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August 9th, 2020

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Deniable Dishonesty: Elites deride traditional views of marriage, while adhering to them in their own lives

Theodore Dalrymple

By Theodore Dalrymple City Journal

Published Oct. 16, 2019

  Deniable Dishonesty: Elites deride traditional views of marriage, while adhering to them in their own lives
 

 
  Joshua Roberts for Bloomberg

A paradigm shift is a sudden change in fundamental assumptions about, or way of looking at, the world. Senator Elizabeth Warren illustrated one of the most startling ones of recent years with the answer that she gave to a question put to her recently on television.

"How would you react," she was asked, "to a supporter who said to you, 'I'm old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.'" Warren replied, "Well, I'm going to assume it's a guy who said that. And I'm going to say, then just marry one woman. I'm cool with that. Assuming you can find one."

The audience, reportedly, laughed. The Guardian newspaper said that she had won plaudits for this sally, but it surely must have been something other than the sheer wit of her distinctly sub-Wildean reply that caused the audience to laugh.

For many centuries it was assumed that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we have changed all that, as Sganarelle, pretending to be a doctor, said when he was told that the heart is on the left and the liver on the right. And we have changed it all in an historical twinkling of an eye.

Senator Warren's semi-facetious reply was a masterpiece of deniable dishonesty. In that sense it was worthy of admiration for its subtle employment of the old rhetorical tricks of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi. What did her assumption that it was a man who asked the question mean to imply? Surely that men are the principal beneficiaries of marriage and that women its victims — under the assumption that human relations are a zero-sum game. In one circumstance, the senator's implication was correct: that of forced marriage as practiced, say, by the people of Pakistani descent in Britain, which allows men their freedom to play around while the wife stays at home as a drudge, whether domestic or sexual or both. But it is unlikely that the senator had this situation in mind, since it would have contradicted her multicultural sensibilities, and her audience's politically correct sensitivities, to have said so.

In fact, ample evidence exists that marriage is protective of women rather than harmful to them, to say nothing of their children. If I were a Marxist, I would say that Warren's attitude was a means by which she strove to protect the interests and power of the upper-middle classes against those of the lower classes, for the higher up the social scale you go, the stronger the institution of marriage becomes, for all its hypocrisies and betrayals. The upper-middle classes pretending to despise marriage are no more sincere than was Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess, though they do more harm by their pretense than Marie Antoinette ever did, for no one was ever encouraged to become a shepherdess by her playacting. It is otherwise with the upper-middle class's playacting.

But perhaps the most destructive (and surely insincere) aspect of Warren's answer was the implication that it now requires tolerance to countenance marriage, the assumption being that marriage is abnormal and therefore to be reprehended — the need for tolerance implying reprehension, for there is no need to tolerate what we already approve of.

As for the senator's implication that men with traditional views will have difficulty in finding a woman to marry — or even have trouble getting a second date, after they express their deplorable opinions on the first one — my experience of treating unmarried mothers is that they hope that their daughters will not follow their own path in life, but rather find a responsible, stable man as the father of their children. The problem is that such men seem in short supply in their social sphere.

The audience's laughter implied that at least a part of the population is willing, perhaps eager, to be complicit in Warren's dishonesty. If criticized, she could always claim that she was only joking, but behind her joke she was deadly serious. Or should I say deadly frivolous?

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Theodore Dalrymple is a contributing editor of City Journal, where this first appeared, is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of many books, including Not with a Bang but a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline.

Previously:
10/07/19: European Gloom
08/06/19: Again, and Again: On mass shootings and the role of imitation
05/06/19: Every Pronoun Must Go: To root out gender inequity, we must search every corner
04/15/19: Just Deserts: To deny that some cases have more merit than others is to dehumanize life
03/18/19: Theresa May's Lucky Defeat
03/11/19: Where 'positive discrimination' keeps a qualified candidate off the police force
12/31/18: Because I Say So
12/17/18: Enforceable Subjectivity
12/06/18: Boiling Over in Paris
11/13/18: Psychiatrist, Heal Thyself
10/31/18: Rationalizing Ugliness: How the modern intellectual screens reality
08/18/18: Spelling That's Right for Moi
08/07/18: Any pol who lives by cleanliness dies by dirt
02/26/18: 'Steal what you like, but do not flaunt it'?
01/29/18: Human Condition Commission
12/21/17: O, Brave Old World!
11/30/17: Mugabism Without Mugabe
11/27/17: Trash Studies
10/24/17: The Devil's in the Diction: The vague terms that populate our political discourse encourage lazy and often deeply biased thinking
10/17/17: What Happened to Memoirs? An acerbic Gallic take on Hillary Clinton's book
10/09/17: The Unanswerable
09/26/17: Of Dotards and Dithyrambs: On learning English from the North Koreans
09/12/17: Freedom and Art: What paintings from Lenin's Russia and Depression America tell us about turbulent times
07/05/17: Rights: Health even for the dying? Or immortality, perhaps?
12/28/16: Like a Candle In Berlin: On the curious habits of the spiritual-but-not-religious

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