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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 1998 /20 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Moral outrage

DOES ANYONE REMEMBER any such moral outrage at the killings of Asian Americans during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles as there is now about the murder of gay Matthew Shepard or the murder of the abortion doctor Barnett Slepian? Moral outrage is one of the essential ingredients of a civilized society, but we have become dangerously selective -- and politically correct -- about what outrages us.

Even a President of the United States, George Bush, referred to the Rodney King riots by the romantic name "uprising." It was the culmination of a long trend toward accepting -- or at least "understanding" -- politically correct violence.

When environmentalists booby-trapped trees, so that loggers and sawmill workers risked injury and death when these trees were cut down or cut into lumber, there was no moral outrage. Indeed, a book showing how to use these booby traps was publicized on "public television."

When a 23-year old sawmill worker had his face torn up by one of these booby traps, few people even commented, much less objected. This column was one of the few that did. It warned: "The idea that zealots who wrap themselves in a moral banner are somehow exempt from the rules has been growing -- like a cancer ... It is only a matter of time before other zealots for other causes do the same."

That was 11 years ago. Since then, we have had some people on the fringes of the political right doing what those on the political left had been doing for years. Anti-abortion violence or anti-homosexual violence is now suddenly seen as wrong by those who turned a blind eye to politically correct violence against others.

If we ever allow morality or law to become just a question of whose ox is gored, then we will have taken a fatal step toward national suicide. We can survive lapses into hypocrisy, but we cannot survive making hypocrisy a ruling principle.

Hypocrisy as a principle leaves no common moral ground and no mutually acceptable framework of law, within which inevitable human differences can be worked out peacefully. All that this leaves us are tests of strength in the streets or assassinations from the shadows.

Unfortunately, there are too many groups or movements for whom morality is defined by what advances their cause. Some of these groups and movements are on the fringes of the political right, but more are on the political left --- and moving dangerously close to the mainstream of the left.

Double standards of what is permissible speech have become the norm on leading college and university campuses from coast to coast. Any passing remark that can be twisted to seem racist or sexist brings the full weight of the institution down on whoever said it. But the most vile anti-Semitism is not only allowed to be expressed, but is even subsidized by colleges and universities that invite and pay black militant extremist speakers with a record of inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric.

We are also seeing a widespread demonstration of moral double standards in reactions to the current impeachment crisis. Anyone playing any role in bringing out facts that reveal the perjury of the president is condemned fiercely by those who want to be "non-judgmental" toward the man who committed the acts and the perjury about them.

No one who has been instrumental in bringing out the truth about Clinton has escaped political and media wrath or the personal demonization that has become standard procedure since the character assassinations against Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and now Kenneth Starr. Those who repeatedly lied and covered up for Clinton are barely regretted, much less condemned.

Women who are now coming forward to tell of threats against themselves or their children if they revealed Clinton's sexual harassment of them are greeted with a yawn. Never mind that the Linda Tripp tapes show Monica Lewinsky warning Ms. Tripp about her vulnerability and that of her children if she doesn't go along with the perjury that Clinton and Lewinsky were planning.

For too many people, everything has become a matter of whose side you are on politically and whose ox is gored. Fortunately, those people are not yet a majority. But the bad news is that they have been remarkably successful in deceiving and manipulating the majority.

11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.