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Reblogged:Man Conned With Help of Own Ideas

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I am way late to this party by Internet standards, but I finally ran across the bizarre story that went viral a couple of months back concerning allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of a Harvard law professor. As a byline in Reason summed it up, a woman and her transexual partner "used sex, activism, and Title IX to scam" him "out of his house, job, and money."

Conservatives have rightly noted, some with a heavy helping of schadenfreude, the role of Bruce Hay's ideological orientation in this bizarre tale: It played a big role in making him a near-perfect mark for these grifters. And its implementation as Title IX is continuing his misery via a complaint lodged against him by his erstwhile trans-activist co-author.

But it seems like just about everyone is not quite getting that part of the story. Ross Douthat of the New York Times gets the closest to seeing the role of ideas in the story when he notices that people of different political orientations react to it differently:

DNA Profiling for Paternity Test (Image by Helixitta, via Wikipedia, license.)
The leftward-leaners were more likely to focus on Hay as a uniquely gullible or lust-addled individual, and to draw strictly personal lessons from his disastrous arc. (For instance, to quote the Atlantic's Adam Serwer, that "men need meaningful and supportive friendships with people they are not married to, especially into middle age.")

The rightward-leaners, on the other hand, read the story politically, as a vivid allegory for the relationship between the old liberalism and the new -- between a well-meaning liberal establishment that's desperate to act enlightened and a woke progressivism that ruthlessly exploits the establishment's ideological subservience. ("Not only did [Hay] trust Shuman," Bolonik writes, but "he felt it would have been insulting for a heterosexual cisgender man to question a professed lesbian as to whether she'd had sex with other men.")


By this I mean the heart of polarization is often not a disagreement about the facts of a particular narrative, but about whether that story is somehow representative -- or whether it's just one tale among many in our teeming society, and doesn't stand for anything larger than itself.
It may be true, especially in the early stages of this sordid tale, that Hay was lust-driven, but the fact that others fell for the same ruse (See link at "grifters" above.) tells me that Hay probably isn't especially lust-driven. But is he uniquely gullible? That's a good question. And I similarly question the notion that the duo are, respectively, a typical lesbian and a typical transexual, if there even is such a thing. They're nihilistic criminals.

But ideas do play a role: How on earth would it be insulting to seek a paternity test when a woman one barely knows is claiming to carry your child? Re-read the second parenthetical quote above, and watch altruism -- in the guise of unearned guilt brought on by identity politics -- act as a mental kill-switch. Forget about Title IX and the fact that this man turned out to be dealing with criminals: Isn't the possibility of a pregnancy a big-enough deal to find out what the hell is really going on? And yet here he is, disarmed by the very ideas he is helping propagate through the culture.

The right has a couple of reasons, one bad and one good, to be invested in seeing Maria-Pia Shuman and Mischa Haider as "typical." First, many have mystically-based views of sexual relationships and feel threatened by growing social acceptance of the nontraditional in that realm. Second, identity politics is wrong in many ways, and deserves cultural and political opposition. (It is wrong to confound the two: This story is in no way a vindication of "social conservatism.") Likewise, the left, has a couple of bad reasons to quickly dismiss this story as a one-off. First, there are those who genuinely believe that identity politics (vice individualism) is the path to social and political acceptance. Second, there are the cynical, who wish, say, to oppress heterosexual men or simply want power, and see identity politics as the way to get it. The first see identity politics as above question and the second don't want others questioning it. Both want to see (or have others see) Hay as particularly lusty and gullible, rather than blinded by ideals disconnected from reality or a desire to be seen as morally superior by others.

Whatever the case might be for Hays, ideas played a crucial role in his falling for this long con: He disregarded reality in favor either of those ideas or for the sake of appearing to support them.

-- CAV

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