Helen Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, and being wrong

By Felix Salmon
June 7, 2010
forced retirement of Helen Thomas is further proof, if any were needed, that it's still unacceptable, in public discourse, to be wrong in one's opinions. I find that sad.

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The forced retirement of Helen Thomas is further proof, if any were needed, that it’s still unacceptable, in public discourse, to be wrong in one’s opinions. I find that sad.

Thomas gave voice to an opinion which she then, almost immediately, retracted; no one, in the subsequent debate, defended the substance of her remarks. She was wrong; everybody, including Thomas, agrees on that point, and no real harm was done to anyone but Thomas when the video of her remarks surfaced.

But if you turn out to be wrong, even temporarily, even only once, on a hot-button issue, that’s enough for effective excommunication from polite society. That, to me, is chilling: I’d much rather live in a world where people should be able to change their minds and should be allowed to be wrong on occasion. For surely we are all wrong, much more often than we like to think.

A couple of years ago, Tyler Cowen, in conversation with Wil Wilkinson, said something quite profound:

Take whatever your political beliefs happen to be. Obviously the view you hold you think is most likely to be true, but I think you should give that something like 60-40, whereas in reality most people will give it 95 to 5 or 99 to 1 in terms of probability that it is correct. Or if you ask people what is the chance this view of yours is wrong, very few people are willing to assign it any number at all. Or if you ask people who believe in God or are atheists, what’s the chance you’re wrong – I’ve asked atheists what’s the chance you’re wrong and they’ll say something like a trillion to one, and that to me is absurd, that even if you think all of the strongest arguments for atheism are correct, your estimate that atheism is in fact the correct point of view shouldn’t be that high, maybe you know 90-10 or 95 to 5, at most.

My view at at the time was that this was not only true, but was much more true of men than of women, and that women, being more rational and more sensible than men, tend to be less sure of their own opinions.

This morning, I had an interesting conversation with Christopher Hitchens, who’s in town plugging his memoir. He professed to be a man of few beliefs, political or otherwise: “my only commitment is to a group of skeptics who are not sure of anything,” he said. But when I asked him what he wasn’t sure about, he started talking about galaxy formation, of all things. He said that “my greatest delight is being proved right in my own lifetime”, and said that he couldn’t think of the last time that he was wrong about anything. In other words, he’s highly skeptical of others, but utterly incapable of interrogating his own opinions with the same kind of approach.

Hitchens, in other words, would make an atrociously bad trader. He has the cocky-and-arrogant bit down, to be sure — in order to beat the market you have to think that you’re smarter than the market. But you also have to be incredibly insecure, willing to change your mind and your opinions very quickly.

At the beginning of the conversation, Hitchens expressed a certain amount of intellectual pleasure in noting that the statement “Christopher Hitchens is dead” is false now, but will be true in the future. But that’s trivial. When it comes to the opinions he expresses in his columns and books, he’s much less willing to admit that any of them are anything but certainly and timelessly true.

I try hard to believe the opposite: that many if not most of my opinions are wrong (although of course I have no idea which they are), and that many of the most interesting and useful things I write come out of my being wrong rather than being right. This is not, as Wilkinson noted to Cowen, an easy intellectual stance to hold: he calls it “a weird violation of the actual computational constraints of the human mind”.

But I think it’s undoubtedly worth working on, and, as I say, I think it’s one which is more common in women than in men. And I think it’s a serious weakness of Hitchens’ that he places so much importance on his being right.

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Comments
66 comments so far

Well said. If more writers/bloggers/pundits adopted this approach we’d have a solution to global warming due to a strong decrease in the production of hot air.

Then again, what you describe as “insecure” and self-critical thinking takes some form of pratice and some theoretical background knowledge. I’m guessing most people are simply not willing to bear the costs of second-guessing one’s thoughts. (It is hard for me to believe that Hitchensian people actually DO think they are right most of the time while everyone else isn’t.)

For all those who are willing to bear the costs of second-guessing, I can only recommend the writings of Socrates, Karl Popper, or Nassim Taleb as a theoretical foundation.

