Sullivan`s Travails

"BUSH
AND IMMIGRANTS: Maybe the president was listening to
the Pope. But the trial balloon… offering amnesty to
three million illegal Mexican immigrants, and the
latest version of it (we`re down to two million now),
is perhaps the boldest initiative of the Bush
administration yet…. And it`s great politics -
managing to put the Democrats on the defensive and woo
an important voting bloc. Bush and Rove realize that
if they win the same share of the minority vote in
2004 as they did in 2000, they`re finished…. One
other small suggestion. Immigration issues could also
help woo the gay vote. Most other western countries
now allow some means of immigration for foreign
same-sex spouses and all of them allow unrestricted
immigration for people with HIV. If the Bushies found
a way to move immigration law on these matters as
well, the impact on another winnable bloc could be
enormous."

AndrewSullivan.com

7/24/2001

Peter Brimelow suggested I give pundit/celebrity
Andrew Sullivan "a boot" over this mildly
silly paragraph on his popular website. But, really,
taking umbrage over Sullivan`s lapses in logic is a
little like waxing indignant over how there`s
something inauthentic about Madonna`s various
incarnations as a cowgirl, devoted wife and mother,
lesbian, Puerto Rican, Marilyn Monroe, and virgin. The
best reaction is to just sit back and enjoy the show.


And quite a show it`s been (at least by the
not-always-scintillating standards of opinion
journalism), ever since Sullivan
began shooting himself up with prescription
testosterone
about three years ago. Injecting the
manly molecule transformed him from an underachiever,
dragged down by his battle against his HIV infection,
into just about the biggest ball of fire in the
opinion industry.


Now, this may sound like gossip, sensationalism, or
an invasion of the New Republic Senior Editor`s privacy. And, indeed, most people who
have written about Sullivan`s comeback have shied away
from explaining its chemical cause. For example,
Howard Kurtz`s long, admiring profile in the Washington
Post
last April never mentioned Sullivan`s new
testosterone habit.


The main exception to this genteel silence is
Sullivan himself, who published a
remarkable 7,000-word ode to testosterone in the New
York Times Magazine
on April 2, 2000:


"My appetite in every sense of that word
expanded beyond measure. Going from napping two hours
a day, I now rarely sleep in the daytime and have
enough energy for daily workouts and a hefty work
schedule. I can squat more than 400 pounds.
Depression, once a regular feature of my life, is now
a distant memory. I feel better able to recover from
life`s curveballs, more persistent, more alive… Soon
after I inject myself with testosterone, I feel a deep
surge of energy. My attention span shortens. My wit is
quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more
impulsive."

The negative side of Sullivan`s impulsiveness
injections was noted by one prominent biologist, who
wrote to me, "Sullivan`s self-indulgent piece of
happy preening is an advertisement and a goad for the
many innocents out there who have not
shot themselves up, yet, with anabolic steroids.
Physiologically, and depending upon dose, this can be
akin to playing
Russian roulette
. It`s shocking that this thing
was published without other comment, or at all."


Yet there`s also a positive side to Sullivan`s
store-bought ballsiness. For example, he inserted in
his article one of the blunter dismissals of feminist
dogma yet seen in the New
York Times
:


"Since most men have at least 10 times as much
T as most women, it therefore makes sense not to have
coed baseball leagues. Equally, it makes sense that
women will be underrepresented in a high-testosterone
environment like military combat or construction. …
[G]ender inequality in these fields is primarily not a
function of sexism, merely of common sense."

Almost unbelievably, Sullivan even got away with
pointing out – in the Times of all places! – that race differences exist in testosterone
levels:


"Several solid studies, published in
publications like Journal of the National Cancer
Institute, show that black men have on average 3 to 19
percent more testosterone than white men. This is
something to consider when we`re told that black men
dominate certain sports because of white racism or
economic class rather than black skill."

