Damon Linker has a characteristically sharp piece about New York magazine’s 6000+ interview with an anonymous zoophile — in this case, a man whose fetish involves sex with a horse. Linker connects to my initial blog post about this thing, and shares my revulsion at what the magazine has done, and what it means:
[T]his is a very big deal, in cultural and moral terms. No, not the fact of bestiality, which (like incest) has always been with us, but the fact of an acclaimed, mainstream publication treating it as a matter of complete moral indifference.
As I said in my post, it’s not that this interview is going to make people heretofore disinclined to copulate with animals change their minds. It’s that a piece like this is a canary-in-the-coalmine cultural moment. Linker:
Why, then, is the New York interview a big deal? Because it’s perhaps the most vivid sign yet that, in effect, the United States (and indeed the entire Western world) is running an experiment — one with very few, if any, antecedents in human history. The experiment will test what happens when a culture systematically purges all publicly affirmed notions of human flourishing, virtue and vice, elevation and degradation.
But Linker says there are two problems with my analysis (and with the trad reaction in general). First, he says that we trads are wrong to blame relativism for this, saying that it’s more accurate to put the fault down to “an absolute ethic of niceness,” by which he means an increasing refusal to condemn, because that would be mean. I see what he’s saying here: it’s not that people affirm bestiality, but that they refuse to condemn it because hey, if that’s someone’s choice, who am I to judge?
(Of course we know from extensive sociological research that the Millennial generation, at least, can be quite judgmental on a number of topics. But the ones they suspend judgment on are matters of religion, and matters of sexuality. In those cases, niceness reigns.)