Posted by ru_nijmegen | Report as abusive

Is there empirical evidence that women hold their opinions less strongly than men?

Posted by absinthe | Report as abusive

“My view at at the time was that this was not only true, but was much more true of men than of women, and that women, being more rational and more sensible than men, tend to be less sure of their own opinions.”

Correlation does not imply causation. Women are, on average, just as rational and sensible as men. Socialization is what causes women to hem and haw in public and act like they are less sure of their own opinions; please do not frame that learned behavior as some sort of inborn trait that women possess.

Posted by quivo | Report as abusive

The day may come when somebody somewhere manages to have a serious conversation with Christopher Hitchens when he’s sober. But I doubt it.

As for Helen Thomas – well, PC retractions be damned, at least the old dame went out on a high note. Bless her heart and spirit. The oil slick she’s leaving behind her is not of her making.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

Doesn’t seem fair to needle Hitchens, one of the most pompous creatures on this planet, about the possibility of being wrong. But funny nonetheless. Well done.

Posted by clawback | Report as abusive

I don’t think it adds much utility for most people to be indecisive about their political opinions or religious vies. Much of the value of holding these beliefs is not generally to inform some Bayesian decision process, but rather as ex post justification for actions and events to serve other purposes such as strengthening social bonds with others who hold similar beliefs.

In terms of societal benefit, it is valuable to have a diversity of opinions. It would seem that you’d be more likely to get this if you have several distinct groups that hold their own internally consistent sets of beliefs quite strongly, with some chance of switching between groups, rather than one group with a bunch of wishy-washy centrists.

Posted by angna | Report as abusive

Or, to paraphrase Isaac Bashevis Singer: most of us are doing pretty well to be right half the time, and to be 70% right is something really special. What, then, are we to say to claims of 100% right? And yet that seems to be the standard in public debate.

BTW, the Sunday NYT had one of those mini-interviews of Hitchens by Deborah Solomon that ran along lines similar to yours.

And quivo: I don’t know that I agree with it, but Felix’s statement about women was merely an observation, with no cause identified. It is you who has assumed the conclusion by asserting without evidence that socialization is the cause.

Posted by Greycap | Report as abusive

Your more general point makes sense, but I can hardly see its relevance to what she said. The point isn’t that Thomas was wrong on a “hot button issue.” What she said was essentially more extreme than anything I’ve ever heard from Khaled Mashal. She really *did* say the equivalent of “blacks should go back to Africa.” That’s not just wrong, it’s so offensive that you can’t just apologize for it and move on.

Posted by HoustonEuler | Report as abusive

Is there no statement of opinion that, even if retracted, you’d consider so abhorrent that the person deserves deep and ongoing public ostracism? How about ‘gays caused Katrina’? ‘American blacks should all go back to Africa’? ‘Women who are raped all deserved it.’ If no, well, ok… but I think you’d be in the extreme minority. If yes, then your point is really about the substance of Thomas’ particular statement and how bad it was. So perhaps that’s the discussion we should have, instead of comparisons to mistakes in finance blogging.

Posted by MickWeinstein | Report as abusive

Thought-provoking post. The fascinating thing about this subject is how inconsistent (dare I say capricious?) we as a culture are in applying the “unacceptable to be wrong” standard.

Consider, for instance, the case of the Iraq war. There were many media figures — including otherwise consistently progressive ones — who in the runup to the invasion were vocally supportive of it, only to find later that the reasons they had given for their support were simply factually untrue: there were no WMDs, there was no connection to al Qaeda, etc. etc. etc.

(Josh Marshall and Matt Yglesias would be two examples from the blogosphere, though to their credit they both readily admit today to have been wrong back then: example.)

That’s a pretty big thing to get wrong. And yet it’s not like anyone is running them out of town on a rail. They didn’t even have to go through a period of atonement in the wilderness. I’m sitting here scratching my head trying to think of any commentator whose career suffered in any way from having been wrong on that issue — even though it was one of the most significant policy decisions of the decade.

