Today is a very sad day in the world of bloggers. Stephen Vincent, an American freelance journalist who posted at In The Red Zone, was doing what reporters have traditionally done; he exposed himself to danger in order to report to us what was happening in a crucial part of the world. Wretchard sums up what made this man important, using some of his own words from a CNN interview:
What compelled him to cover a battlefield of the war on terror "traveling without security or official connections, living by his wits," according to the Spence Publishing site? CNN gives the answer in Vincent's own words.
"I stood that morning on the roof of my building in lower Manhattan and watched United Airlines Flight 175 strike the south tower of the World Trade Center," Vincent said in a December 2004 interview with Frontpage Magazine. "At that moment, I realized my country was at war -- because of the 1993 attack on the Trade Center, I figured our enemy was Islamic terrorism -- and I wanted to do my part in the conflict. I'm too old to enlist in the armed services, so I decided to put my writing talents to use."
In that interview Vincent described the weapons with which he intended to fight.
"Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word “guerillas.” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms “insurgents” or “guerillas” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase “paramilitary death squads.” Same murderers, different designations."
Since 9/11 we have finally recognized that we are in a global war with Islamic terrorists, and words still matter. Many of our finest men and women are soldiers in the field in Iraq; tragically, 21 Marines have been killed in the last two days protecting us and trying to bring democracy to a blighted part of the planet. Some, like Michael Yon, continue the same work that Stephen Vincent died for.
A fitting tribute to Stephen Vincent would be to hit Michael Yon's tip jar.
Many bloggers, myself included, believe that in our own humble way, we are taking part in this war on the information front.
Words Matter. I had planned to explore some of the psychodynamic underpinnings of Political Correctness, but will defer for now in favor of a more descriptive post on the power of words and the misuse of words.
Howard S. Schwartz, author of The Revolt of the Primitive: An Inquiry Into the Roots of Political Correctness whose work I have referred to in the past (Cookie Monster, PC, and the Fall of Western Civilization), describes a typical encounter between an Academic and the Politically Correct Academy. He describes making a presentation which began with an overview of Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex. In Howard's words:
(During the presentation) a woman in the audience, who happened to be the chair of the psychology department at the time, had what can only be called a fit. Without addressing herself to anything I was saying in particular,a and without any apparent attempt to control her rage, she said that Freud was a sexist and a misogynist, and went on to condemn the entire psychoanalytic enterprise, which she said was "shot through" with sexism and racism.
He describes his dawning awareness that she was deplorably lacking in any real knowledge of Freud's work, or of the further development of his theories since his time, and was struck by her tome which conveyed a sense of "absolute authority". This is not unusual in proponents of the PC mind state; often their certainly is in inverse proportion to their actual knowledge. Even more striking to Schwartz was that the audience, sagely nodding their heads in agreement, seemed to accept the interrogation as if he were the one who had transgressed. The university, which should have as its highest calling the open discussion of ideas had become something else. Again in his words:
How did ideas representing such ignorance not only arise in a university setting,, but also come to be dominant within it, and to dominate it so powerfully that it has become acceptable to meet alternative ideas with rage and disdain?
This is the model of a discussion with proponents of the PC world view. Yesterday, as if to conform what I have just written about, Warren Olney, on To The Point, a show at NPR had a discussion on the Bush administration renaming the war, "War of Terror Becomes Struggle against Global Extremism".
During part of the show, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the UK, Achbar Ahmed took issue with referring to the war as involving Islamic terror (this is a paraphrase, the transcript is not available on line):
When you label violence as Islamic, it argues the conception that Islam is a terror religion.
And later, I quote:
"How do you go around calling it Islamic Terrorism? That doesn't make sense to a Muslim."
He went on that we do not identify Hitler as a Christian terrorist, or the IRA as Christian terrorists. Danielle Pletka, from the American Enterprise Institute responded that the terrorists identified themselves as Muslims. She said that people will hijack our words no matter what we say, that they have hijacked the Islamic religion, and that Muslims are the biggest victims of the Islamic terrorists. She added that the West, especially America has saved many more lived of Muslims than anyone else.
The Ambassador's retort was disappointing and troubling:
"Danielle's knowledge of Islam is as shaky as her knowledge of Western Culture an society" (after a recitation of Western crimes as per Said). He accused her of not understanding that "bin Laden, Zahawiri, Zarqawi do not represent themselves as Muslim Imams" (which she had never said), and that her usage of the term Islamic terrorism was "unacceptable."
The entire discussion is valuable and the Ambassador makes many positive and useful remarks. Yet his ad hominem dismissal of someone he disagrees with, who has dared to call a thing by its name in terms unacceptable to the PC sensibility, is almost exactly analogous to the dismissal of Schwartz for not towing the intellectual line at his university.
The ad hominem argument is the sine qua non of Political Correctness.
PC attempts to force people to question their own perceptions (not always a bad idea if done with an open mind) and choose between an authoritative, "correct" view of reality, and their own personal view. The student, subject to the university's PC world is in a similar conflict as the child who is unable to recognize abuse because of the conflict between his perception and his parent's authority.
The forces driving this still need to be elucidated and I shall return to this shortly.
Continue with PC & Defects in Reality Testing: Part IV