Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Cracker Aphorisms

This is a largely off-topic post which I intended to write much earlier in the day and leave as a Friday fun thread.

I've come across a couple of examples of ad hoc definitions (not so much ad hoc as "pulled out of someone's arse") this week, and I may as well share them with you. I'm also looking for a better term than ad hoc definitions, because that's going to make a crap title, but I'm not very hopeful on that score.

The first of these comes from the comments to a piece on Time: Julian Assange: Hillary Clinton "Should Resign".[1]

Crusaders don't fear death...yet this guy continues to hide. What does that tell you?

I'm a bad argument fan, and, for me, this practically shits rainbows. If the moment hadn't passed and a dozen comments hadn't got between us, I wanted to reply, "Oh really, what about the Caped Crusader? He hides is identity and is known only to his ward Dick Grayson and his faithful butler Albert..." The only people who don't fear death are our good friends the suicide bombers of Osama bin Laden and kamikaze pilots, everyone else awaits their end dreading all.

I came across an even better example this morning - and rather more on topic for this site, although I think Wikileaks is on-topic - in a Ballon Juice post.

In a review of a 2005 biography of Brown Christopher Hitchens made an important point:
...(In issuing these documents, by the way, he [John Brown] exculpated himself from any ahistorical charge of “terrorism,” which by definition offers nothing programmatic.)...

This is a new definition to me, readers. I remember Hitchens trying to redefine terrorism in his Slate columns (collected as Regime Change) and I wasn't convinced then. Several objections occur to me. Doesn't al-Qaeda have a program of sorts? Didn't the IRA? Don't ETA?

It's almost a shame that I agree with Hitchens on the atheism thing, because the bad faith evident in his political stuff raises a stench to rival the pre-Revolutionary Parisian sewers. [2] This looks like a desperate - and blatant - attempt by the Dupe to define someone he agrees with as "not a terrorist" so quite unlike all those havoc-raisers he doesn't agree with who just happen to have to favoured the same methods.

Definitions of terrorism seem pertinent to this site which is why I'm posting here. Here's a curious thing: people who should know better seem to think "I vas only obeyink orders" is a valid excuse. Murder in war is OK. Soldiers do bad things, but they were mistaken, or working on poor intelligence. Or, as Orwell said, "doing their duty", though that seems a very rank get-out clause to me, fit only for robots. Another way of putting this is the commonly held conceit that if a school pupil hits another pupil that's bullying or thuggish, but if a teacher hits a pupil, that's "discipline" and "order". Terrorists actually believe in stuff, and somehow that makes them worse than poor conscripted sods.

Anyway, discuss. Or, of course, don't.

[1] I'd like it to be noted that before I heard that Julian Assange suggested that Hillary Clinton "should" resign, I had wondered if she would be forced to: I still expect that she shall due to pressure from nations which feel their diplomats were spied on.

[2] No, I haven't experienced that particular odour, nor am I even sure 18th century Paris had sewers. I'm hunting for an image.


Anonymous Hello said...

Some interesting quote-mining by Gilligan here if you can be arsed:

12/04/2010 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Short answer: tl;dr. Paras two to four, IMO, deliberate prime the reader to expect the worst of Bob Lambert, and, in my experience, if so much effort is spent setting the scene and making the sort of speech a judge would interrupt during a jury trial the prosecution case is going to be thin.

I liked the swipe at Spiked. Dave Spartish perhaps, but in a good way.

I see your point:

Over the last ten years, half a dozen or so white right-wingers have indeed been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners who were not acting in concert with any group, nor in most cases did they have any specific plans or targets. By contrast, there have over the same period been 127 convictions for Islamist-related terrorism in the UK, plus a number of other British subjects or residents convicted in other countries, and a number of further cases currently going through the British courts. Many of these convictions relate to serious and carefully-organised plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.

I'm quite taken with the exactness of '127' which is contrasted with "half a dozen or so" - a reversal of the usual practice. Both Gilligan and Lambert want 'terrorism' to be what the other side do.

The authors get round this little problem by redefining terrorism. In their words: “Terrorism cannot be understood only in terms of violence. It has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda. Violence and propaganda, however, have much in common. Violence aims at behaviour modification by coercion. Propaganda aims at the same by persuasion. Terrorism can be seen as a combination of the two.”

That's Nelson Mandela, the French Resistance, and US actions in South East Asia all neatly classified as 'terrorism.' I can't see how this would help anybody.

12/04/2010 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

That should have been "terrorists and terrorism". Ahem.

12/04/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

It's only terrorism if it actually terrorises. And if a forest fire is "worse than a terrorist attack in Gaza"...

12/04/2010 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ooh another one (hat tip Heresy Corner on Twitter).

On the one hand, the Conservatives accused Labour of creating a top-heavy state that interfered too much in people's lives. They promised to govern with a lighter hand. On the other hand, only the extreme libertarians say that people should be free to wreck their lives if they choose. Most people think the government should encourage people to look after their own interests sensibly.

Only arsenic based life-forms are blessed with a one hand, an other hand, and a lighter hand. (Research is needed to confirm the existence of the fabled invisible hand. So far, no one has seen it.) The Independent.

12/04/2010 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Bob Lambert, as readers of this blog will know, is a former policeman who has turned himself into one of Britain’s most important fellow-travellers of Islamism.

If anyone's ever seen the word "fellow-traveller" used in a context other than character assassination, could they let me know?

12/04/2010 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

If anyone's ever seen the word "fellow-traveller" used in a context other than character assassination, could they let me know?

I wrote a travelogue once about going hiking with a mate...

12/04/2010 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Do you fancy a bet about that Clinton resignation?

12/04/2010 07:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Eh Justin?

12/05/2010 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Note 1?

12/05/2010 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Deadore Thalrymple said...

Another way of putting this is the commonly held conceit that if a school pupil hits another pupil that's bullying or thuggish, but if a teacher hits a pupil, that's "discipline" and "order".

Not a great example. Not every instance of a school pupil hitting another will be bullying and quite often bullying goes on without physical violence. If a school pupil hits another in a fit of petulant rage it might be considered a tantrum for which the pupil might be disciplined. If a teacher decided to hit a child just because he was in a bad mood it would be quite a different thing to hitting a child because he had punched another child or demanded his lunch money. If a teacher beat children as punishment for not handing over their lunch money then the consequences would be far more serious for the teacher, one would hope. So in an ideal world teachers would only apply devestating beatings on children when it was correct and authorized. Abuses of this power would be severely punished.

Of course, those were the days when sewers were sewers and smelt accordingly. These days teachers can do nowt but resort to craven pleadings or have the kids dosed up with some kind of drug. Savage beatings are but a thing of the past, alas.

12/05/2010 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

off topic, clothes for chaps on the Time magazine 'Afhgan with nose cut off' cover:

not sure what's weirder - the fact that even in a piece actively campaigning for an ultra-Decent-friendly charity, CFC can't even really make a case for continued occupation; or the fact that the Obs deemed this worth printing, given that the cover in question was published in July...

12/05/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Deadore, fair enough.

12/06/2010 06:15:00 AM  

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