Friday, September 30, 2005

bennett, delong, bush, and kleiman

It's weird watching Bennett reveal himself, DeLong defend him for doing so, and Kleiman proclaim that DeLong's defense of Bennett is somehow more admirable than Bush's denunciation of his words.

Let's start from the top.

Bennett did not advocate genocide. Anyone who believes he did is simply wrong. That fact does not make what Bennett said defensible. His crime was not that (as DeLong put it) reductio ad absurdum arguments don't work on talk radio, but that the implicit assumption underlying his argument (that African-Americans are inherently criminal) is abhorrent. That wasn't an accident. That's a belief. Those beliefs are more than deserving of condemnation.

DeLong's defense of Bennett opens by calling him a fungus ("Your honor, my client is worthless scum"), but that still doesn't quite explain why he would say that Bennett's primary mistake was a poor choice of rhetorical technique. Maybe he'd just returned from a journey to the rhetorical forest he mentioned in another post. If he found the racial characterization abhorrent, why did he focus on the genocide as the point on which Bennett needed defense? Wby did he bother defending Bennett at all? Perhaps he focused so hard on the question of whether Bennett had actually argued for genocide that he failed to notice the problem the genocide might solve.

Kleiman then steps in to admire DeLong's careful parsing of a transcript of a radio conversation. Even assuming that such a careful parsing is deserved (I believe, btw, that charity would be more appropriate than precision in evaluating such a transcript), he also misses the point, again suggesting that the genocide that Bennett didn't propose was the reason Bennett has been criticized. Kleiman, regrettably, takes matters one step further, citing statistics to support Bennett's claim on the inherent criminality of blacks. In DeLong's case, it's possible that he reacted to the wrong part of Bennett's statement. Kleiman can't make that claim.

Garance does good job of describing what makes all of this so skin-crawling. If past history is a predictor, a post describing how this free-thinking is what differentiates academics from the rest of us will soon follow.

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