June 3, 2012, 1:51 pm
Two stories this week struck me as cases of asking the wrong questions and therefore getting the wrong answers. The first was Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to ban sodas larger than 16 ounces in New York City. According to Bloomberg, the question is why are Americans so fat and the answer is soda. The second was the John Edwards case and the framing of it as one of sin and whether or not the sinner can be redeemed. Or as Katia Hetter at CNN put it, “Can Cheaters Change?”
But what if we asked different questions about both of these issues?
Instead of asking “Why are Americans so fat?” Bloomberg might have asked other questions like “Why are advertisers of non-food products, like soda, allowed to target children when tobacco no longer is?” or “Why are obesity- related illnesses like diabetes not randomly distributed throughout the population, but instead inversely related to…
February 18, 2012, 5:35 pm
It’s hard to be piercingly heterodox when heterodoxy is the culture’s orthodoxy—heterodoxy of a certain sort, anyway. Heterodoxy is not inherently instructive, accurate, or interesting. It’s pure reaction. If you tell a small child to be quiet and he yammers more loudly, his rebellion is a form of bondage. It’s hopelessly tethered to what it rejects. It’s wholly predictable and adds no value. It’s provocation whose point is to provoke, but not for any particular reason other than provocation itself. It’s reverse-the-sign heterodoxy—change the plus sign to minus, or vice versa. If conventional opinion condemns al-Qaeda and you defend them because the imperialists attack them, you’re a useless idiot. Much of the worst thinking of the last century has been of this form.
Bill Maher has on occasion made trenchant objections to orthodoxies of the moment, and last fall did herald…