I’ve already written about Buzz Bissinger’s “changer” experience here.
But there’s an addendum, and it’s just as all of us would imagine: he’s been excoriated and shunned by those liberals he used to think were so—well, so liberal.
I don’t want to mock Bissinger’s naivete, because I once shared it. Until it happens to you, it’s not something a person of the liberal persuasion would tend to notice. I certainly didn’t. Neither did Bissinger. And the experience is quite an eye-opener, as Bissinger says:
I would say between the Daily Beast comments, Twitter comments, Facebook comments– roughly…4,000 comments– I ran about 6-1 against. And it wasn’t just, you know, “I disagree with you.” It was the f-word, it was “you’re a baby killer.”
It was even friends, [but] among friends it wasn’t as vitriolic. There was this sense of, “How dare you, you’re traitor. You’re a writer. You’re a journalist. How can you possibly come out in favor of this man?”
…You could feel the anguish, you could feel the sense of perhaps traitorship. I am a lifelong Democrat…
I thought liberals were supposed to be “open-minded.” I thought they were supposed to accept divergent viewpoints to at least say, “hey, everyone in America has a right to an opinion.” But it’s really about– “I love free speech as long as it’s the free speech that I want” … Liberals have this sense of themselves, but 90% are as nasty, as vitriolic, as vicious as the conservatives they say are…
There’s a sameness to these changer stories that is both tedious and fascinating at the same time. There’s a reason I gave the title “Leaving the circle: political apostasy” to the blog category related to this aspect of political change. It’s another cliche, but liberalism is much more like a religion than conservatism is, and “apostasy” is pretty much how liberals view the change process, even though liberals often mock conservatives for their supposed religious fundamentalism (which only some conservatives exhibit, anyway—but liberals are not interesting in learning the truth about conservative thought, they are interested in setting up conservative straw men and knocking them down over and over).
Circle dancing is magic. It speaks to us through the millennia from the depths of human memory. Madame Raphael had cut the picture out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. She too longed to dance in a ring. All her life she had looked for a group of people she could hold hands with and dance with in a ring. First she looked for them in the Methodist Church (her father was a religious fanatic), then in the Communist Party, then among the Trotskyites, then in the anti-abortion movement (A child has a right to life!), then in the pro-abortion movement (A woman has a right to her body!); she looked for them among the Marxists, the psychoanalysts, and the structuralists; she looked for them in Lenin, Zen Buddhism, Mao Tse-tung, yogis, the nouveau roman, Brechtian theater, the theater of panic; and finally she hoped she could at least become one with her students, which meant she always forced them to think and say exactly what she thought and said, and together they formed a single body and a single soul, a single ring and a single dance.
And I’ll add to that my observation from that same post:
We all want to dance in a ring, to a certain extent. It’s wonderful to be part of a coherent movement, a whole that makes sense, joined with others working for the same goal and sharing the same beliefs. But there’s a price to pay when something challenges the tenets of that movement. When that happens, there are two kinds of people: those who change their ideas to fit the new facts, even if it means leaving the fold, and those who distort and twist the facts and logic to maintain the circle dance.
Bissinger is finding out the price of stepping out of the circle, a price that’s probably been steeper than he expected.