Jonah Goldberg

Isn't the core of diversity mania the idea that there is some irreducible, ineluctable essence to being male or female, gay or straight, black or white? Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, believed that a "wise Latina" brings something to the law a white man might not.

And if childlessness is never relevant, politicians and pundits must immediately stop prefacing their opinions with "as a mother" or "as a grandparent," etc.

At least when it comes to the approved boogeymen, not only are their private views on race, religion, sex and morality fair game for scorn and ridicule, they're invitations to glibly snarky speculation about their relevance. If that's not the case, then someone better tell columnists like Maureen Dowd to hang up their spurs.

I remember when then-New Yorker writer Sidney Blumenthal tried to discredit virtually all of anti-communism on the grounds that Whittaker Chambers was bisexual. For several years, a cadre of historians and pundits has been on the great snipe hunt to prove that Abraham Lincoln was gay. Why bother if such things are both outrageous and irrelevant? Oh, and angry readers who think they can glean my whole worldview by the fact my last name is Goldberg, I think the game's up for you too.

A recent National Association of Scholars report about Bowdoin College found that until recently the school offered a class on "Queer Gardens." It examined "the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces." That's scholarship! But suggesting Keynes' "marginal identity" found expression in his writings is outrageous homophobia?

Other than breaking some politically incorrect taboos, it seems to me Ferguson's real mistake was confusing biographical relevance for policy relevance. Keynes' sexuality, morals and background are relevant to understanding the man. But they aren't necessarily relevant to his ideas.

Our culture is so obsessed with authenticity and hypocrisy; we think ideas are inextricably bound to the lifestyles of their authors. If it was revealed that Milton Friedman was -- fill in the blank -- a Baal worshiper, necrophiliac, whatever, it wouldn't change my respect for his economic ideas. Private motives are interesting, but public arguments are what's supposed to matter in a democracy. Ferguson crossed that line and apologized for it. If only some of his detractors would do likewise.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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