By Arthur Alpert
I cannot define intellectual honesty, but I know it when I fail to see it.
That thought occurred on reading essayist Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s appreciation of George Orwell in the N.Y. Times Book Review Feb. 14. He extolled Orwell’s “passion for liberty and intellectual honesty.”
But I think that a lot when reading the Albuquerque Journal. Reflexively, I divide columnists into two rosters – the intellectually honest (including some with whom I disagree) and the others.
Take the Feb. 11 Op Ed page featuring articles by Victor Davis Hanson and D’Val Westphal.
What a bold contrast!
To discourse on “growing anger” at “many of America’s elites,” Hanson (a Hoover Institution “classicist”) characterized those who endorse policies he dislikes – including environmentalists, critics of laissez-faire economics and dissenters from the Bush-Cheney foreign policy – as “elites.”
Logically, that would make most American voters elitist, but I won’t waste your time analyzing the charlatan’s work.
Ms. Westphal, a Journal editor and Road Warrior, trudged stubbornly through a lot of factual underbrush, forging a path through rules, regulations and law pertaining to the case of a bus driver fired after being found guilty of attempted sexual contact of a minor.
She sought to remind city administrators what’s at stake in their decision-making.]
“Other people’s kids have a bus to catch,” she wrote. “And their parents shouldn’t have to worry about who’s driving.”
That conclusion is admirable, but it’s how she got there – her scrupulousness and idealism about the uses of journalism –that demands respect.
The next day, the Journal’s Establishment political economist, Robert J. Samuelson, weighed the economic proposals of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and found them worthwhile.
Playing the fair-minded solon, Samuelson declined to rubber-stamp Ryan’s ideas but he hoped they’d spark a necessary conversation.
What a sham! Samuelson campaigns relentlessly against government programs that help the middle-class and the poor, including Social Security and Medicare. And here he pretends to be a dispassionate expert on Ryan’s plans, which include killing Social Security and Medicare.
In an UpFront column Tuesday, Feb. 16, Winthrop Quigley cut up politicians, for “political pandering” and other “blather” that makes “intelligent conversations” about economic issues like the deficit “all but impossible.”
Arguing for complexity and against sound bites, he denounced those who exploit issues for their own purposes.
It was well said, but politicians hardly monopolize the business of casting intellectual honesty to the winds. Some syndicated columnists do it, too. Even newspapers.