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Passions in Poetry

Postmodernism, Relativism, and Terrorism

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Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


0 posted 10-29-2001 02:29 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Here's an article by Stanley Fish (again) that says pretty much what I've been saying if a bit more clearly.

However, he's wrong on the Rueters decision. I'll explain my opinion later.


http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/15/opinion/15FISH.html?searchpv=nytToday&pagewanted=pri nt
"During the interval between the terrorist attacks and the United States response, a reporter called to ask me if the events of Sept. 11 meant the end of postmodernist relativism. It seemed bizarre that events so serious would be linked causally with a rarefied form of academic talk. But in the days that followed, a growing number of commentators played serious variations on the same theme: that the ideas foisted upon us by postmodern intellectuals have weakened the country's resolve. The problem, according to the critics, is that since postmodernists deny the possibility of describing matters of fact objectively, they leave us with no firm basis for either condemning the terrorist attacks or fighting back."

--Stanley Fish

[This message has been edited by Brad (edited 10-29-2001).]

Not A Poet
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since 11-03-1999
Posts 4427
Oklahoma, USA


1 posted 10-29-2001 12:21 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Thanks Brad. That is an important and thought-provoking editorial. Now I anxiously await your promised explanation.

Pete
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


2 posted 10-29-2001 02:45 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Hey, Pete, thanks for asking.

Fish said:

"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.

--That's impossible.

--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.



Brad

Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
Posts 5742
Southern Abstentia


3 posted 10-30-2001 02:46 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

First, I think Reuters is laughably approaching irrelevency on this issue to the point of becoming a footnote... but in viewing the motivation... it becomes less about philosophy than a pragmatic point in it's international market -- they don't want to offend Irish readers.  Pure and simple.  Relativism and Postmodernism be damned -- tis the Capital ism... that's at work here.
Brad
Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


4 posted 10-30-2001 03:41 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Perhaps so, but that's not what he said.  

If so, reading what the IRA is doing these days, I agree, it has indeed become irrelevant.

I think it was Poet Devine who argued that this could be an opportunity as well as a tragedy.

If so, could we be seeing a small victory for traditional Liberal thought? That is, instead of demanding self-determination, we start working on ways that we CAN live together?

Probably wishful thinking but every once in a while, I indulge in such.  

Brad
Not A Poet
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since 11-03-1999
Posts 4427
Oklahoma, USA


5 posted 10-30-2001 10:04 AM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Unfortunately Brad, based on our history, it most likely is wishful thinking. But it's still a nice thought.

Pete
 
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