This is one of the strangest twitter arguments I’ve been in for a while, going off of John Zmirak’s latest column in the Stream criticizing Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. Zmirak’s claims are so bizarre and detached from reality that I had to suggest that perhaps there’s a certain careerist imperative behind his constant mendacity toward anyone who won’t get with the tea party Catholic program. I (probably deservedly) earned a block for that, but it really must be said.
Zmirak claims Gabriel Sanchez, of all people, is aligned with the left because he read about Bruenig on his blog:
Nevermind that Sanchez and I have both been rather strongly critical of the Christian socialism she’s peddling. These integralists — I’m not one, for the record, but I find them interesting — are accused of allying with the left:
This isn’t even remotely accurate; a cursory look at their blogging home over at The Josias should yield plenty of evidence of that. Other than dissenting from unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism integralists more or less defend the type of order embodied in the old European monarchies, which leftism arose to destroy.
But if cooperating with the left is an offense worthy of permanent enmity from our brave correspondent, isn’t he guilty of the same thing, as a “liberal”? To say nothing of the irony that he argues in the same way Bruenig does; by hyperbole, smears, and anathemas.
He keeps digging. I think it would be news to every single one of these people that they are “integralists”:
I pointed out that the “Benedict option” and integralism are basically opposites; the latter built on the Aristotelian notion of the body politic, the former a kind of severance from it. That’s not important to him:
Later he calls Deneen a “leftist opportunist wannabe Clinton Vatican ambassador.” Sanchez has responded here:
Zmirak and Hilton’s inability to get a joke is secondary to the more troubling reality that Catholic neoliberals/libertarians seem largely incapable of making fundamental distinctions between principled positions which they happen to have no sympathy for. This became clear to me last night on Twitter when, after alerting me to his article, Zmirak proceeded to conflate Catholic integralists with so-called radical Catholics such as Patrick Deneen, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Artur Rosman. (Rod Dreher, despite being Eastern Orthodox, was thrown into the mix as well.) Had Zmirak taken the time to actually read my Front Porch Republic article, he would have noticed that I set forth all of the distinctions for him. Hilton should have realized it, too, though I have no evidence that she actually read anything beyond Zmirak’s article. Although it is true that integralist and radical Catholics are deeply critical of liberalism, their reasons are sometimes, maybe oftentimes, significantly different.
This is the defender of liberalism here, telling people who they shouldn’t be reading! Twice, in one conversation, he’s denounced people for their reading habits. I can dig the great books as much as anyone, but this is crazy. Also like Bruenig, there is no good-faith attempt to understand his interlocutors first.
The other big thing they have in common is their vociferous defense of the secular state, and I think it’s at the heart of why these two writers are so vitriolic all the time. Zmirak’s deal, the one he’s built basically his whole career on, is that he’ll police his own camp in exchange for the chance to win in the arena of democratic competition. If, like Zmirak thinks, we can ‘win’; take the White House, cut the corporate tax rate, overturn Roe, and restore the American empire to greatness, then this growing movement of doubters is worse than unenthusiastic, they’re faithless recusants. Of course, it never works out the way he says it will, and the main ones who benefit from this arrangement are the ones making the deal. Unfortunately for him it’s looking less and less fair and less and less appealing. That probably means we can expect the nastiness to get worse. Power, or even the prospect of it, seems to do that to people.
Readers probably don’t need me to tell them that I think the original recusants had the right idea.
It seems appropriate to leave this bit of Maistre here:
… when man works to restore order he associates himself with the author of order; he is favored by nature, that is to say, by ensemble of secondary forces that are the agents of the Divinity. His action partakes of the divine; it becomes both gentle and imperious, forcing nothing yet not resisted by anything. His arrangements restore health. As he acts, he calms disquiet and the painful agitation that is the effect and symptom of disorder. In the same way, the hands of a skilful surgeon bring the cessation of pain that proves the dislocated joint has been put right.
Frenchmen, it was to the noise of hellish songs, the blasphemy of atheism, the cries of death, and the prolonged moans of slaughtered innocence, it was by the light of flames, on the debris of throne and altar, watered by the blood of the best of kings and an innumerable host of other victims, it was by the contempt of morality and the established faith, it was in the midst of every crime that your seducers and your tyrants founded what they call your liberty.
Guys like Zmirak are all Vendee, no King. And we know how that ends.
Update: Zmirak seems to have deleted all these tweets. Good thing they’re saved here!