Andrew Sullivan’s Tired Contrarianism

When you fight to make your renegade views mainstream, the act eventually loses its edge.

A. Khaled

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Courtesy of Flickr by Geoff Livingston. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Everything on the internet rules by decree of capturing attention, and as it so happens, pursuing it nefariously can be most-lucrative. This is the playbook Andrew Sullivan has typically run–since his earliest days of writing on the internet, he’s amassed an audience for whom critical inquiry plays second fiddle to the allure of contrarianism. He’s like Glenn Greenwald in that way, but perhaps more intentional and less naive about the role he’s been playing in the blogosphere for the longest.

Some might find Sullivan’s embrace of conservative ideas puzzling in light of his non-adherence to heterosexuality, but to him, conservatism and queerness aren’t so hard to reconcile when you consider the furthest term goals at play. For Sullivan, uplifting those who’ve been traditionally alienated from the project of conservatism can be most-crucial to its success–he argued as much all the way back in 1989. He correctly calls out the overly-simplistic framework of identiarian struggle that the liberal left tend to typically indulge, but his counter-thesis barely holds water when the extent of the modern right’s assault on gay and trans rights is fully considered.

The phantom dormant influence — one of a massive LGBT conservative cohort — Sullivan often proclaims to be a vanguard of is illusive at best, and yet it’s one that he built his entire professional career on top of. Nonetheless, he managed quite early on to establish enough legitimacy so he may enter the realm of the media in a more official capacity, but as Substack’s subscription model offered a more lucrative alternative, many — including Sullivan — have just relapsed to old models, carrying along them old habits in the process.

What habits, one might wonder? Without the counsel of a competent editor, bloggers have a tendency to pursue a most primal form of audience satisfaction–the desire to read Sullivan’s columns is at this point self-perpetuating. He writes his readers whatever they want to see, then that feeds into them asking for more of it, and the cycle repeats–it’s a stroke of marketing genius for sure, but it chips away at a fundamental tenet of early blogging, which was to…

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A. Khaled

Internet culture scribe with an interest in the digital economy, content creators, media and politics.