None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Affirmative Action, Intellectual Dishonesty, and Other Synonymous Concepts at Work

Andrew Sullivan, who is totally inconsistent on issues of public concern (while remaining strangely admirable), gets off a line about affirmative action (as regards the Jayson Blair affair) that just drives me batty every time I read it:

[T]he problem isn't the policy as such. It's the quixotic, arbitrary, dictatorial way in which the policy was abused.

He says this in response to TNR's hokey-pokey defense/attack on the Times' AA policy. You know the defense I'm talking about--"Oh, this instance of affirmative action was wrong, yes, but that's because it's been misapplied. Real affirmative action is something else." Just like socialism, and every other pie-in-the-sky, counter-productive and obviously worthless bit of social and economic policy cooked up be the left for the last forty years, every single failure, no matter how unmitigated and extreme, is blamed on the "impurity" of the way in which the idea has been applied, rather than the stupidity of the idea itself. It doesn't matter how many of these stories surface, the response will always be that affirmative action is just fine as long as it's not applied like this--or this--or this over here--or that over there--or, in fact, in any way you can actually find it being applied in the real world. (It's the same with radical feminism, and its effects. Feminists will seldom defend a particular instance of their own insanity, just the general condition of insanity and cognitive dissonance that is radical feminism.) I've hardly ever seen a particular case of affirmative action defended by a leftist, but the concept itself remains somehow unassailable in the minds of its advocates.

But what bothers me about Sullivan's remark is this: Affirmative action is "quixotic" and "arbitrary" by definition! The problem is the policy as such, Andrew, because no matter how the policy was applied, Blair would have gotten a job at the Times. That same policy is what created the pressures to retain a scumbag like Blair even when he is shown to be incompetent--because to fire him for any reason, no matter how justified, would be an admission that the policy had failed. In fact, it would demonstrate that the very criticisms levelled at the policy were precisely correct--most importantly that affirmative action itself confers favor on people who have not earned it, are not qualified for it, and are more likely to fail because of it. So the very existence of such a policy makes Raines' behavior not only understandable but necessary. There was no other way for him to preserve the policy. Universities do the same thing, to a much greater degree, which is why they lie about the nuts and blots of their admissions policies incessantly, hiding behind absurd tangles of euphamism and circumlocution.

Argh. For the last time--no, there is no such thing as a "fair" and uncorrupted version of affirmative action. If anything its advocates said was true, they wouldn't think affirmative action necessary in the first place. I can't write about this topic much, because, having seen this bullshit up close a thousand times, I can tell you it smells just as bad in reality as it does in theory, and nothing makes me more angry. So 'nuff said, for now.

UPDATE: Remarks from Discriminations:

If TNR really thinks that "as normally administered" affirmative action programs provide only a "slight boost" and a "benefit of the doubt," then it really hasn't a clue about racial preferences in real life. Its idealized version may be how affirmative action was "supposed" to work, but anyone who thinks that's how it in fact does work either has not looked or is wearing some pretty thick ideological blinders.


Sunday, May 11, 2003
The End is Nigh...

...for my semester. Blogging on NTW will resume this afternoon, and I'm very sorry to have been so slack. But again, this has been a downright murderous week for me. Stay tuned, more on the way, including my promised post regarding open-mindedness and another about X-Men 2...