Patterico's Pontifications


Less Malice; More Charity

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses Mona Charen criticizing J.D. Vance and Patrick Deneen’s attack on the pro-life movement and finds a common thread: a lack of charity.

My point in considering these two incidents together is not to say that we should be more charitable to one another just because it would be nice (although that is certainly advice I could stand to dwell on). It’s not even that different types of conservative should be charitable to one another for the sake of the causes they hold in common. It’s that often, and in these particular cases, charitable assumptions about other people can aid understanding – whether it’s understanding of why a lot of conservatives support Trump, or of the obstacles between pro-lifers and our objectives.

My own view is that someone forfeits any right to have their actions viewed charitably if they engage in a longstanding pattern of deception or dishonesty. But that’s not the case in the situations Ponnuru describes. I alluded to this at the end of my latest podcast, saying that many of the conflicts I have had have been unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, and that some charity among good people is a desirable thing. I’m happy to do my small part to amplify Ponnuru’s call for the same today.

30 Responses to “Less Malice; More Charity”

  1. I remember when disagreements between conservative factions were less bitter and nasty, because they were more about policy than personal allegiances, and because there was less inclination to accuse others of evil, selfish motives or of being un-American. Trumpism changed that.

    Trumpers say that the fault is all with the Trump-critics. I wouldn’t say that the latter are all faultless, but the heart of the Trumpist campaign from the beginning was the proposition that virtually the entire Republican Party was corrupt and heartless; that only Donald Trump cared about average Americans; that only Trump would fight corruption. Trumpers said that Trump was our only chance to save America, so if we didn’t support him we weren’t truly patriotic.

    Some conservative commentators once recognized the absurdity of associating Donald Trump with rock-ribbed integrity or selfless compassion, but then did an about-face and began impugning the motives of those who were still saying what they themselves had formerly said. Warming to Trump on grounds of policy is justifiable, but Trumpers (while doing a ritual “we know he’s flawed” deflection) have painted any criticism of him as a mark of bad faith. If you noted that he is still the extraordinarily self-centered and reflexively dishonest man that some of them used to recognize, then you must be on the enemy’s payroll, or you must be an elitist with callous contempt for every ordinary American who voted for Trump—even if you generally support the policies that they claim are the basis of their Trump-love.

    Needless to say, Trumpers don’t think their own criticism of Biden shows cruel contempt for the scores of millions of Americans who voted for him. They think it’s virtuous and patriotic.

    I don’t think Trump voters are bad people on the whole — just as I didn’t think Obama voters were bad people when I criticized Obama. As I’ve said before, being a conservative living in a lefty place (and having a fair number of more liberal relatives) conduces to a charitable view of those who disagree politically. But when people insist that Donald Trump is a man of good character and his critics are not, by virtue of criticizing him, I cannot credit their judgment or good faith.

    Radegunda (f4d5c0)

  2. Part of the challenge is that much of what counts for on-line political commentary is either hurried, lacks good faith, or is unnecessary. We emote too much and should take more time to put things into context and weigh whether ratcheting up the rhetoric is self-defeating…and just poisoning the environment. We need critiques; we need smart people wrestling with difficult and important ideas; we need persuasion. It’s just too easy to create the equivalent of junk food on the internet.

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  3. Raging, on-the-outs, bottom-of-the-the-decker, anti-Trumpster Mona Charen remains the “Eunice ‘Lovey’ Wentworth Howell” of the modern ideological conservatism… there ‘on Gilligan’s Isle.’

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  4. I don’t think the issue is emoting too much *per se*. Emoting is an essential part of human nature. Many of us, when we react, need to share that reaction with people as part of processing it. And many of our emotional reactions are understandable and reasonable.

    The problem is that when we react on twitter, or on facebook, or the like, we’re not reacting in the presence of people we know, who understand that this is an emotional reaction and that in a less reactive moment we’d temper it with reason and thought and charity towards others. We’re reacting in the presence of strangers who *judge us by that reaction* and, often, who either gang up to reinforce it or argue against it in a way that backfires and has the effect of reinforcing it.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  5. @3. This is Earth; not Vulcan.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  6. @ 3 and 6. It is Earth, not Vulcan, and that was a very human thing to say and to read. Hear hear.

    JRH (52aed3)

  7. @sphrael@5 I think, also, that often the most apparent people on the internet are the loudest, rudest, most unreasonable people and it is very easy to look a them in an uncharitable light (sometimes they don’t deserve even an ounce of charity) but also then look at less loud, less rude, less unreasonable people who are adjacent to them in the same light. Also, sometimes there are many subgroups involved with a single issue and if you don’t interact much with that issue or with the subtleties of the groups within that issue it’s easy to only see the loudest non-charity deserving people. The pro-life/ anti-abortion movement contains at least 4 major subcategories, for example.

    Nic (896fdf)

  8. Raging … Mona Charen

    Mona Charen is one of the least raging persons in the whole commentosphere. She does a podcast where people of differing viewpoints discuss issues and events without yelling at each other. That’s part of what counts as “deranged” in Trumpist eyes.

    Radegunda (f4d5c0)

  9. Radegunda (f4d5c0) — 3/19/2021 @ 10:18 am

    that only Donald Trump cared about average Americans

    Trump’s claim to care about average Americans, such as it was, was based on being callous toward non-Americans, like economics was a zero sum game. He never showed the slightest rigor in that. It’s catching. Joe Biden didn;t release Astra Zeneca vaccines that the US wasn’t going to use, until finally he agreed to release it to Mexico and Canada on loose grounds of self interest. (I know it’s kind of absurd to say a vaccine isn’t good here but it is good in other countries – one position or the other has got to be wrong)

    Sammy Finkelman (03c829)

  10. Raging … Mona Charen

    Ah, so it’s considered “raging” when an informed and well-educated woman opines? Good to know.

