- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hypothetical trap

“Hoi polloi, as opposed to haughty philosophers, read the antecedent of a hypothetical proposition as a glimpse into the hidden mind of the speaker. The hitch is that in speculating about [William J.] Bennett’s inner thoughts, critics hypothesize themselves. If Bennett secretly thinks African-Americans are more likely than others to be incipient criminals, or is cagily racist, then he should be condemned for that, independent of his line of reasoning. …

“That’s the problem with the hypomanic anti-hypo crowd, eager to nail political opponents with a gotcha quote. They rely on a ‘master narrative’ hypothetical: If someone floats a thought in the antecedent of a conditional, the floater actually believes it or wishes it to happen.”

Carlin Romano, writing on “The Trouble With Hypotheticals,” in the Oct. 10 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Barbaric joy

“Saudi Arabia still favors public beheading as a means of execution, and Iran has used it in special cases. But of course it is the terrorists who use it to the greatest effect. The video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the writer for the Wall Street Journal who was killed in Pakistan, is among the items regularly seized by British police during raids on households suspected of harboring Islamist terrorists. The video is used as recruitment propaganda. …

“One hardly needs to emphasize the terrifying demonstration effect of the decapitation of supposed infidels by people to whom plenty of bullets are available. … We conclude, as we are intended to conclude, that these are fierce and ruthless people whose belief in their own desert-tribal righteousness is unshakable.

“We should never forget that to commit barbarity in the name of righteousness is one of the greatest joys known to man — or at least to many men — and not just to Islamists, though at the moment it is they alone who have the courage of their barbarity, and rejoice publicly in it.”

Theodore Dalrymple, writing on “The Meaning of Beheading,” in the Oct. 24 issue of National Review


“[Christopher] Hitchens has never apologized for his Trotskyism. … And in the July/August 2004 issue of the Atlantic [Monthly], Hitchens wrote a hagiographic essay about a figure whom he claimed ‘always was … a prophetic moralist.’ Hitchens was not writing about Mother Teresa or John Paul II, but about Leon Trotsky — a man who was an active participant in and apologist for Lenin’s Red Terror … and the author of such witty aphorisms as ‘We must rid ourselves once and for all of the Quaker-Papist babble about the sanctity of human life.’ …

“For their part, the neocons have warmly embraced Hitchens. His writing is welcomed at the Weekly Standard, which also gave a glowing review to his latest book. … Regulars at National Review Online praise and link to Hitchens’s work, and David Frum has boasted there of his friendship with Hitchens. …

“The neocons prattle on endlessly about ‘moral clarity’ and display a fondness for ideological purges, but have never been anything but indulgent toward Hitchens. They have not criticized his Bolshevism or his hatred of religion.”

Tom Piatek, writing on “The Purest Neocon,” in the Oct. 10 issue of the American Conservative

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