Saturday, October 01, 2005

Rhetoric 101

Fire Bill Bennett.

Don't demand an apology from the gambling-addled morals czar. Don't settle for his reedy "hypothesis" defense. A hypothesis is, after all, somebody's educated opinion auditioning for the truth.

Let's consider Mr. Bennett's educated opinion. Mr. Bennett didn't say that aborting poor babies would reduce crime. He did not discuss illegitimate babies, or unwanted babies, or babies born in crime-ridden neighborhoods, or babies born to teenagers, or babies born to ignorant people, or babies born to drug addicts, or babies born in districts with abysmal public schools. We've all read Freakonomics; we understand that such a list has a place in an economic theories about crime. We also know that hypothetically aborting that list would - given the nature of our American underclass - net lots of hypothetical black babies, along with plenty of babies answering to other descriptions. It would also be ethically abhorrent.

Mr. Bennett did not say this. His said that aborting "every black baby in this country" would reduce crime. (And would be ethically abhorrent.)

Should we infer that Mr. Bennett meant "black" here as shorthand for "a great big catalog of pathologies"? Heaven forfend. Mr. Bennett was engaging in hyperbole. Silly reader! He took a point to its ridiculous extreme to show the dangers of unwarranted extrapolation.

But according to this argument, Mr. Bennett could with equal ease have theorized that crime rates would drop if we aborted all white babies, or male babies, or babies born in cities, or babies born below the Mason-Dixon Line, or babies born in states beginning with the letters S, T, U, P, I, or D. Going further, Mr. Bennett could have posited that aborting all babies would reduce future crime.

Mr. Bennett did not say this. He said that aborting "every black baby in this country" would reduce crime. (And be ethically abhorrent.)

Forget that his hypothesis might test out mathematically. So might all the others - every crazy last one of them. Ask yourself this: With regard to black people, what is the educated opinion of Mr. Bennett?

Then fire his ass.

Hat tip to balletshooz for picture and righteous rant.

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