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October 01, 2005

Bennett's Glorious Example

I'm through being mad about Bill Bennett. In fact, the way I see it, he has gone from being a hapless victim to a stellar hero. But that only depends on how long and hard you are willing to think about what he said. I'll give you a shortcut to understanding.

Imagine you were a radio talk show host and you wanted to make a point about the value of morals vs the value of economics. The subject is abortion and your position is that abortion is wrong and there can be no economic justification for it. You'd be right where Bennett was just recently.

So you search your brain for an example of this logic that is so compelling that as soon as you say it, you'll have millions of people understanding that the value of morality is much greater than the value of economics.

"Abort all black babies to lower crime".

Bennett is a genius. He was able, with just a few short sentences to bring a level of uproar so powerful, so resonant with the American psyche that people still can't get the idea out of their heads. The concept encapsulated in those seven small words is so powerful, so earthshatteringly dangerous that it has turned our world upside down. It is so morally contemptuous that people have come out of their homes screaming in the streets. By simply naming it, he has brought the public to attention to a concept which is universally reviled.

And we will do everything possible to see that such a thing never happens in America.

Why? Because Bill Bennett is right. There can be no economic justification, no matter how large, to induce people to favor abortion. Americans will stand together toe to toe to see that there is no lost generation. Everyone who has rushed to have an opinion and the moral outrage of those seven words has proven that money doesn't matter when it comes to questions of unborn babies. Economics can't trump morality and we won't stand for it. There are certain things that you just don't do, no matter what the economic benefits might be.

Go ahead and tell me that's not the point.

Posted by mbowen at October 1, 2005 09:25 AM

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Well, I was so horrified when I originally read Bennett's statement that I didn't even want to look at context. I can see now the point he was trying to make, I think, and there's one dot I don't see connected.

1 - When abortion rates went up, crime rates dropped (he had that one, at the same time challenging the statistic)
2 - Abortion rates are higher among black women than among white women - so a disproportionally high number of black babies are being aborted (I didn't see that one)
3 - Therefore, aborting more black babies than white is reducing crime and you can reduce it more by aborting all of them.

Thus showing that arguing from statistics alone can drive you right over a cliff.

I have to say, though, that I am pro-life for many reasons, and have been since I first considered the issue as a teenager; and I never would have let the words he used leave my mouth no matter what point I was trying to make. His argument was lost in the confusion and his credibility just about destroyed. Dumb. (In my humble opinion.)

Posted by: Laura at October 2, 2005 03:49 PM

From what I recall, Bennett didn't even go that deeply into the syllogism. Rather he went straight for the morally repugnant bottom line, with the implication that any American ought to be familiar with the immoral, stereotypical and utilitarian logic. This is why I see a direct parallel between this and my 'Economics or Racial Discrimination'.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2005 03:56 PM

I suppose we are all familiar with the logic. Is it very hyprocritical of me to be repulsed when I see it spelled out? Probably.

Posted by: Laura at October 2, 2005 07:06 PM

I guess the issue here is simpler than you imagine. Bennett does not favor abortion, but it is not clear that he opposes genocide. In fact, since he raised the proposition with a group that is neither near nor dear to his heart, casual readers must question the source of his inspiration. After all, most folks don't posit such solutions with their own group. They throw out suggestions about other people - then reject them. The question for a rational man (note: a negro apologist is not a rational man) goes to the sincerity of bennett. since you know him personally, it's a wrap for you. i know him by his acts and the company he keeps. it's a wrap for me. i certainly understand why you've staked out this position. if you're not an apologist for white folk discussing genocide at your expense, how do you differentiate yourself from other bloggers? without a straightline repudiation of self-defense, where do you stand? one can only hope that bennett knows you as well as you know him.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 05:56 AM

Huh? What? It's not clear that he opposes genocide? Half of his whole rant is against Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger. Bennett believes that abortion IS genocide, which is why he opposes it.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 07:30 AM

This isn't too complex. This pain of this particular incident is not about the truth/falsity of whether crime rates would drop from aborting black babies. It's the insensitivity to the open implications.

I don't trust Bennett but I am willing to give him a chance to clarify if he was previously oblivious to some accidental slight. I don't trust the sincerity of anyone who "apolgizes" "if anyone was hurt." It's a fake apology. You apologize because you know what you did was WRONG TO DO, even if it was unintentional, and you say why it was wrong. Judge on the quality of the apology, does it show true understanding of the wrong and proper contrition. On this basis, in my books, Bennett comes off the same as he ever has: a messenger passing code to his peeps, right out in the open. He walks a thin line, but he's quite practised at it.

Sometimes it's not what IS said, but what's NOT said.

"...an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do."

So wonders the skeptic...
Impossible...? Like, if it were possible, then it'd be iite?
...Ridiculous? Why?
...Morally reprehensible...so is aborting all dogs and cats.

The problem is that when you dip into the race waters, you can't be casual about it. Bennett had to do so much more to state his "real" stance on racism;he needed to do so much more to eliminate any reasonable debate about where he stands. It is his casual wot-me? attitude, an insensitivity to potential humiliation that alarms (tho, really, should it anymore?).

I get tired of the what-if-it-was-black-people litmus test for morality. The only reason it's black people now is cuz it's way too late to talk about the Red Man. I suppose this means there's still a ray of hope for us .