Sullivan`s fuel-injected cockiness, combined with
his longstanding urge to be a celebrity (during his
ill-fated tenure in the Nineties as editor of The New Republic, his picture used to grace billboards for a
national clothing store chain), is making him into a
semblance of such press barons of yore as Lord
Beaverbrook. They were journalistic celebrities who
threw themselves into intense but mercurial feuds and
fads. They fascinated a generation of newspaper
readers wishing to find out just what wacky trouble
the boss had gotten himself into today.


Sullivan is a sort of youngish Lord Copper (the
owner of the Daily
Beast
in Evelyn Waugh`s masterpiece
Scoop),
retrofitted for the age of identity politics.
Although he is constantly denouncing identity politics
when other people (especially blacks)
engage in them, Sullivan`s own elaborate and widely
publicized identity accounts for many of his views. He
tirelessly reminds us that he is – let me see if I can
remember the full litany – a gay British Catholic
immigrant HIV-positive conservative.


Sullivan`s crusades for classic identity politics
obsessions like gay
marriage
and allowing HIV-infected aliens to
immigrate are closely tied up with his campaign to
publicize his own identity. You don`t become a
celebrity by being better informed and more insightful
than your peers (although it can occasionally help),
but by making your personality better known.
Otherwise, a brilliant but self-effacing journalist
like Frank
Miele
of Skeptic
Magazine
would be more famous than 98% of the
talking heads you see on TV.


Sullivan, especially in his current
testosterone-marinated state of mind, probably lacks
the attention span for a Big Book. But in terms of the
talents it takes to be an outstanding pundit – broad
knowledge, pugnacity, and that quick verbal and
argumentative facility found so often among the
English and the Jews – he stands comparison to such
spectacularly gifted Anglo-American commentators as Christopher
Hitchens
, John
Derbyshire
, John
O`Sullivan
, and the tri-national
Mark
Steyn
. So I`d say Sullivan`s ceaseless promotion
of his personality is probably the right career
strategy for him.


Sullivan`s daily weblog
is enjoyable for its "Perils of Pauline"
aspect. As Sullivan himself explained, "One of
the best things about this new kind of journalism is
the instant response of readers. If I screw up, you
let me know. If I ask for suggestions, you send them
in droves. If I write something more than usually
boneheaded, many of you politely point out I`m full of
it."


The fun works like this: Sullivan shoots off at the
mouth, and then is immediately pummeled by emails from
readers pointing out the flaws in his thinking. Having
tied himself to the railroad tracks, is our hero
finally done for, we wonder, or will he triumphantly
cogitate his way out of yet another jam?


For instance, consider Sullivan`s statement above
that Bush`s quarter-baked amnesty plan for Mexican
illegal immigrants is "great politics – managing
to put the Democrats on the defensive and woo an
important voting bloc."


In reality, to call Mexican-Americans an important
voting bloc is quantitatively wrong. I sent Sullivan a
recent article by me
pointing out that according
to unpublished Census Bureau data I found using the
Bureau`s FERRET
access tool
, the Mexican-American share of the
vote is much smaller than is widely assumed these
days.


Here is how neo-centrist pundit Mickey Kaus, who
runs his own popular
weblog
, summed up my findings:
"Mexican-Americans accounted for just 3 percent
of the vote. … African-Americans (who may actually
be annoyed by Bush`s flamboyant courtship of Latinos)
cast 11.5 percent of the votes, twice as many as
Hispanics and almost four times as many as
Mexican-Americans. … In 2004 the Hispanic share is
expected to rise, but only to 6 percent. …
(7/25)"


Of course, this doesn`t mean that mass immigration
isn`t threatening to turn the GOP into a permanent
minority party. It just says that we have a few years
in which it will still be politically feasible to head
this off by rationalizing our immigration system.


The great thing about Sullivan is that his
confidence is so bulletproof that he doesn`t mind
admitting on his own website that he was wrong, at
least as long as he can devise a comeback. So, a
couple of days later, he graciously published his
cogent summary of my article, along with his
justification for his original characterization of the
brilliance of Bush`s plan:


"Mexican-Americans only made up 3 percent of
the voting population in 2000 – and most were
concentrated in Texas and California, two states
that are largely out of electoral play for the
foreseeable future. But Sailer misses, I think, the
broader political point. Such an amnesty wouldn`t
just please Latino voters. It would be a bold
statement of a compassionate conservatism that would
resonate with centrists and suburbanites."

