Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rorschach test

I recently saw Watchmen on DVD. Like so many movies today, it is a mixture of superb special effects, solid writing and acting, and unspeakably gruesome and wholly unnecessary violence – along, of course, with an equally gratuitous sex scene or two. (In this it is like the late-1980s comic book on which it is based.) Of course, we are never supposed to criticize such things. “It is Artcausa finita est!” The Coliseum isn’t really evidence of decadence, you see, as long as the gladiators’ dialogue is well-written and artfully spoken.

Anyway, that’s not my theme here. If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t think I’ll spoil it for you by noting that it is a superhero saga about the temptations and alleged moral ambiguities entailed by having super powers – “Who watches the Watchmen?” and all that. I say “alleged” because I don’t think the story’s key examples are ambiguous at all: they’re just flatly immoral actions, even if done for what a consequentialist might regard as good reasons. The most important examples involve the last twenty minutes or so of the movie, which I won’t describe (for the sake of those who plan to watch it) except to say that they entail mass murder and deception on a gigantic scale perpetrated so as to secure world peace. There are other actions performed by the character Rorschach which are portrayed as harsh but just – Rorschach is the one firmly anti-consequentialist voice throughout the movie, and is apparently supposed to be something like its “moral center” – but which are in reality unjust acts of vigilantism.

To be sure, the movie does not clearly endorse even Rorschach’s actions and attitudes; the emphasis throughout is on chin-pulling ambiguity. Like Dr. Manhattan (the most powerful and aloofly “god-like” of the Watchmen), we’re supposed to “understand” rather than either “condone” or “condemn.”

Now, here’s what I don’t get. The movie takes place in an alternate-universe 1985 in which Richard Nixon is in his fifth term, has imposed an authoritarian political order (even shutting down the Watchmen when they no longer served his purposes), and has brought the country to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. We are clearly supposed to despise this alternate reality “Tricky Dick” as much as lefties despised the real McCoy. Moreover, in the DVD commentary, some of those involved in the making of the movie and/or original comic book series claim that the story has clear relevance both to the time in which the series first appeared (the 1980s) and to the time the movie was made (late 2000s) – that is to say, to the Reagan and Thatcher years and to the Bush years. (Thatcher is relevant because Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, creators of the comic series, are both Brits.) Clearly we’re supposed to despise Reagan, Thatcher, and Bush too, at least in the view of these commentators. And we all know why: because they’re “war-mongers” who “endangered our civil liberties” and perpetrated “illegal wars,” “torture,” and the like all in the name of freedom and justice. And though the forces they opposed – Communists and jihadists – were indeed evil, somehow Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, and Bush were all almost as bad or even just as bad, indeed maybe even worse.

This standard left-wing/”civil libertarian” line on recent history is familiar enough, and I’m not going to debate it (or the details of the Cold War, Vietnam, the Iraq War, Gitmo, etc.) here. I don’t buy it for a second, but suppose for the sake of argument that it were true. The thing is this. Why is it that we’re supposed unequivocally to condemn and despise Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, and Bush as moral monsters, and yet when some of the “heroes” in a movie like Watchmen carry out acts far more heinous than anything these real-world statesmen have been accused of, we are supposed to “understand,” or at least to revel in the purported moral ambiguities? Why must we scoff at the “simplistic” “cowboy” rhetoric of Reagan and Bush and yet sympathize when Rorschach (who despises “liberals” as soft on crime and who in one absolutely horrific scene hacks a child-killer’s face to grisly pieces) is characterized as “lovable” and the “favorite” of fans of the comic book and movie (as one of the voices in the DVD commentary puts it)?

I think some conservative writer or other made a similar point about The Dark Knight, which also has as one of its themes the morally problematic nature of the superhero’s methods. (And it explores the theme with much greater plausibility too, since all Batman does is monitor a bunch of private cell phone calls or some such thing – nothing like the mass murder or even harm of innocents is ever contemplated, much less carried out.) But Watchmen invites such questions all the more, given not only the far more heinous nature of some of the “heroes’” actions, but also the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer smearing of Nixon precisely in the course of emphasizing the “moral complexity” of “super-heroic” mass murder of innocents for the “greater good.” (I say “smearing” not because Nixon was innocent of wrongdoing or even a good president – he was neither – but because there is no reason whatsoever to think either that he was capable of the degree of authoritarianism the movie has him imposing, or that he would be blasé about the prospect of nuclear war, as the movie makes him out to be.) Why the double standard?

Saying “It’s just a movie, that’s why” is no answer. No one comes away from The Dark Knight thinking there is any ambiguity in the Joker’s actions or empathizing with him in any way – he’s just evil, and that’s that, despite his being only a movie villain. Fantasy is not in this case, or in the case of movies about serial killers or dictators, thought to license speculation about whether such deeds are possibly defensible after all. But we are supposed solemnly to ponder Batman’s morally questionable actions – spying on the citizens of Gotham and thus violating their civil liberties for the sake of stopping a terrorist act and nabbing its perpetrators, not to mention beating up and scaring the crap out of various hoodlums in order to get information – and indeed we’re expected to sympathize with his plight. “The choice he makes is a morally dangerous one and yet what other choice does he have?” Etc. Yet when someone in the Bush administration roughs up some terrorists or monitors their phone calls, we’re supposed to see in him, not Batman, but the Joker. What gives?

The point is not “See, those damn hypocritical liberals are at it again.” It might be hypocrisy; perhaps lefty movie fans and comic book readers who see moral ambiguity in the actions of the Watchmen but pretend to see only evil in the far lesser “crimes” of Nixon, Reagan, Bush, et al. are merely letting their blind hatred for the latter cloud their judgment. But maybe not. Maybe there’s consistency at the moral level, and some aesthetic consideration underlies the difference in reactions. Again, the mere fact that the one case is pure fantasy cannot be the explanation, but some other feature might be. Perhaps it is the “distance” that a work of fiction provides: Had Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, and Bush been fictional characters, perhaps the lefties who now see no moral ambiguity in their actions would have seen it; and perhaps lefties of the future who read about these conservative statesmen only as historical personages will be more inclined to cut them some slack. By the same token, were Watchmen-type superheroes real, perhaps those who see moral ambiguity in their actions would not see it. Maybe the comic-book-devouring Howard Zinn fan who now thinks the fictional Rorschach is “lovable” would regard a real-life version as a despicable fascist.

And yet this “aesthetic distance” theory does seem to collapse back into the inconsistency theory; the Howard Zinn fan is unlikely to find a purely fictional Pinochet-style right-wing dictator at all sympathetic, no matter how “complex” his actions and circumstances. And if “aesthetic distance” would not alter his attitudes in that case, why does it in the superhero case?

“Just askin’,” really. I don’t claim to know the answer.


Crude said...

Maybe it's a particular flaw that flows from people (liberal, conservative, or neither) who place "being open-minded" on a pedestal. People assume that if they can see the "shades of grey" in the actions of a Rorschach or an Ozy or anyone else, well.. then clearly they're open-minded and not quick to rush to judgment on "complex" matters like so many others, right?

Which may encourage, oddly enough, regarding some things as beyond question. After all, if all the very open minded people you know think Thatcher is horrible, well then - it just goes to show that even people who can see the shades of grey in mass murder clearly see how despicable that person is!

Or maybe it's the usual where only some questions are grey area, and not others. Along the lines of how you of hear of how, say.. the Catholic Church should be "open to dialogue" on abortion, or gay marriage, etc. But when is the last time you heard anyone suggest that NARAL should be open to dialogue on abortion restrictions, or the LGBSA should be open to dialogue on adoption restrictions?

Michael B said...

A simpler, psychological template is more applicable.

With the Moores and Gibbonses of the world there's a regressive, perhaps even infantile resentment at play - because life itself, because the world is too demanding, too problematic, too "absurd," and because dealing with ourselves and our own being is itself demanding, and they resent and somehow want to deny or at least greatly simplify all that, and likewise want to deny any need for the Reagans and Thatchers of the world, and more responsible types in general, to come to terms with those ever-present and ever-changing demands.

In sum, regression, infantile needs and expressions, in turn resulting in a debased and even a debauched romanticism and desire for fantasy rather than the world and reality as it presents itself, thus incoherence as well.

Too reductionist or too cynical? Too reductionist, undeniably, but it's not a cynical reduction whatsoever.

Bjørn Are said...

To start with a subjective phrase, to me this movie (aside from a few too violent scenes of ehr... violence) managed to present different moral viewpoints (and mostly by flawed or extreme people - original sin and all that) in a rather intriguing way.

- The Rigid Absolutist (Rorschack)
- The Cynic Pragmatist (the Comedian)
- The Amoral Divine (Dr. Manhattan)
- The Extreme Idealist (Ozymandias)

Partly in opposition to these, and partly in alliance, we find the more "common sense" (or at lest sensitive) angle of Silk Spectre and Nite Owl.

So even if it definitely has it's faults and is less a work of art than the original comic, it is rare to see a movie more relevant to discussions of human value (e.g. why are humans more important than termites, as Dr. Manhattan phrases it), how cruel utilitarian ethics can turn out to be, what should we do when the government is badly run and a life threatening crisis is coming, is vigilantism more than wild or silly, etc. etc.

So, if nothing else, the movie is a good starting point for important discussions, just as this blog;-)

Rodak said...

As an unashamed Howard Zinn fan, I have to ask: why would one expect to find moral/philosophical consistency of message in a cinematic adaptation of a comic book?
As a person who is older, and who has come to the realization that, in each life, time has an end, I have to say that there are better ways to spend that dwindling time than in consuming and/or analyzing comic book material.
As a study of late Cold War morality, let me suggest reading Denis Johnson's fine novel, Tree of Smoke instead.

Rodak said...

Some thoughts on Tree of Smoke here.

Rodak said...

Had Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, and Bush been fictional characters, perhaps the lefties who now see no moral ambiguity in their actions would have seen it;

I'm wondering if you saw Oliver Stone's film "Nixon" and, if so, if you thought that Stone portrayed Nixon as without "moral ambiguity" and human complexity?
(I'm assuming here that you would regard Stone as "of the left."

Warren said...

A charitable hypothesis, Ed, but to quote Steve Martin: "Naaahhhh."

Leftists are just hypocritical creeps, totally blinded by ideology to their own hypocrisy. Nothing more complicated than that.

Rodak said...

What would you consider to be quintessentially characteristic of leftist hypocrisy?

Michael B said...

"As an unashamed Howard Zinn fan, I have to ask: why would one expect to find moral/philosophical consistency of message in a cinematic adaptation of a comic book?" Rodak

Zinn and comics, fantasy and reality, now there's a study in ironies in the offing.

As to Cold War themes and their impact upon contemporary perceptions and events, Oleg Atbashian has a two-part piece here and here that is well worth a studied review, excerpt:

"Obama has rejected that change; for that he was cheered on by a generation who grew up believing that deformity is beauty and ideological lunacy is the norm. But instead of moving forward, Mr. Obama puts America’s gears in reverse and regresses to a romanticized leftist image of the past in which the U.S.A. is typecast as the archetypal reactionary villain battling the forces of progress. Only in this remake of the cult Cold War classic, America finally sees the light, feels remorseful, and surrenders — to critical acclaim from anal-retentive leftists trained to feel guilty for every joyful moment of living in a capitalist society."

Rodak said...

anal-retentive leftists trained to feel guilty for every joyful moment of living in a capitalist society."

How would you characterize the leftist sensibility in the light of, say, the Beatitudes? Is there something to be said for a more ascetic mode of life, and for one that considers ones' neighbors--all of ones' neighbors--worthy of ones' attention and...consideration?

Michael B said...


What does that have to do with the left's sensibilities? All you're doing is arrogating the beatitudes to "the left's sensibilities" in an extraordinarily facile manner, tacitly resorting (regressing?) to a simpleton-like manichean script: left good, right bad. I'm already inclined to forego any exchange, Rodak.

Also, it was an excerpt from a more extensive and more revealing two-part piece. Another excerpt:

"abandoning pro-American forces and propping up anti-American dictators can’t really be what the word “change” meant to most voters during the elections. What is happening now looks more like restoring Cold War front lines and defecting to the other side, presumably in the name of correcting historical injustice. It’s similar to the psychiatric method of regressing to an earlier stage of the patient’s life in order to relive old traumatic experience with a more positive outcome."

I'm excerpting because the essay is worthy in its own right, and secondly because it broadly reflects the themes invoked in my own original comment.

Rodak said...

I'm not saying that the left is motivated by Christian ideals. But I am suggesting that the right, although it often claims to be so motivated, is, in actual practice, further from those Christian ideals than is the left.
If you find that facile, so be it.
I find it disturbing.

