Referring to ideas found in the book, Freakonomics, and not to his own ideas, Bill Bennett has ignited the latest firestorm regarding race.
"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," former secretary of education Bill Bennett, now a radio host, said Wednesday, responding to a caller who wondered how much tax revenue had been lost over the years because of abortion. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations [like those found in Freakonomics] are, I think, tricky."(Emphasis mine.)
And now calls for Mr. Bennett’s proverbially (hopefully) head ring throughout the land.
The thing that torques me off the most about this Bill Bennett dust-up is that, for some people, anything less that immediate denunciation of him as a mindless racist induces hysteria and vitriol.
My great-aunt is eighty-four, a victim of incurable BDS and hates Republicans (besides me); we don’t discuss politics. Being eighty-four, however, she forgets sometimes that we don’t. So when she asked me what I thought about the situation, I thought maybe, just maybe she asked because she was willing to listen. However, when I didn’t immediately call him a white, racist a**hole that should be banned from broadcasting and when I tried to flesh out the situation, she screamed over me and told me that I was whitewashing the comments because he is a Republican.
It would be nice to think that my aunt's reaction is due to her age and corresponding orneriness.
However, there are many other, much younger people who will hear the clip in its entirety, but will never hear Mr. Bennett say that such a proposition would be “ [a] ridiculous, and [a] morally reprehensible thing to do” even after the passage is played in its context over and over again. Why not? Because the ground has already been tilled, fertilized and watered and the seed of the idea has burst open: that Republicans are racists. After that, all pertinent ear canals will be blocked and no amount of logical explanation or explanatory logic will be able to penetrate that wall that people like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers and their ideological brethren have built.
I never got the chance to tell my aunt about my ‘however’ clause: that Mr. Bennett could have used a different outrageous example and that I found it curious that black babies were the first thing that popped into Mr. Bennett's mind. (Yes, I know all the relevant statistics regarding race, crime, illegitimacy and abortion, so don't bother.) I didn’t get the opportunity to mention these factors because she refused to listen and called me a liar. And when I am called a liar—especially after being specifically asked for my opinion--the conversation is over. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to scale that particular wall because I was too PO’d. I doubt that I ever will in this life.
So I simply shut my mouth and tried to go back to doing whatever it was that I was doing, as I fumed in silence.
Gee, thanks a flockin' lot, Big Media and, yes, you too, Bill Bennett.
UPDATE: Steve Leavitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics, comments gives more context and sums up the situation succinctly:
He [Bill Bennett] made a factual statement (if you prohibit any group from reproducing, then the crime rate will go down), and then he noted that just because a statement is true, it doesn't mean that it is desirable or moral. That is, of course, an incredibly important distinction and one that we make over and over in Freakonomics.