Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: What Defines Respectability?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What Defines Respectability?

A couple of nights ago, I linked to a piece Brenda Kilianski wrote for the Chicago Tribune on former Weatherman Bill Ayers, who's been back in the news lately because of his relationship with Barack Obama. In response to a New York Times blog post by Stanley Fish in defense of Ayers, Matt Yglesias makes a couple of points that are a pretty good reflection of my latest thinking about the issue.

It seems that everyone who's anyone in Illinois political and intellectual circles has had some passing association with Ayers. This, however, doesn't do much to explain why Ayers has managed to acquire this kind of banal-yet-prominent position on the scene. One can easily imagine an alternate universe in which this not-really-repentant ex-terrorist is basically shunned -- bombmaking being a kind of shun-worthy activity.

But then again lots of folks with much more blood on their hands from that same period -- Henry Kissinger and his subordinates -- are even more respectable figures, key members of the national establishment. Donald Rumsfeld has an appointment at Stanford! Lord knows how many aspiring lawyers will learn their trade from John Yoo at Berkeley. If I had my druthers, we'd shun 'em all, but I think that's not in the cards.

There sure are a lot of unsavory individuals on both sides. We not only put up with them, we welcome them. Why is that?


At 3:25 PM, May 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it can be explained by the old saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." A lot of nastiness gets either swept under the carpet or ushered through the front door in the name of that sort of political expedience.


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