(1) In The New Republic today, Todd Gitlin writes an entire anti-WikiLeaks column that is based on an absolute factual falsehood. Anyone listening to most media accounts would believe that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately published all 250,000 of the diplomatic cables it possesses, and Gitlin — in the course of denouncing Julian Assange — bolsters this falsehood: “Wikileaks’s huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate” and Assange is “fighting for a world of total transparency.”
The reality is the exact opposite — literally — of what Gitlin told TNR readers. WikiLeaks has posted to its website only 960 of the 251,297 diplomatic cables it has. Almost every one of these cables was first published by one of its newspaper partners which are disclosing them (The Guardian, the NYT, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, etc.). Moreover, the cables posted by WikiLeaks were not only first published by these newspapers, but contain the redactions applied by those papers to protect innocent people and otherwise minimize harm.
Wikileaks critics – some of whom think Julian Assange should be assassinated – have all used the same false information to justify their purely manufactured outrage. Wikileaks champions may be contributing to the outrage by attributing to the general buzz that Wikileaks has broken some hereto for unheard news. While there have been Wikileaks on the liberal side of the political spectrum the outrage on the Right has been deeply ironic and pathetic. Banks, credit card companies, the worthless pimps known as PayPal and assorted other characters have decided the latest document dump by Wikileaks is worse than conservatives manipulating the U.S. into a war where over 4000 Americans were killed, over 20,000 maimed, wounded or crippled, left the country with the largest debt in its history, left 40,000 Americans without health care, over half of the scientists who work for the EPA had their findings tampered with, put alternative energy on the back burner as oil imports increased to 60%, allowing U.S. corporations to shelter over $100 billion dollars in tax revenues in offshore tax havens, allowed health care corporations like those run by Florida’s new tea stain governor Rick Scott to steal $60 billion dollars from Medicare, allowed 20,000 Americans to die from toxic pollution, 47 Americans allowed to die in coal mine accidents from a combination of lax enforcement and corporate malfeasance, piled up a back log of over 700,000 claims for Social Security disability while paying $100 million for a new FBI computer network that didn’t work from a private contractor. What did Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, Interpol, Scotland Yard, the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI do to the people who actually caused harm. Many of them are conservatives who have retired with a nice government pension or are still on the govmint payroll in Congress telling us all how the country should be run, and how evil Wikileaks is. Julian Assange uses some of the history of the right-wing media’s own advocacy to justify his actions – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange invokes Rupert Murdoch in editorial defending leaks
Remember the recent story about NASA and a bacteria which supposedly incorporated arsenic into its DNA instead of phosphate. Yet still retained the ability to function. That may not be the case. This is one compelling counter argument from some research scientists – Arsenic-associated bacteria (NASA’s claims)
Philosopher Sean Kelly’s Navigating Past Nihilism is one of the most read stories over at the NYT today. Kelly is a good philosopher with a great knowledge of history and the context of moral philosophy through history.
There is much debate about the meaning of Nietzsche’s famous claim, and I will not attempt to settle that scholarly dispute here. But at least one of the things that Nietzsche could have meant is that the social role that the Judeo-Christian God plays in our culture is radically different from the one he has traditionally played in prior epochs of the West. For it used to be the case in the European Middle Ages for example – that the mainstream of society was grounded so firmly in its Christian beliefs that someone who did not share those beliefs could therefore not be taken seriously as living an even potentially admirable life. Indeed, a life outside the Church was not only execrable but condemnable, and in certain periods of European history it invited a close encounter with a burning pyre.
God is dead in a very particular sense. He no longer plays his traditional social role of organizing us around a commitment to a single right way to live.
Whatever role religion plays in our society today, it is not this one. For today’s religious believers feel strong social pressure to admit that someone who doesn’t share their religious belief might nevertheless be living a life worthy of their admiration. That is not to say that every religious believer accepts this constraint.
Did Nietzsche mean god is dead as in ceased to exist or dead in the sense society had largely moved away from a deity centered life. In addressing the issue Kelly manages to do what many of the philosophers who write popular articles for the masses in internet magazines and newspapers also do. He separates religion from its inherent nihilism. To claim that are humans are born tainted with original sin is a form of nihilism. There is something to be said for establishing human flaws and frailty from the get go, but original sin is shroud, a burden from which no one can be redeemed according to dogma. Then there is the nihilism of the end-times or Armageddon. The whole of humanity are ultimately doomed to perish is a ball of fire. Individuals still alive at that juncture may find their way into heaven if they follow the correct recipe. In the interim between original sin and Armageddon individuals are supposed to aspire to virtue. A concept which I have no objections to in the general sense. Yet incorporated into that is the nihilism of the human contract with its god. With the possible exception of some Jewish teachings, followers of the Bible have an escape clause. Arson, extortion, murder, greed, a culture wide gluttony, infidelity – all forgiven, here’s your pass – if you accept Christ as your Lord and savior. This is where the old joke about southern Baptists and evangelicals comes from – a good Christian is someone who sins Monday through Saturday – drinking, cussing, lying, beating the kids, beating the wife, kicking the dog – go to church on Sunday and it is all washed away. Ditto for the end of one’s life. Thus it is so easy to find the Ted Haggards, George Bushs and Sarah Palins – they can do and get away with anything because we’re all doomed except the true believers. Looking back on the religious history of western civilization Thomas Jefferson noticed the same thing – “In these countries [of Europe],… ignorance, superstition, poverty, and oppression of body and mind, in every form, are so firmly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemption from them can never be hoped. If the Almighty had begotten a thousand sons, instead of one, they would not have sufficed for this task. If all the sovereigns of Europe were to set themselves to work, to emancipate the minds of their subjects from their present ignorance and prejudices, and that, as zealously as they now endeavor the contrary, a thousand years would not place them on that high ground, on which our common people are now setting out.” –Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 1786. ME 5:396. He turned out to be overly optimistic about the U.S. Kelly’s passage on Melville is filled with a very elegant existentialism,
Herman Melville seems to have articulated and hoped for this kind of possibility. Writing 30 years before Nietzsche, in his great novel “Moby Dick,” the canonical American author encourages us to “lower the conceit of attainable felicity”; to find happiness and meaning, in other words, not in some universal religious account of the order of the universe that holds for everyone at all times, but rather in the local and small-scale commitments that animate a life well-lived. The meaning that one finds in a life dedicated to “the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country,” these are genuine meanings. They are, in other words, completely sufficient to hold off the threat of nihilism, the threat that life will dissolve into a sequence of meaningless events. But they are nothing like the kind of universal meanings for which the monotheistic tradition of Christianity had hoped. Indeed, when taken up in the appropriate way, the commitments that animate the meanings in one person’s life – to family, say, or work, or country, or even local religious community – become completely consistent with the possibility that someone else with radically different commitments might nevertheless be living in a way that deserves one’s admiration.
Steve King Supports Return To McCarthy-Era House Investigations Panel. This is strange. I rarely agree with Kink on anything. A new Un-American Activities Committee might be just the remedy for what ails the country. We could start with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Glenn Beck, Rand Paul (R-KY)and some others who seem to represent the interests of some fantasy land of totalitarian-lite government rather than the U.S.A. Once expelled from the country they can all proceed to create that perfect conservative utopia we keep hearing about with their bare hands and a bucket of rusty nails.