Andrew Sullivan very much likes to criticize moralizers when it comes to various social issues (indeed, he’s quite the moralizer about moralizers). But on torture he’s been a consistent moralizer of a very high order (as I think even those who agree with him will attest). I don’t mind moralizing, since everybody does it. But I do get annoyed when people who denounce moralizing don’t see it when they’re doing it too.
Here’s a small example. At the end of a post excerpting a conversation between some terrorists:
“This is about as brilliant an exposition of what evil can come from people who believe they are sanctioned by God and a ’cause’ that renders any means permissible. That evil is not restricted to Muslims. It is a universal human temptation. And, in the torture debate, it has infected us as well.”
Andrew really isn’t talking about himself here, is he? No, he’s talking about the people who disagree with him. He hasn’t given in to evil. Now, of course, his definition of a torture as an existential evil requires him to believe that those tempted by it are giving into evil. But perhaps that should illuminate why his definition is so problematic. Surely not every person who dissents on these issues is doing so for evil purposes or because of the seduction of evil. Can’t they simply be wrong?
Secondly, if we take the words at face value, the implication is that Andrew thinks those on the other side of this argument take their position because they think God is on their side. That’s obviously not the case in lots and lots of instances (like, say, mine). Once again we get the false parallelism between alleged theocons and Islamists.