The case of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, seems to have been designed to bring out the worst arguments in people.
1. The bald-faced lie. Faced with accusations of crime on the front pages of every newspaper in the country, President Clinton’s defenders donned their masks of outraged innocence and told the media, “The president has never been accused of a crime.” If pressed, they could have taken refuge in the factoid that Clinton had never been formally indicted in a court of law. But of course they were never pressed, so the lie was able to work its way, helping Clinton slowly, slowly, slowly crawl back toward the stagnant pool of residual legitimacy that lies around the office of the president. He reached that pool. Johnny Lindh’s parents now follow in his path, claiming with outraged expressions that their son “loves America” and could never, therefore, have been guilty of fighting against it. Well, love is such a tricky thing, isn’t it? Didn’t Oscar Wilde say, “Each man kills the thing he loves”?
2. The fevered search for truth. How many times during the past two months have you seen a modern liberal pundit publicly wringing his hands over the extreme difficulty of locating evidence that John Walker Lindh was fighting against the United States? Unfortunately, all we have is videos showing him as a member of an armed force that was fighting against the United States.
3. The brainwash defense. This is the catchall or default argument. According to Paul Morantz, writing on Jan. 25 in theL.A. Times, “History is full of examples of various kinds of brainwashing.” Among his instances are” the Inquisition,” “the Salem witch hunts,” “McCarthyism,” “Hitler,” and “Stalin,” the last two of which “hooked the downtrodden with promises of greatness. We are all, to some degree, vulnerable to committing horrible acts if we become convinced of a justification.” Of course, if we’re not convinced – if we’re not “hooked” – then we aren’t vulnerable. So brain-
After 29 years of plastic surgery, Mrs. G. is now suing her doctor for malpractice, say- ing the real problem all along was in her head, not with her chin and thighs.
washing consists of being convinced? Wait a minute, could we go back over that one more time?
As weak as it is in the purely logical sense; however, the universal-brainwash argument may actually be the most effective. How, after all, could one accept any of these arguments, if one hadn’t already been brainwashed?