Jejudo, South Korea
Hey, Pete, thanks for asking.
"When Reuters decided to be careful about using the word "terrorism" because, according to its news director, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, castigated what he saw as one more instance of cultural relativism."
--If the news director wants to be more specific in the reporting, I'm fine with that but his explanation leaves much to be desired. His explanation trades one useless word for another. I think this IS a case of cultural relativism. By cultural relativism, I mean a philosophy that attempts to use the contingency of all things so that you come to an objective decision, persuasive to everybody.
--By that I mean the news director was afraid of offending somebody, somewhere -- a theoretical possibility of course but there are a lot of theoretical possibilities. The question is who will think Bin Laden and Al Queda are freedom fighters, who will see this specific act as freedom fighting?
--That is, this news director is making a choice, not on his viewpoint or on imagining another specific viewpoint, but on some attempt to find an abstract, morally neutral, higher ground.
--This is impossible.
--There are viewpoints but no view from nowhere. We might use freedom fighter to describe people we like (the Afghan rebels in the 80's) -- which turns out to have been silly -- but they never described themselves that way. Did anybody really believe that if they won they were going to institute a liberal democracy or a representative government or ensure the rights of others?
--They'll use the term 'freedom fighter' because they'll find that that creates a sympathetic ear in the United States but they aren't fighting for freedom, they don't believe in freedom or anything resembling procedural government or law, they believe in TRUTH, their TRUTH.
"But Reuters is simply recognizing how unhelpful the word is, because it prevents us from making distinctions that would allow us to get a better picture of where we are and what we might do."
--But that's not what he said. That may be what he meant but it's not what he said. He said any terrorist CAN be seen as a freedom fighter. This is correct theoretically (in that it can be imagined) but incorrect practically.
If you think of yourself as the target of terrorism with a capital T, your opponent is everywhere and nowhere.
--But that's not how people take the meaning of the word. I don't think anyone really expects that I'll hijack a plane and smash it into a building. I can't fly for one.
--There may be a better word for the act but it doesn't mean that a terrorist act comes from everywhere and nowhere.
--Sorry, Stan, I just don't buy this explanation. Sounds to me like you're playing the theory game but the theory game isn't useful here.
--Unless, of course, you really do believe that Bin Laden and company are fighting for freedom (fighting to create liberal institutions similar to the USA)? Somehow, I just don't believe that.