Need Context?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has decided to weigh in on the whole Bill-Bennett-wants-to-abort-black-babies deal.

Here goes…

Your Maximum Leader does know that it’s true that 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.

Your Maximum Leader does know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce the future population of itinerant farm laborers, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every hispanic baby in this country, and your supply of future itinerant farm laborers would go down.

Your Maximum Leader does know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce the number of engineering graduate students, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every chinese baby in this country, and your number of engineering graduate students would go down.

Your Maximum Leader does know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce the number of decent law-abiding, tax-paying, God-fearing Americans, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every white baby in this country, and your number decent law-abiding, tax-paying, God-fearing Americans would go down.

But since we strted off talking about crime here is your Maximum Leader’s final word on crime: Your Maximum Leader does know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.

There you have it. Never were more true statements ever blogged on this site or any other. If you want further comments go below the fold… Otherwise…

Carry on.

Of course all the things your Maximum Leader wrote above are impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible things to do. But they are all true.

Your Maximum Leader is amazed at all of the hubub over a single statement taken out of context. Are we to the point yet were no one can say a thing about anything? It seems like we might be getting there…

But on the bright side… If your Maximum Leader went to the Netherlands he could marry Jennifer Love Hewitt and remain married to Mrs Villain. So he’s got that going for him.

Carry on.

9 Comments

I don’t know if you heard the portion of the show in which the offending phrase was uttered… But I feel compelled to point out an interesting coincidence. That coincidence is that the point that started the conversation was close to the one you were just making. Some caller was saying that if you took the number of aborted children and assumed that they would have grown up to be regular tax-payers that (all things being equal) there would be no Social Security funding problem. I didn’t catch the name of the book, but either Bennett or the caller mentioned it was a best seller.

I understand your concern about reinforcing stereotypes. It was the caller who started down the stereotype path. Bennett did not do himself a service by continuing with the given example.

But again I think context is important in this situation. It was clearly a reductio ad absurdum argument he was making. The whole point of making such an argument is to show the absurdity of some other point. I think that makes this particular statement, in this particular context par for the course considering the level of discourse in general.

I’ll also admit I was surprised that Bennett had a radio show. Who knew? I heard the whole clip on Fox News.

I don’t consider Bennett a moral authority of any particular standing, I’ll admit that I defended him (on this blog) against hypocracy in his gambling problem. He never spoke out against gambling specifically - and the amount he lost didn’t endanger the well being of his family. I’d consider that a minor vice at best.

And I’m not going to begrudge anyone a vice or two.



Here’s the problem with what Bill Bennett said and with all of your ‘true’ statements above, in whatever context you intended them: they assume and reinforce stereotypes that are essentially racist. Even in the context of his full remarks, it’s a stupid thing to say. Its’ pseudo-scientific and it’s bullshit. Bill Bennett is an idiot for using race as an example, and he deserves whatever condemnation comes his way (even the White House is condemning him, and everyone know that George Bush hates black people).



I agree that Bennett’s comments were at best poorly worded. But as I listened to the full portion of his show in which the statement was uttered it seemed quite clear to me that he was trying to make an off the cuff ad absurdem argument.

I am uncomfortable with the mentality that requires that even ad absurdem arguments have to be closely monitored to make sure they don’t offend anyone.

I don’t think the statement is at all pseudo-scientific. If no blacks were born for a certain period, at some point in the future crime would be reduced because no blacks (a significant portion of the population) were not available to commit crimes. The same could be said of any group.



That’s the point — crime would be less if you were to eliminate any significant percentage of the population (although to play devil’s advocate, I could paint a scenario where a reduction in population and the consequential reduction in tax revenues led to increased poverty and a higher crime rate, so even that assumption is open to debate).

