Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beyond Political Incorrectness

In today's WSJ, there's a small excerpt from a column written recently by Michael Kinsley of The Washington Post.

In Hollywood, especially, they ought to know better than to try to destroy the career of a professional beauty contestant because she spoke out - ever so politely and tentatively, and only when asked - against gay marriage.
...Everywhere you look, the blight of umbrage continues to spread through our political system. The end of the campaign last year didn't slow it down. Blogs speed it up. Taking offense is your ticket to attention from the media. You can't win if you don't play. And it's not all on the left, either. Liberal columnist Joe Klein makes an ill-considered remark about conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, and every other conservative faints from the shock, awakening only to demand that the scoundrel be silenced. Can't anyone just shrug anything off anymore?

The ill-considered remark that Kinsley is referring to is the following.

“There’s something tragic about him (Krauthammer) too. His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.”

It's commendable that Kinsley defended Carrie Prejean for her opinion opposing gay marriage. But it's not an apt comparison to what Klein said about Krauthammer, who is a paraplegic. As Kinsley noted, Prejean's position was stated as an answer to a question. It's the same position held by a majority of Americans including, so he says, President Obama. (Who would never misrepresent his position for political expediency). Prejean's position is based on a tradition going back thousands of years. (Full disclosure - I personally have nothing against gay marriage as long as it's not imposed by judicial fiat - the favored tool of the left to get what they can't get by the democratic process).
Klein's comment was unsolicited and is tough to defend. He is suggesting that Krauthammer's vision of the world is somehow limited by his confinement to a wheelchair, which goes beyond mere discrimination. It's absurdly untrue. An example (or two) were in order and Klein didn't provide any.
John Podhoretz may have been one of those that Kinsley thinks "fainted from the shock". I would say he merely (though angrily) explained why Klein's remarks are nonsense.

We cannot go back in time and visit the battlefields of the Civil War, or Agincourt, or the Peloponnese—are we therefore incapable of seeing their nuances? FDR was in a wheelchair and did not visit the battlefields of World War II-—were its nuances beyond him as well?
The self-infatuation this quote reveals about Klein’s own celebration of his own passport stamps—the words of a lesser author and thinker about one who so surpasses him in clarity and insight that a wiser Klein would have been better off just admitting that he can’t hold a candle to Krauthammer and let it go at that—is striking enough. But let’s face it. This is simply disgusting, no matter how you slice it. Perhaps men and women in wheelchairs, or who are blind, or deaf, or have other infirmities that make their ability to get on a plane and go to Iraq should simply forbear any sort of opinion about such things. They should, instead, be left to Joe Klein.

Not surprisingly, the best response to Klein was made by Krauthammer who said simply that his writing speaks for itself. This is how all points of view should be judged. If there are fallacies or shortcomings in Krauthammer's arguments then pundits like Klein are obliged to point them out without any reference to the characteristics of the man who made them. Personal attacks are not only distateful but irrelevant.

Anyway, getting back to Kinsley's overall point. He's right in general that we need to be less sensitive to perceived slights. The true victim of the current PC hypersensitivity is free and open discourse. Countering an asinine comment like the one by Klein about Krauthammer is, however, preferable to just "shrugging it off".

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