Monday, September 7, 2015

Can Clear Writing be Dangerous?

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books has an essay by Timothy Snyder entitled "Hitler's World." It may be one of the best efforts to distill the basic principles of Mein Kampf without getting bogged down in the inflammatory rhetoric. It goes without saying that Snyder also does an excellent job of pointing out the abundance of flaws in Hitler's approach to argumentation.

In many respects it is probably about time that someone gave such a serious and dispassionate reading of a document that had such a strong impact on the twentieth century. However, do we need to ask whether or not there is a risk in summarizing that document in readily accessible language, even if that language also explains the many instances of faulty reasoning? We know from institutions such as Fox News that selective reading and attention has become the order of the day for those who try to promote personal ideologies. Do we have to worry that Snyder's clarity might fuel the fires of current and future generations of neo-Nazi thinking? When we live in a world in which willful irrationality seems to be "the new normal," we have to worry about such matters!

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