So it’s not necessarily true that “it’s still unacceptable, in public discourse, to be wrong in one’s opinions.” It is only *some* issues where it is unacceptable to be wrong. And the unacceptability of error on an issue has little to no correlation with that issue’s significance to the public debate, which is disheartening.

Posted by jalefkowit | Report as abusive

Felix, I disagree. If being wrong were grounds for dismissal from public discourse, every single pundit would be unemployed right now. Especially the ones that work for the major American media organizations. Someone like Bill Kristol actually manages to be wrong many more times than he is right.

No, what matters is what you are wrong about. Helen Thomas might have been ok if she just said Israel should get out of Palestine. By adding that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany (where millions, including most of my family, were murdered before the rest went to places like the US and Israel), she crossed a line.

“But if you turn out to be wrong, even temporarily, even only once, on a hot-button issue, that’s enough for effective excommunication from polite society.”

Please name some other examples.

Posted by Snyderico | Report as abusive

What about excommunicating Hitchens or, at least, deporting back to Blighty?

Posted by xyz70 | Report as abusive

Oh, and regardless of the fact that you are wrong on this hot button issue, I will continue to read your stuff and enjoy it immensely I’m sure. That is, if you’re not excommunicated from polite society.

Posted by Snyderico | Report as abusive

Snyderico makes an excellent point — and it could be taken a step further: rather than “what matters is what you are wrong about”, perhaps what matters is HOW wrong you are.

Maybe wrongness is a continuum; on one end is wrongness that happens accidentally, because you were exposed to bad information, and on the other end is wrongness that’s embedded in the way you think, that colors your perception of every bit of information you come across, true or false. The latter is what made Thomas’ comments so particularly offensive, because they indicated not so much that she had been misled (which is forgivable) but that her basic attitudes about Jews and Israel were poisoned by prejudice (which isn’t).

Posted by jalefkowit | Report as abusive

Women more rational and sensible than men? Less sure of their own opinions? Remember what Orwell wrote about the women of the Party.

As for retractions being sufficient — well, some targets are implacable.

Posted by Mega | Report as abusive

Being wrong despite your best efforts to be right is one thing. This is something else entirely.

Posted by chernevik | Report as abusive

@MickWeinstein — better that one sinner repenteth, etc. If someone who used to believe that blacks should go back to Africa, or gays caused Katrina, etc, then repents of that opinion, that’s good news, to be welcomed.

Posted by FelixSalmon | Report as abusive

Does it make any difference if you hold an opinion at 60% likeli vs 99.999%? I like this appoach as a plea to tolerance and the virtues of an open mind. But minds shouldn’t be universally open: bad ideas tend to leak in.

Take the example of atheism. If you hold (per Cowen) that atheism is 90% likely to be right, then a 10% chance exists that you will go to hell forever. Given that (infinite time *lots of pain), you will certainly go to church and convert. no logic in being the exception. At least, presuming rationality.

On the positivie side, moderation in belief can lead to more careful action. This is only likely to be true in multiple choice options (when there are >>2 choices), and in those cases, this admonishment effectively means ‘do what you feel’. We know that everyone is irrational, and this only gets worse with excess choices.

A likely (51% confidence) net result of all of this is limited change in critical cases, and overall, fewer rational choices.

Finally, how is any of this any different than the on-the-other-handism endemic to economics.

Posted by Brennan | Report as abusive

@Greycap: “And quivo: I don’t know that I agree with it, but Felix’s statement about women was merely an observation, with no cause identified. It is you who has assumed the conclusion by asserting without evidence that socialization is the cause”

You’ve got a good point there. My own cause is just as much of an unproven one as Felix’s is, and I shouldn’t have jumped to slam his down :P.

Posted by quivo | Report as abusive

It’s not only that what Helen Thomas said was wrong, and morally offensive; it’s that we, the public, can’t help but wonder about her private beliefs. Was this a one-time screw-up, or merely a public expose of an anti-Semite? We can’t be sure, and all her apologizing in the world can’t answer that question.

