July 17, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: Shut Up and Speak Honestly: Holder urges candor. Does he mean it?

To be sure, the smug mockery of twits like Yglesias and Klein, while it does not contribute to the honest conversation Holder claims to want, is not much of a detraction from it either.

On the other hand, the “racist” label is intended as a conversation-stopper. And “this isn’t the first time Cohen has come under fire for making insensitive comments about young black men,” as Calderone notes. In 1986 two dozen protesters gathered outside the Post’s headquarters to protest (among other things) a Cohen column that appeared in the newspaper’s Sunday magazine. According to a contemporaneous account from United Press International, Cohen “sided with city jewelry store owners who refuse to allow young black men to enter their shops because of a fear of crime.” Executive editor Ben Bradlee issued a printed apology. Hiatt’s unapologetic stance is encouraging by contrast.

That said, Hiatt’s suggestion that Cohen’s detractors “seek to stifle” his views poses a bit of a conundrum.They are, after all, doing nothing more than expressing their views, and one imagines that Madden, for instance, honestly believes Cohen’s views make him a “racist.”

But an honest conversation requires more than honesty. It requires a willingness to engage constructively with people who hold views with which one disagrees, or that one finds disagreeable. In that regard, Cohen measures up while his detractors fall short.

If America is a “nation of cowards,” it is likely because many people with views similar to Cohen’s prefer to avoid the subject rather than endure the unpleasantness and potential serious repercussions that come with the accusation of racism. Holder’s call for honest conversation would have some force if he exhorted fellow liberals and fellow blacks to be sensitive to the reasons for these inhibitions. Absent that, it’s more lecture than conversation.

Like Obama, when Holder says “conversation,” he means “shut up while I lecture.”

Comments are closed.
InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.