Friday, September 30, 2005

Mark Twain's and Bill Bennet's Racism

Years back when I was a grad student at Michigan State, there was this huge liberal professor who wrote a column in the college paper. One time he wrote a sarcastic attack on racism. It was a clever use of irony and I recognized it immediately as such. However, a superficial reading of the column could give a stupid reader the impression that he was endorsing racism.

It was embarassing, because he got into big trouble when the Usual Suspects in the Racism Business jumped up and denounced him with anger and passion.

Maybe you've read that racist tract, Huck Finn, but Mark Twain. The author makes liberal use of the dreaded N-word as he describes the wise black slave Jim and the underclass Huck and their interactions with a menagerie of white fools.

Today, Mr. Bill Bennet is being condemned by the White House for making some kind of racist statement. I've heard the remarks in context. And I've heard others condemning stipulate that Mr. Bennet is not a racist.

In logic there is the notion of a reducio ad absurdum argument. A reducio argument follows this pattern: "If you believe 'a' then some absurd thing follows." For example, "If murdering Jews is a good then, then Hitler is a saint."

Perhaps the White House critics of Mr. Bennet will now accuse me of numbering that murderous tyrant among the saints.

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