Tuesday, March 07, 2006

two types of ambiguity

This is a very sly bit of work by Dave, relying as it does on generating false dilemmas. Two main points stick out. Firstly, Dave runs the rule over What We Were Not Told by the Tipton Three film, ending with:

I am emphatically not saying here that I believe that the Tipton Three took up arms in Afghanistan and fought for the Taleban. Their story may be implausible, but it isn’t impossible. What I am noting here is the way in which Winterbottom banishes ambivalence. His Guantanamo detainees are innocent, even if the facts have to be selected carefully so as to reinforce that impression.

Well one fact that Dave fails to mention is that the three were subject to detention and torture for three years, with the intelligence resources of the US and presumably British state on their case, and absolutely no evidence was found that they were connected to terrorism. This is why they were released. I suppose this militates against the ambiguity that Aaro believes is appropriate.

Dave goes on to give Guantanamo the treatment. He then adds:

Not all of us are such hypocrites. I have heard, in the past week, an eminent progressive lawyer argue that the threat from jihadis is no greater than that we faced from the IRA. On that basis (conveniently forgetting the extra-legal actions that actually were taken back then), you may argue that we can afford to take the risk that a few bombers escape the net, in order to safeguard our legal integrity.

What you can’t do is what, I think, Winterbottom and all too many Britons now do, which is to obliterate the dilemma, so that the problem becomes entirely one for the authorities and not for us. Guantanamo is a bad reaction to something real, but none of us quite knows what the good reaction looks like.

What the "eminent progressive lawyer" was arguing for was upholding the rule of law. Dave seems to think that this is a position at the opposite end of the spectrum from condoning torture. The two are presented as competing extremes. We are led to believe that an answer lies somewhere in the middle. Do we support the rule of law or condone torture? Simply to support the rule of law “obliterates the dilemma.”

Aaro circa 1932: There's no actual evidence that the Kulaks are wreckers, exploiters and saboteurs as a class, though individuals among them might be. On the other hand, Comrade Stalin has said that the undesirable classes do not liquidate themselves. Faced with these extremes, we must address the dilemma we are in.

What Dave is actually hinting at is something very radical, namely the end of the presumption of innocence and the restrictions this imposes on the actions of the state. By framing the issue in terms of debates, dilemmas and discussions, he expresses this recommendation in ostensibly moderate terms. This confusion of rhetorical means and political ends is the sign of a genuinely talented propagandist. Nick should take note.

Rioja Kid


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