    Dana (fd537d)

  11. What’s too rarely understood, I think, about charity, compassion, forgiveness and love is that they impart more benefit to the giver than to the receiver.

    lurker (59504c)

  12. Pro life catholic church has a social conscience and a place at the table for their argument. Conservatives who don’t believe in welfare state for the unwanted children and support the private charity scam so they don’t have to pay taxes to support the unwanted children do not. Look around the world unwanted children are living and eating in garbage dumps. Mother threasa tried to give children away she had so many unwanted children.

    asset (f17418)

  13. @11. When she’s a raging, stale, ideological conservative movement mouthpiece left over frm the Reagan era, opposed to Trump pursuing the GOP nomination from the get-go at National Review and been on the outs w/the majority of the Republican Party… yes.

    Good to know.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  14. @9. Revisit her National Review essay in the issue as the old guard ideologues were being overthrown as Trump was pursuing the GOP nomination. She’s a hair in the tail of the pup which no longer wags the dog… and irrelevant in 2021 USA.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  15. this is something I struggle with, a lot.

    My general inclination is to be charitable in my assumptions regarding *everyone*, including many people that others around me think don’t deserve it.

    But there are people, over the last year, whose behavior has been so bad and so harmful that I don’t know *how* to be charitable to them.

    The pandemic and the post-election period broke me. I am a … harder, less kind (in some ways) man.

    I don’t like it.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  16. It’s just too easy to create the equivalent of junk food on the internet.

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74) — 3/19/2021 @ 11:09 am

    Raging, on-the-outs, bottom-of-the-the-decker, anti-Trumpster Mona Charen remains the “Eunice ‘Lovey’ Wentworth Howell” of the modern ideological conservatism… there ‘on Gilligan’s Isle.’

    DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 3/19/2021 @ 11:26 am

    Right on cue.

    norcal (01e272)

  17. as opposed to Trump pursuing the GOP nomination from the get-go at National Review

    He pursued the nomination at NR? Well, that makes him super-virtuous, then.

    But I’ll note that in your brain, calmly expressing a viewpoint you disagree with is “raging,” whereas all the vindictive, unhinged rage-tweeting that Trump specializes in is a form of moral courage.

    Radegunda (f4d5c0)

  18. Radegunda,

    You said you live in a lefty area. May I ask where?

    norcal (01e272)

  19. Malice seems to be the by-product of more and more of our conversations taking place online. People can get much more nasty when conversing (more likely screaming, debasing, trolling) with other people that have different viewpoints.

    When people are face-to-face, things seem to be a bit more civil. Chalk it up to years of evolution making us work together to survive.

    We have not evolved to the social problems that the Internet besets on us.

    Hoi Polloi (b28058)

  20. Well-said, Hoi Polloi.

    norcal (01e272)

  21. O.M.G.:

    “There’s always a down-side; that’s the nature of life; there’s no down-side to wearing two masks??? What about oxygen depravation?” – Tucka Carlson 3-19-21

    Hey Tucka- put your middle finger to work: you know you can conserve oxygen by only breathing through one nostril, too?

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  22. The post (and host) suggests a little charity. Some commenters here can’t seem to grasp that concept but most can. Good job!

    DRJ (aede82)


    Was it “the wind?”

    “It was the TeeVee.” – Nurse Diesel [Cloris Leachman] ‘High Anxiety’ 1977

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  24. @23. Mitch McConnell style?

    Charity starts at home; the losing side always cries for it.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  25. @ aphrael,

    My general inclination is to be charitable in my assumptions regarding *everyone*, including many people that others around me think don’t deserve it.

    But there are people, over the last year, whose behavior has been so bad and so harmful that I don’t know *how* to be charitable to them.

    I so appreciate your honesty here. Clearly, it’s easier to be charitable toward those we agree with or whose presentation is is politely delivered without condescension or rudeness. However, as a person of faith (albeit not an example by any stretch of the imagination) I am reminded that Christ says we are to love even our enemies as ourselves. That’s a tough order, and one that can only really be accomplished by divine grace. The same kind that was extended toward us. I can take in-your-face hostility better than I can passive-aggressive digs. I prefer one’s cards on the table for all to see. But. Grace is called for, charity and the benefit of the doubt line the path we walk.

    Dana (fd537d)

  26. “It’s just this pandemic and that lying son of a b*tch Trump”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  27. I undertook some extremely charitable views on Trump and Obama. In my view of course. Both made egregious decisions and were self cented egomaniacs but I tried to see them as very flawed humans in a smelter. And smelt they did
    I felt that a charitable view of Bush was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made… even when he was dead wrong, I always felt like he was trying to do the right thng

    steveg (43b7a5)

  28. Oh.
    And as we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions and no good deed goes unpunished

    steveg (43b7a5)

  29. Dana, thank you for your comments. 🙂

    As a non-Christian, the kind of Christianity you are describing here is the kind of Christianity I like and admire, and which I wish more self-proclaimed Christians would aspire to. 🙂

    For me, the issue is that I believe the construction and maintenance of a community depends on having a charitable spirit, and I do not like that I have lost my ability to do so, at least as regards certain groups of individuals. I hope it will return in time, and yet I also admit that i am *furious* and that my ability to extend charity is likely not going to return until my fury has subsided.

    And I do not know when that will be. Right now I cannot imagine it being,

    aphrael (4c4719)

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