Now this airy dismissal of fatally contradictory
data may not seem like all that much. But in
comparison to the near
universal refusal of immigration enthusiasts to enter
into a dialogue
with immigration realists, it`s
highly commendable.




The broader lesson that can be learned from
Sullivan: nobody is immune to the appeal of identity
politics. Exhibit A of the natural appeal of identity
politics: Andrew Sullivan. When somebody (other than
himself) says something tactless about one of the
groups he belongs to, Sullivan often reacts with as
much outrage and as little forethought as the Berkeley
Transgendered Latino/Latina Strike Force.


For example, consider Sullivan`s vitriolic on-line
crusade to get VDARE contributor John
Derbyshire
fired from National
Review
for saying insensitive things about the act
of sodomy and its practitioners. Sullivan`s long
series of out-of-context quotes from Derbyshire`s
writings culminated in his charging Derbyshire with
racism toward the Chinese. In a comic denouement worthy of Lord Copper, it was finally brought home to
Sullivan that – oops! – Mrs. Derbyshire is Chinese and
the little Derbyshires are thus half-Chinese.


To not notice that Derbyshire – despite his
constant criticism of the Beijing regime`s promotion
of Chinese racist nationalism – is related by
marriage, blood, and cultural affinity to the Chinese
race, you have to be as much of an inveterate identity
politics warrior as Sullivan. Derbyshire writes about
his private life almost as much as Sullivan writes
about his. Yet none of Derbyshire`s myriad references
to the racial makeup of his family or even to his
father-in-law being a member of the Chinese Communist
Party registered on Sullivan.


Similarly, Sullivan`s suggestion (quoted above)
that it would be a politically smart move for Bush to
"allow unrestricted immigration for people with
HIV" is a classic example of how Sullivan sees
everything through the lens of Sullivanness. Because
he is an HIV-positive gay immigrant, it doesn`t occur
to him that the disinterested HIV-negative
heterosexual native-born Americans who make up the
overwhelming majority of voters might think that`s a
terrible idea, the equivalent to what "gays in
the military" proved to be to the nascent Clinton
Administration.


Just as Sullivan tends to assume that the U.S.
military should focus more on social experimentation
than on being ready to defeat America`s enemies in
battle, he naturally presumes that immigration policy
should be viewed as some sort of civil right that six
billion foreigners hold over America, rather than a
means to promote the general welfare of American
citizens.


In contrast, more disinterested observers would
note that with tens of millions of foreigners
desperate to come to America, we are in a position to
choose the applicants who would most benefit us. And
because HIV is infectious, incurable, expensive, and
still frequently lethal, it seems obvious to most non-Sullivans
that, when it comes to picking among the countless
applicants for immigration, we can do better for our
country by selecting healthy immigrants.


Let me add – because Sullivan is quick to throw
around the "homophobic" smear – that most
non-Sullivans would think the same about immigration
applicants with any
disease that is similarly incurable, infectious, and
often fatal.


In summary: identity politics are a natural
byproduct of diversity. The more diversity, the more
identity politics. If we didn`t want blacks to engage
in ethnocentric politics, well, our ancestors
shouldn`t have dragged them here in chains.


We can, however, moderate the amount of diversity
we import in the future. But what we can`t do, despite
neoconservative assurances to the contrary, is to keep
the pedal to the metal on the immigration throttle,
yet avoid the Balkanizing perils of identity politics
by writing Sullivan-style op-eds explaining that
identity politics are not nice.


However, one of the main reasons for having your
own webzine is to get the last word. In the near
future I`ll use VDARE`s pixels to explain why the Bush
Push for illegals, as much as Andrew Sullivan likes it
and however politically inevitable it may appear at
the moment, will likely crash and burn in Congress -
just as Hillary Clinton`s health care juggernaut did
in 1994.


(Remember – you read it here first!)



[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]

August 10,
2001