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Witch-Hunts:

Some posts have accused me of a "witch-hunt" for trying to identify people who support or justify the Iraqi insurgents. (See, for instance, some comments here.)

I've long been quite troubled by the casual use of the term "witch-hunt." First, the most obvious thing that's wrong with witch-hunts is that there are no witches. If you're trying to identify supporters of Iraqi insurgents, supporters of the KKK, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, or whatever else, you're trying to identify people that most certainly do exist. (More details in a forthcoming post.)

Second, some people seem to suggest that it's just impermissible or McCarthyite to come up with lists of people who have certain reprehensible views. Well, I was challenged to try to come up with such lists, by people who seemed to suggest that there were no such supporters, at least in positions of any significance (see, e.g., this comment, among others). But beyond this, it is perfectly legitimate to identify people who have expressed reprehensible views, and to publicly condemn them.

Third, Eric Muller (IsThatLegal?) says this -- apparently, my posts and David Kopel's -- "is turning into a witch hunt." It's not completely clear why he says this, but I take it that he's using "witch hunt" to mean allegations based on inadequate evidence. Prof. Muller actually acknowledges that two of the examples David Kopel gave are accurate; he disputes a third, Arundhati Roy, about which Kopel himself noted a caveat; and he points out that the fourth is based on hearsay, though hearsay from a seemingly quite sympathetic source. Yes, if we were actually hanging supposed witches, that would be pretty weak evidence; and even in general discussion of the matter, one can certainly legitimately point to the weakness of the evidence, and suggest that the report is not dispositive of Ms. Garofalo's views. But if this is really a "witch hunt," then Salem must have been a pretty mellow place.

More shortly.

Justin (mail):
THERE ARE NO WITCHES. I WILL SAY IT NOW.

What you are looking for are quotes that can be taken, generally out of context, to crucify both the people who said it as supporting something generally when they only made either a narrow or out-of-anger statement, and the people who might randomly associate themselves with. You aren't looking to hang Ward Churchill on the gallows of anti-Americanism, but anti-war people generally (and you say so explicitly: you aren't looking for a catogue of people who have said things you disagree with but a "refutation" of the concept that there aren't major anti-war people who are "openly rooting" for the enemy. You then move the goalposts so far that almost anything will qualify.

Look, a witch hunt isn't a snipe hunt. What seperates a witch hunt from a snipe hunt is that a witch hunt's goal is to take real people and hang something unfair and undeserved around their neck. There may be some people who qualify outside the scope of the trial (under your definition of witch hunt, McCarthyistic laundry lists don't qualify because there really were "some" Commies), but if you happen to catch them, it's only a side benefit. A snipe hunt is a legitimate search for something that doesn't exist. If people were calling this a snipe hunt, the onus on you would only be to disprove that by showing there are some of whoever that qualifies who openly root for the enemy.

But because you aren't looking for people who openly root for the enemy (your goalpost moving in your search for soundbites is clear evidence of that), and yet you want to hang that albatross around the neck of the left generally, what you are doing IS..ACTUALLY..A..WITCH..HUNT. It's a witch hunt that has, thankfully, good defense lawyers for the accused witches, and thus has turned up quite few of them. Yet that does not legitimite the hunt, nor the motives behind that hunt.
8.15.2005 3:12pm
Public_Defender:
I've said it before, it's inaccurate to call this a "witch hunt." It's more of a "snipe hunt."
8.15.2005 3:15pm
A.S.:
It is clear that Muller is being a McCarthyite himself. In addition, he lies when he writes "Nobody could really name anyone other than Michael Moore." Obviously, there were at least a half-dozen other examples cited.

But it certainly seems that a LOT of left-wing bloggers are awfully touchy when Eugene criticizes "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America". Why do people like Muller and Henry Farrell feel such a need to leap to the defense of "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America". One could even infer that Muller and Farrell sympathize with that position...
8.15.2005 3:18pm
A.S.:
Meant to write "left-wing bloggers and blog commenters" rather than just "left-wing bloggers" above. Apologies.
8.15.2005 3:19pm
Justin (mail):
Public_Defender, the two work like a venn diagram. It may be both (it certainly appears to be, given the limited sample of respected liberal pundits and leaders), but that it is (or is not, should evidence find a "snipe") or is not a snipe hunt is irrelevant to a witch hunt, whose particular characteristics is the attempt to ascribe blame to person or persons who are not worthy of such blame, and to use inferences rather than concrete evidence to back up highly questionable accusations.

Volokh is probably guilty of both. But this is a witch hunt.
8.15.2005 3:21pm
Eric (mail) (www):
"[I]t is perfectly legitimate to identify people who have expressed reprehensible views, and to publicly condemn them."

