Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Delusional World of Thomas Sowell

In this article Thomas Sowell makes an impassioned case in favor of bullying. Well, that's not entirely accurate - his impassioned case is that gays, specifically, should be bullied.

It starts out reminding people of the famous case of Sacco and Vanzetti, and how the nation got up in arms about their railroading while hundreds of blacks were being lynched for no reason at all. His (not-unreasonable) assertion?

"To put it bluntly, it was a question of whose ox was gored. That is, what groups were in vogue at the moment among the intelligentsia. Blacks clearly were not."

Nice that he goes out of his way to indict people with educations here. Because it was only a group of snooty elitists who were upset about Sacco and Vanzetti, don't you know? Here he's suggesting that all public outrage is an elitist conspiracy, where a couple of smart people decide what's 'in' on the topic of victimization, and trick the stupid masses into going along with them. According to Sowell's logic, if the nation had been up in arms about lynching (as it eventually became), that too would be just another fad, and better left out of the public eye.

Then Sowell gets to his point:

"For years, there have been local newspaper stories about black kids in schools in New York and Philadelphia beating up Asian classmates, some beaten so badly as to require medical treatment.
But the national media hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. Asian Americans are not in vogue today, just as blacks were not in vogue in the 1920s. Meanwhile, the media are focused on bullying directed against youngsters who are homosexual. Gays are in vogue."

I'm not dismissing tensions between Asian and Black communities - I mean, it showed up in Do The Right Thing, so Sowell can't be making it up out of whole cloth. He does sabotage his own point by admitting that it seems to be a regional issue in two cities. Could it be that the primacy of gay-bashing coverage in the press is due to the fact that anti-gay hate crimes are far more frequent than Black-on-Asian violence?

Maybe I've been misinformed, but until just a couple of months ago, were Asians kept from joining the armed forces because they're Asian? Are Asians not allowed to marry other Asians in most states? Can Asians be fired from teaching in schools if the board finds out they're Asian? Does the Christian majority in the country tell Asians that unless they stop being Asian they'll go to hell?

Unless I'm grievously misinformed, it's worse to be a gay youth in America than it is an Asian one. Even in a New York or Philadelphia school.

Of course, Thomas Sowell isn't just being an idiot in general terms - he wants to achieve a specific goal here. That goal? Protecting people's right to call gay teens 'faggot' on the internet!

"But there is still a difference between words and deeds – and it is a difference we do not need to let ourselves be stampeded into ignoring. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of speech – and, like any other freedom, it can be abused. If we are going to take away every Constitutional right that has been abused by somebody, we are going to end up with no Constitutional rights."

So if you punch a kid for being gay, that's a problem. But if you surround him or her with vicious psychological abuse and cruel taunts every single moment of their public lives until they commit suicide, well that's just your first-amendment right!

Notice how Thomas' argument is essentially hollow. Yes, freedoms can be abused - and when they are, we punish the offenders. You can't yell fire in a crowded theatre because of the first amendment, you can't hoard chemical weapons in your doomsday bunker because of the second. When people exceed the rights allotted to the constitution, there are punishments. That's always the way things have worked. A constitution exists, but doesn't enumerate every possible contingency, so the courts work out exactly where the lines of those rights extend to.

So, Thomas, if you want it to be okay to call someone a faggot in school - as you so clearly do - then all you have to do is find a teen who has been suspended for doing that and get them to sue the school board. With you acting as their attorney I'm sure you'll be able to make a powerful case for why people should be able to shout faggot in a crowded schoolroom. If your arguments are persuasive enough, maybe we can even get one of the amendments specifically listing 'gay-bashing' as constitutionally protected speech!

Now it's the time in the article where Thomas tries to back up his idiocy with hollow claims about the downtrodden people in power.

"Already, on too many college campuses, there are vaguely worded speech codes that can punish students for words that may hurt somebody's feelings – but only the feelings of groups that are in vogue. Women can say anything they want to men, or blacks to whites, with impunity. But strong words in the other direction can bring down on students the wrath of the campus thought police – as well as punishments that can extend to suspension or expulsion."

Note how Thomas doesn't include links to related articles or any evidence to back up his point  - I'm sure he's talking about some crazy thing that excessively PC universities out in California have done - but people like Thomas don't actually need 'links' or 'evidence' - because they're not actually interested in changing minds or even making an argument. This article, like so many others, is designed simply to reinforce the beliefs that bigots and homophobes already hold. They imagine they're living in a fantasy a world where women and minorities are oppressing right-thinking conservatives (pun intended). Naturally, as with anyone who lives inside a delusion, they need to constantly have that delusion reinforced, lest the real world accidentally seep in. This creates a huge market for people like Sowell and his cohorts - every time his fans get out into the real world and see that maybe women and gays don't actually have the run of the place, the fundamental principles they live by are called into question, and they have to run home and have it reinforced by the kind of shoddy anecdotal evidence that these articles provide.

Want proof of the bizarre alternate world that Sowell and his think-alikes live in? Consider his hyperbolic example above. Let's a say a woman at one of those super-PC universities calls her professor or another student nigger in the middle of a classroom. Does anyone but Thomas Sowell think that doing so would go super-well for her?

He's got one more bit of awful smug crap to offer, so let's just get it out of the way, shall we?

"Meanwhile, a law has been passed in California that mandates teaching about the achievements of gays in the public schools. Whether this will do anything to stop either verbal or physical abuse of gay kids is very doubtful. But it will advance the agenda of homosexual organizations and can turn homosexuality into yet another of the subjects on which words on only one side are permitted. Our schools are already too lacking in the basics of education to squander even more time on propaganda for politically correct causes that are in vogue. We do not need to create special privileges in the name of equal rights."

I've got a question for Thomas Sowell, and while it's doubtful he'll ever read this, I've got to ask: What do you think the 'other side' of the homosexuality topic is? We know what the one side is - that they should be an accepted and valued part of society. What's the counterpoint that you're so desperate to protect?

And if you love free speech so much, why were you afraid to put it in your article?

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