Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ignoring the Elephant

(H/T to WAMK) Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator has done something fascinating with a short item in the Washington Post about a psychological study. It's a a pretty nifty trick, and I'll have to go into some detail to explain what he's up to, so bear with me.

First of all, the short item. It's the third item in a column called "Science Notebook" in which researchers for the Journal of Applied Psychology interviewed people about, basically, their sense of right and wrong. Salient idea follows: "...their research highlights the idea that people with exceptionally strong convictions about their moral goodness are likely to follow extreme courses of action because they can convince themselves that whatever they do is good."

Hillyer uses this as a jumping off point to attack the Clintons. Then William Jefferson and then Elliot Spitzer. Then Patrick Leahy. He then denies that he's claiming only Democrats do it, then goes back to attacking more Democrats. The point of course, is that Democrats delude themselves into doing immoral things.

If I hadn't given it more thought, I'd have simply believed that he was looking for a hook to hang the usual Clinton character assassination on - new wrapping paper for an increasingly shopworn box. But something nagged at me. This study resonates much more strongly elsewhere, and I think Hillyer saw this story as a train that he had to derail before it reached it's logical destination.

"Enhanced interrogation techniques."

With the nomination hearings for Michael Mukasey centering on his claiming to not know if waterboarding is "torture," or if any of the torturing we do nowadays is "torture," the last thing the meme-watchers need a reminder that we've somehow talked ourselves into endorsing behavior that was once only the province of third-world communists, terrorists and B-movie villains. Because we are absolutely sure what we do is right, we're okay with torturing our captives. A lot of us are even okay with torturing innocent captives. Price you have to pay, right?

To me the question is: does Quin Hillyer KNOW he's diverting the debate from its main point or is he doing it unconsciously? Or does he even think it applies? I wrote Quin Hillyer and if he responds, I'll report.


WAMK said...

I'll let Bill clinton speak for me on the issue of torture, and when it's acceptable:

"Look, if the president needed an option, there's all sorts of things they can do.Let's take the best case, OK.You picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some European capital in the next three days. And you know this guy knows it. Right, that's the clearest example. And you think you can only get it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or water-boarding him or otherwise working him over. If they really believed that that scenario is likely to occur, let them come forward with an alternate proposal."

"We have a system of laws here where nobody should be above the law, and you don't need blanket advance approval for blanket torture.They can draw a statute much more narrowly, which would permit the president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

Link can be found here:

But then again, Clinton wasn't sure of what "is" meant..

wamk said...

I think the purpose to Hillyer's piece wasn't to slam Democrats, even tho he struck a nerve with you.

I think he was expanding on the study, showing real-world examples of how recent events support the findings of the study.

Of course Hillyer will be more specific when speaking about those on the Left; he's writing in a Rightie publication! If Kos was writing about it, he'd use DeLay, Nixon, Foley, Craig, et al.

Hillyer does make a distinction about what happens when Righties are "caught" as compared to Lefties:

"Now this is not to say that the political left has a monopoly on extremely indefensible lack of ethics -- witness a fair number of jailed and indicted Republican congressmen -- but, from where we conservatives sit, it is the shamelessness of the double standards on the left that rankles. Forgive the slight admitted overgeneralization, but: When our guys get caught, they often (or usually) hang their heads. When their guys get caught in hypocrisy or worse, they just brazen it out. (Witness Rep. William "Cold Cash" Jefferson.)"

Mrs. Clinton gets singled out because of her recent "oops" in the debate, where she argued for, and then against drivers licenses for illegals in about a 2 minute span.

Danielk said...

If this post has done nothing else, at least I got this phrase out of WAMK:

"I'll let Bill clinton speak for me..."

wamk said...

Glad you saw my attempt at humor.

But Clinton's words ring true, don't they?