Michael B said...

You confuse sentiment and alleged motivations/interests with actual policy results and greater depth and breadth of analysis. I'm not going to attempt to get into these particular issues since they tend to devolve too readily, but the health care and AGW debates are good examples. The left purports "to care so much" that they desire a "single payer" system. They "care" about earth's climate "so much" that they're willing to arrogate and direct hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars to their view of things and accompanying programs/agendas.

Likewise, you offer literally no cogent/coherent analysis yourself in support of your view. To the contrary, you offer a simplistic manichean statement.

Dialog with someone else.

Rodak said...

Your problem is that you want it to be complicated, and it's not complicated.
You also want the Truth to be 180-degrees from what it is. But it's not.
You are correct, however, in understanding that there is no point in having this discussion.

Michael B said...

No, I don't want it to be complicated, I want it to be coherent and responsibly and cogently argued, that is what I want.

Btw, you not only 1) fail to offer anything beyond your manichean sensibilities, 2) fail to offer anything in a cogent/coherent manner, you additionally 3) fail to respond coherently to the argument in the linked material.

Rodak said...

Allowing for the possbility, however, that if I went outside of the confines of a comment box to provide a "cogent/coherent analysis" of my point of view you would bother to read it, I would offer you this.

Rodak said...

I will, btw, read the article that you linked--it looks interesting. Unfortunately, it is not configured properly on my browser and scrolls sideways rather than down, making it almost impossible to deal with. I'll try tomorrow on another computer.

Rodak said...

you offer a simplistic manichean statement.

Really? Like this?:

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters.

Rodak said...

I will stipulate, for the sake of brevity that the typical liberal is a decadent, hell-bound, materialistic atheist. But I will suggest at the same time that the liberal is what he is to the core; he is same on the inside as he is on the outside.

The typical American conservative, however, is otherwise. If you bring up his politics when he is talking about his religion, he indignantly cries foul. Similarly, if you bring up his religion when he is talking politics, he jumps up and makes a fist, howling his pain and outrage (as you have just demonstrated, btw.) In the worst possible sense, his right hand knows not what his left hand is up to, and vice versa.

Such is the gist and the implication of the blog post to which I provided a link.

I think that these considerations are relevant to Prof. Feser’s original topic, since they speak to then genesis of America’s national pathology, rather than just the symptoms of it.

Frederic said...

Edward--Thank you for whetting my interest in "Watchmen." Although I do not watch action/adventure, the way you describe its plot makes me want to view it. Mass murder to secure world peace is neither liberalism or conservatism--theoretically. Those political stances possess moral fiber. Now, if circumstances warrant going to war, that is another story. A foe has become hostile and requires drastic action. That is why Nixon, Reagan, and Bush have had to choose war with their security advisors' help. I firmly believe that if there were no crisis in the first place, there would have been no decision to send the military. The movie thus is a shot at depicting the "signs of the times." That's what accounts for the specific melange that baffles you. The action is to be followed and understood, so we can project our own interpretations on it. Hollywood producers are masters at that. That's what makes good action movies "good." Fighting monsters is an inherently bad state of affairs. You perceive a left-wing slant in the plot. No one says that you have to like it. Indeed, your political scheme might be too harsh for the action as well. You have to keep in mind the requirements of genre when posing such questions. There is no need to get blood out of the "Watchmen" stone. How does the movie speak to me about 21st century America? That's what I'm good and hungry for. The aesthetic consideration is that the genre is fantasy. The news provides facts to mull over, whereas fantasy does not.

Frederic said...

Edward--Plaudits to Michael B. for having put my opinion another way, in another light. Fantasy is a genre, and as such, it is a purely artistic selection from other possibilities.

Michael B said...

Rodak, you're now quoting Jesus and doing so out of context? In doing so you prove once again that you're able to construct a strawman, but you don't have the makings of a New Testament exegete, eh? E.g., Jesus also indicated not to separate the wheat from the chaff, in a different context and for a different emphasis still.

You also don't need to stipulate anything about "liberals" in the denigrative, simplistic and stereotypical manner you do. More silliness. For example, I'm a conservative and a classical liberal in the lineage of Locke and Montesquieu applied to govt. and political economy, and Adam Smith in terms of economics as such (and, importantly, wealth creation, not hoarding). I also dislike Rand immensely, referring now to your link.

