3 February 2011

On saying nothing when one has nothing to say

One of the most startling insights I was granted into what I subsequently dubbed the "arrogant ignorance" of a certain type of Brit came when someone I thought well of echoed the fool Wedgewood Benn's "itsh about oil" judgment on the invasion of Iraq.

After I deconstructed her comment, she retorted: "Just because I don't know anything about it doesn't mean I don't have a right to an opinion". Nobody could argue that she did, indeed, have the right: the question was why she should think it necessary to formulate an opinion when confessedly ignorant of the matter at hand.

Thus Nordlinger's article "The Humility of the Knowledgeable" in National Review, that one could wish were compulsory reading for the Brit journopukes currently giving us the benefit of their ignorance about what is going on in Egypt, by far the most populous Arab country with well over twice the population of Algeria, the next largest.
Those who know the most about the Middle East are saying the least, when it comes to the turmoil in Egypt. Or they are speaking most cautiously. They’re quickest to say, “I really don’t know. I don’t know the exact nature of this, or how it will turn out.” They seem to be humblest, about what can be known, now.

I’m talking about Bernard Lewis, David Pryce-Jones, Amir Taheri, Fouad Ajami — people like that. These are men who have spent years and years in the Middle East, studying its politics, peoples, and languages, taking in everything possible. Those who know less speak in far more confident tones. They are even cocksure. I’m not sure we should trust anyone who speaks in those tones, just now.


  1. Not really an option when you're paid to say something regardless.

  2. How about paying someone who knows what s/he is talking about? Just for a change?

  3. But then they might say stuff you don't want to hear...