Friday, October 15, 2010

An Offensive Truth?

I just don't get this. At 1:50 Bill O'Reilly makes a statement that all the world (minus the Truthers, who don't really count) knows is simply, literally true ... and Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stalk out of the set in a snit! (Gee, Jimmy Kimmel cracked, you'd think that people with names like "Joy" and "Whoopie!" would be more cheerful.)

I don't care for the way O'Reilly consistently exaggerates the importance of symbolic, "values" issues like "the ground zero mosque," but on the other hand anger at the truth just makes no sense to me. Unless the particular truth involved is an invasion of privacy or some kind of proprietary secret, true statements should not make you mad.

What we have here is of course an example of what people call Political Correctness, which I would define as "selective linguistic sensitivity." The idea is that it is always wrong to say anything that "demeans" or "degrades" members of a list of oppressed groups. Against this doctrine consistently applied, truth is no defense. If a truth demeans a protected group, that truth is Verboten.

My own standard -- and I know it can be very difficult and painful to apply -- is that if you find the truth demeaning, you should try to come to grips with it, not forbid others to ever mention it.

Make your peace with the truth. It's going to win anyway.


pappy d said...

Bill is right as can possibly be.

I blame the principle of religious freedom for 9/11. Radical Islam started with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Under successive pro-Western governments in Egypt, it was illegal to congregate in groups greater than 5 persons except at religious services.

Joyce & Whoopi know damn well, to tar a billion & a half Muslims as extremists or that the hijackers just couldn't wait to get their hands on their 72 virgins would be silly. These were politically motivated killers, some of whom weren't particularly religious anyway.

But it worked. The US immediately began evacuating troops from the Arabian Peninsula.

Lester Hunt said...

"I blame the principle of religious freedom for 9/11."

To me, that's something like saying "I blame that plane crash on the force of gravity." That causal factor doesn't usually have this result.

I think the most informative and useful explanation would be that it was a result of two factors interacting with each other: America's interventionist foreign policy and the cultures of the Middle East.

pappy d said...

You're right, of course.
My comment was based on my assumption that intervention in Egyptian politics was right or necessary for US interests. The policy continues today & foreign aid to Egypt is 2nd only to Israel. I meant that within a repressive strategy, religious tolerance has been the chink in our armor. Was Polish culture under the Soviets that different?

Will S. said...

Does the truth win? Winners write history, so it all depends who wins, ultimately; the forces of freedom, or those of control and coercion, as exemplified by political correctness.

Fortunately, even in a totalitarian regime, the truth will out; all the more so, then, in a regime that pays some lip service to freedom.

pappy d: I see you are an unabashed imperialist. Much as I loathe the American Empire (as distinguished, of course, from America and Americans), nevertheless, I find your candour and honesty, esp. in your stated opposition to freedom of religion for those you see as the Empire's enemies, most refreshing. Keep up the bad work, so that all will see your ilk for what they are, enemies of freedom, enemies of the principles upon which America was supposedly founded.

Lester Hunt said...

Naive as this may sound, I think the truth does win eventually, though it may take a while. The main point here, though, is that the kind of truth that people find "demeaning" probably wins out a lot faster than other kinds. That's the truth that people are already snickering about behind my back, the things that everyone knows but no one will say.

The point about how the victors write the histories is an interesting sort of test case. It would be interesting to do a study of how long these orthodoxies last. Forever? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Do the victors write the history anymore? They may write it but it does not "stick" because their hercotectonic separation fails to control the citizen media. How many times have we seen propaganda debunked on the internet, or rumors confirmed? Who new the National Enquirer would break so many politically damaging stories?

I always find it fascinating when men (and sometimes women) reach a certain age that beckons them to reveal the truth. The most interesting confessor of my generation was Deep Throat, and that was mostly anti-climatic from my point of view.

"The main point here, though, is that the kind of truth that people find "demeaning" probably wins out a lot faster than other kinds. That's the truth that people are already snickering about behind my back, the things that everyone knows but no one will say."

Lester, I have no clue to what you are referring to, but are you misinterpreting the actions of others? I always tell kids you need to "rock what you are". Self-acceptance is the biggest defense against ignorance, or just plain cruelty.

Lester Hunt said...

"Do the victors write the history anymore?"

I had exactly the same thought. I didn't go into it because I didn't think it would affect my point, since loser-history doesn't seem less true than winner history. The example I would have given was the history of the Cold War, which in American universities is heavily influenced by profs who, believe it or not, strongly sympathize with the losers (ie., the Soviet Union).

For many amazing examples, see this article:

Anonymous said...

"Columbia's Eric Foner, a past president of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, staking his bid as founder of what might be called the Smiley-Face School of History... But if Roosevelt didn't deserve to be executed as a spy, he most certainly ought to have been horsewhipped for his cavalier dismissal of Whittaker Chambers' accusations. As early as 1939, Chambers warned Roosevelt about Alger Hiss and named at least 12 other U.S. officials who would later be proved Soviet spies. Roosevelt airily told his aides that Chambers could "go fuck himself." The spies kept passing secrets to Moscow for another nine years, until HUAC began making noises about the case. Chambers' warning was only one of several by regretful spies during that period that first Roosevelt and then Truman ignored. Truman was so lackadaisical that the military code breakers working on the Venona Project kept it secret from him for fear word would leak back to the Soviets."

Isn't truth stranger than fiction?

More to the point, googling Cold War would give plenty of diverse opinion. Liberal, nor Conservative professors, hold a Svengali power over the thoughts of students in this open media world.

pappy d said...

I think with the word, "supposedly" you seem to have undercut your own moral argument.

America has outgrown its nationhood as it has outgrown its mythos. The Boston Tea Party wasn't a protest against the tea tax. It had already been lifted when the raid was hatched. Patriot bands executed terrorism against the Loyalists, depriving them of life, liberty & property. Speaking of property, Somerset v. Steuart had more to do with southern states joining the conspiracy than principled love of liberty. I could go on.

The truth will set you free, but it's rarely as comforting as good old lies (especially noble ones). The only alternative to freedom is willful ignorance.

Usually, I tend to think of truth in its humble archaic sense; as a personal quality (troth), rather than a shining abstraction with a capital "T".

pappy d said...

I believe that someday, Communism will be recognised as a religion. I think Marx was trying to perfect Christianity just as Christianity tried to perfect Judaism.

Will S. said...

Well, pappy d, as an unabashed Canadian patriot, and partisan of the redcoats over and against your 'patriots', you'll get no argument from me about 'patriot' atrocities against the Loyalists; our country is descended from those tarred and feathered and driven from their home.

I find it highly amusing to see how tyrannical America has become; I imagine if the Founding Fathers knew what was in store, they'd have ceased hostilities against old Blighty, as Mad King George was nowhere near as tyrannical then as the American government is today toward its own citizenry.

Who says the fates don't have a sense of humour?

Lester Hunt said...

Amen, Brother!