Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Belated thoughts on Bill Bennett

I wasn't going to post this, but my bile is up and I have to get it out of my system. William Bennet is a big fat liar -- and he lies on purpose.

William Bennett is a first-class, hypocritical, pompous scold. He has always been, and he'll likely not change -- even after all the flak he's taken for his comments on his radio show recently. He touts himself as an expert on morality and virtues, and he has undertaken to claim exemplar status for himself in those areas. (Cf. his books on "virtue" for children, e.g.) He's a passionately partisan social critic. (Cf. anything he says.) So I wasn't especially surprised to hear his analysis of a recent book that claims to show that crime rates fall with the legalizing of abortion, because presumably most of the abortions involve poor mothers of color. (I won't cite the book because I don't want to give that author any publicity.) He is an ardent foe of abortion (as am I), but he went over the line recently.

Bennett denounced the book, but in doing so, he made this observation: "But I do 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," Bennett said. He went on to note that it would be immoral to do so. (Ya think?)

Now what really gets me -- and what surprises me, too, for that matter, because I gave Bennett more credit for at least some thinking -- is the blatant and simply stupid racism that he voices. It shows absolutely no sophistication about crime statistics, preferring to take them at face value. Here's what I mean.

I Hennepin County, where I live, the number (and per capita) of blacks arrested way outpaces that of whites arrested. But that does not support the claim that blacks commit more crime. Studies have shown repeatedly that cops are more likely to arrest blacks than they are whites for the same supposed offences. Whites are also (throughout the process) allowed more releases on their own "recognizance" (as they say on TV) and to be "diverted" -- i.e., to be dealt with in non-judicial and -penal systems. In this county, it is not blacks that need fixing; it is the system.

But even if it were to be demonstrated that blacks do commit more crimes, that is not even one step along the path to showing that all blacks share equally in the issue. (And that is something that Bennett implied.) Studies also show that people who commit crimes are hundreds of times more likely to re-commit crimes than "ordinary people" are likely to commit even one crime. That means that criminal activity is concentrated among criminals, not equally distributed throughout the community. Mr. Bennett, wake up.

Fascination with the unexamined big lie is quite natural. What is also natural, unfortunately, is the knee-jerk reaction to the big lie -- protesting without offering any kind of rebuttal. That latter has been the case with partisan lefties, who take great umbrage, but don't spell out why Mr. Bennett is the liar that he is.

He is too smart (he will be happy to tell you that he has a Ph.D. and was once Secretary of Education -- imagine that!) not to know what he said. And he's too glib to have misspoken. And he knows something about statistics and their misuse (lies, damned lies, and statistics?). One must conclude ... . (And here I try to avoid further violating the eighth commandment.)


Daniel S. said...

Pointing out the hypocrisies of the "religious" right is way too easy, but when they become so completely absurd, they need to be shot down swiftly and unconditionally. Great post, Dwight.

One of the things wingnuts like Bennett, Frist, and Robertson like to do with statistics is the same for what they do with scripture: They bend it to suit their ideological passions. They fail to see the "big picture" in both counts and to take hard, honest, methodological, and consistent interpretations of such statistics/scripture. I find it interesting that with the abortion debate raging once again, it has remained unreported that after a near 12 year decline in abortions beginning in 1990, rates are suddenly up beginning in 2001. Under Bush and the ideologues the words have been one thing, but the result continues to be another.

Why? All things are economic. As the economy declines, and as the standard of living declines, so does the sense of absolute desperation amongst the poor (and the poor are the people most likely to have abortions and commit crime). Desperate times create desperate actions. Eliminate poverty, hunger, etc., and your crime, abortion, violence rates all go down. We can legislate and wring our hands about the evils of all these things, but if we don't acknowledge the human equation, it'll never work (It's like Pope Benedict throwing out the gay priests. Magically that will solve the pedophile problem??) These people just don't see that nor do they really care. (And after the recent Miers nomination, Bush REALLY doesn't care about homosexers or abortion either - just enough talk to get his base rallied.)

Thanks Dwight,

Paul K. said...

Dwight, you promised thoughts on Renewing Worship! I want those thoughts! How much longer must we wait? Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?

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