Friday, February 20, 2009


with Jay Nordlinger
One of my great complaints — regular readers have heard it for a long time — is that no one ever goes back: No one ever reviews what was said, takes stock, etc. For example, a senator says, “If Ronald Reagan deploys those Pershings, we will have nuclear war!” Well, did we?

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, advocates of granting the Olympic Games to China all said that having the Games would force the PRC to liberalize. It would be good for human rights, people said. Even Chinese authorities themselves said that the Games would cause them to liberalize!

That was the great selling point.

And what happened? Not only did the Games not have a liberalizing effect; they had the opposite — moving the PRC to crack down all the more. I documented this extensively in a five-part series on this site last August. You can find it in my archive, here.

And just the other day, I saw this headline, from the Falun Dafa Information Center: “Fueled by Olympics, Falun Gong Persecution Escalated Sharply in 2008.” You’re darn right it did (and the relevant article is here).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with guessing, or arguing, and being wrong. It may have happened even to me one time. And it was possible that the Games would have a liberalizing effect (although I always thought that was a foolish guess, for reasons I detail in the above-mentioned series). In any case, the granting of the Games to Beijing set the cause of human rights back.

And it would be nice if some of the advocates of those Olympics — and there were millions of them — would simply say, “Oops: Turned out to be wrong.” Why should they say this? Because I think there should be Mao-style self-criticisms? No. Because I like to say “I told you so”? No. It just seems to me that, before we glide on, we should review, take stock, so as to prevent similar errors or misjudgments in the future.

Isn’t that elementary?

I see this trend a lot and not just in politics. If you want to harness a critical mind you have to track whether or not your analysis turns out to be right and how often. Otherwise, you will continue to hold onto the same wrong premises and continue the cycle.

Professional commentators will often get into trouble by stating the conventional wisdom without thinking at all and then simply pretend they never said it moments later when they are wrong. They must figure the "crowd" that also holds the Conventional Wisdom can't blame them.

I think the same was true about the olympics. I think I said around that time that you should invite totalitarian countries to participate in the games so that they can see how the free world operates, but you cannot let them host because that legitimizes their behavior.

Put more strongly, I think America, and western Europe even more so, have a big problem with moral equivalency because they ignore context. Why did Bush's approval ratings tank? Because Gitmo is treated like Auschwitz in the media. Iraq is treated like a bloodbath and the equivalent of Vietnam although you'd have to fight 50+ years in Iraq at this rate to match the death toll.

Without the hand-wringing of moral equivalency by the Left, Bush would have left office with a 60% approval rating.

How is such moral equivalency born? By offering countries like China full participation in the league of decent nations before they have the decency to be decent.

1 comment:

Sir Saunders said...

I like how you remind us to be conscious of our own bias and continually recheck our assumptions. This is a good point and it infects both the left and right commentators.

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