Friday, May 15, 2015

Losers always whine about tone. Winners go home and...

I'll let you complete the sentence in the post heading. A guest post at the always excellent Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog describes a favorite trick of the progressives:
There is also the fact that individual traditionalists have to live up to a pretty ridiculous standard. They are not just ambassadors for themselves in all they do, but for the Latin Mass and all of Tradition as well. Any negative behavior can and will be attributed to the Latin Mass by popular bloggers, thinkers, and quite a few priests and bishops. When a random conservative Catholic blogger (both politically and religiously) is a jerk, nobody says that's because of the Novus Ordo. But with the Traditional Latin Mass it is another story. It is automatically assumed that the Latin Mass is the source of the divisive views, and that the Latin Mass contributes to a spiritually rotten subculture. That any one individual trad says "I don't do this!" doesn't make any difference. To say "such is life, deal with it", is true, but those outside the Latin Mass have the luxury of knowing that it will never be so with them. 
The bread and butter of the blogosphere is perusing the comments on someone else's blog or a mainstream website, seizing upon the most extreme examples one can find, and then writing an indignant entry crying, "See?! [X] is filled with hateful crazies!" I used to do it myself back in the prehistoric era of blogging, circa 2002-03. Eventually I wised up and realized, "Yeah, people say all kinds of things on the internet."
So given those realities, should anyone be surprised that when I hear "the biggest barriers to expanding the Latin Mass are bitter internet commenters" I roll my eyes and view them completely out of touch? Yes, everyone needs to be nicer to each other, more understanding, and promote true reconciliation. But do you think that message of reconciliation is going to be very effective in parishes where a lot of this crap takes place? There's a cold reality: every trad could be a saint and a paragon of tolerance and acceptance, and the situation today would change only at the margins, if at all. Once basic obligations are being done, then maybe the call for better tone can be taken with a shred of credibility. Right now, it has zero credibility.
A lot of good natured souls take criticism of their "tone" to heart. They twist themselves into pretzels trying to find the perfect balance of sweetness and light and joy, more flies with honey, etc. ad nauseum. One thing mainstream conservatives (also known as right-liberals) need to understand is their tone doesn't matter. Every election cycle they're always searching for the second coming of Ronald Reagan, the happy warrior who's always smiling and has a joke handy for any situation. I'd argue that Ronald Reagan was a man whose time had come. His time isn't our time.

When someone criticizes you for your "tone," what they almost always mean is, "I don't have any reasoned objections or logical rebuttals to what you're saying, but you're making me feel bad, so shut up." Frankly, I'm always astounded when I hear grown men complaining about somebody's tone. Sure, the speaker may be a jerk, but is he right? Believe it or not, 2+2 still equals 4 even when Adolf Hitler says so.

With the Latin Mass specifically, it's difficult to overstate how passionately many clergy loathe anything that smacks of pre-1970s Catholicism. It doesn't matter how sweet and nice and ready to volunteer we are. Some priests and bishops don't want the TLM to make a comeback and as long as they draw breath they will attempt to stymie it or roll it back. Some people just plain don't want what you're selling, even if what you're selling is objectively superior to what they have now.

Use your common sense. They're going to portray you as a slobbering lunatic no matter how calm, cool, and collected you may be. It's not your tone they have a problem with, it's your message. They're seldom capable of addressing it directly, so they try to get you tripped up on your presentation. They'll try to convince you, "Ah, you know, you make a lot of sense but gosh, your tone is a major turn off." Never take advice from your opponents or concern trolls.

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