggests that Helen does not have "a humanitarian bone in her body."
•Gawker (go New York City!)
•Jezebel (a friend notes that one of the commenters here wisely picked up on the fact that Helen is not denying my comments for most of the clip but, disturbingly but honestly, is instead nodding and smiling with approval until I hit the part she doesn't want known)
•The Awl (thank you, Laloca)
•The Yahoo News blog
•Mediaite, where it was #1 at one point, bumping Kanye West, who I think will nonetheless go places
•Not surprisingly, the most humorless reaction is also the least accurate -- claiming I likened women who won't have sex with me to Hitler, when in fact I likened liars (jokingly) to Hitler, a whole different issue -- except to people like Amanda Hess at some site called TBD, who seems to equate liars with women in a rather misogynistic fashion -- but then, once the self-contradicting feminists get involved in an online dispute, you can be sure accuracy will quickly go out the window. Even now, imaginary Todd quotes are likely spreading due to some angry feminist commenter somewhere posting something like: "We know Todd's attitude: 'Women should be slaves' -- as if! ROTFL!" I won't have time to correct them all, so, again, I will move on to new topics.
Interesting, by the way, to see some feminists automatically side with Helen, though (A) she would despise them and (B) they would no doubt cheer a comparable public shaming of a badly-behaved male.
•A particularly nasty -- and uncreative -- one from some lazy male who is making other males look bad at Wonkette
•The Washington Post gossip column
•The New Republic
•And one of the few people I know who was awake at 3am last night tells me that the whole thing was featured on the TV show Red Eye, about four hours ago as I type this. On another TV note, I suggest that C-SPAN start using the moment when Helen says with exasperation that this will be "on C-SPAN!" as their new promo bumper (followed by a narrator saying "C-SPAN: You never know if something might happen").
And tomorrow, time permitting, an entry on what really matters: budget cuts.