Ace today highlighted a crucial aspect of my hobby horse that I haven’t spent a ton of time on. Namely, those who live the politicized life often come across sounding, well, dumb. Specifically, he cited a piece by Ben Shapiro in which he chalked up the untimely and tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman to “the broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood.”
“I know he’s smarter than this, and I think his readership is smarter than this too,” Ace wrote.* “I think 80% of the movement is smarter than this (and 95% of this site’s readers). So I don’t think we should sell ourselves short in the brains department. I don’t see what good it does anyone to pretend to be less smart than he actually is.” Exactly. Part of the problem with the politicized life—part of the problem with reducing everything to little more than ideology and insisting “Well, this happened because of [Belief System X]!”—is that it makes you sound stupid. The world is a complex place and people are complex beings. Denying those two simple truths makes you sound ignorant.
Reducing someone to little more than the ideology that they hold is an attempt to dehumanize them. The politicized do this in order to lessen whatever modest amount of guilt they feel when they attack their putative enemies. It allows you to dismiss their accomplishments and suggest that they are not only unworthy of respect, but also basic human decency.
Consider, for instance, the reaction Jeffrey Wells has had to religious people suggesting that they aren’t interested in seeing a film about Noah that isn’t actually about the Noah of the Bible. “All I know is that the more Darren Aronofsky’s Noah doesn’t cater to religious rightwingers, the more I’m likely to find a place in my head for it,” he wrote on Wednesday, emphasis his. “I would like to believe that Aronofsky, a highly intelligent and discerning fellow, hasn’t sold his soul to make Noah, and that he despises fundamentalist Christians as much as I do. If he doesn’t share my prejudice I can at least fantasize that he does.”
You’ll notice that it’s not the content of the art that Wells is concerned with so much as the content of Aronofsky’s character. Does he hate those ignorant God-fearin’ rubes as much as Wells does? Then maybe Wells can get on board. Uglier still is this little riff in the comments:
He’s joking here (I hope), but there’s a kernel of truth to every jibe. As I said: Those who live the politicized life must dehumanize their enemies in order to justify their own bigotry. It’s a hopelessly sad way to go through life—who wants to close themselves off from large portions of humanity just because you have differing views on the issues of the day?—and it’s one that makes you sound kind of stupid.