In a recent Candid Report, “How to Fend Off Freeloaders,” I warned against the tribalism that looks the other way while fellow tribesmen flout the principles that define us. I took to task a blogger by the name of Artur Rosman, an unemployed PhD whose anti-American, big-government politics go against conservative principles. I critiqued a blog post of his, “The Church Needs to Replace the Family,” by pointing out the conflict of interest inherent in his fervent advocacy for the welfare programs that butter his bread and enable his lifestyle as a stay-at-home dad and Catholic blogger who lives “on the dole” as he awaits an academic post to match his PhD in “Comparative Literature.” I also criticized his dream of reinstating the Roman Catholic Inquisition to punish his fellow Americans as “heretics.” Rosman was a perfect demonstration of my thesis; if I were to sacrifice my integrity as a conservative Catholic, I might overlook his objectionable politics in favor of his Catholic identity. But by doing so I'd be granting a kind of ideological freeloader all the benefits of membership with none of the duties. If conservatives are so loose with their principles, “anyone can become a tribal freeloader,” I wrote, “who contributes nothing to his comrades and lives on the dole of his fellow tribesmen’s collective sense of loyalty.”
Some accused me of mounting an ad hominem attack against Artur Rosman. Allow me to brush that charge aside before going on: Dr. Rosman used himself as an integral factor in his own arguments. Aristotle would say that Rosman's arguments are heavy on “ethos”—self-presentation to establish one's credibility—and “pathos”—appeals to an audience's emotions. For example, to convince us that “The Church Needs to Replace the Family,” Rosman presents himself as a man whose personal poverty puts him in a good position to understand the needs of the poor (ethos). He then uses pathos to evoke the emotion of pity in his audience, so that they will a) agree that Catholic Parishes should “throw a lot of money” at family problems like his own, and b) donate money directly to him. (He even supplies a link to his Paypal “donate button” for our convenience.)
Rosman has every right to his opinion that American free enterprise is, as he puts it, a “disease.” He also has every right to submit himself as evidence in his case for coercive wealth-redistribution. And I have every right to disagree, and to refute him--ethos, pathos and all. In other words, Rosman put himself (his lifestyle, his appeals for money) in the center of his argument, and to refute that argument, I aimed for the bull's eye.
Apparently I hit the mark. Consider the following email I received from The Daily Caller opinion editor J. Arthur Bloom, with whom I have never interacted before. I present the entire email, unadulterated (other than striking email addresses, phone numbers, and the name of my employer, all of which are irrelevant, and emboldening lines that struck me as significant):
From: Jordan Bloom
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2014 11:49 AM
To: Stephen Herreid
Subject: What is the matter with you?
This is a disgusting piece of writing and you should apologize to Rosman. Is this the "holy manliness" you've been cultivating? Are you so worried about these "illiberal Catholics" under the bed that you're going to go after an unemployed academic with unfounded character assassination?
I'm not sure why you've seized on this anti-porcher/tradcon jihad of yours, perhaps you can explain it to me. I hope it has not been encouraged by your superiors at [my place of employment]. Perhaps you've just sensed that it's a good career move, calling people to battle for the conservative movement, fretting that its precious natural fluids are being "inseminated" by the left and calling a Polish immigrant an "infiltrator." Don't take this the wrong way, but... you sound like a Puritan, or some other species of Calvinist Yankee.
For those of us who have invested considerable energy in trying to find a new politics outside of our red-blue veal pens, this kind of thing is dangerous, and threatens to wreck the project, which is why I must insist that you apologize, or you will be hearing from the blog.
A few more minor points:
I'm all for McCarthyism, but Joe McCarthy took on the sovereign power of the United States, the civil service. Criticizing some academic in Seattle doesn't quite take the same balls, now does it?
Your dig re: the virtue of selfishness is ironic given the Randroid title of your post.
Rosman's blog is much better than yours, you ought to remember that. He's between jobs because there aren't that many for experts on Polish literature. You once admitted you didn't get a job because you're a misanthrope. Which one's better?
I encourage you to think very hard about whether the thing you think your defending is worth defending. Liberalism is a truce that the left has abrogated. Pretending it is still in effect is tantamount to suicide.
J. Arthur Bloom
Opinion editor, Daily Caller
Editor, The Mitrailleuse
First of all I encourage you to read the articles of mine that Bloom links to in his email—I stand by every word I've written, and I will not back down on my record of unflinching conservatism. Second, I must congratulate Dr. Rosman on having such a devoted fan—especially one so well-positioned within the conservative movement. On the other hand, I wonder what J. Arthur Bloom is doing in the conservative movement while “investing considerable energy in trying to find a new politics outside our red-blue veal pens,” a “project” that is somehow “threatened” by my “calling people to battle for the conservative movement,” and by my criticisms of an anti-American advocate of the welfare state. I also think that Tucker Carlson, founder and Editor In Chief of The Daily Caller, would be just as surprised as I am to find that his opinion editor seems to be using the publication's hard-earned clout to silence conservatives for criticizing “new politics” like Rosman's.
