Early Sunday morning, a deplorable man massacred 49 people in an Orlando gay club in what, it is universally accepted, was an “act of hate.” Perhaps that’s true. It’s also irrelevant.
At First Things, editor Rusty Reno explains why “terrorism is not hate”: The accusation of “hate,” Reno says, “directs our attention to strong emotions and abnormal mental states. It distracts us from the fact that our enemy has formulated a rational, political judgment — namely that humanity is better off if an Islamic form of government, rather than the United States, dominates the world.” Terrorism is a political act. From Ted Kaczynski to Timothy McVeigh to Mohamed Atta, an act of terror is the manifestation of a political judgment.
By the end of his column, Ford demands that Christians renounce their most deeply held beliefs about sexual morality.
There is much more to be found in this vein, and every bit of it relies — implicitly or explicitly — on the premise that conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, to various laws pertaining to transgenderism, and the like are examples of hate, and those who support those positions are purveyors of “hateful rhetoric.” This is, of course, begging the question. But it’s effective.
But if opposition to same-sex marriage, to transgender laws, and so forth are arguable positions, if those beliefs are rationally defensible, if they are amenable to debate by reasonable people, then opponents cannot be dismissed, and counterarguments are necessary. Needless to say, this is a far more precarious position for people such as Zack Ford: They may lose the debate. Better not to have to debate at all.
Arguments against same-sex marriage and many of the Left’s pet causes exist, though. The work of Robbie George and Ryan Anderson and many others — whether or not they are persuasive — cannot simply be dismissed. Yet doing so has been the preferred course, because it’s easier than engaging those arguments.
This should be disturbing to anyone dedicated to a functional political life. The reduction of political beliefs to emotional impulses makes living together impossible; all that’s left are permanent tribal clashes. When the possibility of consensus, which depends on persuasion, is abandoned, because one side decides that the other is beyond persuading, the only recourse is force. As it applies to the contemporary Left, that should sound more than a little familiar.
Simply put: The failure to consider the possibility that political opponents might be rational actors is making our national politics significantly nastier. And the failure to consider that terrorists might be, too, is making our nation less secure.
— Ian Tuttle is the Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at the National Review Institute.