The situation reminds me of Sen. Trent Lott’s scandal a few years ago. He made one statement in support Strom Thurmond’s racist presidential bid, and all of a sudden, we started to wonder — was Lott always a racist? Was it commonplace for him to privately express racist views to close friends and colleagues? Again, it’s the asymmetrical information between public and private beliefs that drive our conclusions about the speaker.

Posted by bjr26 | Report as abusive

“At the beginning of the conversation, Hitchens expressed a certain amount of intellectual pleasure in noting that the statement “Christopher Hitchens is dead” is false now, but will be true in the future.”

Based on his comments, it sounds like he’s intent on passing that pleasure on to as many other people as he can.

Posted by DonthelibertDem | Report as abusive

What ever happened to the notion that one should be held accountable for their action/speech? I thought the honourable thing to do is to resign in these situations. Ya, she f*d up and is certainly anti-Semitic (most people 70+ still really are – that’s why America didn’t enter WW2 until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and Germany declared war as well) but she did the right thing in the end – resigning. I don’t see that she was really forced out, just saw that she made an unpopular statement that caused outrage and made her decision to leave, much like the German president not long ago.

Posted by CDNrebel | Report as abusive

Listen Up, Helen:
It’s time for you to go. You are confused. Perhaps it’s the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Just go, please. It’s enough nonsense.
Don’t delay for your own sake…

Posted by Ulitka | Report as abusive

Wrong in our blogospheric intellectual culture is taking an unpopular position. To wit, there is no distinguishing between “Boers out of South Africa” and “Jews out of Palestine.” Or Anglo-Saxons” out of North America. Not to mention that Thomas herself traces her recent ancestry to people who suffered at the hands of recent in migration of European settlers. I rather suspect her statement wasn’t mere antisemitism.

She’s quite lucky she wasn’t lynched.

Posted by xyz70 | Report as abusive

It would appear that my fear of being wrong may be justified. More than anything else in a conversation, I dread the inevitable “Are you sure?” question when I express an opinion or even make a statement I believe to be factual. In either case, I respond that I am not “sure” about anything. Certitude is a disease of the young, and I can no longer claim that status.

I have always been extraordinarily put off by Christopher Hitchens, while at the same time enduring fits of jealousy over his self-assured, absolutely confident manner. In actuality, I believe him to be an arrogant, pompous, self-centered horse’s arse. But then, I can’t be absolutely SURE of that.

Posted by netdoc44 | Report as abusive

Felix…you miss the obvious. She didn’t retract anything. Read the press release, she regrets her comments. Well duh, she got fired because of them. She regrets getting fired. A 90 yr old anti-semite still spewing out the same old crap she’s been spewing out for decades. What other industry celebrates/employs fools in their dotage? And as for Hitch, well, Hitch writes beautifully and after much thought, so, take some time, my boy.

Posted by GregL | Report as abusive

Sorry, Felix..Helen said what many many people think..how many might suprise ya..the Israel apologists need to get over it..and let’s hear it for free speech as well..

Posted by gramps | Report as abusive

The “anti-semitism” cottage industry is having a field day over the infamous video clip of Helen Thomas. But have they actually watched it?

The guy behind the camera switches the question from being about “Israel” to being about “the Jews”. Bait, switch, match. No Pulitzer for him, or for anyone who blindly buys into Israel, Palestine and The Jews being one and the same… thing.

Because them that do are yer Middle East problem right there, in a nutshell.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

Surely, this is the apotheosis of the politically correct movement where you have to be sure not to upset anyone. Does anyone believe she would be treated any differently if she said a similiar statement about blacks or hispanics?

Personally, I would prefer my bigots to be out there in plain view rather than pretending they have some made-up concern for one of the least lethal conflicts in the Middle East.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Also, not sure this falls under the “being wrong” category. If she had said something like “most Israeli Jews are from Poland or Germany and should go back there” then she’d be wrong, she didn’t say this she said an out and out bigoted comment with no basis in fact and I seriously doubts she has changed her views; views which she is perfectly entitled to in a free democracy.