J. Arthur Bloom is fully familiar with my politics. He took the time to research me extensively and link to past articles of mine in his email. I feel confident he is also quite familiar with Dr. Rosman's politics, which are ubiquitous in Rosman's online writing. Bloom has been a fan of Rosman's blog since at least two years ago, when he helped to popularize it in the pages of The American Conservative. And in his email to me, Bloom certainly seems to have taken a side. Before readers do the same, I'd like to bring them up to speed on both my own politics and Dr. Rosman's:
For my part, I'm only a mainstream, constitution-loving conservative of the Bill Buckley variety. If Bloom's "project" involved defending our liberties with an intelligence and fervor that some Republicans would disapprove of, as was the aim of Buckley's famous Conservative Party Mayoral campaign in New York, I wouldn't hesitate to join him. But I am not interested in any "new politics" that involves silencing criticisms of big government out of a misguided belief that Liberalism "is a truce the Left has abrogated," and "pretending it is still in effect is tantamount to suicide." And I will not take part in any effort to adjust the truths we hold to be self evident to make them more palatable to those who reject America's founding principles.
As for Dr. Rosman's politics, let facts be submitted to a candid world:
Most of the above views could have been lifted from a Democrat's playbook, and were overwhelmingly rejected in the last election. The rest were rejected by the Catholic Church with the Second Vatican Council's teachings on Religious Liberty. The quotations from Rosman in the final two bullet points (about "comprehensive ... wealth redistribution" and the lack of a "central authority like the Inquisition to impose its will" on Protestants) are copied and pasted from the article for which J. Arthur Bloom demands that I apologize.
As a Catholic and a member of the conservative movement, I emphatically reject Rosman's politics. I see no reason to apologize for that, and I will not back down. During the 2012 election season, I agreed with Tucker Carlson when he insisted Romney shouldn't back down after “describing half the American population as freeloaders” in his famous “47 percent” comment. Carlson understood that the conservative case against the welfare state isn't simply about the upper fifty percent feeling robbed. “The scariest effect of a tax code that passes over the bottom half of the population is what happens to that 50 percent,” he wrote at the time. “People tend to cherish and take care of the things they pay for and therefore own, countries included.” As I have written consistently for years, the poor don't simply need more material goods than the welfare state already feeds them. Rather, they need the moral character they're deprived of by a welfare state and culture that gives them what they could otherwise proudly earn for themselves.
Judging from J. Arthur Bloom's fervent defense of Rosman, I wonder whether he would agree. After all, it was precisely because I expressed a similar opinion to Carlson's that Bloom called me a “Randroid” “Calvinist Yankee.” What provoked these accusations was my rejection of a Catholic blogger who calls people to a “class war” against the “rich” for making America into a living “hell” for the poor by failing to redistribute the nation's wealth. Perhaps Bloom would agree with another defender of Rosman's, Patheos.com blogger Sam Rocha, who responded to my piece with a post entitled “Hatred of the Poor: Sad, Self-Loathing Poison from the Catholic Right Wing Ghetto.”
But there's an all-important difference between Rocha's response and Bloom's:
Sam Rocha squarely criticized me on positions that I've always proudly held, and did so publicly at an unmistakably left-leaning blog. I don't mind that Rocha criticized “how much affection Herreid has for the nation-state, the USA,” or that he dismisses me as someone who just doesn't "get" Rosman because "Rosman is an intellectual ... and Herreid and his ilk are not." In doing so he merely continues to show his colors for all to see, playing the familiar role of a condescending, left-leaning academic. Rocha, after all, has been a consistent critic of the country that I love. While Carlson was defending American liberties at The Daily Caller during the 2012 election, Rocha wrote a piece at Patheos.com where he called America an “Imperial pimp,” and an “Imperial two-headed monster,” while sympathizing with the view that "Democrats abolish material poverty and bring an end to all American wars. And more.”
J. Arthur Bloom, on the other hand, criticized me in an email sent to my place of work, made allusions to my employers that I found menacing, and seemed to me to be trying to use a reputable, patriotic, pro-free-market publication to intimidate me into apologizing for my defense of the American way. I cannot respect that, even if Bloom does claim to represent a publication that I very much admire. No, I stand by what I wrote in the Candid Report that provoked him:
OTHER CANDID REPORTS:
FROM THE CANDID BLOG: