Friday, September 21, 2007

Righteous Indignation

I have written quite a bit about the need to express condemnation when wrongdoing has been done.

This week, however, seems to have been a week for condemnation at anything that can be twisted into a reason to condemn others, regardless of the facts.

For example, a lot of people were upset at a student in Florida who attended a Kerry function who got hit with a taser. They want to make him a martyr for free speech.
So, when does 'free speech' become a right to interrupt others, deprive them of an opportunity to speak (when they waited their turn to do so), and to monopolize the conversation in a perpetual monologue? That's not free speech - it is quite the opposite of free speech, in fact. Mostly, this is due to people who have decided to look only at the video - the ultimate example of taking something out of context in order to get it to mean what one wants it to mean.

I am not saying that the taser was justified. I was not present at the event myself. I do not know the full context either. However, that does not change the fact that there is no sense in saying that this has anything to do with 'free speech'.

Then there is President Bush's statement at his press conference where he allegedly said that Nelson Mandella is dead. Only, anybody who listens to the press conference can tell what he was trying to say - that Saddam Hussein made it a point to execute anybody who could play the role in Iraq that Nelson Mandella played in South Africa. But, lying about what Bush said in order to score rhetorical points seems to be all the rage these days. Strangely, this seems to come from people who tend to get fairly indignant themselves when they catch members of the Bush Administration lying in order to score rhetorical points.

Third, a number of people are expressing outrage over an advertisement from MoveOn.Org accusing General Petreus of betrayal for fronting for the lies of the Bush Administration. Conservatives apparently want to assert that any accusation against the honesty and integrity of a member of the Armed Forces is an insult to the whole military. Sorry, no, it is not. This, too, is an example of distorting the truth in order to score rhetorical points.

If anything deserves outrage today, it is the people who take fake outrage at pretend offenses. This simply makes it that much easier for people to get away with real offenses. They get to hide in the noise - either committing real offenses without being noticed (like those who engaged in any of the 'protests' mentioned above) or, when noticed, get to dismiss criticism as just another example of mock outrage.

Is it too much to ask that people actually go through a little bit of effort to get their facts straight before they criticize others?

1 comment:

Hume's Ghost said...

Watching the UF video, I was left with the impression that it was the student's intention to get himself tasered.

That's the first I heard of the Bush/Mandela statement. But I know of another example: Positive Atheism lists a quote from Antonia Scalia saying something like "I can't do all the scary conservative stuff I want to do" underits Scary Quotes section. Yet I watched the appearance where Scalia made that remark and in context it was a self-deprecating joke about why strict constructionism would prevent him (or anyone) from injecting their personal desires into the Constitution. And the audience laughed, too.