Likewise, in typifying conservatives and again referring to your link, you refer to "glorify[ing] the acquisition and hoarding of wealth" and "conservative civic values, which lead to a form of aggressive nationalism, characterized by militarism, neocolonialism, and a nearly constant state of war." Again, more silly stereotyping and strawman constructions. If I were to stereotype those on the left in a similar strawman sense, I might paint them all as Leninist/Stalinist and Maoists.

The lineage of classical liberalism I briefly allude to above is, put in very general terms, formed upon a certain realism, a certain realistic assessment of man and of the world, not with the aim of "acquisitiveness" in the manner you seem to be suggesting, though it does take man's nature into account. Similarly with the other motifs you're invoking and assigning under a "conservative" rubric.

Likewise and as viewed from your side of the divide, the "divide," that is, as you imagine it to be, you imagine yourself generous and more concerned with others, by virtue of your willingness to engage in what, a still more expansive set of fiscal policies? To be generous with OPM, other peoples' money and lives, that's a generosity that costs you little, eh? Responsible and reasonably compassionate safety nets are one thing, massive governmental social programs under bureaucratic control are another thing entirely. Though that's said to simply reflect upon still another aspect of the overall equation, the overall picture any political economy needs to concern itself with.

In sum, we can't have a conversation while you raise stereotypes and strawman conceptions. That too is part of the fantasy previously alluded to in my first two or three comments.

Rodak said...

Michael B.--

Why is this not a stereotype and a "strawman" (as you use the term)?:

"...a generation who grew up believing that deformity is beauty and ideological lunacy is the norm."

You seem to like generalities when they attack that which you despise, but abhor them when they hold up a mirror before things at which you don't wish to look. Again, you illustrate my point.

As for quoting Jesus: if his words have meaning only in the context in which they are presented in the Gospels, then the Gospels are nothing more than a series of disconnected anecdotes about people who died long ago, in circumstances very different from ours; they can mean nothing to us.

Scratch a "classical liberal," find a neocon, eh?

Rodak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rodak said...

As promised, I just finished reading the Oleg Atbashian piece. It's maybe a tick above a Glenn Beck rant in its adherence to reality. On the one hand, the guy is obsessed with the KBG and on the other imagines that there is an American socialist movement for Obama to lead into a new Cold War/Dark Age.
There is no real "left" in America. Liberals were at the forefront of the anti-Communism that brought us to the brink of nuclear war with Russia (Kennedy: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco), and that sent us into a futile war in SE Asia (Johnson--the uber-Liberal.)
If the Atbashian piece has any coherent message, I surely missed it. Could the message be, perhaps, that Obama is a black Manchurian Candidate, controlled from Moscow by the KGB?
Frankly, I'd rather read a birther screed.

Michael B said...


You are a screed, and a sneer.

You lend the appearance of being inquisitive at times; in fact you are incurious and contented, while substituting facile conceptions and fantasy for more valid conceptions and substituting deflective sneers for analysis.

For example, the Jesus quotes in question (yours/then my contrasting example) have literally nothing to do in any critical sense with the importance of your argument, yet you hang on to your juvenile and in fact vapid interpretation without evidencing even a moment's worth of self-reflection - or even a moment's worth of hesitancy. Instead? It's all pouting reaction and arch disdain, no substance whatsoever, in fact you don't even bother with a pretense of substance. You're like the kid in the class who indulges flatulance in lieu of a serious comment.

And the "scratch a classical liberal" sneer is nothing more than that, a substanceless sneer. It's not even clear what you're sneering at, the very idea of a classical liberal, as reflected in the lineage alluded to, of Locke, Montesquieu and Smith? If so, you're so self-indulgent and obtuse that the idea of infantile levels of regression are in fact applicable.

You're no genuine liberal, you're illiberal and incurious and supremely contented, indulging much the same fantasy referred to in my initial comments and obdurately so, or so it seems. You're likewise impressed with your ability to throw up a pastiche of rhetorical deflections, but that's all they are, rhetoric, shorn of substance.

Rodak said...

Actually, I'm sneering at the fact that the typical neocon--as can be viewed at NRO or the Weekly Standard--always claims for himself the title of "classical liberal" and bills himself as the only true heir of Adam Smith, et al.

