Intellectual Honesty and Why Names Matter (sort of)

Recently, right wing talk radio in general, and Jay Severin on WTKK in particular, has latched onto the fact that Barak Obama’s middle name is Hussein. This is clearly being done as a way to to try and associate Obama with our enemies in the war on terror by emphasizing the Islamic source of the name and implying that he is some sort of crypto-Muslim.

This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst purposefully deceptive.

The idea that Obama is in any way Muslim has been completely debunked, and yet the talk shows keep harping on it.

Let’s examine a hypothetical situation which, I think, clearly illustrates how truly onerous this tactic really is.

Let’s just say that Jay Severin is a pro-casino guy and that he lives in Middleboro, MA (the former perhaps true, but I’m not sure, and the latter demonstrably false, but this is, after all, hypothetical 🙂 ). And let’s just say that he decides he wants to run for town selectman. Imagine the (proper) outrage if his opponents started issuing campaign literature emphasizing the following:

Do you really want Jimmy Serevino on your board of selectmen when the biggest issue of the day is whether or not to allow organized crime into our neighborhoods in the form of a Casino?

The obvious (and abhorrent) implication here is that anyone of Italian ancestry is obviously connected to the mob, and that’s not the kind of person we’d want running our local government with the casino question pending… that would just be inviting the mob into Middleboro.

Is there anything factually wrong with the question being asked? No. Does the question imply something that’s probably (and mostly likely) wrong (that Jay is mobbed up)? Yes. Should we as a thinking electorate stand for such nonsense? Absolutely not.

So, people’s names don’t really matter. What matters is how the names are used. If they are used to identify someone, that’s fine. If they are used to disparage them, or imply untruths, or connections that don’t exist, it is completely unacceptable.