GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

June 30, 2012

Why not

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:10 pm

say a few words about the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding “Obamacare”? I’m somewhat detached from it, more so than I would have expected, since I though the Court would overturn the law—I’m as surprised as anyone that it was Chief Justice Roberts who not only cast the deciding vote but did so in a decision that is convoluted enough to be a Borges story, a work of conceptual art or, more simply, a joke (and not a bad one, at that). He actually gave me a new way to think about the word “tax,” which one doesn’t expect from a Supreme Court ruling. So, the government can’t impose a mandate requiring you to buy a product, but they can fine you for not buying that product, as long as that fine is considered a “tax”; nor does the fine or penalty actually have to be called a tax in order to be a tax—indeed, those who passed the law can have, and can continue to, vociferously insist that it is not a tax. I would not be at all surprised if a new lawsuit charging that the “tax” is invalid because it didn’t originate in the House of Representatives were to be rejected, again in a decision authored by Justice Roberts, on the grounds that, for the purpose of this new lawsuit, it was not, in a fact a tax. In other words, what we might actually have here is a “nonce” tax.

And there’s even more! There is a trap for Democrats and, more broadly, the Left built into the decision: Roberts agreed with the dissenters that the Commerce Clause would not have permitted the mandate, hence, presumably, embedding some limits upon federal over-reach. But, one might say (and I would agree with one on this), that over-reach can continue, as long as Congress just says it is introducing new taxes. But there’s the brilliantly laid trap!—the whole point is to tax without admitting you are doing so.

There’s also a trap for Republicans, who have gotten themselves a bit entangled in their eagerness to rid us of this monstrosity—they began by insisting that the mandate was, in fact a new tax (this insistence lay behind the famous interview wherein George Stephanopolous pressed the President on precisely this question) but, then, for the sake of the lawsuit, were quite happy to deny its “taxness” in finding the quickest route to its overturn; and, now, seem thrilled to take the Supreme Court (which did decide wrongly, didn’t it?) at its word and run against this enormous new tax of Obama’s. This game might not end well either.

I am grateful to the Chief Justice, though, and not only due to my love of word play, self-reflexivity and arbitrary constraints in writing—in trying to decide for myself whether it is, indeed, “fairly possible” to see the mandate as a tax I had to construct the following, intriguing, analogy (which I assume Roberts himself relied upon). The government provides all kinds of tax breaks for activities it would prefer us to engage in more of: having children, winter-proofing our homes, sending our kids to college, and, really, God knows what else. So, in that case, why can’t we say that the government is taxing those who don’t have children, don’t winter-proof, don’t send kids to college, etc.; or, if we want to follow the Mobius Strip around the other side, that the government is “mandating” having children and all the rest? Sure, we can define “tax” and “mandate” in such a way as to answer these questions, but does anyone really believe in such fixed definitions anymore?

In other words, Roberts’ final trap is for us—all of us who have accepted the continual growth of government and its extension into every area of life, every choice we make, bribing, blackmailing and manipulating us at every turn, with our approval. And I think he knows it. Roberts has written a little postmodern play, in which the audience has to perform the denouement. That’s not such a bad legacy.


  1. I’m ambivalent about Obamacare; it was intended to make health care more affordable, but the final legislation undoubtedly makes healthcare more expensive; at the government level by more administration and expanded medicaid, and at the private level by forcing insurance companies to insure high-risk individuals and existing conditions, the costs of which must be born by the rest of us. On the other hand, health care does need reform, and Republicans have not been forthcoming in workable proposals for reform, being almost entirely focused on attacking obamacare.

