Staples on Jefferson/Hemings
a characteristically thuggish piece by New York Times
diversity hire Brent Staples on the Jefferson/Hemings issue
we’ve discussed before
. He manages to grind a surprising number of his many axes, which argues a certain skill, but he seems to have no notion that things are true if they’re true and false if they’re false.
Posted by Jim Kalb at July 01, 2002 06:27 PM | Send
It’s more and more noticeable today, the way certain contemporary writers in the grip of some ideology will state as an absolute, undoubted, factual truth something that is, as best, a matter of lively controversy, and at worst, very doubtful. Thus Staples writes: “The family organization that represents the white descendants of Thomas Jefferson has no interest at all in acknowledging the children of the slave Sally Hemings. Genealogists and historians believe her offspring to be the children of Thomas Jefferson.” Note how they simply ARE her children, and Monticello is simply refusing to recognize that “fact.” You would have no idea from Staples’s article that there are serious scientific studies rejecting the entire Sally Hemings theory.
Here is a similar kind of bald assertion dealing with race, from S.T. Karnick, editor of The American Outlook, in its Spring 2002 issue pregnantly entitled “The Illusion of Race”:
“Unfortunately, for nearly two centuries, the idea that there are several distinct races among human beings has been quite commonly accepted as a scientifically proven fact. This idea is simply false, as both common sense and modern genetics make quite clear …
“Ironically, a good deal of the persistence of this idea may be attributable to its utter spuriousness. If human racial divisions had at least some germ of truth to them, we could easily see their limitations. The fact that they have no basis at all, however, enables their advocates to shift their ground each time a particular contention is proven untrue….”
“If human racial divisions had at least some germ of truth to them, we could easily see their limitations. The fact that they have no basis at all, however, enables their advocates to shift their ground each time a particular contention is proven untrue….”
Bizarre. Well, it’s true that if a position is stupendously false and groundless it’s hard to wrap your mind around it, and you’re at a loss how to respond.
A package of ideas which is logically contradictory exhibits an intrinsic equivocity. Liberalism is one of the great examples. Every time it is challenged it can be clung to as overriding principle by shifting what it actually concretely entails. The wars that result are between polymorphic factions that do not disagree on fundamental principle, only on what that principle concretely requires. (In actual fact self-contradictory principles require everything and everything’s negation at the same time).