Bigotry is obviously wrong but so is bigotry-baiting. What is bigotry-baiting? Like race-baiting, it is a form of manipulation. Race-baiting relies on the inflammation of passions relating to racial prejudice—generally hate, loathing, and fear. Bigotry-bating seeks to induce guilt generally by intimidation, innuendo, and baseless accusations; all in an attempt to manipulate guilt-prone individuals. Bigotry and bigotry-baiting both undercut rational analysis by emotional manipulation and thus poison the atmosphere required for a healthy public debate.
During the late 1980s, Japanese corporations went on an international buying spree that included American corporations and landmark real estate, such as
It became clear to me, while I was arguing for foreign investment with one Democratic opponent, that such bigotry-baiting was cheap and unfair. He was concerned with labor issues given distinctive Japanese management practices. While I disagreed with his argument, dismissing him as a bigot would have been an evasion unworthy of either of us. I was embarrassed to see some of my libertarian friends playing the race card on this issue. Of course, this momentary lapse is far cry from the perennial “racial hucksters” constantly in the media. Bigotry-baiting on the national stage undermines public debate.
It’s happening again today.
Stunned by the public’s objections an Arab/Islamic country’s interest in port management, editorial writers, media talking-heads, arm-chair pundits, academic bloggers, and chattering sophisticates are all playing the bigotry-card. (I discuss the port issue specifically in the previous blog entry and comments section.) And this includes many people I respect. Here’s Larry Kudlow. Both Tom Palmer and Charles Steele seem to agree. These libertarians have valid concerns but when they slip into bigotry-baiting that worries me. (To their credit it is not the gist of their argument.) But they are not alone; conservatives express much the same. Rich Lowry mentions in passing that Congress is “worried at being portrayed as anti-Arab” and James K. Glassman calls objections to the port deal “rank racist nonsense.” The eclectic uber-blogger, Andrew Sullivan, is yelling “xenophobia and paranoia.” Oh, please! Let's get some perspective.
Let’s see how we got here.
After the 9/11 attacks, Americans wondered what kind of people could commit such vicious acts. Beyond those directly involved, bin Laden, the leader of the operation, was considered a hero through out the Islamic world and Pew polls showed that he remained a hero to the majority of Muslims for years after. As
The President’s critics agreed: don’t disparage “the other.” But they added: we brought it on ourselves. If there is widespread hate in the Islamic world, it is an understandable reaction to our policies. For the left, it is unthinkable to disparage another culture (unless one administers an equal or greater dose of self-flagellation.) Negative generalizations specifically about Muslims or Islamic culture are strictly verboten.
But reality refused to conform to these ideas.
Islamic hatred of the Jews was explained away. Islamic hatred of
Clearly excuse-making was wearing thin both for the critics of
If one is to understand and integrate all of these events, one needs to make generalizations. But there is a standing order that damns embryonic negative generalizations as bigotry before they are fully formed; this prevents the integrations required for conceptual understanding and leaves a sense of confusion in its wake.
The public has been ill-served by our writers, intellectuals, and political leaders who’ve defaulted on providing conceptual guidance. If the public must form crude generalizations, don’t damn them as bigots; damn the intellectuals for their betrayal. I’ve argued on this venue that one can distinguish between the ideology, Islam, and demographic group, Muslims. There is room for debate about an appropriate measured generalization about a foreign culture, but not in an atmosphere of guilt-manipulation and bigotry-baiting where debate is strait-jacketed by bigotry-baiting tactics.
This isn’t the first time that intellectuals have failed
After WWII, Communism swallowed the eastern part of Europe and half of
Today we are as blind to the Islamic threat as we were to communism 70 years ago. Few understand Islam’s fundamental nature or the vast and disparate demographic group, Muslims. Public debate is stifled by a political correctness that permeates our culture. The public’s ability to respond to a major catastrophe in a measured manner is slim to none. An overreaction is most likely. Whenever the public is told a lie that paints an idyllic picture, disillusionment will lead to embracing its anti-thesis instead of an accurate measured generalization. Knowledge takes time, rational deliberation, and extensive dissemination.
The credibility of today’s intellectual leaders is at a low. A well deserved low!
Update: Michelle Malkin