    At this point in our history, health care reform is probably best addressed at the federal level, setting aside the niceties of constitutional interpretation. My own feeling is that social security, medicare, medicaid, and the whole welfare system should be replaced by individual savings accounts and vouchers. Minimum contributions would be automatically deducted from earnings and tax-exempt, but additional contributions by individuals and employers would also be tax-advantaged. Individuals who desire premium levels of care and benefits would have the choice of paying for it; those who don’t would not get as many tests and procedures, and the more expensive treatment options might not be available. The difficult parts, aside from the politics, are incorporating more competition between health-care providers to keep prices down, and allowing some way of making health care more affordable for those with on-going and existing conditions, but at the same time, making individuals responsible for their health, so that the rest of us are not forced to pay the extra costs of those who neglect their health and/or are indifferent to the cost of different treatment options (e.g. going to the emergency room rather than the regular doctor–so-called moral hazard). There are other difficulties too, such as what happens when one loses or switches one’s job. But we need to radically scale back the “welfare” aspects of the system, whereby individuals receive more than they contribute. All welfare should be means tested.

    Health care and retirement benefits could be reformed if politicians had the willpower to do so, and if the media chose to take a more measured approach to reporting.

    Comment by Q — July 1, 2012 @ 9:03 am

  2. I would agree with you in terms of policy, but I have resolved to stop blaming politicians and the media. The willpower of politicians is directly proportionate to the desires of their constituents, and while the “mainstream” media is ridiculously leftist, no one is dependent upon it any more for their information. The problem is with the people; or, if you like, with the system that empowers the people in this particular way. Do a majority of Americans believe that property is sacred, and that money is real? If the answer was yes, we wouldn’t be asking the question, so I submit the answer, regardless of how individuals might respond to a pollster, is “no”–most Americans believe that others’ property is up for grabs and that money is created by the government and hoarded by the rich. The media and politicians will always be happy to work within that intellectual framework, and as long as that’s the case we can devise the most perfect policies and it will all be for naught.

    Comment by adam — July 1, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  3. Actually, I should amend that to I “could” agree with you in terms of policy, to highlight the irrelevance of such policy debates–looking more carefully at your proposal, I don’t agree with it. If I understand it correctly, you are proposing a government run system–no wonder assuring competition between providers looms large as a problem. No thanks.

    I suppose I could further clarify my previous comment by highlighting such phrases as “aside from the politics,” along with the relegation of of all the issues most hotly contested as “problems” to be “cleared up” later on, I suppose when irrational people like the media and politicians (and those who support, vote for and fund politicians?) step out of the way.

    I suppose I’ll go back to my original post and say that I prefer Roberts’ obsession with “the niceties of constitutional interpretation” over these superficially sober but actually fantastic policy proposals and debates–at least he provides us, to what degree intentionally I can’t say, with a kind of mirror image of our intractable entanglements, 80 years or so after, as Tocqueville warned, “the voters discover[ed] that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

    Comment by adam — July 1, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  4. Your theatrical analogy is spot-on. The judge acted-out the necessary image that we are are a nation under a Constitutional Rule of Law. It is a part of our modern Noble Lie. The lie is that the people govern the nation. The truth is that the elite govern the nation and they are motivated, not by compassion, but to keep the populace content and complacent. We can’t have a stable society that includes all these uninsured poor.

    The very Ignoble Lie is that medical care is extremely expensive. It is not. The industry is essentially one of research data mining/manipulation and technological instrumentation. Every other industry based on these disciplines has seen costs plummet while medical costs spiral out of control. And this in an industry with a virtually unlimited customer base. Its value, like all value, is subjective. “We have here this product that can relieve pain, cure disease, improve the quality of life and lengthen your life by 10, 20 or even more years. What would you pay for such a product? We will throw in cosmetic surgury, hair replacement and ED solutions. Now what would you pay? …” The obvious answer is that we will pay whatever is asked. $1,000/hour is the bottom line billing rate and it goes up from there. Medical technology is an incredible treasure that no alpha-elitist is going to let fall into the public domain, i.e. the free-market. For every business entity in the industry – healthcare services (hospitals and clinics), research, pharmaceuticals, education, the FDA and other governmental regulatory institutions – cost reductions are counter to their self-interest. (This is different from other industries where cost reductions serve to enlarge the customer base.)