Believe it, Cobb. Bennett knows *exactly* what he's doing.

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 09:12 AM

"On this basis, in my books, Bennett comes off the same as he ever has: a messenger passing code to his peeps, right out in the open."

I can see how what Bennett says looks like this but I think (hope) it's actually kind of paranoid. But this is the kind of thing that makes me and lots of other white folks wonder if we're hypocrites when we find ourselves saying that you can't SAY things like that, no matter what you THINK. It really doesn't matter whether Bennett is a racist or not - he shouldn't have SAID something that gives people like memer the opportunity to make comments like that - and again, memer, I see why it seems reasonable to you to make that comment. When I want to give an example or make an analogy I find myself rapidly parsing what I am about to say to make absolutely certain it can't be construed in a racist or insensitive way. And I get really irritated with people like Bennett who appear to be too stupid to do that. And that's really nowhere, isn't it?

Posted by: Laura at October 3, 2005 09:57 AM

hey, Laura, nobody's perfect -- least of all paranoid (tho i prefer to say 'skeptical') me. not sayin we're not ever to 'go there' on sensitive subjects. perish that. just sayin don't go lightly. recognize and respect sensibilities and come prepared to heal or sharply define when you come into it. personally, i tend to like extreme example m'damned self, but it often doesn't pay to be gross for the sake of being gross.

and if it backfires, apologize FOR REAL. look to the cookie, i mean the apology, Laura. "i'm sorry if anyone was hurt" doesn't cut it (by itself).

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 12:25 PM

cobb...gimme a break with the feigned incredulousness. we don't gits down like that. whether or not abortion constitutes genocide is a matter for debate - as it seems to be less proscriptive than the compulsory measures at the disposal of bennett during his time at ED and as drug czar...

just because we share common enemies does not make us friends...his opposition to pp and sanger mean little to me. if ya wanna defend his record, git to steppin', cuz ya gonna be busy.

if ya wanna argue that he likes good people and dislikes bad people, come out of the sand box and go directly to the kid's table.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 12:26 PM

i think memer's point is right on...if he had said indian or native american or red instead of black, folks would've said, "bill, what the hell are you talking about? we've already checked that box!" these perspectives are neither isolated nor novel...in fact, they constitute a seminal strain in the intellectual lifeblood of folks that bennett holds dear. if ya wanna apologize for all of 'em, go on ahead...but at some point, you will want to put down the dragon's dust. pt barnum is looking for you and your wallet.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 12:34 PM

I am completely with you, memer, about the apology thing. I have always hated that "I'm sorry you didn't like what I said" crap.

And I actually had a much longer comment here, but it was denied for questionable content. I guess I need to get my own blog.

Posted by: Laura at October 3, 2005 03:01 PM

Ironic that the software I use denies for questionable comment, and it's not in my power to turn that thing off. Interestingly enough, Laura, the way to best avoid that stupid software is to join the TypeKey party. Then whatever you say is legit, as far as Cobb is concerned.

On point, Memer, I say you shouldn't have to tiptoe around issues of race. It not about what is NOT said.

I'll write much more later.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 03:38 PM

Hey, I'm signed in. Let me try this again.

In addition to being irritated by people like Bennett who act like they don't know the rules, I'm irritated when I'm reminded that there are two sets of rules. Like the fact that I have black coworkers who wear T-shirts about historically black colleges, "the blacker the college the sweeter the knowledge" and Black Family Reunion and so forth, and that's OK; the fact that we white people would never dream of wearing the corresponding white T-shirt (if there was one) is something I don't think about until somebody mentions it, at which point I am irritated. Why? It's not like I have such a T-shirt, or want one, or would wear it if I did. It's that that's how it is, and it's puerile to complain. Is that it, or is it that I don't want to go there because I don't want to see where it would take me?

And another example is the fact that on two separate occasions that I can think of, black people I have worked with at two different workplaces have explained to me that black people are naturally thieves and lawbreakers. All I can do is protest that it isn't true - don't say that - I can't believe it - and wonder what kind of fool I am for being so careful of what I say. Because it's true that I don't believe it; I couldn't live in Memphis, TN which was 62% black as of the 2000 census, if I thought black people were naturally thieves and lawbreakers; but I still feel that I have to be SO careful to not even appear to be a racist, so how can they say these things so casually?

And finally, there's a knife-edge that a person has to travel on if she wants her child to learn to be honest and yet express herself in such a way that she can get along in the world. Once my daughter asked me indignantly why there aren't any black people at our church. I don't know how she was put up to asking me that because there are black people at our church - look around next Sunday, I told her. And even if there weren't, what am I supposed to do - go out on the sidewalk and kidnap the next black person I see and make him attend church with me so I can do so without being a racist? Only two years later one of the old farts at church asked my kid for the millionth time where she went to school; she told him, and he said "There are lots of white kids there, aren't there?" She said there were, and he said, "That makes a difference." As he walked away I turned to her and started to say, "Sometimes old people say things and you just have to..." and she interrupted me to say, "He's right." I closed my mouth. To teach her not to be a racist, am I supposed to tell her deny what she personally observes and the conclusions she draws? She's not stupid.

OK, sorry for the long ramble. But is it, or isn't it, about what's not said? I still don't know.

Posted by: Laura [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 06:28 PM