Day By Day

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Moratorium on Sociology?

George Will, in a very nice column, calls for a "moratorium on sociology" as a means of explaining the terrible things that take place every now and then. What started out as an attempt to invoke a comforting illusion of rational explanation has become a despicable and disruptive political tool wielded almost invariably against conservative. Will explains
 A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first. 
And the blame has been rolling out for more than half a century. Will traces its beginnings to the Kennedy assassination when the "explainers" argued that
the "real" culprit was not a self-described Marxist who had moved to Moscow, then returned to support Castro. No, the culprit was a "climate of hate" in conservative Dallas, the "paranoid style" of American (conservative) politics or some other national sickness resulting from insufficient liberalism.
I would date it earlier, to the postwar fad for Frankford school pop-psychology and its nonsensical maunderings, but Will's point is clear. The left reflexively invokes bad social science as an explanatory device for bashing conservatives, something that Rush Limbaugh noted yesterday:
Here's a partial list of some of the incidents the left has tried to pin on conservatives.  The Columbine shooters. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (specifically they tried to blame me for that).  The DC sniper.  The New York City Times Square car bomb attempt.  They tried to blame that on some Tea Partier angry at the health law, then we find out that was radical Islamists.  The February 2010 IRS plane attack in San Antonio. Remember that? It had to be an anti-government clown that flew that plane into the IRS office, had to be.  The Pentagon subway shooter. The Fort Hood attack. The Discovery Channel hostage taker.  And this guy [John Patrick] Bedell who went into the Pentagon and wanted to shoot these people up.  This guy, by the way, is a dead ringer for Loughner.  Amy Bishop who shot her colleagues at that Alabama college.
The list, as Rush writes, goes on and on. Will's call for a moratorium is well-founded, but the Left just can't help itself -- the impulse to declare critics mentally deficient is too strong, even though it ultimately operates to their detriment. Will writes:
Three days before Tucson, Howard Dean explained that the Tea Party movement is "the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity." Rising to the challenge of lowering his reputation and the tone of public discourse, Dean smeared Tea Partyers as racists: They oppose Obama's agenda, Obama is African American, ergo . . . 

Let us hope that Dean is the last gasp of the generation of liberals whose default position in any argument is to indict opponents as racists. This McCarthyism of the left - devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data - is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.

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