Eugene, I don't think anyone is contesting the legitimacy of such an effort. I think what people are wondering about is

(a) the wisdom of such an effort,

(b) what might motivate a person to launch it, and

(c) how such an effort will contribute to, or, more likely, detract from, reasoned public discussion and debate of a matter that greatly concerns and affects all of us Americans--the "good guys" who support the war in Iraq, and the "bad guys" who don't.
8.15.2005 3:23pm
Steve:
No one is "leaping to the defense" of "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America." On the other hand, many are claiming that very few people belong to that set.

I just find it interesting that we devote time to compiling an enemies list consisting of the two or three people who side with the Iraqi insurgency, but we spend no time compiling lists of those who advocate genocide against innocent Arabs, those who support or condone torture by Americans, or those who support internment of individuals based on their racial background. These attitudes would seem equally "un-American" to me. But who knows, perhaps these will be the subject of future posts by Prof. Volokh.
8.15.2005 3:25pm
Dread Justice Roberts:
>But who knows, perhaps these will be the subject of future posts by Prof. Volokh.

I wouldn't hold your breath.
8.15.2005 3:28pm
DM:
Witch's don't exist? That would be news to these folks: http://www.wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm

The fact that you don't believe in witchcraft is hardly relevant. Believers in witchcraft most certainly can be (and probably have been) persecuted by non-believers.
8.15.2005 3:28pm
A.S.:
I think what people are wondering about is (a) the wisdom of such an effort,

Why would it be unwise to publicly condemn people who hold reprehensible views?

Is it also unwise to publicly condemn racists, neo-nazis, and the like? Or is it simply that, to Muller, it is "unwise" to publicly condemn left-wing extremists, but perfectly "wise" to publicly condemn right-wing extremists? Gee, I have a feeling it is the latter.
8.15.2005 3:31pm
A.S.:
No one is "leaping to the defense" of "Westerners who side with the 'Iraqi resistance' against America."

I disagree. There were plenty of comnmenters on that thread attempting to explain away Moore's comment. And Muller himself excused everyone else listed on the thread, when he wrote: "Nobody could really name anyone other than Michael Moore."
8.15.2005 3:34pm
Challenge:
Let's be clear, Many lefists call this war "immoral" and "illegal" and call America an imperial power. How could one NOT support American defeat in Iraq if you honestly believe these things?
8.15.2005 3:43pm
Steve:
Claiming that person X does not fit into the category of "Westerners who side with the Iraqi resistance" hardly equates with leaping to the defense of "Westerners who side with the Iraqi resistance." If I say that X is not a murderer, that does not make me pro-murder.
8.15.2005 3:59pm
David Berke:
A.S.,

You are conflating "defending" with "that quote does not provide unambiguous evidence." The first offers support. The second does not attack or support, but instead asks whether the example meets the criteria proposed.
8.15.2005 4:32pm
Rico567 (mail):
The use of the term "witch-hunt" here is clearly promiscuous, and falls in to the tedious, boring and awful category....used, it seems to me, by really LAZY people....that "everyone I don't agree with is either the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler and/or at the very least trying to promote another Holocaust." Taking a label for something historically dreadful has now, apparently, become an acceptable substitute in some quarters for reasoned criticism.
8.15.2005 4:34pm
Steve J. (mail) (www):
Isn't this guy "objectively pro-terrorist"?

'Good and honest' Iraqis fighting US forces
By Phil Sands, Staff Reporter
Published: 9/6/2005, 06:25 (UAE)
LINK
Tikrit
A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces.
Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."
General Taluto also admitted he did not know how many insurgents there were. "I stay away from numbers how can I quantify this? We can make estimates by doing some kind of guesswork," he said.
He added: "Who knows how big these networks are, or how widespread? I know it's substantial enough to be a threat to the government and it will be for some time."
8.15.2005 6:14pm
mrkmyr (mail):
"Yes, if we were actually hanging supposed witches, that would be pretty weak evidence . . . . But if this is really a 'witch hunt,' then Salem must have been a pretty mellow place."

Sadly, I believe that Eugene has joined the War on Metaphor.
8.15.2005 6:26pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
"Witch's don't exist? That would be news to these folks: http://www.wicca.com/celtic/wicca/wicca.htm"

Witches, as conceived by the people of Salem at that time (as well as their medieval ancestors), were humans with supernatural powers gained through conscious involvement with the Devil. Such people have never been proven to exist. Wiccans are hippie polytheists.
8.17.2005 3:29am