Cross posted from Slobber And Spittle
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll
As Josh Marshall writes, it’s painful to be reminded of these things, but Peter Beinart reminds us that the jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wasn’t always about making sure Muslims didn’t build their churches where decent folk might be somehow troubled:
The ADL calls itself “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency.” Coming from an explicitly Jewish organization, that’s an audacious claim. But it’s an inspiring one, too. The ADL was born in 1913, after a Georgia jury falsely convicted a Jewish factory owner named Leo Frank of murdering a Christian employee. The men who defamed, and later lynched, Frank were anti-Semites. But they were not only anti-Semites. Three months after Frank’s murder, some of his tormenters met on Georgia’s Stone Mountain to refound the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that would now dedicate itself not merely to terrorizing African-Americans, but to terrorizing Catholics and Jews as well.
Against this backdrop, the founders of the ADL made their organization a kind of mirror image of the Klan. If the Klan saw anti-Semitism as one component of the struggle to maintain white, Protestant supremacy, the ADL would make its opposition to anti-Semitism one component of the struggle against white, Protestant supremacy. If bigotry was indivisible, anti-bigotry would be indivisible too. “The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people,” declared the ADL’s charter. “Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.”
As Beinart goes on to point out, the ADL just forgot the principles of reason and tolerance it was founded on. Eventually, it became the organization that decided it was OK to keep a muslim place of worship out of an area because of a dreadful crime that some fanatical adherents to that religion committed there.
They aren’t the only organization to do that lately. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) did much the same thing when it rushed to judge Shirley Sherrod a racist, despite the fact that it produced the original video that Andrew Breitbart’s site published in doctored form. It forgot that rushing to judgment without knowing the facts is what bigots do.
This is the problem with living in a free society. People are often free to do things you find annoying. They’re free to advertise their religions loudly and often, which certainly bothers me. They’re free to say stupid things, and thoughtless things, even on the air. As long as I have the right to say, in turn, that these people are stupid, and to explain why, I’ll live with that. It’s the price I pay for being able to speak my mind.
It’s a price we all pay for being free.
When I coined the phrase molestus hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning, it should have been obvious that what I was referring to isn’t reasoning at all. It’s just letting your prejudices rule your thinking. There is a purpose to reason, and there is merit in learning the facts and reflecting on their meaning before reaching a judgment. In the era of 24 hour news cycles, we need to remember this, both as producers and consumers of news.
That’s another price we all pay for being free.