Friday, May 26, 2006

Do you have postmodern progressive colorblindness?

There's a simple test for literal colorblindness. A man (usually it's men) is shown a picture, usually a collection of dots, some of them green, the rest of them red (usually it's green and red). If he can see normally, he'll recognize that the green dots trace out some numeral, the red ones comprising the background. If he's color deficient, he'll see something else, probably just a uniform array of grayish dots.

Similar political tests are also possible. I present one below. I might have presented more, but I personally came across this one early in the week and don't feel like waiting to find or writing tests that distinguish other political antipodes.

Definition: Terrorism works to no small degree on the fear of uncertainty, of not knowing where or when or how a strike will take place.

Assertion: The United States is a terrorist state.

Crux of the argument: Compare the following two statements.
1. Hand over Osama bin Laden by the end of October or we will come get him.
2. We will destroy your civilization! You will not know which business, which school, which courthouse, which train station we will destroy next! Perhaps it will be a dirty bomb! Perhaps it will be anthrax! You do not know, so you will cower before us, and your civilization will fall!

In both cases, we have an ultimatum (#2's really an ultimatum; pretend I didn't leave out the conditional) that includes violence and regime change as the only alternative to compliance.

In the first case, we have a statement that implies or comes with expectable military goals, from a power that endeavors to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage and intends to help get a nation back on its feet, allowing large and recently repressed segments of its population to go out in public unchaperoned and unbeaten.

In the second case, we have a statement that threatens widespread, low-level, random destruction of civilly strategic but militarily unimportant targets, solely for the sake of keeping the population off balance and disrupting society as a whole. Rebuilding, if it is done at all, would result in something rather despotic, maintained by little more than brute force.

If the difference between these two positions is substantial and important, then you are not blind.

If you cannot see that a concrete deadline, an explicit warning, and the intent of causing minimal damage are different from the promise of explicitly random and widespread violence, then you need to cut back on the New York Times and MoveOn.

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