I am usually a Big Fan of Andrew Sullivan.  His emotional instinct is almost always right on target.  He’s been living with HIV for two decades and, as a Gay Man, the center of his universe is clearly his sexual identity as evidenced in his daily blog posts.  Every once-in-awhile Andrew stumbles — and he fell hard last week by dismissing Mitt Romney’s youthful hazing of another student as a form of bullying — and his readers attacked and Andrew backed down, sort of, with a half-hearted and utterly bewildering defense of “Pranks” vs. “Bullying.”

Here is Andrew’s first recantation, followed by a strange example of what he believes makes for a proper school prank:

My readers, on reflection, are right. I apologize for minimizing the cruelty of this. Maybe it would help if I gave two examples of pranks from my high school days that qualify as pranks. We had a history teacher who had a simian-looking face: small beedy eyes a little too close together and a large round jaw. On his first day, whenever he turned his back to the boys, a chorus of monkey noises would come from the back-row. The next morning, he walked into the class to find a bunch of bananas on his desk. (He was white, by the way. This wasn’t racist.) This continued and continued and continued. It was brutal. It was cruel. But we were thirteen. And we thought it was funny.

I could not believe Andrew Sullivan wrote that awful example as a legitimate defense of his original Romney position.  Andrew thinks it’s okay to make fun of someone’s inborn features — ape-like or not! — and that isn’t a vicious form of bullying?

Let’s change his scenario a bit and say the ape-faced teacher was actually Gay, and instead of bananas, the class placed cock rings and Astroglide on his desk.  You know Andrew would be outraged by the behavior because the kids would be picking on something that was “born that way” and not chosen — and I ask Andrew Sullivan, “What’s the difference between being born Gay and being born with a ‘simian-looking face?'”  Why is it okay to cruelly make fun of one but not the other?

Andrew’s second example is even worse.  I groaned, and then screamed at his stupidity:

Then there was the teacher with a hearing aide. One morning, the usual suspects in my class organized it so that every student would mime talking and chattering as he walked in, while keeping deadly quiet. I couldn’t join in. I just sat there doing nothing. The teacher looked a little perplexed, took out his hearing aide and adjusted it upwards. The mimes became low murmurs. He turned it up some more. And then the signal was given: everybody scream! The teacher looked like he was having a heart attack, but mercifully recovered quickly and put us all in detention.

As a husband of a beautiful Deaf Wife, Andrew Sullivan dropped to the depths with this insensitive and inhuman example of a socially acceptable “prank.”  Andrew thinks it’s okay to make fun of a hearing-impaired teacher?  Let’s change the scenario again and make that teacher Gay and not hearing impaired, and instead of testing the teacher’s hearing behind his back, the students instead would start growing erections little-by-little in full view of the teacher.  Then, in unison, the students would unzip their pants to show their throbbing cocks were, actually, inflated, multicolored, Qualatex Balloons!  You know Andrew would be furious and would say the “prank” was actually cruel “bullying.”

Again, I ask Andrew Sullivan, “What’s the difference between making fun of someone’s hearing disability and their sexuality?  Why is one more precious to you than the other?  Why are the disabled a better target for your public classroom derision than homosexuals?”


    1. Thanks for that insightful comment. Andrew is a fine writer — though his “blog” is just “copy and quote” from other sources — and while I understand HIV has come to define him publicly and personally, it would be grand if he could expand his compelling empathy to other minorities and the other disadvantaged.

      1. If you’ve been following him for a while, you’ve also probably noticed he throws all logic and reason to the wind in matters religious. People who let their process of reasoning be corrupted in that manner can’t always be counted on for making good decisions.

        1. Yes, you’re right about his religious posts. He’s conflicted on so many levels — and that’s why I enjoy reading his public twisting from one position to the other and back again. It’s human and it’s fascinating and he usually ends up on the better side in the end. His prolonged and piercing surveillance of the Palin pregnancy was, for a long while, the only logical and rational voice in the media wilderness. Oh, if he’d only pressed that lie to its full and final revelation.

    1. I usually find myself agreeing with Andrew quite a lot when he actually writes something original — and but his “recantation” pricked with insulting examples was a stunner for me. I had to hold my response for a few days to make certain I’d read what I actually thought I’d read.

  1. Here’s the thing, most Liberals and almost certainly most modern minority groups (for any value of minority) won’t be bothered overmuch by Sullivan’s examples – teachers and serious pro-teacher sorts being the exception to this.

    In the Liberal mind, “bullying” of the majority, representatives of the majority, or authority figures is far less reprehensible than “bullying” those groups that the Liberals have decided deserve special protected status.

    On another note, it’s a stupid. Kids pick on each other and sometimes it’s bullying. That’s ugly but normal; it’s how pubescent people work out their positions in the overall hierarchy.

    It’s just going to get worse too since the schools don’t allow the students to settle it themselves anymore.

    1. Excellent insights, jonolan, thanks!

      I agree — when I was growing up, if you were bullied, you settled it on the playground after school let out. People watched and circled. There was a fight happening!

      1. Same as when I grew up. Funny thing was, a lot of times, even if the bully trounced the victim who stood up to him, the bullying ended. It was often as if the bully knew that the victim was no longer to be classified as prey because he had chosen to fight and winning or loosing that fight didn’t make any difference.

        1. I think that’s generally true, though there were also bullies around where I grew up who were more than happy to beat people over and over again just for the sport of it. You had to be careful in your challenges because they could lead to “whenever I see you, I get to beat you up” default.

          1. Yeah, we had one those types. One day he made the mistake of not noticing a bunch of his victims following him on the way home…

          2. It wasn’t so much bullying the bully as it was a very nasty one-off ambush by a pack of his previous victims that left him hospitalized and permanently damaged.

  2. Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Sullivan strikes again — all without getting it!

    I wonder how Rubin would respond to a similar analogy about, say, “the first Jewish president”, as Peter Beinart has described Obama? If that had been a Newsweek cover, would she have written a post on how great it is that her candidate – running against a Jew – could now exploit anti-Semitism for his political advantage? I mean: there is no policy dispute here. She is simply delighted that her candidate can get an advantage through homophobia.

    Or to put it more bluntly: If I had said the same thing, in a Jewish context, I’d be a bigot. What does that make Rubin?


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