I'd be interested to know just what it is that you see me being "contented" with. What can you quote, that I've said here, that suggests my "contentment" with anything? You are projecting, my friend. It is conservatives who seek stability and the contentment of a perpetually-renewed tradition and immortal status quo.

Ricky Hatton said...

"It is conservatives who seek stability and the contentment of a perpetually-renewed tradition and immortal status quo."


Is it liberals that intentionally wander away from tradition in any and every direction.... labeling all movement away "progress"?

Rodak said...

No. Progressives are making progress toward a goal, almost by definition. What you are describing is a libertine--an undisciplined, essentially disoriented person. It would be unfair to tar real liberals or progressives with that brush.
Progressives differ from conservatives in not being satisfied with the status quo, or married to tradition out of mere cultural inertia.

Jime said...

Hi there,

This is off-topic (sorry professor Feser :) ), but it could be of interest for people interested in philosophy of religion, metaphysics and philosophy of mind.

Philosopher of religion Michael Sudduth has made available an online resource on personal survival and immortality topics:

Sudduth is one of the few contemporary philosphers who has studied the empirical evidence (and the related philsophical problems) of the survival research.

Sudduth also has an excellent website on natural theology:


Ricky Hatton said...

"Progressives are making progress toward a goal."

That's at least what we hope would be the case, for Progressives. But it does appear to be the case that many Progressives progress for the sake of moving away from the traditional. Not so much as being drawn to something else.... but repelled from something(s) established.

"It would be unfair to tar real liberals or progressives with that brush."

"Real" liberals or progressives? When they don't behave according to the superimposed definition they are no longer "real" liberals and progressives?

"Progressives differ from conservatives in not being satisfied with the status quo, or married to tradition out of mere cultural inertia."

Can I play?
"Real" conservatives aren't simply satisfied with the status quo and wedded to tradition by virtue of cultural inertia.
They appreciate the traditionals time-test model and see it for the actual worth inherent to the traditional..... and react accordingly.

Rodak said...

and react accordingly.

There, you've said it all. That's exactly where we get the term "reactionary."
Progressives have a goal, an agenda, and a purpose for their actions. They are not just moving away from something that they find repulsive, they are moving towards something. If this is not the case, then they are not progressives, but--as I said before--libertines.
It is, in fact, conservatives who tend to be re-active, where progressives are pro-active.

Michael B said...

Still arguing on the basis of definitions and strawman conceptions in general. Hence, "progressives" like "progess" - "almost by definition," we're additionally informed.

No stunted intellect this, he plumbs the depths. You should write a book, Rodak.

Ricky Hatton said...

What I was doing was flipping your overly optimistic view of all things progressive/liberal and using that generous approach to view the motives of conservatives; whom you consistently cast in a negative light (and as you did again in this post I'm responding to).

"It is, in fact, conservatives who tend to be re-active, where progressives are pro-active."

This reminds me of a funny line from the Simpsons:
"Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't those just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that... I'm fired aren't I?"

You say that Progressives have a goal and that it's never reactionary (as if you would be that familiar with ALL cases progressive to have such knowledge), it's never moving away from the traditional because disdain for those values.
Have you ever been on a college campus, Rodak?
One day on almost any college campus would be enough to cause you to re-evaluate that position (assuming you had the humility as well as the ability to stop just referencing a dictionary for definitions).

College kids who mistakenly assumed that their parents' rules and guidelines were for the sole detriment of potential "fun". Being unable to look past the inconvenience they (the college kids) had to suffer through by abiding by these rules and guidelines... quickly shed them off once free from it.
Running from something that they don't even really grasp.
Typically the value of responsibilites and actually being responsible for them.

Kind of funny because the bulk of my friends from college are very progressive.... and rarely responsible.

Rodak said...

Words have roots and roots having meanings.

Interstellar Bill said...

The meaning of words is whatever Big Brother BO and his adoring minions say:

Destroy health care with 'reform'.

Fund Big-Govt expansion with 'stimulus'.

Totalitarian goals are 'progressive', and so is confiscatory taxation (theft).

Productive people are 'the' rich ('selfish') but slackers, layabouts, losers, and criminals are 'the' poor (noble), while wino-bums are 'homeless' (not ever their fault).

Profit, the lifeblood of any economy, is 'obscene', but abortion is a 'right' (talk about getting it totally backwards).

