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Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Spot an Ideological Blockage

Sue: "What happened to Bill's nose?"

Betty: "George punched him."

Sue: "Good God! Whatever made George do that?"

Betty: "Well, he saw Bill messing around with his wife."

Would any person of over 80 IQ think that Betty was offering two contradictory explanations for what happened to Bill? Of course not. There is the physical attack that damaged Bill's nose, and there is the question of what motivated that attack. (And note well: Explanation is not justification!)

But check out this:

'But it's a "subtle" political piece like the kinds played on TV all day on 9/11/2011, in which the Towers fell not because terrorists flew planes into them but because of America's incessant meddling in the Middle East; the same meddling which, educated people all know, had nothing to do with the Arab Spring at all.'

Now, this is a smart man writing this, but look at the rubbish he's written: As if anyone who thinks that our meddling motivated the 9/11 attacks thinks the terrorists didn't actually carry them out, or that planes were not involved! (And this lovely Arab Spring: Is that the same one leading to attacks on the Israeli embassy and those lovely incidents of racial violence in Libya? So is he pointing to more bad things caused by our meddling?) The Last Psychiatrist is a very intelligent person who would not for one second have a problem following the story with which I opened this post, comprehending that there are two different sorts of explanations being offered, not two contradictory explanations. But, as soon as he thinks of 9/11, his brain shuts down. Other posts make clear that he is ideologically committed to American exceptionalism: it has formed an important part of his self-image. Faced with the rather obvious challenge of the plain and simple fact that American meddling in the Middle East motivated the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, he could either admit that, and surrender the self-image, or inanely sputter, "No, it was the airplanes that caused it!"

3 comments:

  1. Hmm - I thought that TLP was making the point that we imagine the chain of events that led to 9/11 in terms of abstract things like 'American meddling' instead of individual choices like 'religious zealots commit murder-suicide,' because admitting the terrorists' autonomy is a lot scarier than contemplating political abstractions of the (lefty/righty preferred logic) sort.

    Christopher Hitchens, for instance, is what I'd call a thoughtful exceptionalist - seeing the US as bound up in complex relations with other countries and recognizing its unique potential given the present nature of those relations. One of his big points post-9/11 was that whatever roles the U.S. had played in mideast politics in the 20th century, groups like Al Qaeda were autonomous actors of a kind that a mere description of U.S. foreign policy could not predict - an emergent property, as it were - and that the U.S. was indeed free to act in response to their autonomy rather than to its own guilt.

    Am I misunderstanding TLP, or you?

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  2. Hmm - I thought that TLP was making the point that we imagine the chain of events that led to 9/11 in terms of abstract things like 'American meddling' instead of individual choices like 'religious zealots commit murder-suicide,' because admitting the terrorists' autonomy is a lot scarier than contemplating political abstractions of the (lefty/righty preferred logic) sort.

    Christopher Hitchens, for instance, is what I'd call a thoughtful exceptionalist - seeing the US as bound up in complex relations with other countries and recognizing its unique potential given the present nature of those relations. One of his big points post-9/11 was that whatever roles the U.S. had played in mideast politics in the 20th century, groups like Al Qaeda were autonomous actors of a kind that a mere description of U.S. foreign policy could not predict - an emergent property, as it were - and that the U.S. was indeed free to act in response to their autonomy rather than to its own guilt.

    Am I misunderstanding TLP, or you?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wally, but the explanations do NOT contradict each other, and presenting them as if they do is nonsense. And he definitely favors continued meddling, and wants to ignore it as a factor prodding terrorism.

    So, he may have some more subtle psychological analysis going on... and that may be accurate, I don't know. But the thing I pointed out is surely going on with him.

    ReplyDelete