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Friday, January 05, 2007

A recent article in the New Yorker discusses Christopher Hitchens, a British political pundit and literary critic once an advocate of the left, who now favors a brand of neoconservatism. The article discusses what caused the change, but doesn't nail down the answer specifically. The fact that he changed sides is interesting, but what is truly remarkable is the ferocity with which he changed. He hasn't moderated himself, or moved center; he is rabidly, viciously conservative. Part of that, to be sure, is his natural temperament. But Benjamin Franklin has a theory that may apply here as well. And not just to Hitchens, but for converts of all kinds.
. . . Franklin had reflected on why converts to a belief tended to be more zealous than those bred up in it. Converts, he noted in 1732, were either sincere or not sincere; that is, they changed positions either because they truly believed or because of interest. If the convert was sincere, he would necessarily consider how much ill will he would engender from those he abandoned and how much suspicion he would incite among those he was to go among. Given these considerations, he would never convert unless he were a true believer. (Gordon Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, 156.)
Seems reasonable. I'm thinking religious (the president), political (Joey Honey), and sexual (the mother of an acquaintance of mine who realized she was a lesbian in middle age, then pursued a string of sexual relationships with gusto). Thoughts?

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Blogger Ben said...

Or here's another angle: maybe they converted because they weren't really stable in the first place and kinda go balls-in for everything they do. I'm not saying that's what I did. Because I'm stable. Though I do go BALLS-IN on everything I do.

6:00 PM  

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