October 11, 2002
JERRY FALWELL may be a prototype Idiotarian, but Clayton Cramer explains how his dumb comments can cause deaths in India.
Hey, nobody said idiocy was harmless.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh gently takes me to task for the above. He says that Falwell isn't morally at fault because a bunch of idiots riot in response to his remarks.
This is true, more or less. But nasty remarks concerning religion have a historical tendency to cause violence that no one in Falwell's business should be able to miss. That's particularly so at present when the situation is tense to begin with. That's what made Falwell's remarks "dumb." (Well, it's one of the things that made them dumb).
When Falwell made his remarks, he didn't "cause" the riots in the sense that Eugene seems to think is important. But, in wartime (to quote the oft-maligned Ari Fleischer), people should pay attention to what they say. Falwell didn't, and he should have.
Please note -- and some readers who sent me angry email on Falwell's behalf seemed to have trouble with this, though Volokh does not -- that I did not advocate censoring Falwell. It's not just those on the Left, apparently, who associate criticism with censorship.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Now Stuart Buck is chiding me too, somewhat less gently. Hey, I was nicer to Falwell than Stephen Green was. A lot nicer!
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: It's Sunday and I'm watching This Week, and Fareed Zakaria is, basically, agreeing with me. He says that the comments made by Falwell, Robertson, et al., are hurting efforts to portray the war as being not a war against Israel. George Will is also blaming CBS for magnifying Falwell into a bigger figure than he really is. There's an interesting back-and-forth between Zakaria and Will about the significance of Falwell, and I think Zakaria has it right here.
Zakaria calls for "American moderates" to condemn Falwell's statements. But, Fareed, I have!