    This is especially true for the insurance industry, the essence of which is to position themselves into the economic exchange. They insert themselves between patient and doctor with all money being filtered through their hands. Their business rests upon the volume of money passing through their hands of which they can skim-off chunks and also invest while delaying payments to the provider. Additionally, insurance inevitably rests upon a foundation of fear. The fear of astronomically high medical bills fuels the insurance industry. If the medical industry went free-market and costs fell to potential levels, the insurance industry would collapse except for catastrophic care policies (where cancer treatment would equate to smashing one’s new car without collision insurance).

    Another of our Ignoble Lies requires a word play such as referring to an insurance contract as “a product.” Insurance produces nothing. This ignoble lie seeks to hide the parasitic nature of insurance and also government and banking. They are all entities that inevitably gather around any economic exchange that actually does produce something. Like flies to a BBQ they gather in hopes of feeding off of the work of others. That government would bail out banks and mandate that everybody buy an insurance “product” (health, auto and home) is as unsurprising as the SCOTUS granting their constitutional assent to the same. What would be amusing if it weren’t so sad, is that our political discourse consists mainly of standing over that BBQ and discerning which fly is a good fly and which fly is a bad fly. It would be better that we analyse the Lies, discerning which are Noble Lies (like your sacred property rights and monetary realism) and which are Ignoble Lies (like your insurance “product”).

    Comment by tommy704 — July 2, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  5. First of all, sorry to take so long to respond to this comment–it wasn’t routed to my email, as is usually the case (there must still be some problem here).

    Catastrophic care would still make for a quite an insurance industry, though, wouldn’t it–after all, there is quite a bit of cancer and there is a bit of paradox within the health care field that does, it seems to me, differentiate it–the more diseases we can diagnose and the more cures we discover, the more catastrophes there will be, into the foreseeable future.

    You propose an ignoble truth (the elite rule the people, etc.), but is that just a resentful truth, or does it imply that the people might rule themselves? Or live without rule?

    Comment by adam — July 8, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  6. I thought it clear that I proposed a free-market as the solution. But that is nothing. I started with the established idea of the noble lie which even underpins your piece. I though it clever that I added the idea of an ignoble lie (astronomically high medical costs propped up by the elite for the benefit of the elite at the expense of the masses). Now you add the idea of “an ignoble truth.” That really set me back. Can truth really be ignoble? Should truth be revealed only if it serves a noble purpose? I need to think on that. In a religious milieu it is complicated … but in an academic one? Is it possible that the concepts of GA are not the most accurate ones that Gans conceived of, but the ones that had the best promise of helping to defer modern violence?

    Comment by tommy704 — July 16, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

  7. First of all, let me note that this comment got routed to my email, so you seem to be in the system. Very good!

    I was following up on your referring to to my reference to sacred property rights and monetary realism as “noble lies,” so my confusion lies in the possibility of proposing the free-market as a solution if those claims aren’t imply truths. But if the solution “is nothing,” then is it a solution–in what lies its nothingness?

    Anyway, let’s not get hung up on my “ignoble truth” phrase–my question here is whether your solution is proferred as a solution or as a negation of the lies which make any solution “nothing”–that’s what I meant by “resentful truth”–yes, everything you denounce might be rightly deserving of denunciation, but then what? What’s the less awful, that might lead to yet a less awful, etc.? I don’t mean a pragmatic “platform,” or an endorsement of Romney–more like a habit of mind which might displace present habits.

    But now I’m more intrigued by the paradox you pose regarding GA–would the originary hypothesis be true if it tended to increase violence? (Gans has come back several times to the question of GA’s “obscurity,” and as don lightband reminded me recently, Matt Schneider recently published an essay in Anthropoetics on the topic) Should it be falsified in the name of peaceableness? Maybe GA is more for inventing new ways of speaking rather than stating declarative truths.

    Comment by adam — July 16, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

  8. Private property rights and money as a faithful representative of wealth are ideals or principles. If they are affirmed by the majority and proven effective in practice then they might take on an air of truth, and we might even call them “truths.” The “noble lie,” as I see it, is that our society, our capitalist system, is one of property rights and monetary realism (and individual freedom and meritocracy and many other of Alan Lefavre’s “persuasions” ) when in truthful fact it is not, it only presents an image of it. It is “noble” because it makes people feel better about submitting to this system. It is a means of deferring resentment, which is a sort of preventative measure to avoid the need to defer violence.