Alien criminal invaders are 'Undocumented' (but not people who lost their green cards).

Anti-Western fans of savagery and barbarism are 'multiculturalists'.

Disapproval of criminality is 'judgemental'.

Opponents of totalitarianism are 'reactionary' and all Christians are 'theocrats' (but Islamist terrorists aren't).

Hugo Chavez is a 'democrat' (and so is the socialist Dem Party).

Fidel Castro is a 'leader', Sadam Hussein was a 'president', but Pinochet was a 'dictator'.

Winning an argument with a liberal makes one a 'bigot', and with a black liberal, a 'racist'.

'Dissent' (lib cacaphony) is good, but 'divisiveness' (dissenting from lib BS) is bad.

Jokes about conservatives are 'irreverent' (but never funny because they're false), while jokes about liberals are 'insensitive' (funny because they're true).

One-word lies, every one, and ditto for all other lib cliches.

Only a supreme word-mangler could hide behind 'words mean things', like Animal Farm's talking porkers.

Rodak said...

I'm going to stick with "words mean things," regardless of your persistent attempts to show us that, sometimes, words just don't.
Dylan's tune "Idiot Wind" comes to mind here.

Rodak said...

Aren't those just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?

Ah...You're one of those folks who thinks that Stephen Colbert is a real conservative, aren't you?

stop just referencing a dictionary for definitions

You're right! It's so wrong of me to abuse the dictionary in that way!

Kind of funny because the bulk of my friends from college are very progressive.... and rarely responsible.

Go back up and reread the part where I made a distinction between "real" progressives and posturing libertines. Don't hesitate to use "Peter Pointer" if it helps you get the gist. And good luck at the next kegger, Big Guy.

Rodak said...

To sum up then:

Just because someone calls himself a "progressive," it doesn't necessarily follow that his actions are those of a progressive.
Similarly: just because someone calls himself a "Catholic," it doesn't follow that his actions are those of a Christian.
By their fruits--not by labels--by their fruits.

Michael B said...

A pathetic CYA, Rodak. If you're much more than fifteen years old, you or your parents deserve a refund for any educational expenses they've laid out, both compensatory damages as well as punitive damages would be applicable.

Interstellar Bill said...

Cute dodge, Rodak, but you don't get to decide who is 'progressive', which is a well-known leftie self-identifier used by millions, but it doesn't mean "I'm for progress", it truly means "I am a rabid liberal disguising my totalitarian bent with the p-word". Nothing but a big-time one-word lie.

Every 'progressive' law liberals have passed ended up growing Big Govt and turning citizens into subjects and serfs (who, by the way, only had 10% of their production siezed).

If you aren't such a 'progressive' yourself, then why are you defending their ideology?

P.S. A philosophy is a way of dealing with reality, while an ideology is a system of intellectual blinders designed to shield from sight the disastrous real-world consequences of totally bad ideas.

Liberalism is the quintessential ideology, while conservatism is but one philosophy out of the many that rightfully oppose it.

Rodak said...
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Rodak said...
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Rodak said...

but you don't get to decide who is 'progressive'

Right. As I said, neither what I call somebody, nor what he calls himself will decide what he really is: his acts-in-the-world will ultimately define him.

[and while correcting a typo, I will refine the above: his acts-in-the-world will define for the world. What's in his heart will define what he is for God. And, that, it goes without saying, is finally all that matters, whether we're talking about liberals, progressives (they aren't the same thing, btw), or conservatives.]

Patrick said...

Edward, the seeming contradiction of reactions by left-liberals between the Watchmen and those politicians whom they loathe is, in fact, internally consistent.

Right-wingers are guilty of all evil in this world because the cornerstone of left-liberalism is malcontentedness. All other things revolve around the gravitational pull of this one thing.

As such, violent vigilantism is morally positive in the same way that a peace protest is. This is why Rorschach is so emotionally resonant to the same leftists that he loathes, he is supremely malcontented.

This is why liberalism is, by nature, never set upon a given agenda. Once the agenda is achieved, there must be something else to struggle against. Whether it is wealth, race, gender, a given policy isn't what matters, but rather a focus for the serial malcontent to struggle against.

Sadly, this is also the reason why socialists are the first to flip to fascism. The only real difference is the identity of the "unjust" scapegoat.