The Trouble With Hypotheticals

“But I do know that it’s true,” said the author of The Book of Virtues, “that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”

Not the smoothest thought experiment ever ad-libbed by a lapsed academic opposed to utilitarian ethics. The firestorm ensued. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, declared himself “appalled.” The Rev. Al Sharpton denounced Bennett’s comments as “blatantly racist.” The White House labeled them “not appropriate.” NAACP President Bruce Gordon felt “personally offended.” Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat, detected “a spirit of hate and division.” Bennett, while not apologizing, had to resign under pressure from the educational company he co-founded.

It’s hardly the first time a hypothetical upended a national political figure mere proximity to one sometimes does the job. —Carlin RomanoThe Trouble With Hypotheticals (Chronicle)

An excellent analysis of a moment that really frustrated me.

Regardless of what you think of Bennett, to willfully ignore the entire context in which the quotation ensued in the desire to score points against the speaker requires either industrial-strength blinders, or deliberate malice.