Nuclear Opinions - or - The High Art of Mocking Morality

Morality used to mean something at the time of the great saviors. Skillful mocking of it has now become high art and fashionable.

Some are advancing "innovative" moral principles, for example:

  • (a) The world is divided into friends and enemies.

  • (b) Whatever my friends do (no matter how wrong), they have done right!

  • (c) Whatever my enemies do (no matter how right), they have done wrong!

  • (d) Apply the above principles where you can, and where you don't apply them, say you couldn't. This includes the paranthesis in items (c) and (b) above.

Opinion journalism more often than not will go astray, and take up this high art.

"This tailor cuts and sews," so goes the Persian saying, with no care whether the coat will fit the poor fellow who would wear it. The opinion journalists (M. Ledeen, etc.), particularly the ones who eagerly beat the drums of confrontation with Iran at every media corner and opportunity they find, will spare no effort to produce unreal accounts of what is at stake.

So, we read Richard Cohen (of Washington Post) enshrine the new policy principles (see above) with his sanctification of "Judicious Double Standards."

Mockery becomes more manifest when the joker imposes his own value system on others and takes no heed of the importance of consistency.

Not only does Cohen ridicule consistency of rules and standards, he also believes Iranian leaders must think they should want nuclear weapons, even if they don't. In fact, all Iranian political leaders (all of whom are elected officials, by the way) have said, on multiple occasions, that nuclear weapons do not fit their national defense doctrine. They have held such weapons to be not only costly and unnecessary but also ineffective and immoral, despite what Cohen would rather have Iranian leaders believe.

But facts and what others say matter little to opinion makers who are bent towards conflict, specially one that promises, if it ever happens, to be far more costly for the future of the West than for what will become of Iran, not in a physical sense, but in a wierd moral sense.

Here, I could choose at random and analyze every sentence in Mr. Cohen's rhetorical column, show its deep injustice and prove it false based on real events and facts but I have a day job to do and need some evenings to spend with my family instead of blogging.

I do have one quick advice for him to improve his rhetoric. The moral principle he should enshrine is not that double standards are good policy and should be defended but that different cases need to be measured according to their context.

However, all measurement, even if sensitive to the context of a case, will eventually require the same moral foundation, compass and measuring stick, and Mr. Cohen seems to posses only one very rusty and biased measuring tool in his toolbox — the one summarized in the first part of this essay.

Charged adjectives and accusations, deployed using the highest rhetorical techniques, may have a university campus quality but they can hardly turn halucinations into reality.

The moral that "whatever my friend does is right" is far lower in its value as a measuring stick and a guiding principle than the golden rule of reciprocity that says "treat others as you would like to be treated yourself" — in other words consistency on a very personal, deep level — "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" (Gospel of Matthew 7:12 of the Christian Bible). (Unfortunately, when I re-examine the situation, I see that even this principle has been misinterpreted by some towards violence.)

What a great guide consistency can be and how far away, from where Mr. Cohen is taking us, it is!

Poor logic and poor facts when combined with good rhetorical skills — not once, but since the time of Alcibiades, have together dragged the great into wars, some ending like Melos, others like Syracuse!

Comments:

I completely agree with you! Noam Chomsky has broadcast various webcasts to expose the unsophisticated neo-colonialism and double standards that plague modern US political monologue (since it's barely dialogue these days).

An example of ridiculous media misrepresentation came when Iran's president said he believed Israel should not be on the map. This is not in any way an implication that Iran plans to attack Israel, any more than the US plans to attack Cuba. In fact many Jews are anti-zionists who don't see any justification for the Israeli state - but they are silent in this frenzied media-driven world of hawkish "regime change" "democratic" agendas.

To understand modern US politics, you just need to look at who really holds power (ahem DC), and see this graph of Halliburton's 5 year share price history.

Thanks, I feel much better having said all that!

Posted by Kevin Hutchinson on March 09, 2006 at 04:17 AM PST #

Yes, I've heard of Neturei Karta.

Thanks for sharing your ideas and concerns. It is always better to care than not to — I'm sure you know.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on March 09, 2006 at 03:35 PM PST #

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