    If GA is more for inventing new ways of speaking rather than stating declarative truths, then it is also noble, a sort of noble sophistry.

    My “nothing” comment was a poorly worded way of prioritizing the topics. If the medical industry experienced the realizable cost reductions of say the electronics, optics, communications and IT industries, then all these arguments concerning the parasitic institutions (insurance and government) become mute. These cost reductions can only happen if the industry is rid of these parasites, i.e. a free-market where parasites starve. (Is the word “parasite” accurate or merely a dysphemism? “Dependent” would be kinder but not accurate).

    But that topic of the follies, faults and foibles of the medical industry is nothing compared to the topic of “Ignoble Truths,” IMHO. This concept is most vividly and viscerally embodied in “911 Truthers.” While the government’s narrative is chock full of holes in its truthyness, that is irrelevant to the vast majority of people, on the Left and Right. The 911 Truther is not tolerated and is held in great disdain as ignoble, unpatriotic and downright evil. That sentiment is obviously seen in the media but in discussion forums of the little people it also is prevalent. Here are two right-leaning pundits:

    “One last question is worth asking. Forget which is more plausible. Which scenario (Truther or Birther) is more unpatriotic, more malicious, more corrosive to civic life? In short: which is more evil?” Jonah Goldberg

    “But on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 — a day when there were no truthers among us, just Americans struck dumb by the savagery of what had been perpetrated on their innocent fellow citizens — a decent respect for the memory of that day requires that truthers, who derangedly desecrate it, be asked politely to leave. By everyone.” Charles Kraughthammer

    Comment by tommy704 — July 19, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  9. First of all, this comment didn’t get routed into my email; hence the delay. I don’t know what’s happening.

    Anyway, thanks very much for the clarification. You’re working with what at least seems to me something similar to a Marxist theory of ideology, or perhaps a Chomskyian notion of the “manufacturing of consensus”–the elite rules through noble lies that the “masses,” for reasons that usually go unexplained, believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I don’t imagine you would disagree that this is ultimately a Platonic model, as such a model is implicit in your distinction between declarative truths and sophistry. (I should say that seeing GA as a way of inventing new ways of speaking is very much mine, and one I doubt other GAniks would sign on to.) Insights get generated through these dualistic models so I don’t really object to them, even if I don’t want to speak that idiom. There are truths and lies, and truths are generally to be preferred, but whether a given statement is true or false (which only makes sense within a given disciplinary space anyway) is not necessarily the most important thing about it, which means other criteria are always in play.

    What I dislike in the Platonic model is well illustrated by your own example here of the 9/11 truthers. The government’s narrative is “chock full of holes”–i.e., according to a standard of truth one decides to apply, certain statements from the “official” account cannot be completely verified. Maybe–but, as with Holocaust revisionism, this is a very mealy-mouthed approach. Come out and say it: do you assert that Bush and Cheney did it? It’s easy to play the skeptic and–again, as with the Holocaust “revisionists”–claim that you just want to keep the question open, in the name of scholarly inquiry, etc., but when all you seem to want to do is punch holes and when, perhaps if pressed, you will zero in on the “counter-narrative” presupposing the highest degree of malevolence on the part of national leaders as possible (and the highest degree of gullibility on the part of the “vast majority”)–well, then, it’s reasonable to assume that driving your “inquiry” is a not just a desire for truth but a very large chip on your shoulder. And, precisely in a free market based on private property, people have every right to refuse to entertain, on their own time, such inquiries. Why not gather your evidence quietly, preserve it and make it public in non-intrusive ways, and let history perhaps vindicate you? The 9/11 truthers want some kind of “acknowledgment,” and that goes well beyond “declarative truth.”

