Robby George sounds the alarm. All conservatives — run for the fallout shelters! Or something like that, as he posts at Mirror of Justice, flagging two issues covered at Public Discourse, one of the media outlets he helps oversee. One refers to two of their articles on abortion and healthcare reform, which he says are “responding to an attack launched by the editors of Commonweal.” That “attack” would be the magazine’s editorials on health care reform, and discussions at dotComm posts like this one.
The content and tone of Commonweal’s editorials hardly strike me as an “attack,” and I realize I generally agree with their arguments. But the defensive language of injury and persecution seem to me to be a conservative tic, at least these days. We see repeatedly in threads on dotCommonweal that arguments and criticisms on an issue are answered quite often by conservatives in hurt and angry tones that not surprisingly translate into critiques of a poster or commenter’s character rather than a response to the facts or claims.
Archbishop Chaput, no liberal wallflower, has made an interesting observation about this in several places — the one I found being in this Pew Forum discussion in which he notes that the worst emails and hate mail he gets are from Catholic conservatives:
“Nobody can tone down this group. I don’t know who can tone down the left because they usually just – it’s really interesting, the left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. But the right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”
This dynamic seems to play out across the culture, from church to politics. Whence the conservative neuralgia? It always strikes me as an odd response for a group generally associated with toughness of mind and thickness of skin — not to mention charity of spirit.