By noting yesterday how Helen Rittelmeyer's attitudes may (ironically) have been influenced by an unwitting Dawn Eden, I do not mean to gloss over my own culpability in aiding and abetting a monster. I was the one who spent two years telling the world -- including editors at National Review and HarperCollins -- that Helen is brilliant, and in some ways she is. She's just evil, by pretty much any conventional moral standard, religious or secular.
She does not stand, say, with Catholics against atheists or with rural populists against urban elites in her unique philosophical loyalties, despite her frequent attempts to triangulate in that way and appear loyal to some "team." She stands alone -- or should -- against all remotely compassionate or ethical, non-sadistic members of the human race, longing for an unending, vicious war of all against all and making do with small personal harms in the meantime.
Now, you'd think I might have noticed that sooner, what with dating her for nearly two years -- and her praising boxing, rioting, and constant verbal abuse as hallmarks of civilization and all -- but, in my defense, she knows full well that the layers of irony and double-meaning in both her written and spoken words create just enough plausible deniability that (A) good people will give her the benefit of the doubt (so she gains the strength in numbers and comfort that come from appearing to stand with them) and (B) bad people will be delighted at the hints that she's "in on the joke" (allowing her to stand with them when what she considers the real fun starts).
That's her shtick, and it's not a bad means of getting away with a great deal, both philosophically and personally.
Another, also presumably unwitting, influence on this dangerous, nasty, William Blake-like combo of the sacred and profane was Eve Tushnet from Yale's Party of the Right (mentioned, as it happens, in a piece by Jonah Goldberg back when he visited the POR in 2000 and noted its odd penchant for ritualism). I will assume Eve, perhaps best known for being the celibate Catholic lesbian blogger (and a columnist for Pat Buchanan's magazine American Conservative), is a fine person, and I share her enthusiasm for comics and alternative rock, but I can no longer
share her enthusiasm for the woman she gleefully called "La Rittelmeyer" even after I hinted at (just some of the) problems with the woman perhaps more aptly called The Ritteler during our C-SPAN2 appearance.
Eve was quick to conclude that I have led a sheltered existence and have never before faced an "agent provocateur," as she put it in a blog entry -- Manhattan media circles and the DC-linked wonk world having been devoid of strong personalities over the past two decades, presumably.
So Eve was still celebrating Helen even after hearing, for example, about Helen's advance planning to play matchmaker to a couple and then break them up to hurt the woman. Oversight on Eve's part? Lesbian indifference to female-male romantic mindgames? The ongoing brutality of an ex-riot grrl (as she was before her college conversion) as morally callous as her younger POR counterpart?
It may be slightly stranger than that, albeit more innocent on Eve's part.
One POR veteran who (like most) does not subscribe to anything resembling Helen's ostensibly-Catholic, pro-suffering philosophy, has called Eve the "Patient Zero" for the idea infecting POR circles over the past decade that suffering is inherently virtuous and that it is therefore beautiful to submit to authority and engage in self-denial. So far, that sounds, if anything, like reason to take pity on Eve, Helen, or anyone else inclined to follow that difficult path -- though there are some creepy elements to Eve's thinking, like her praise of the "Mask of Leadership" that great people should employ to foster submission in others, even through fear and chaos if necessary (it's even one of her blog's ongoing topic tags).
But the real problem with spreading this view is the stupid, erroneous moral formulation called the Golden Rule that counsels doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
There are those, especially within the frat-like environs of a college-centered (albeit multi-generational) political group, who will see their own (purported) willingness to suffer as license to make others suffer. Combine this neo-Catholic love of suffering, a big dash of Nietzsche, some "conservatism for punks" of a bad kind, and a lot of young people who watched Fight Club too many times at a formative age, and...at first, you may not have a serious problem on your hands. But eventually, along comes someone who, for complex psychological reasons, finds all this stuff second nature and a handy philosophical excuse (with a built-in veneer of knowing sophistication) for sadistic, strategic manipulation of other people.
Make everyone suffer, make the world more beautiful and excellent. Like the terrifying rationale motivating some villain from a Saw movie.
And that, tragically for all, is where the mind dubbed La Rittelmeyer comes in, just a few years after Eve. So, one last word about Helen tomorrow.