Selective reality
Posted by aogTuesday, 09 August 2005 at 14:49 TrackBack Ping URL

I found this comment over at Crooked Timber to be an archetypical example of “reality-based” thinking of modern day Progressives:

This subject of rationality still fascinates me. The idea that there is a fight between rationality and irrationality for instance. In this case which position represents ‘rationality’ (inside the Middle East itself, unless of course they’re all completely deranged). The other idea linked to this raises tough questions about what is called ‘terrorism’. On the ‘irrationality’ analyses there is an equivilance between the ‘irrationality’ of the man who just murdered a number of people on a bus influenced by the ka’hanist ideology, and the irrationality of a man who blows up a bus influenced by the ideology of Hamas. Its a two tribes kind of thing with, thankfully, there being less irrationality on one side then the other.

There are several sleights of mind going on here. We have, as the two tribes, the ka’hanists and Hamas. Who, exactly, is claiming that one is less irrational than the other isn’t made clear here nor in any of the preceding comments. The trick here is the attempt to indirectly conflate the ka’hanists with Isrealis, as if they enjoyed the broad support and civil influence in Israel that Hamas does in Gaza and the West Bank. Related to this is the ellision of the universal condemnation of the bus attacker vs. the response to the suicide bomber. The viewpoint is clearly reality based, it just is very selective about which particular bits of reality are considered.

I don’t buy this really. The guy who shoots people in a bus already has a state of which he has full citizenship and if he chose to could live a life with all the benifits anyone living in a capitalist democracy can expect. The guy carrying out a suicide bombing has no state and suffers resulting diminishment of life whatever choices he makes. There is no equivilance in terms of irrationality here.

Note what’s completely missing from this analysis — any notion of the results of the actions described. The fact that the suicide bomber is acting to perpetuate that very things that (alledgedly) drive him to his actions is what makes him irrational. Why doesn’t the bomber have a state or the other benefits of liberal, capitalistic democracy? Because of violence just like his committed by his predecessors. The concept that perhaps a people upset by bad conditions should act to change those conditions rather than lashing out in a futile yet self-destructive way is apparently not even worth considering.

On the other hand, there is the refusal to follow through the view that the bomber is, in fact, being rational. If so, then one can presume he is acting in a way so as to bring about his goals. Certainly not a state in which one “could live life with all of the benefits anyone living in a capitalist democracy can expect”. The annihilation and ethnic cleansing of Israel, on the other hand, is consistent with such actions. The commentor implies the former will avoiding the obviousness of the latter. What I am left wondering is if this is deliberate and clever, a willful ignorance to rationalize a pre-conceived view, or true lack of consideration.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Luciferous Tuesday, 09 August 2005 at 15:16

“My means are rational. It’s my object that’s mad.”

End of Discussion