    Comment by adam — July 21, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

  10. Label me Marxist, Platonist, Chomskyist. Ideology is an indispensable tool of leadership (Is that better than Elite?) in the creation and maintenance of a superstructure. Consent is present throughout all human relations. Parents gain the child’s consent to be good because Santa Claus is watching them. In employee relations consent goes hand-in-hand with productivity and the project manager knows that he must get others to “buy into” his project to make it work. The fiercest Tyrant has always had to minimally gain the consent of the warrior class. “Because I said so” is never a truly acceptable answer. Why should it take deep thinkers like Chomsky and Marx to apply this fact of the human condition to higher levels of leadership where great numbers of people require a mass-production of consent? The originary scene and the free-market are both mediums of consent.

    Is the point of contention whether consent is a naturally occurring event of the autonomous individual, or whether the individual can be coerced, cajoled or seduced to give his consent to something he would not have naturally consented to? IMO consent, approbation and desire can all be manufactured. For a proof I give you the ’59 Cadillac.

    As to your second paragraph, thanks for acting out the phenomena of intolerance for ignoble truths. But I was hoping more that we might explore the “reasons that usually go unexplained” of why ignoble truths are met with far more antipathy than are noble lies.

    Comment by tommy704 — July 23, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  11. That response ties everything together very well–thanks! Where I differ here is that in all the instances you mention, or could mention, there is an already existing (Derrida’s phrase, “always already” is helpful here) dependency and reciprocity that makes the participants intelligible to each other before and as a condition of the coercion, cajoling, seduction, etc. The parent does not only reference Santa Claus, but feeds, clothes, bathes, hugs, i.e., cares for, the child; the employee really does benefit from the success of the firm (and, indirectly, through his connections to a larger division of labor, however distorted by rent-seekers, government created monopolies, etc.), and in the more coercive situations it is by way of a sufficiently persuasive reference to a relation of genuine reciprocity (although not necessary equality) that the scam is pulled off. It is interesting the imagine the child who would “debunk” the Santa fraud and thereby expose his parents as the tyrants that they are–I think from such a child, who could overlook, precociously, all that his parents do for him in the name of declarative truth, we could expect truly evil things.

    Before GA is a theory stating declarative truths or a way of inventing ways of speaking, that is, it is a hypothesis positing that before anyone does anything to anyone else as a human they share the world of first of all ostensive signs, deferring violence and thereby creating the world that makes them inhabitants of a human world in the first place. You will never be able to rationalize or extirpate the sacrality that makes consent possible, and install agreement on declarative truths all the way down–but people have already done a great deal of damage in the attempt.

    Let’s explore, by all means–but as far as I’m concerned, your discussion of 9/11 and the truth hasn’t yet produced any truths, ignoble or otherwise. If not those 19 al-Qaeda terrorists, who did it?

    Comment by adam — July 23, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  12. It is my take on the originary scene that the first emitted sign was a promise and only by trusting the promises made at that scene is violence deferred. It is the faithfulness and honor of the promise which is “the sacrality that makes consent possible.”

    The faithfulness of one’s word is what underpins our humanness. When I first introduced the “noble lie” in this thread I was quite clear that IMO we are to judge the nobleness of the lie in order to condone it, or condemn it. Nobody learns the truth about Santa Claus without also passing a favorable judgment on the nobility of that lie and the liers.

    To anyone with eyes to see, the government’s 911 narrative is a lie, or at least many parts of it are. In my state of confusion I expect that everybody aware of this lie would want it exposed in order to judge its nobility. But that is not our reality. I have it all wrong. We simply don’t want to know.

    Comment by tommy704 — July 23, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  13. At a certain point, then, noble lies would become ignoble lies, I assume–the Santa Claus story would be a noble lie insofar as it embodies the parents’ promise to care for the child, keep it safe, etc., but if the parents mistreat the child horribly, going through the Santa Clause ritual on Christmas would become an ignoble lie–right?

    An employer claiming that his employees need to take a pay cut “for the good of the firm” would not necessarily fit into this category–maybe the employer truly believes he will go out of business if he does’t cut pay, maybe he’s not so sure, but depending upon how he puts it we’re not necessarily in the domain of truth or falsity here. Still, if I apply your logic, the question is whether the employer’s claim embodies a promise which is indeed fulfilled–if the employer gets the employees to accept the pay cut, does he indeed try to save the firm and their jobs?

