Friday, September 30, 2005

True Things You Are Not Allowed to Say

A few days after the catastrophe of 9/11 Bill Maher made a comment to the effect that the terrorists who hijacked the planes were courageous and that American responses to terrorism in the past (such as launching cruise missiles into the Sudan) were cowardly. No reasonable person could possibly argue that this wasn’t true. At the time outraged Americans were insisting that the terrorists were cowards, but this charge made no sense. They gave their lives for their cause, what could be more courageous than that?

The worst evils in this world are those perpetrated by people who have a combination of virtues and evil. The Nazis are an example of this. They were smart, hardworking, efficient and enormously courageous. If they hadn’t had these virtues their evil would not have caused destruction on such a wide scale. So, let’s give the terrorists their due. They are evil, but they are also courageous (thank goodness they don’t have the other Nazi virtues).

But there are some things you just can’t say. The day after Maher made his remarks I found myself thinking “he’s right, but what the hell was he thinking when he said that!” I knew he would soon be out of a job (which was good because he is the least funny person on television).

Now Bill Bennett has said something that is also indisputably true. Here it is: “If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”

No honest person can argue that this is not true. It is a well known fact that black people commit a hugely disproportionate number of this country’s crimes. If all black babies were aborted the crime rate would plummet.

The economist Steven Levitt has argued that the dramatic reduction in crime which occurred in the 1990’s was largely the effect of Roe v. Wade. Many children who would have been raised in the sort of households that produce criminals were not raised at all. These children would have reached their prime criminal years in the 1990’s. But they had all been killed before that. This is the kind of discovery that neither liberals nor conservatives want to exploit. Liberals don’t want to want to talk about it because they would be calling their constituency criminal and conservatives don’t like it because it sounds like an argument in favor of abortion.

There are some things you simply cannot say, no matter how obviously true they are. Nancy Pelosi wants Bush to condemn Bennett’s remarks, but why should the President condemn every injudicious remark made by a conservative? Especially when it is clearly true?

Harry Reid says he hopes the Republicans “will be swift in condemning Mr. Bennett's comments as nothing short of callous and ignorant.” Bennett’s words may be callous, but it is Reid who is being willfully ignorant.

A person shouldn’t be condemned for telling the truth, no matter how ugly that truth is.

Tom sayz: do you mean to tell me that it's understandable to admit that Saddam Hussein, despite his cruel and vicious gangster past, is a ruggedly handsome man?

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