Alice Walker is a black woman author and activist, widely beloved and respected for her life and her work–until she praised David Icke, that is. Then she was widely criticized as being anti-semitic and crazy, to the point where quoting her iconic work, The Color Purple, was in itself an act of anti-semitism (see Dem rep apologizes for quoting Alice Walker: ‘I was unaware of the author’s past statements’).
Vox lays out the details and their perspective in this thorough, albeit one-sided, treatment of the story. Walker herself scoffs at the accusation that she is anti-semitic and repeatedly cites and explores Icke’s vast work on her website.
The paradox lay in the question, “How can someone so loved and admired for being on the right side of political and social issues get something so fundamental so wrong?” In my observation, the answer to this question is far too often along the lines of, “that person is (and maybe always was) crazy and irrational,” or “that person experienced a trauma that fundamentally changed his or her ability to reason.”
My first observation of this was when it became clear that Dennis Miller broke Republican rather than Democrat, or at least was more aligned with libertarians or traditional conservatives in the political and economic spheres than he was with liberals. I heard a former SNL castmate say, “Dennis was always a bit off.” What SNL castmember wasn’t? Isn’t that the sole shared criterion for membership? To me, this is an example of the fallacy to dismiss-rather-than-refute. The most common example of which I think is atheists laughing at the very notion of God without offering any alternative explanation or a good basis for the argument that God does not exist. I’m not saying they couldn’t do so, I’m saying they usually don’t do it. (Agnostics, on the other hand, do not commit this fallacy.)
So has Alice Walker, contrary to all our past experiences with her, suddenly become a crazy bigot, or does she perhaps have some reason for what she actually said or thinks that we don’t know or understand? Whether we would agree with her or not is beside the point. Simply said, The Alice Walker Paradox refers to the difficulty in understanding a position that is considered unthinkable that is held by a person who, but for this position, would be and perhaps even was respected.
*I am only passingly familiar with David Icke’s work so I have no opinion as to whether or not I would agree with Walker or with those who criticize her for her support of Icke. It is true, however, that in all the treatments of this issue, the arguments against her were dismissive and mocking, as are those against Icke. If they are wrong, prove they are wrong. If you say, “they are laughing at you not with you,” or “his ridiculous theories,” or “he’s just wrong,” I’m thinking you didn’t bother to evaluate whether they are right or wrong, rather you held a position first and set out foremost to defend it rather than to prove it.