    So far, so good–we have moved away from the declarative (empirical assertions to be disinterestedly confirmed or falsified) to the ostensive (promises which are deemed to have been met by the joint agreement, perhaps tacit, of the promiser and promisee). Speaking of truth and lies, ignoble or noble, becomes much more restricted in this case–assertions like “I’m doing this for the common good” can’t be empirically confirmed or falsified–as you say it’s a matter of faith and honor (so why speak of “lies” at all?).

    But in this case shouldn’t it be easy to clarify your conclusion, or perhaps mitigate your irony, as expressed in your final paragraph? I really don’t know what you consider a lie in the government’s 9/11 narrative, but it seems to me you are extending the category of “lie” to cover what others might deem a lack of information, conflicting reports (along with the attempts to reconcile them), uncertainty–i.e., the inevitable holes in the recounting of any historical event. To start with the term “lie” is to start with a presumption of dishonor and faith-breaking on the part of the government; is it really so hard to understand why the “vast majority” refuse to start there? Most people, except perhaps under the most brutal regimes, start with a broad grant of honor and faith to the government, even if we all blithely assume they are all crooks and liars, at least with these most basic events–otherwise, one must assume that “they” are not just crooks and liars but mass-murdering monsters. If that was the starting point of the “vast majority,” or even a substantial minority, we wouldn’t have the government we have. So, in this case, the vast majority assume they know what happened: 19 al-Qaeda terrorists, in an attack authorized by Osama bin Laden, planned in Afghanistan, etc., hijacked four planes which they proceeded to fly into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and another destination we aren’t sure of. If there are discrepancies that fanatics and obsessives (or inquirers a bit distanced from the events) can uncover, there is no reason to assume that will alter the basic outline given above. If there are relatively marginal lies in there (I don’t know what they would be–maybe regarding lapses on the part of individuals or institutionalized security measures), then there is a presumption in favor of their nobility, or their irrelevance compared to the larger truth–it wouldn’t really change the meaning of the event. Of course, if there have been lies and concealments, there will be people who would want to know, should know, and will be interested and qualified to judge their significance–but those people won’t be “the people.”

    It would be really naive, though, to assume that those propagating the claims you allude to vaguely enough merely want to improve security procedures or address some other marginal aspect of the event. They want to convince us that our national leaders are mass-murdering monsters; even more, they want to disdain the “vast majority” for being dupes of these monsters. In other words, we are dealing with a mode of resentment here, not a search for universally available and relevant truths.

    Comment by adam — July 23, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  14. I don’t see Santa as an embodiment of “the parents’ promise to care for the child.” It is an act of anonymous kindness. It REMOVES the parent from the act of kindness and creates a sense that there are others in the world who will be kind, not just the child’s parents. The nobility of the specific act is not lessened by other unkind acts.

    In all judgment there is grey zones, yet we plod on with our judgments.

    By your comments I suspect that you have never given an objective ear to the truther’s “universally available and relevant truths.” As you say, you have judged apriori based of the consequences of belief. “It can’t be true because if it were true, then …”

    Comment by tommy704 — July 23, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  15. But if we ask why the children believe in Santa, the answer must be because they believe in their parents, and if they believe in their parents, it is because their parents embody the possible of such a world as you describe, where others will be kind. (This, by the way, takes us to a very different place than your introduction of the Santa example, which presented Santa as a way parents get their children to do what they want.)

    Yes, we plod on, and one of those judgments is whether to reassess the bases of our judgments–when, for example, we need to radically revise our assessments regarding reliability and plausibility.

    It’s true that I have never paid much attention to those who question the “official version” of 9/11, for the reasons I have been giving–first of all, like the Holocaust revisionists, they are transparently driven by the kinds of resentments I have been describing; second, they have not presented a minimally plausible alternative account. Indeed, you don’t do so here–was it Bush? Cheney? The Mossad? Some rogue CIA operatives? If the official version is wrong, another must be right, and some other version must be implicit in the very debunking process–if a given fact in the government report is false, someone must have falsified it (perhaps the one who compiled the report, perhaps a witness, perhaps a bureaucrat somewhere down the line)–who, how, and why? There are events before there are isolatable facts.

