Before we begin, a confession: In the last 12 or so years I have changed my mind about everything from the existence of God and the efficacy of the sacraments to the literary merit of Jack Kerouac and John Updike, what if any official status the English language should have in American law, immigration, Ron Paul's personal fitness to hold the office of president of the United States, the likelihood of Bill Cosby's innocence, the value of Keynesian economics, the possibility of same-sex marriage, the morality of fornication, and my favorite baseball team. Phew.
Mercifully I have held most of my former positions and indeed made the vast majority of my incredibly rude jokes far away from the internet, so no one will ever be able to shame me for my erstwhile championing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or, sigh, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. Among other things this means I'm probably going to continue to have a job and even friends.
What about Joy Reid? Listening to the MSNBC host dissemble on the subject of blog posts written when the average college freshman was 6 years old has been painful. Someone who apparently has absolutely nothing better to do with his time than catch up on the liberal blogosphere circa 2006 recently unearthed some items from The Reid Report in which she expressed what was then the consensus view of the Democratic Party on the subject of gay marriage — i.e., that it was a fringe position, the championing of which would play into the hands of Republicans just as public frustration with the Iraq war was reaching its zenith. The posts also include a number of crude jokes that will be totally inscrutable to anyone born after, say, 1990.
How crude? "Let's face it, that's one hellified lesbian hair-do," she wrote of, naturally, Harriet Miers. In one post she casually mentioned that she hadn't seen Brokeback Mountain, that it made her "too queasy" because "cowboys are supposed to shoot people and rope cows." Elsewhere she referred to Rosie O'Donnell as a "chubbed-out shrew" and praised the host of a television program called The Apprentice for his "kick-ass funny" insults. She called the disgraced Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned after it emerged that he had sent erotic instant messages to a congressional page, the "the known House freakazoid" and "a pathetic old queer," which seems rather kind if you take her as meaning "pathetic" in the old-fashioned sense of "inspiring and deserving pity." If nothing else, the efforts of these online sleuths have convinced me that Reid is a fairly talented writer.
For days now Reid has been insisting that she did not write any of these hundreds of other offensive lines. Her long-abandoned blog was apparently "hacked" at some point in the not-too-remote past by malicious hackers — you know, the kind who have time machines and can also go back and insert page data complete with excruciatingly exacting period references into a public archive of the entire internet without anybody noticing.
Is it rude to suggest that she is almost certainly lying?
If so, the question is why. Would it be such a bizarre thing for the co-editor of a best-selling collection of Barack Obama's speeches to tell opportunistic critics that, yes, in 2006 she agreed with the future president on the subject of same-sex marriage? Is suggesting that John McCain "sucked up to Bush so forcefully" that "it's a wonder that he and Dubya haven't eloped to Massachusetts" the worst thing anybody has ever said about the senior senator from Arizona? If gay sex jokes about avowedly straight male politicians are out of line, will somebody ring Dan Savage and ask him to apologize to Rick Santorum and maybe donate some of the royalties from Savage Love to the Latin Mass Society?
There is a sense, of course, in which her hand is being forced here. If Reid simply admitted that, yes, in the Year of Lord MMVI she thought it was okay to write a sentence like "I'm not a gay marriage proponent" and even to — gasp — make jokes that reflected what was then her sincerely held belief, no one would welcome her back to the progressive fold with open arms and say, "Gosh, Joy, that's okay, we've all changed our minds, and, ha, P.S., some of those jokes about Ann Coulter being a transvestite are still pretty funny!" Her career would be over, her friends would abandon her. So, yes, it makes more sense to lie.
I can't imagine why anybody would want to live this way. There is nothing more creepily fideistic than the higher liberalism of Goldman Sachs and Refinery29 and #ImWithHer, in which an ad-hoc consensus about morality is assembled on the spot from Supreme Court decisions, "studies," marketing clichés, and a bunch of gibberish from universities and insisted upon with grindingly mechanical absolutism until by some similarly anagogic process a newer iteration is produced. Who would want to wake up every morning wondering whether there is some new version of how you have to see the world waiting for you to adjust to? That's what your phone is for.
It's not just the ludicrous mutability of it all that strikes me as terrifying. It's the voluntary gaslighting you are signing yourself up for. Assuming that your view is the right one and that no other opinion is correct — that's what morality is, after all — is reasonable. It is another thing to insist that having somehow arrived at your current position, presumably via direct brain upload when you were 4 months old, it cannot be held by anyone who can be credibly shown not to have shared it at some hitherto undisclosed point.
Liberalism stands for nothing, means nothing, subsides in nothing except the intoxicating impulse to be right all the time about everything, even if you just changed your mind 10 minutes ago.