As though he were not a crucial part of the establishment vanguard that forever destroyed civility and trust, New York magazine’s Andrew Sullivan spent no fewer than 2600 ponderous words Friday waxing nostalgic for the good old days when people of good faith could agree to disagree.
Pretending not to be one of them, documented-conspiracy theorist Sullivan writes, “In fact, in our current culture, it’s precisely the elites who seem to be driving tribal identity and thought, and doubling down on ideological and affectional polarization.”
He closes with this shameless act of rose-colored hypocrisy:
But then I remember a different time — and it wasn’t so long ago. A friend reminded me of this bloggy exchange Ta-Nehisi and I had in 2009, on the very subject of identity politics and its claims. We clearly disagreed, deeply. But there was a civility about it, an actual generosity of spirit, that transcended the boundaries of race and background. … But a conversation in the same pages was still possible, writer to writer, human to human, as part of the same American idea…
It’s only a decade ago, but it feels like aeons now. The Atlantic was crammed with ideological opposites then, jostling together in the same office, and our engagement with each other and our readerships was a crackling and productive one. There was much more of that back then, before Twitter swallowed blogging, before identity politics became completely nonnegotiable, before we degenerated into these tribal swarms of snark and loathing. I think of it now as a distant island, appearing now and then, as the waves go up and down. The riptide of tribalism can capture us all in the end, until we drown in it.
Ahhh, yes, 2009 at oh-so civil Andrew Sullivan’s precious Atlantic… I remember it well.
Let’s start with the small stuff.
Thanks to Instapundit’s Ed Driscoll, I am reminded that in September of 2008, mere weeks before Election Day — you know, just prior the 2009 launch of the Golden Age of Civility at the Atlantic, it was this very same Atlantic that sandbagged then-presidential candidate John McCain into posing for this harshly-lit cover photo. But that was not the worst of it. To snap this photo, the Atlantic hired far-left photographer Jill Greenberg who did this with the outtakes.
But that was all child’s play compared to the incurable cancer spread by Mr. Sullivan.
As soon as then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin strode onto the national stage as McCain’s running mate, as soon as her dynamic and fearless presence gave the hapless McCain campaign what would be their only real shot at beating Barack Obama, using the pages of the Atlantic, and all in an effort to wield lies as a means to humiliate Palin, Sullivan did something no establishment journalist had, until then, done in my lifetime: launched an evidence-free campaign of personal destruction in the form of a conspiracy theory, and did so without facing a single consequence from his “journalist” peers.
It became known as Trig-Trutherism, and in his unrelenting jihad, Sullivan wrote countless articles at the Atlantic claiming Trig Palin was not Sarah Palin’s child. Worse still, he claimed Trig’s true birth mother was the governor’s eldest daughter, Bristol, who at the time was a 17-year-old minor.
Writing piece after piece after piece, beginning in the heart of the 2008 presidential campaign, and in a feverish act of breathtaking and carefully-plotted cruelty, Sullivan spent years spreading this lie all in the hopes of undermining a key part of Sarah Palin’s identity — her motherhood. And the weapons Sullivan wielded against their own mother, were the teenaged Bristol and Trig, a Down Syndrome baby.
Yes, conspiracy theories targeting presidential candidates are as old as presidential campaigns. In fact, at this same time, Obama was himself dealing with a conspiracy theory surrounding the origins of his birth. But what made Sullivan uniquely sinister, what made his conspiracy of cruelty a breech, not only with respect to political civility but in public trust of the mainstream media, is that despite his evidence-free attacks on Palin and her young children, he remained a member-in-good standing within the media establishment.
Not only did Sullivan’s malignancy slither its way into the rest of the media, most notably, it did so while this very same media was systematically destroying anyone who dared question Obama’s origin of birth, which included making anyone who refused to condemn the Obama conspiracy socially unacceptable. Meanwhile, Sullivan was not only not expelled over his own birther conspiracy, he thrived.
The fact that an establishment media figure was allowed and encouraged to spread his poison on no less than the pages of the Atlantic, the fact that his utterly insincere, partisan viciousness — the kind of demonic smear job that until then had only existed in sleazy whisper and dark-moneyed pamphlet campaigns — enjoyed the imprimatur of the mainstream media, was a thick-red-line in the history that ushered in this era Sullivan now describes as “tribal swarms of snark and loathing.”
Andrew Sullivan can attempt to rewrite his own tribal and toxic history all he wants, but that he is a cruel, cold-blooded, and hateful word-sadist is his true legacy. Sullivan’s sewer campaign and the political media that legitimized it — that was the Rubicon.
And never forget that after his Trig-Trutherism had run its course, Sullivan launched an all-new evidence-free conspiracy with the claim that Pope Benedict is a practicing homosexual.