Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hyman Lip Synchs



Mark Hyman continues the march of the straw men with his latest editorial in which he lays the lash to a caricatured version of “multiculturalism” that has nothing to do with the real thing.

The difference in the latest version of his attack is that Hyman can’t even be bothered to use his own words. All but a handful of sentences that serve to frame the editorial are lifted from Michael Barone’s book The New Americans.

Of course, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Not that Barone is much of a relief from Hyman’s overheated rhetoric. Despite his journalistic bonafides, his take on multiculturalism is little more than Hymanese with a few extra polysyllabic words thrown in.

As Hyman does, Barone conjures phantasms of various “elites” (a word he repeats several times) who prevent foreign born children from learning English (through bilingual education), require the government to provide ballots in foreign languages (which has the unfortunate side affect for Barone of enfranchising people not likely to vote Republican), and who “regard our civilization as a virus and hostile immigrants and multiculturalism as the cure” (note the logical equivalence implied by that second "and").

There are legitimate debates to be had over issues of bilingual education and related issues, but reasonable debate isn’t what Barone has in mind. For him, those on the other side are not simply mistaken, but immoral. Their motivations are dark and dastardly. Thus we have those who support multi-lingual voting materials put into the same category as “government elites . . . [who] allow preachers of terrorism to teach in Middle Eastern Studies programs,” and the “highly educated moral-relativist elites” who supposedly loathe the very idea of Americanism.

Tabling for now the fact that these “elites” are fictional (tellingly, neither Hyman nor the quotation from Barone provide any real-life examples of them), it’s significant that those who have different ideas than Barone about how to best integrate society are not distinguished from the cartoon-villain, America-hating elites with whom he lumps them.

Hyman ends the extended quotation by saying “multiculturalism is the disease.” For the second day in row, Hyman has not supported his definition of multiculturalism with any examples, or provided a single concrete case of how it has supposedly led to “home grown terrorists.”

While I disagree strongly with both Hyman and Barone, I wouldn’t stoop to saying their specific views are a “disease.” What I would say, however, is that their unwillingness or inability to enter into a substantive dialog with people who disagree with them, and the simplistic rhetoric that results from this, are examples of the cancer that infects much of today’s political discourse and does far more damage to the sense of a shared American community than any multilingual ballot or Spanish-speaking kindergarten class ever could.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman/Barone Index: 9.50 (All those name-calling invocations of “elites” take a toll!)

1 Comments:

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