I’m not saying Bennett is an evil man, and anyone who accuses him of preaching genocide is hysterical (hysterical insane, not hysterical funny). It’s not the commentary about abortion that’s bad, it’s the generalization that black people are responsible for crime in this country. The fact that Bennett — off-the-cuff, exactly as you pointed out — invoked the stereotype of the black criminal is the problem. And not because it’s offensive to others, but because it’s shorthand and it’s racist. Particularly coming from someone who deems himself fit to lecture me on morality.

Bennett is an established hypocrite; I don’t respect him, and I think he should be held to task. The real news, to me, is that he has a radio show that people actually listen to. Although I’m sure any listeners of his don’t understand what the fuss is about, either.



Grrr, you’re intentionally tripping me up on the issue of ‘a vice or two.’ After all, I don’t want to appear a hypocrite myself.

I’m still not going to let Bennett off the hook, however. Perhaps we have a different interpretation of the exchange that took place on the radio show. The caller from St. Louis is trying to present an pro-life taking-point: basically, as you stated above, that if not for abortion, there wouldn’t be a Social Security crisis (he also — Good Lord — wants to know why the media isn’t saying more about this point; that must be the ‘vast liberal media conspiracy’).

Bennett — rightly — points out the fallacy of this argument. He does so by using an example from the book “Freakonomics” in which abortion is suggested to have led to a ‘positive’ result by reducing crime rates. (I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if the argument is pro-choice or simply statistical, but Bennett on his radio show is characterizing it as ‘pro-choice.’)

Bennett, needless to say, is anti-abortion. So is his caller and, probably, most of his radio audience. While counseling his caller, Bennett is telling him not to link abortion statistics to other issues, and he’s doing this, basically, by pointing out that the other side can manipulate and interpret the statistics in the same way. A sound strategy that the anti-abortion movement has nearly perfected, despite the illogical grumblings of this caller: reduce your dependence on weak arguments (abortion = reduced tax base) and concentrate on strengths (abortion doctors are murderers and should be killed, not really).

If Bennett had left it at that, then whatever, we’re just having another wingnut discussion about abortion. Instead, his next step is not to discuss the logic of the caller’s original argument (abortion = reduced tax base), but instead Bennett attacks the “Freakonomics” assertion (abortion = lower crime rates) by granting it a dismissive and morally offensive kernel of truth, namely that the abortion of all black babies would reduce crime rates even more. It’s Bennett use of the racist shorthand (blacks = criminals) that is wrong. It’s a shorthand that his audience might agree with, but it’s wrong. If Bennett had been having a discussion about race, then perhaps we’d have a debateon these issues, and while I disagree with the stereotype and think it is socially harmful, I would grant him his opinion. Instead, Bennett is connecting with his audience and bonding with the original caller (he compliments him at the end), and using a crude and offensive stereotype to do it. He may have done it unconsciously (I’d bet on it, sure), but the fact that he did it and his efforts to avoid the real issue now are indictative of the state of race relations in this country.



Foreign Minister said:

What gripes me is the the Left is IMMEDIATELY trying to tie it all to the current Republican Administration.

It like if G Bush doesn’t pick up the phone right now and call into CNN, then its just as bad as if G Bush said it himself.

Why haven’t they put the pressure on Senator Byrd to immediatley condemn the statement?



A little something for everyone…

With C.Y. away on a brief vacation this weekend I’m upholding my obligatory familial commitment and keeping his blog from going to sleep. Plus I get to poke a lot more people with a sharp stick here than I do…



Bennett’s remarks make Republicans look bad in general, and this administration is smart to try and distance itself (which is exactly what Bush did). Make no mistake, however: Bush condemned the remarks out of self-interest, not because he was pressured by the left (excuse me, “the Left”).

Anyway, I’ve got plenty of complaints about this Republican Administration already; I don’t need to tie Bush to Bennett. Bush strumming a guitar while the poor of New Orleans were drowning is all I need to know about this administration’s response time to anything.



Foreign Minister said:

I have yet to read your rant against the Democratic Mayor and Govenor of Louisiana… did I miss that or is it swept under the “its all Bush’s fault” carpet?



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