28 March 2007

More praising with faint damnation

... this time from Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty. I don't want to be too critical of Ms C, since she seems to arouse hostility among a few bloggers for reasons that are opaque to me, but this — on compulsory checks for children — is not what I'd call sticking up for civil liberties.

Why is it that, everywhere I look at the moment, I seem to see people who ought to be defending the principles of liberty, sounding lukewarm?

"Now then, let's consider the idea that it's okay to torture people if we suspect them of having information about criminal activities. While this may seem attractive and reasonable at first sight, I would personally argue that ... bla bla bla." *

Don't these people realise that key political debates are not won by wishy-washy arguments which sound like you've already conceded the main point? Shifts in consensus depend largely on underlying moral assumptions, and hence happen more by feeling than by logic. And they're resisted the same way: by sounding like you mean it, not by trying to prove you have a "balanced" perspective on the matter. Sorry Chris, but I think you've oversimplified the issue.

* not an actual quote


Mister Anonymous said...

So why are they so slack in opposing this?


A. They like the idea of a strong arm government forcibly raising the quality of todays youngsters. Gotta break a few eggs yer know!


B. Having indeed conceeded the moral argument they resign themselves to grim march of social and historical forces.

With regards to B: after the 7/7 bombings, the look on peoples faces was not shock, there was infact, no expression whatsoever. Zero affect. You can see it in the news footage.

Paul said...

"after the 7/7 bombings, the look on peoples faces was not shock, there was infact, no expression whatsoever. Zero affect. You can see it in the news footage."

Yes! I found myself thinking the same thing: I knew there'd been an attack, watched all the coverage, but somehow didn't put it in anything like the same league as the Bali, Madrid or Mumbai bombings. Was it simply the fact that the death toll didn't reach some critical figure (irrespective of the terrorists' aims)? Was it because I don't live in a large British city? Or was it the soothing influence of a politically correct media?

Move along please. Nothing to see here.

Mister Anonymous said...


As Nietzsche noted, free will is for the creation of punishment. No free will, no punishment, no anger.

I mean it's not like you can lose your temper with a thunderstorm is it? Because it's something out of your control. And when people are of no more consequence then the tides (because they're products of society/historical forces i.e. "The Iraq war is to blame") you can't get angry with them.

It isn't particularly fashionable to express such sentiments these days, but maybe it was the old English character? Unflappable, stiff upper lip perhaps.

INT : The Hospital

Doctor: Mr Smith, I'm afraid I have some bad news.

Smith the Civil Servant: Oh yes,

Doctor: I'm afraid there has been an accident, an explosion, at the bowler hat factory. Your wife, your whole family is dead.

Smith: I see.

Doctor: I'm very sorry.

[Long pause]

Smith: Can I use your telephone? I need to call the restaurant; it appears I shall be dining for one tonight.


Fabian Tassano said...

Definitely B methinks. Interesting point about "flattening of affect", which it seems to me is a more general theme of mediocracy. You see it in the cardboard characters of contemporary Hollywood movies, for example. No real personality or motivation, just robotic eye candy.