Robert George – moral fascist

2 08 2008

In an article in the May 27, 2003 issue of The National Review, Princeton Professor and notorious Bush-favorite, neo-con theorist Robert George wrote: “In Lawrence v. Texas, proponents of judicial activism in the cause of liberal ideological goals are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to do something the justices have never done before: Throw the mantle of constitutional protection around a type of non-marital sex act. The Supreme Court has never recognized a right to fornication, adultery, or any other form of sexual misconduct. …Nothing … forbids states from banning outright adultery, fornication, or other immoral sex acts.”


For purposes of this discussion, we may say there are two kinds of people in this world; those who want to control their own lives and those who want to control other people’s. It really does come down to that once all the mountainous encrustation of dogma and philosophy has been stripped away. Persons in the latter category can be categorized generally as fascists. That isn’t a pretty word and it is often flung about too loosely as a sort of generic insult. By its use here, we mean persons who believe the individual can not be permitted to make ultimate decisions about his or her own life and must have a moral code prescribed by an elite – a code enforced by the state. Do not confuse this with communism, which includes theories of economic and historical interpretation not addressed by fascism. Fascism in its most basic form is the subordination of the individual to the will of the elite. That definition might also apply to absolute monarchy, aristocracy and “Venetian Oligarchy” as well, but fascism differs in that it carries no historical validation. It does not represent the sum of ancient traditions expressing the character and values of the nation, nor is it modified by concepts such as noblesse oblige. It is a system imposed by political opportunists for the benefit of themselves and their supporters. It is typically fleshed out by a philosophy that structures the individual’s life in as meticulous a manner as possible, justified by the supposedly superior wisdom of the leaders. Normally, it means dictatorship and is the very antithesis of the American political/social ideal. 


Of course, no political philosophy is applied in intellectually pure form to practical situations. As an example, surely the most libertarian among us, on coming upon a citizen who was engaged in seriously injuring himself with a knife, would endorse police restraint thereof, pending psychological evaluation. It might turn out that this person was a devotee of some esoteric religion, to which his devotion is measured by the degree of self inflicted pain he endures. His right to practice such a faith might then be a subject of court determination. Or, he might just be insane and need to be hospitalized. A responsible and caring society will take the time and effort required to examine the case and make the best determination our professionals can offer. We cannot characterize such interference in a private life as fascism. What can we so characterize then? AH! That’s where the arguments begin.


Let’s go to the other extreme. Were the government to dictate what occupation we must follow, where we must reside and what our religious beliefs must be, surely we can all agree it would be fascistic. Were it to decide our personal code of morality for us, we would be outraged – yet here again it is not so simple. Our personal code is, in fact in large part dictated to us by the authorities acting on the basis of what is perceived to be the popular consensus. We are not permitted to steal, to lie under oath, to abuse the helpless, and so on. These are matters of morality. They are also matters of legitimate concern to the orderly functioning of society. Where then is the line that Authority may not cross? There is no fixed and permanent line. The Line has been in continuous debate and reinterpretation since the dawn of time and will continue thus until the end of the world. To a large extent, it is determined at any given time by what upsets people the most. If a birdbath is stolen from my front lawn tonight, I would probably expend much more anger and emotion about it than I do about the fact that EXXON is robbing this entire country blind at the rate of ten to twelve billion dollars per fiscal quarter. The police will investigate my missing birdbath, but Big Oil gets a free pass. Morality tends to be personal in its applications.


Homosexuality was, in living memory, a matter of automatic moral condemnation. We have engaged in a vast, generation-long program of re-education, protest and political activism resulting in a measurable and dramatic change. That condemnation is now neither automatic nor popular. The consensus for some time now has been that sexual expression between adults is a matter of private interest and not of societal or governmental regulation. The majority is no longer upset by it and the line has shifted. That this is a fact is borne out by every sort of statistic and survey one can imagine. It is quite simply, indisputable. This places Robert George in the position of being a fascist.


In the opening quote, Professor George presumes the immorality of homosexuality, prima fascia. In this article as well as other writings and public addresses, George advocates for a society which imposes the sexual morality HE thinks best – a conservative, Catholic/Christian view – one which surveys have repeatedly shown is no longer accepted even by the majority of Catholics. Rising to the professor’s defense, one might say “but fascism is a way of governing the entire, complex social order – not only in personal affairs but also regarding ‘making the trains run on time.’ George is only talking about marriage and sexual issues. Aren’t you painting him with too broad a brush?” I think not.


Moral authoritarianism must suppose a mechanism of enforcement. We know for the historical experience of the Queer Community that such enforcement reaches into and affects every aspect of community life including housing, employment and politics. George’s moral fascism would return us to the era when the government routinely debased itself by determinedly destroying the lives of citizens who did not follow the narrow code of sexual expression approved by those who had set themselves up as the arbiters of morality for all mankind – a handful of religious potentates and their political handmaidens.


Not content with philosophizing from his ivory tower and prescribing for the world based on his own limited experience of life, the unmarried Professor George has decided to take an active role in fighting the advent of same-sex marriage. Having myself seen the physically, shall we say ‘unprepossessing’ professor and heard him express his views in terms of breathtaking intellectual arrogance, I could assure him that he is in absolutely no danger of being seduced into a same-sex marriage himself, unless by a gay man who is blind, deaf and celibate. Still, I suppose we are all sometimes prone to irrational fears.


Acting together with a hack writer named Gallagher and a handful of other troglodytes,

George has formed something called The National Organization For Marriage. At first I presumed it must be a nation-wide search to find him a mate, since that is the sort of broad effort that would no doubt be required. But no. It is yet another nasty but well-funded little group of moral fascists, determined to impose their own views on the rest of the world. These people do become so tiresome and yet we cannot ignore the fact they have buckets of money to spend as well as influence on the level of White House entrée.

The Knights of Columbus, regardless of the fact that Catholic schools are collapsing all over New Jersey, decided George’s little band of mental brown shirts was a worthy recipient of a quarter million dollars of the Catholic Faithful’s money. Previously, some fabulously rich old loon in Connecticut gave them what was reported to be a half million. These people are not to be causally dismissed. The money is to finance an active PR campaign against the prospect of same-sex marriage here in New Jersey as well as other states.


All of this places Princeton University in the uncomfortable position of supporting an outspoken fascist who is engaged in actively attempting to impose his agenda on an unwilling citizenry. Were he a Holocaust denier or an advocate of theories of racial inequality, or eugenics or the inferiority of woman or any number of other bankrupt philosophies that have been consigned to the dustbin of history, the university would have George bounced out on his bony rear end in less time than it takes to say “academic freedom does not include the right to twist the truth or to impose your views on others.” George has taken his views out of the protected environment of academia and put them in the public market place in a clear effort to so impose. The university has a right and a duty to consider how this reflects on the institution and on the general principals it espouses. The Queer Community has a right to ask “why is this man permitted to assault our lives, when he would most certainly NOT be permitted to assault the lives of other groups as above noted.”


I don’t like Robert George and I would enjoy any opportunity to do him a disservice. However, I will absolutely defend his right to speak his mind to his heart’s content. That does not mean that he is entitled to the platform of one of the world’s greatest universities. His ideas would be more appropriate to a soapbox in the park.







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