The stubborn thirst for simple answers to hard questions

Popehat says people who paid attention to Elise Stefanik’s “yes or no” are credulous and stupid. He’s probably right.

America faces many problems. The easy ones we solve or ignore. We struggle with the hard ones. Hard problems raise complex questions that lack glib, one-word answers. The stubborn thirst for simple answers to hard questions is bad for America. It’s anti-intellectual, pro-ignorance, pro-stupidity, pro-bigotry, pro-reactionary, pro-totalitarianism, pro-tyranny, pro-mob.

Other than that…

He’s right though.

Take this week’s Congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses, titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.” A generous interpretation — a credulous one — would be that the hearing was designed to inquire why colleges aren’t protecting Jewish students from antisemitic harassment. A more realistic interpretation is that the hearing was a crass show trial primarily intended to convey that a wide variety of dissenting speech about Israel is inherently antisemitic, that American colleges are shitholes of evil liberalism, and that Democrats suck. Since Democrats do suck, they mostly cooperated.

The core Two-Minute Hate of this carnival was Rep. Elise Stefanik’s demand for yes-or-no answers to questions about whether policies at Harvard, Penn, and MIT would prohibit calling for the genocide of Jews. You might think Elise Stefanik is an unlikely standard-bearer for a crusade against antisemitism, given that she’s a repeat promoter of Great Replacement Theory, the antisemitic trope that Jews are bringing foreigners into America to undermine it. But if you bought Stefanik’s bullshit, you probably didn’t think that far.

Hey now, it’s not that I didn’t think that far, it’s that I didn’t know she’s a repeat promoter of Great Replacement Theory, and I didn’t pause to refresh my memory about her views and actions. Which is kind of the same as not thinking that far, but more ignorant.

He goes on to clarify in detail why her question was bullshit, and concludes with

I don’t blame Jews who feel under siege in America or on campus, even if I sometimes disagree with their interpretation of criticisms of Israel. Feelings are not right or wrong, and in the face of so much overt Jew-hatred, I understand a tendency to interpret ambiguous statements in the worst way possible. I think we should feel compassion and empathy for people who feel that way.

None of that is solved by pretending hard questions are easy. None of that is solved by letting demagogues and hucksters take advantage of the moment to push their agenda. None of that is solved by contributing to what America is becoming — stupider and meaner.


8 Responses to “The stubborn thirst for simple answers to hard questions”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting