Circular firing squads

Elliot Milco at The Paraphasic has a very thoughtful post called “Freaking Out about the Church.” His argument begins,

But I’d like to suggest that accusations of people “flipping out” or “coming unhinged” are sometimes used not as diagnoses of real defects in authors or their works, but as ways of marginalizing certain ideas.  What are the standards for deciding that someone is “unhinged”?  How do we know that someone’s writing is “nuts”?  When is shrill polemic justified?

(Emphasis supplied.) He goes on to argue:

In a community which is on the margins by default, in which members are constantly confronting the mainstream, trying to explain themselves to it, and trying to reduce their separation from it, there is a silent question: Am I an extremist? Am I crazy? Have I gone beyond the pale?  Different people deal with these questions in their own way, depending on their temperaments and intellectual habits.  Some are truly indifferent to the matter.  A few bask in their marginality, always trying to flaunt the expectations of the mainstream.  But most set up little barriers in their mind.  They pick out someone a bit further out than them and say, “Oh no, I am not extreme, that group is extreme.  I am not irrational, that person is irrational.”  In this way the marginalized person often has more hostility for the slightly-more-marginal group, than for the mainstream which is much more distant from his own stance.

(Emphasis supplied.) You should read the rest at The Paraphasic. The conclusions are startling, and need to be taken seriously.

For our part, we think that, were times different, it would be perfectly acceptable to engage in intense debates, which occasionally involve flamboyant rhetoric. So-and-so’s gone off the deep end. So-and-so’s a crypto-Modernist. And so forth. Under these circumstances, however, it may be more reasonable—it may be more appropriate—to circle the wagons. Tradition is already as marginalized as it has been in a long time. Tradition-minded Catholics marginalizing other tradition-minded Catholics seems extraordinarily counterproductive.