As for journalists, actually I would prefer they weren’t allowed to be “wrong” as often as they are. Most people get their news from journalists assuming there is at least some form of rudimentary fact checking and there is at least a non-zero probability of what they are saying is accurate.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Thought-provoking post

Posted by Arkadaslik | Report as abusive

I would agree with those who point out that we have the modern non-apology apology. It seems apparent to me that she was sorry that she caused problems for herself, not that she reassessed what she said and determined that it was wrong.

Again, we come to the idea of how much tolerance and for whom. Trent Lott is a good example – was he just trying to butter up an old man, or did he truly believe that the country would have been better off had a segregationist party won the presidency? I suspect the latter, just as I suspect Thomas does not believe the state of Israel should exist (I think Thomas uses “Palesine” as a lot of mid-east zealots use the term – the area from the Mederteranian to Jordan).

Finally, it is kind of interesting how ideas evolve. The creation of the state of Israel at the time, I think it safely could be said, was seen as a great victory for liberal or progressive action. In many circles, questioning the creation of Israel and the implications for the people already there would have been thought beside the pale.

Now however, it is RIDICULOUS to believe that one could abolish a country and move the entire citizenery somewhere else. The problem with silencing Thomas is that her foolishness doesn’t get exposed.

People can certainly disagree about Israeli policies. Indeed, I think we can look back and debate whether Israel should have been simply legislated into existence – a very good example of governmental action wtihout buy in of the locals. But it now exists, and it simply shocking to think that the person who has been thought of as this great White House correspondent is so abysmally …dumb.

Posted by fresnodan | Report as abusive

Sorry Felix, but you are WAAAAAY off base here. The issue isn’t just that Helen Thomas was wrong. No, that would be nice and simple. It wasn’t just that Helen Thomas said that Jews should “get the hell out….” When she said the line of “going back to Germany and Poland,” there is an implication that Hitler should be allowed to finish what he started. And not only is it factually inaccurate that all Israelis come from Europe, no Jew willingly and happily left Germany and/or Poland, even after World War II.

My Mother was born in Warsaw in 1954 and lived in Poland until her family was forced to leave in 1968. The Polish government used anti-Semitism as a rallying cry and a way to mute the 1968 political upheaval that had been spreading in Eastern Europe. Had it not been for Israel, without a question my family would have never made it.

To say that “they should go back,” especially the way in which she said it, is to say that they should return to a purge, massacre and Holocaust. Afterall, that is what most European Jews fled from. Felix, I can’t believe that you would call this merely the “expression” of an opinion. This is WAY beyond that. And please don’t even bother mentioning the retraction. Thomas’ only guilt was with the consequences of what she said, not the statement itself. This is not about rightness or wrongness, or opinion vs. fact, this is about pure hate for one race/ethnicity of people.

Posted by offpeak34 | Report as abusive

There are fundamental beliefs, and derived beliefs. Should I hold the belief that ‘all men are created equal’ to 60-40 certainty? Obviously some people at the time of its writing held it to be certain at 0% There also beliefs that are founded on evidence. If the evidence shows something – self-regulation doesn’t work – shouldn’t that impact your belief probability? I guess you’d have people arguing the evidence.

There is more to just opinion to determining what is right.

Posted by winstongator | Report as abusive

Felix,

I think we need to be careful about opinion and gross ignorance and incorrectness.

If Helen said that Isreali’s should quite Palestine because they are in essence “occupiers”, as offensive as this might be to some, it is still can be seen as a rational opinion.

The fact that she appears to show wanton disregard for the wellbeing of Isrealis by suggesting they just disperse haphazardly back to Poland and Germany and whereever else, shows great ignorance or callousness about a sensitive issue.

Now given that she is 89, I think we all understand we need to cut her some slack and her retirement seems apropos.

