Brandon McGinley is the field director of the Western region for the Pennsylvania Family Institute. On Witherspoon Institute’s pseudo-intellectual blog he writes The Problem of Neutral Rhetoric. It is a painfully verbose piece wrought to conceal limited wit and wisdom.
I am going to start with Mr. McGinley’s what-the-fuck conclusion:
To revitalize American politics, we must banish the conceit of moral
agnosticism that allows rhetoricians and entire movements to disguise
their deep ideological commitments and avoid robust moral discourse. And
the first step to accomplishing this banishment is to challenge the
vocabulary that is the linguistic foundation of liberal neutrality.
Sounds like he has a problem with progressive semantics. I’ll get to his rather pedestrian polemic in more detail but semantics? This from the folks who call their effort to ban same-sex marriage “defending marriage.” Anti-discrimination laws are referred to as “homosexual special rights.”
McGinley offers various examples of the types of rhetoric that he has a problem with. I’ll cover a couple. One of these is McGinley’s take on The Appeal to Tolerance.
Another attempt to strip political discourse of explicit moral
content is the appeal to tolerance. This is functionally similar to the
appeal to freedom, but instead of forswearing moral judgment oneself,
one demands one’s interlocutor do so.
Well, no. That is incorrect. Tolerance – a willingness to tolerate – only applies to the side whose actions might be harmful. McGinley goes on to scold Jonathan Capehart for saying the tolerance is a one-way street. Capehart is correct. Christian heterosexuals (who constitute the overwhelming majority of Americans) do not require the tolerance of gays, Jews and Muslims. However, because they constitute the vast majority and because they decide who wins elections and because they determine the agenda, gays, Jews and Muslims require tolerance from them. That appeal is both genuine and warranted.
McGinley’s next target is the Appeal to Science:
The most widely popular way to avoid moral discourse may be the
appeal to science, whether natural or social … if only
everyone understood all the facts, then consensus (or at least
something near consensus) on public policy could be reached without
appeal to pesky and divisive value judgments. But, of course, the
presentation of those facts always smuggles in value judgments.
Moreover, the idea that political disagreement is based in factual
ignorance rather than distinct moral principles is itself a contested
Wrong again. Real science is agnostic. It is double-blind peer reviewed and then published in a respected scholarly journal. Articles can take many months to complete during the referee process. It is the overwhelming consensus of science that sexual orientation is innate, immutable and a natural variant of nature. People like Mr. McGinley and the Catholic Church refuse to accept the science.
The Church does however, accept – as fact – without question or hesitation, the notion that homosexuals are “objectively disordered.” The Church accepts this because then Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict) said it is so. Aside from the fact that Ratzinger was not challenged by his peers he does not possess the scholarly credentials to make such a judgment. Ratzinger has a doctorate in theology.
Little wonder why McGinley would try to dismiss the science as a logical and rational argument. McGinley doesn’t give notice to the appeal to religious freedom. There is this gem from his employer (just a short snippet):
Our marriage law has been overturned, now this ‘sexual orientation’ bill threatens our religious freedoms.
Since last month, when a single federal judge overturned Pennsylvania’s marriage law declaring it unconstitutional, there has been a renewed push to make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” specially protected classes in Pennsylvania.
HB/SB 300 would put at risk, landlords, schools, ministries, religious social service organizations, and even employers and small-business owners.
Oh the poor dears. A landlord might actually have to rent an apartment to a gay couple in spite of his “deeply held religious beliefs.” The horror of it all.
In 2012, Pennsylvania Family Institute took in about $1.2 million and lost about $71 thousand. According to the tax return, McGinley is not an officer nor key employee nor high earner. The guy is a 2010 graduate of Princeton and a former intern at Witherspoon, perhaps a friend-of-Robby. He has been with PA Family for almost three years. Witherspoon has a way of turning fine minds to mush. Defenders of the faith are not exactly critical thinkers.