hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, June 14, 2002
On C-Span today you used an Orwell quote from 1942
that pacificists who wanted Britain not to fight were
"objectively pro-Nazi" because Hitler also wanted
Britain not to fight. Therefore today's pacifists are
also "objectively pro-terrorist" because they reject
any realistic means of opposing terrorism.

The thing is, Orwell specifically repudiated his use
of the construction "objectively pro-. . ." in his
December 1944 "As I Please" column. Blaming "the
lunatic atmosphere of war", he apologized to honorable
pacifists he had maligned, and explained that the term
"objectively pro-. . ." had its origins in 1930's
Stalinist propaganda. Anybody who disagreed with
Stalin on any issue was "objectively" on Hitler's,
therefore a traitor. It was this logic that fueled
the 1938 show trials.

Orwell further went on: "the habit of accusing
political dissenters of "conscious treachery . . . is
not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty
with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes
harder to forsee their actions."

The example Orwell gave was a pacifist asked to be an
enemy spy. An honorable pacifist, he argued, would
never betray his country. "The important thing is to
discover WHICH individuals are honest and which are
not," he wrote, "and the usual blanket accusation
merely makes this more difficult. The atmosphere of
hatred in which [political] controversy is conducted
blinds people to considerations of this kind. To admit
that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent
is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately
satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a

Michael Kelly and Andrew Sullivan both approvingly
quoted Orwell's "objectively pro-Nazi" 1942 article,
seemingly unaware of his 1944 recantation. Gene Lyons
rebuked them in his Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column,
but obviously they didn't read it or chose to ignore
it. Hopefully you won't do the same. You are free to
use the "objectively pro-terrorist" formulation,
though I hope you now see it is very sloppy thinking,
but you cannot honestly do so while citing Orwell's
example and authority.

Also, you called Byron York "one of the foremost
investigative journalists" in Washington. Byron York
is not a bad guy, but your assertion shows what's
wrong with Washington. I will accept York's
credentials as an investigative reporter the minute he
writes something that is not based on the subpoena
power and good graces of Dan Burton, Orrin Hatch, and
the witches' coven of Ashcroft/ Chertoff/ Comstock.