As for forgive and forget, come on Felix. Yes, because she regrets her statements and that she is 89 and perhaps more prone to slips, she should not be persecuted for this. That would be wrong of us.

But it would be equally wrong of us to just “let it slide”. We should be responsible for what we say in public. Now if we can only get Washington to be responsible for what we DO in public, America would be a better place.

Posted by Marcus180 | Report as abusive

Felix, you are wrong about being wrong for reasons most commenters here have likely never considered. To channel Keynes, it is perfectly acceptable to be wrong, as long as you are conventionally wrong. Mike Huckabee, as pointed out by Glen Greenwald, has said that the Palestinians should all be forced to live in other Arab countries. Why Huckabee both has his job at Fox and is still a serious possibility for President is beyond me, what he said is at least as incendiary as what she said. But it is wrong in the conventional way it will go almost totally unnoticed.

Posted by SadForHumanity | Report as abusive

I am not sure that arrogant-but-insecure is a good description of a good trader. I think the best way to be is personally confident (not swayed by the opinions of other people *on account of who they are*, and not cast down by the thought that the market must be so much cleverer than you are) but intellectually flexible (willing to change opinions very quickly, if and only if there is a good reason to do so).

Posted by JDB | Report as abusive

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Helen Thomas’ situation as a by-product of political correctness. I suspect this might be because a liberal paid the price this time. The truly unfortunate consequence of PC is not that Helen T. and her ilk get canned but that PC often prevents intelligent discussion of problems. If we can’t even open discuss facts that deal with race or ethnicity (e.g. Hispanics have an extremely high dropout rate), how can we ever expect to arrive at effective solutions?

Posted by jackindallas | Report as abusive

Helen Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, and being wrong!
Why is it wrong to express an opinion?
She has not asked all to agree or disagree. Basically all she said was an opening gambit for discussion and was then promptly drummed out of the brownies.

Posted by The1eyedman | Report as abusive

fresnodan, Israel was in no shape or form “legislated in existence”. What actually happened is that Israel fought a war against the locals backed by outsiders and then formally against outsiders – three of whom were puppet regimes of the British – whilst placed under a UN arms embargo enforced by the British and Americans whilst relying on the USSR for vital weaponry. Then they won and have continued to win. This is the sole reason why Israel exists.

offpeak34, well technically most European Jews didn’t leave because they were killed including over 95% of your compatriots which is one of the reason it is a bit hard for Jews to “go back” to Poland and Germany.

SadForHumanity, from what I can see that is not actually what he said. What he said is that they should not have a country in the West Bank and Gaza and people have helpfully extrapolated this to mean that Arabs should be forced out of Israel to some other country. Bit like saying that Thomas said Jews should be massacred in Germany and Poland.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

The1eyedman, no one is stopping her “opening a discussion”, just that she should not be someone who reports news. If she wants to start a blog jewjewsjewsoutoutout.blogspot.com – assuming it is not already taken – nothing is stopping her, just stop pretending to be someone who merely reports the news.

Maybe you are confusing what has happened to her to what happens to someone who objects to certain Arab and Iranian dictators – http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/11/ir an-executed-dissidents-tortured-confess

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Felix,
While it is certainly OK to be wrong about certain subjects and at certain times, there are times, events and circumstances in which public figures cannot be wrong.

If they are wrong on certain subjects, they cannot continue to serve in public roles:

1.) While it is OK to discuss and debate policy with respect to Israel, one cannot believe that “Sending the Jews back to Poland and Germany” is a valid solution. Under the circumstances, it is the moral equivalent of advocating another holocaust.
2.) One cannot believe the world is flat.
3.) One cannot believe that the CIA created HIV to kill the gays and blacks.
4.) One cannot believe Hitler was misunderstood and a great leader who made mistakes.
5.) One cannot think the west should take over control of their former colonies.
6.) One cannot think women should not have the right to vote.
7.) One cannot think blacks were better off under Jim Crow.

Any public figure who is wrong on any of the seven items mentioned above is simply unfit for public life because they don’t get it.

