Friday, July 01, 2005

Moral Relativists gone wild...

When we view morality as ultimately relative, it is not surprising to find the following moronic nonsense spoken with complete seriousness:
Many Americans woke up to a curious story this morning: several of the former Iran Hostages have decided there is a strong resemblance between Iran's new president and one of their captors more than 25 years ago. The White House and most official branches of government are ducking any substantive comment on this story, and photo analysis is going on at this and other news organizations. It is a story that will be at or near the top of our broadcast and certainly made for a robust debate in our afternoon editorial meeting, when several of us raised the point (I'll leave it to others to decide germaneness) that several U.S. presidents were at minimum revolutionaries, and probably were considered terrorists of their time by the Crown in England. (emphasis added)
The piece is from NBC anchor Brian Williams' blog. Later, on NBC nightly news, he continued with,
What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called 'terrorists' by the British crown, after all.
It seems that the someone was him (referencing his own blog entry). That's it. One man's ceiling is another man's floor. Hence, we must be honest with ourselves and admit that one country's terrorist is another country's patriot. Lest we impose our own morality on another culture we also should refrain from using the term "terrorist" altogether and, considering our ceiling / floor logic, admit that the term "freedom fighter" is more appropriate. After all, what is important is not whether the person's actions are truly wrong (for there is nothing really wrong), but whether the person is sincere in their belief. A Brian Williams' History lesson: Terrorists, circa 2000 Terrorists, circa 1776 HT: Michelle Malkin


386sx said...

After all, what is important is not whether the person's actions are truly wrong (for there is nothing really wrong), but whether the person is sincere in their belief.

Right. And when Moses tells his men to stab little babies, it doesn't matter whether he was sincere in his belief, but rather what matters is whether it was right or wrong. Heck, he was probably doing them a favor. (We wouldn't want them to starve out in the desert after they burned their mommies and daddies and their homes, now would we.)

Rusty said...


I've been wondering where you've been.

From the gist of your comments I take it that you buy into Brian Williams' moral relativism and consider American patriots on par with present-day terrorists?

Paul said...

Where does Brian Williams (or 386sx) say that the two are the same? He makes the point that parts of the British Crown at the time would have looked on the the 'American patriots' as something akin to terrorists (I don't know if the concept of terrorists existed then as we would recognize it). Or do you think the British sat around ruefully admiring the plucky colonials for their wily tactics, blessing them all the while for wanting to be out from under the oppressive thumb of we damnable Brits?

The point is that deciding who is a terrorist can at times depend on perspective. The fact that you can be utterly convinced, and have good reason for your belief, doesn't change the fact that if you were on the other side you might think differently. My own belief is that there is ultimately a right and wrong in such matters (most of the time at least), and in the two examples in question the Americans were in the right, and today Al Qaeda is very much in the wrong. But ask me again in 229 years.

Rusty said...


Show me where American Patriots routinely engaged in suicide bombings, specifically targeting women and children, not to mention kidnapping and beheading civilians.

Liberals like Williams play with words and then cry foul when someone holds their feet to the fire. Indeed, if the concept of terrorist didn't exist (as we know it) in 1776, then it is patently absurd to make a comparison - as Williams did. But then, Williams probably doesn't expect his readers to think.

But let's flip the Williams' analogy around - Regarding the patriots who slammed into the WTC, which United States colony were they from?

Paul said...

If the concept of terrorist didn't exist at the time, then certainly the idea of traitor did, and that's what the 'American Patriots' were seen as. Every bit as reprehensible to some, certainly by the standards of the time I would guess. There's an example from British history quite similar, when Guy Fawkes and several others tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They were looked on at the time as terrorists or traitors, and while that image has softened with time, if they had succeeded they may well have been seen now as patriots.

As to your last comment, I'm afraid I've no idea what you're talking about. Where does Williams say that these people have anything to do with a colony? His point, I think, is that in certain parts of the world the terrorists are seen as freedom fighters, or whatever the religious equivalent of a patriot is. And in 229 years' time, maybe they'll be seen as the patriots who kick-started a beloved new world order. I don't believe they will for a second, and I find the very idea just as abhorrent as you do, but as the cliche goes, history is written by the winners.

Rusty said...

Oh no, I won't let you squirm away from the word that Williams used: terrorists.

And the American Patriots were juxtaposed against current day terrorists. You're a smart guy Paul, you can figure out why that is just plain wrong.

As to my last comment, perhaps it was a bit too parodical (if that is a word). I was attempting to do a reverse Williams comparison. Williams did: American Patriot = terrorist. I was following his lead and doing: 9/11 terrorist = Patriot. It's absurd, I know... but that was my point.

Paul said...

Actually the word Williams used was 'terrorists of their time'. So he isn't referring to people who do the same things as terrorists today, but are viewed in much the same way. And that's how the Americans Patriots would have been viewed by many in Britain at that time.

And my point, and I assume Williams', is that the reverse (9/11 terrorist = Patriot), *isn't* absurd. It's disgusting, sure enough, as this morning's events in London remind us yet again. But for some people that's how they are viewed. If you're on the opposite side to these 'patriots', of course, there should be no hesitation in identifying them as terrorists (and I have many other ways to describe them that don't belong on your blog).

Rusty said...

The word terrorists is included in the phrase terrorists of their time (to state the obvious). If the concept of terrorist did not exist in 1776, then why would Williams choose to use the word? Either he is incredibly stupid, or he is attempting to make a comparison between the actions of today's terrorists and yesterday's patriots. If it were not so he would not have used the word. Consider that the American Patriots were considered revolutionaries. That was an objective evaluation of what they were, regardless of what side of the fence you stood on. The Brits considered the revolutionary actions of the Americans to be criminal... the Americans did not.

You want to know why Williams used the word terrorist? Because he's looking for the shock factor. Consider how demure the same statement is when rendered "revolutionaries of their time," or "criminals of their time." It immediately loses the shock factor that Williams ignorantly hoped for.

Paul said...

He would choose to use that word because it's an allusion. If I describe George Washington as a 'rock star of his time', I'm illustrating the fact that he was treated as a popular celebrity. Similarly, calling someone a terrorist of their time doesn't mean that they did what terrorists now do, it means that they were regarded in much the same way, i.e. with contempt, revulsion, etc.

In contrast, 'revolutionaries of their time' is an almost meaningless statement in this context - they weren't revolutionaries 'of their time', they were revolutionaries period.

Rusty said...

they were revolutionaries period.

Yes, I agree. And that's why Williams was disingenuous with his use of the phrase "terrorists of their time." The fact of the matter is that they were considered revolutionaries, and not "terrorists of their time." And the reason why is exactly what you have stated, terrorism, as we are now defining the word, was not a part of the landscape in 1776. Williams was playing with words, as was Durbin, in an attempt to add shock value to the lame point he was attempting to make.

Paul said...

This isn't hard, Rusty, it's just English. "George Washington was a rock star of his time" is a perfectly legitimate comment. It's not meaningless because there were no rock starts in the 1770s - it draws an analogy between the fame and treatment of rock stars today, and the fame and treatment he received back then. Exactly the same kind of linguistic device is being used by Williams. You could argue that he's wrong, and that they weren't viewed with the contempt that we now hold terrorists in (I think that's a reasonable argument in fact), but it's not nonsense, and you're clearly widely read enough to understand that.