    To return the beginning of this discussion, it seems to me you want to extend the semantic territory of the word “lie” as far as you can–indeed, the claim that we live in a market society can just as easily be described as a partial over-simplification, or a reference to a constitutive feature of the social order (as opposed to comprehensive, all-inclusive description), rather than a “lie,” noble or otherwise. The only reason I can think of for such semantic “colonialism” is to brand everyone other than yourself (and a few other “truth tellers”) liars and dupes. No doubt this approach generates important insights in many cases.

    Comment by adam — July 24, 2012 @ 6:44 am

  16. And so it goes with most people, they approach 911 trutherism from an appeal to “argumentum ad ignorantiam, or appeal to ignorance (where ignorance stands for a lack of evidence to the contrary). They assert that the proposition (911 narrative) is true because it has not yet been proven false (a compelling counter-narrative) and it is generally accepted” wiki. Based on this logical fallacy they then ignore the Truther’s claim of evidence to the contrary and proceed directly to judge the Truther as ignoble and his motives as solely resentment driven. Notwithstanding this faulty chain of reasoning I would think that the result is a universal human condition where we inevitably resent the resenter.

    It makes clear the What of this phenomenon but not the Why. Are we living a Bokononism reality? Or a Girardian scene of scapegoating? If it is a noble lie that benefits society, then what are the results; an enduring replacement for the cold-war; a vast expansion of government powers and a sacrifice of personal liberties for security. All things I imagine that the government might desire, but not the people.

    Comment by tommy704 — July 25, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  17. Something happens, and people start with a basic sense of what happens–a sense that must meet certain criteria of realism and coherence–someone does something we can imagine, or can be brought to imagine, that person doing, with consequences we can imagine or be made to imagine following that action. We start from there, and weigh everything we hear against that starting frame–it’s impossible to simply vacate all frames or narratives and look at the evidence fresh, as if we were coming from another planet. Especially events this big–to convince me that the guy who lives down the street didn’t push the old lady down the steps it would suffice to prove that he was out of town that day–because a lot of people might be capable of pushing an old lady down the steps. Not a lot of people were capable of planning and carrying out this attack–someone very determined to murder many thousands of Americans and make a very big “point”; people willing to die in the process; and, if they were people in the the US government, they would have to be far more capable of keeping secrets than the vast majority of government employees have generally proven themselves to be. That’s a pretty high bar, and if you can’t even begin to approach it, why should anyone listen?

    I don’t know what “Bokononism” is.

    Many people do resent the resenter, but many resenters thrive on the resentment they generate; if anything, I think the truthers are frustrated by not generating sufficient resentment–hardly anyone, from what I can see, pays them the slightest attention. If they were really just interested in the truth, they would be writing for history, assuming that at some point, perhaps decades down the road, their account will be accepted.

    The war on terrorism is gradually slipping away–Obama makes friends with Islamists whenever he can, and uses violence only against the most violent of them. I doubt a President Romney would try to rouse us to redouble our efforts in the struggle, or even to keep members of the Muslim Brotherhood out of range of government decision making processes. Everyone is tired of all that. There is absolutely nothing that I or you or anyone else can’t say or do that we could have said or done 12 years ago, other than perhaps boarding a plane unmolested. There is room for abuse in Obama’s arrogation to himself the power to assassinate enemies, but as far as I know the only abuse that has been alleged has been with regard to the unintentional killing of civilians, not in the choice of targets.

    Again, though, I can’t really tell what you are claiming here–what, exactly, is the enduring replacement for the Cold War? Is that really how you see our relations with the Islamic world shaping up right now? It seems to me more likely that the “replacement” is really for the critics themselves, who can’t surrender the appealing narrative of the paranoid military-industrial complex, with its articulation of various economic and political injustices to be meticulously chronicled and valiantly and impotently combated.

    Comment by adam — July 26, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

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