Posted by Boyardee | Report as abusive

HBC, would like to partake in more of your wisdom. I can see how you could make a [weak] argument that the “anti-semitism cottage industry” is the root cause of the deaths of less than 9,000 people in 10 years. Could you explain in detail how it causes – amongst others:

1) The death of 1 million Algerians in the war against France or the more recent death of over 300,000 algerians in the civil war of the 90s.
2) The death of a million Iranians and Iraqis in their war
3) the death of over 100,000 Kurds in the Anfal operations
4) The regular bombing and killing of Kurds by Turkey
5) The attempted invasion of Jordan by Syria in 1970
6) The actual invasion of Lebanon in 1975 by Syria
7) The killing of upwards of 15,000 people in Hama by Syria
8) The ongoing occupation of Syrian land by Turkey
9) The ongoing occupation of around 5% of Lebanese land by Syria
10) The war in Sudan – currently over 250,000 dead
11) The invasion of Chad by Libya
12) The invasion of Western Sahara by Morrocco
13) The ongoing embargo of Armenia by Turkey, which weirdly doesn’t get as much attention as another embargo does….

etc etc etc. By my count there are less than 150,000 dead in over 100 years of Zionism in all the Arab-Zionist wars which to put in perspective is at most twice – and possibly equal to – the number of Kurds killed in one year by Saddam.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

I think Native American Indians have suffered enough. The European, African, and Canadian immigrants, especially Helen’s family, should go back to where they came from.

Posted by tergen | Report as abusive

Truth, you see Felix, has two issues:

1. There is no objective truth. It is at best described as a consensus viewpoint.
2. Hence most ‘truths’ are tentative. Over-and-above, weighed against the passage of time truth is even more tenuous (and this includes such incontrovertible facts like Newton’s conception of time being constant or that before Galileo that Earth was the centre of the universe.)

Posted by DoubleLiability | Report as abusive

DoubleLiability, there are plenty of objective truths which is why most people don’t rebel against the consensus and levitate.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

Someone once noted that women use more qualifiers when speaking or writing. Instead of announcing that the economy is certain to rebound, a woman would be more likely to put it that – in her opinion – the market will rebound.

Someone in a discussion at Digby’s site last week pointed out that it is the media that keeps the right wing in power by smearing and visiting professional death upon even the most prominent journalists or politicans who presume to oppose the fascist oligarchs. If they can ruin Helen Thomas or Dan Rather, that let’s all the lesser american journalists know what to expect if they don’t spew the party line. Serves ‘em right for taking things like responsibility to the public seriously.

Not to worry. Our grandchildren won’t even believe such things as widespread prosperity or secular democracy really existed.

And isn’t it interesting how, when venal despots rule, only the jesters can risk speaking truth to power – http://fafblog.blogspot.com/

Posted by someofparts | Report as abusive

someofparts, so making up evidence and bigotry are what the left stands for now? and Obama is a fascist oligarch? He can’t be a puppet of the Jews, they are too busy bleeding babies to make Matzeh and spreading the black death.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

If your issue with Helen Thomas is her failure to literally specify “the West Bank settlements” “East Jerusalem” “Gaza” and possibly “Washington DC” in every single sentence intended to designate some of the places unlawfully occupied by IDF agents provocateurs and human shields, then a technical victory may belong to the censorious hyenas. But a hollow one it is.

Fact is, there’s plenty of other places for se’uh’lers to go, just not there. Even the Israeli government knows this, but keeps pumping them in to bolster its relentless imperial land-grab campaign.

Fact is, hawkish Israeli propagandists unctuously contend there’s no such place as Palestine when they’re occupying it, but still recognize its existence at the drop of a hat anytime they can squeeze, contrive and twitter out the semblance of insult having been leveled at them or “their” people. Israelis are the poorer and less secure for being represented by such knaves.

Fact is, in a free country, you have to be able to say this without fear of material consequence. It’s right there at the top of the Bill of Rights.

If Helen Thomas is wrong, it must be Tuesday and this isn’t America.

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