Thomas Sowell Quote

Information or allegations reflecting negatively on individuals or groups seen less sympathetically by the intelligentsia pass rapidly into the public domain with little scrutiny and much publicity. Two of the biggest proven hoaxes of our time have involved allegations of white men gang-raping a black woman-- first the Tawana Brawley hoax of 1987 and later the false rape charges against three Duke University students in 2006. In both cases, editorial indignation rang out across the land, without a speck of evidence to substantiate either of these charges. Moreover, the denunciations were not limited to the particular men accused, but were often extended to society at large, of whom these men were deemed to be symptoms or 'the tip of the iceberg.' In both cases, the charges fit a pre-existing vision, and that apparently made mundane facts unnecessary. Another widely publicized hoax-- one to which the President of the United States added his sub-hoax-- was a 1996 story appearing in under the headline, 'Arson at Black Churches Echoes Bigotry of the Past.' There was, according to , 'an epidemic of church burning,' targeting black churches. Like the gang-rape hoaxes, this story spread rapidly through the media. The referred to 'an epidemic of criminal and cowardly arson' leaving black churches in ruins. As with the gang-rape hoaxes, comments on the church fire stories went beyond those who were supposed to have set these fires to blame forces at work in society at large. Jesse Jackson was quoted was quoted in the as calling these arsons part of a 'cultural conspiracy' against blacks, which 'reflected the heightened racial tensions in the south that have been exacerbated by the assault on affirmative action and the populist oratory of Republican politicians like Pat Buchanan.' magazine writer Jack White likewise blamed 'the coded phrases' of Republican leaders for 'encouraging the arsonists.' Columnist Barbara Reynolds of said that the fires were 'an attempt to murder the spirit of black America.' columnist Bob Herbert said, The fuel for these fires can be traced to a carefully crafted environment of bigotry and hatred that was developed over the last century.'As with the gang-rape hoaxes, the charges publicized were taken as reflecting on the whole society, not just those supposedly involved in what was widely presumed to be arson, rather than fires that break out for a variety of other reasons. columnist Dorothy Gilliam said that society in effect was 'giving these arsonists permission to commit these horrible crimes.' The climax of these comments came when President Bill Clinton, in his weekly radio address, said that these church burnings recalled similar burnings of black churches in Arkansas when he was a boy. There were more that 2,000 media stories done on the subject after the President's address. This story began to unravel when factual research showed that (1) black churches were burned in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was growing up, (2) there had been no increase in fires at black churches, but an actual decrease over the previous 15 years, (3) the incidence of fires at white churches was similar to the incidence of fires at black churches, and (4) where there was arson, one-third of the suspects were black. However, retractions of the original story-- where there were retractions at all-- typically were given far less prominence than the original banner headlines and heated editorial comments.

Thomas Sowell

Information or allegations reflecting negatively on individuals or groups seen less sympathetically by the intelligentsia pass rapidly into the public domain with little scrutiny and much publicity. Two of the biggest proven hoaxes of our time have involved allegations of white men gang-raping a black woman-- first the Tawana Brawley hoax of 1987 and later the false rape charges against three Duke University students in 2006. In both cases, editorial indignation rang out across the land, without a speck of evidence to substantiate either of these charges. Moreover, the denunciations were not limited to the particular men accused, but were often extended to society at large, of whom these men were deemed to be symptoms or 'the tip of the iceberg.' In both cases, the charges fit a pre-existing vision, and that apparently made mundane facts unnecessary. Another widely publicized hoax-- one to which the President of the United States added his sub-hoax-- was a 1996 story appearing in under the headline, 'Arson at Black Churches Echoes Bigotry of the Past.' There was, according to , 'an epidemic of church burning,' targeting black churches. Like the gang-rape hoaxes, this story spread rapidly through the media. The referred to 'an epidemic of criminal and cowardly arson' leaving black churches in ruins. As with the gang-rape hoaxes, comments on the church fire stories went beyond those who were supposed to have set these fires to blame forces at work in society at large. Jesse Jackson was quoted was quoted in the as calling these arsons part of a 'cultural conspiracy' against blacks, which 'reflected the heightened racial tensions in the south that have been exacerbated by the assault on affirmative action and the populist oratory of Republican politicians like Pat Buchanan.' magazine writer Jack White likewise blamed 'the coded phrases' of Republican leaders for 'encouraging the arsonists.' Columnist Barbara Reynolds of said that the fires were 'an attempt to murder the spirit of black America.' columnist Bob Herbert said, The fuel for these fires can be traced to a carefully crafted environment of bigotry and hatred that was developed over the last century.'As with the gang-rape hoaxes, the charges publicized were taken as reflecting on the whole society, not just those supposedly involved in what was widely presumed to be arson, rather than fires that break out for a variety of other reasons. columnist Dorothy Gilliam said that society in effect was 'giving these arsonists permission to commit these horrible crimes.' The climax of these comments came when President Bill Clinton, in his weekly radio address, said that these church burnings recalled similar burnings of black churches in Arkansas when he was a boy. There were more that 2,000 media stories done on the subject after the President's address. This story began to unravel when factual research showed that (1) black churches were burned in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was growing up, (2) there had been no increase in fires at black churches, but an actual decrease over the previous 15 years, (3) the incidence of fires at white churches was similar to the incidence of fires at black churches, and (4) where there was arson, one-third of the suspects were black. However, retractions of the original story-- where there were retractions at all-- typically were given far less prominence than the original banner headlines and heated editorial comments.

Related Quotes

About Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell (; born June 30, 1930) is an American author, economist, political commentator, social theorist, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.Sowell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, to a poor family. After his family migrated to the North, he grew up in Harlem, New York. Beleaguered by financial difficulties and deteriorated home conditions, he dropped out of Stuyvesant High School and served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. Upon returning to the United States, Sowell took night classes at Howard University before attending Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1958. He earned his master's degree in economics from Columbia University the next year and received a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968. During his academic career, he served on the faculties of several universities including Cornell University, Amherst College, the University of California, Los Angeles, and, currently, Stanford University. He has also worked at think tanks such as the Urban Institute. Since 1977, he has worked at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy.
Sowell is generally described as a conservative, especially on social issues; a libertarian, especially on economics; or libertarian-conservative. He has said he may be best labeled as a libertarian, though he disagrees with libertarians on some issues including national defense. Sowell was an important figure to the new conservative movement during the Reagan Era, influencing fellow economist Walter E. Williams and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Sowell was offered a presidential position in the Nixon Administration and as Federal Trade Commissioner by the Ford Administration in 1976, but declined both offers. Similarly, he was offered to head the U.S. Department of Education as Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, but refused to take the position. He was a recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush in 2002.Sowell is the author of more than 45 books and has been a syndicated columnist in more than 150 newspapers.