Saturday, December 28, 2019

Proportionality Uncommon

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens has written a column about Ashkenazi Jews and long-time, retired radio talk show host Don Imus hasdied.  Imus is best known, unjustifiably, for his infamous comment about the "nappy-headed hoes" of the Rutgers women's basketball team and there is a critical, albeit indirect and even strained, relationship between the two events. Mike Lupica, the New York sports columnist who was a frequent guest of Imus, writes

people are so often better than their worst public moments. He doesn’t get a pass for what he said about those basketball players. But he also raised millions of dollars for kids with cancer. He started the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He won four Marconi Awards, the radio equivalent of an Oscar in Hollywood. And he did something else, during the first Gulf War: For better or worse, he made politics entertaining on the radio. Suddenly he was having guests on his show like Bill Bradley and John McCain. Around all the jokes and smart-ass, Imus was now doing a morning radio show as smart as there was, here or anywhere else.

Nor is he getting a pass.  Tweets included:

Don Imus has died at the age of 79. Here him and his cohost calling the young black women of a college basketball team “nappy headed hoes” and “jigaboos”

I’m sure there are people in his life who mourn his loss but I’m not one of them.

“Controversial” is an interesting way to say that Don Imus called the women’s Rutgers basketball teams “nappy headed hoes” and “jigaboos”. Good riddance.

Don Imus was a racist and misogynist. He sexually harassed multiple women I know personally.

Was he a pioneer in his field? Sure. So was Roger Ailes.

Not complimentary. Neither were folks on Twitter, such as the journalists below, sympathetic toward Bret Stephens' invocation of "Jewish genius" and his argument that "Jews are,or tend to be smart," at least in the case of Ashkenazi Jews. 

Stephens is not referring to certain races, notwithstanding Feinberg's perception, shared by a famous German of the second quarter of the twentieth century, that Jews constitute a race.  Unfortunately, Stephens brushes aside "the perennial nature-or-nurture question of why so many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s" instead of specifically ascribing it to nurture. Had he done so, critics could not as blithely misunderstood his argument that "Jewish genius"

is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.

He attributes "these habits of mind" from an understanding that, unlike the tangible, "everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting." He believes moreover that Judaism is

a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them.

This is not a matter of race. As God has written, "Breaking news from Mt. Sinai: Judaism is a religion. The millions of allusions to me in every single text and commentary and ritual of the past 3,000 years probably should have been a giveaway."

The American left generally recognizes that slavery has had a lasting (albeit indirect) effect on differential (and greater) rates of familial disorganization, poverty, and crime rates of African-Americans. Today, a portion ironically has risen up to deny any impact of the Ashkenazi Jewish heritage upon modern-day Jews ("ironic" being more sensitive than "hypocritical").

Admittedly, Stephens probably has overestimated his case.  But the reaction to his piece has been overwrought, as has reaction to the death of Don Imus.

We should know better.  A fastidious sensitivity to anything with the scent of racial, religious, or cultural animosity has consequences.

Even when agreeing with it in some particular instances, the American right and center have taken notice of the propensity of the American left to condemn statements and sentiment as racist, misogynistic, or the like.  Along comes Donald Trump, dedicated to dividing Americans along all possible lines- racial, gender, sexual preference, religious, and more- and is rightly called out for the evil he embodies and promotes.

The astonishing reality that 40-45% of the public supports a politician who almost daily lays bare bigotry, crudely and sometimes with profanity suggests that many Americans are perfectly fine with the outrageous persona Trump has fashioned himself.

When there are numerous charges of bigotry against individuals of less importance than the President of the USA, people become desensitized to such charges. If, as it sometimes seems, almost no one is immune from condemnation, they may understandably conclude that Donald Trump is really not that bad, no matter the criticism.

That's only one of the advantages candidate Donald Trump possesses. But it's not insignificant.

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