Monday, July 14, 2008

when contrasted

veritable portrait of the real face of Our Western Civilisation

Christopher Hitchens' latest wheeze: discussed here and here

It's perplexing that people who were really against the war sometimes want to treat Hitchens as some kind of worthy adversary. There's a danger here of approaching moral equivalence. He is an ideologue, and his writing is as full of pathetic compromises as one would expect. He merely personalises a set of received ideas he does not formulate himself: appends them to a photograph and a biography. His appeal is that of style: a relative freedom compared to that afforded to more lowly ideologues. Celebrity journalists like Christopher Hitchens and Tom Friedman are permitted a degree of liberty in their subject matter. They operate like cavalry squadrons behind the front lines of ideological production, ready to sally forth wherever the line seems weakest, no matter how lame their charges. According to Hitchens:

"When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint."

When contrasted to actual foreplay, waterboarding is more like torture. I suppose Mr Hitchens has two rhetorical devices here and has inadvertantly mixed them up, in a mélange even he could not possibly understand:

1. All reality is subsumed into a confrontation of antithetical forces: the US security services are on one side and the murderers of Daniel Pearl on another. The actions of the US security services can therefore only be judged by themselves or the murderers of Daniel Pearl.

2. Waterboarding is called torture, but is less bad than other actions called torture, therefore it is no torture.

Both are still fallacies unmixed, but the effect would be less strained if they weren't allowed to bleed into eachother this way.

These idelogues; I don't believe they really love this society, or trust its economics, since they lard their analyses with such ersatz humanism. They refuse to recognise a process of falsification they themselves have a part in. The grandeur of Our Western Civilisation consists precisely in the materiality of a public rhetoric as acidtripped as that of the Olmecs.

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