Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Language as Mugging

How did the Bush cancer get started? To answer this question we have to look at the most deep rooted and symptomatic characteristic of the Bush regime: it’s eristic use of language.

The Phenomenon.

For those unfamiliar with the word, “eristic” derives from the Greek for “strife”. The dictionary assigns the meaning of “disputatious” but the root meaning is the truer sense. Eristic goes beyond sophistry, it is simply language in the employ of war --- language as war.

A person who engages in eristic has no desire to win a debate, even if by deceit and trickery. He has no such desire because he is not debating any more than a mugger is “boxing”. The eristic punk is only interested in bludgeoning. If he does so in the non-physical safety of a debate context, he does so only because he lacks even the punk’s courage of putting his teeth where his mouth his. If he could punch without risk of getting punched back, the eristic punk would be brass knuckling it. And this is the reason why listening to them is like listening to the thud and crunch of brass and boots.

According to the zioCon, William Kristol, a “conservative is simply a liberal who has been mugged.” Perhaps; but in so saying, Kristol concedes that his craft consists in mugging back.... no more.

These word-thugs begin by lying and confuting. They then proceed to smear and insult and ultimately to defame and destroy. Witness their conduct toward Cindy Sheehan. There are arguments that could be made against Sheehan’s political position and conduct. But the word thugs don’t make them. They simply fling abuse and verbal offal at her.

These punks have been at it vehemently for over a decade now. One would think that they would eventually exhaust themselves, but they don’t. A normal person would get exhausted by this expenditure of negative energy. But these creatures aren’t normal. They feed on the expenditure of negative energy... paradoxical -- para-real as that might be. Far from ever reaching some sort of plateau, in the past several days they have warped into hyper shrieks...not only accusing Sheehan of “betraying” her dead son but howling from Hell that Christ wants Chavez assassinated. These monstrosities are only human in form.

A Punk Culture

What gave rise to this eristic phenomenon? Although the phenomenon in the fullness of its realization is the swell of many streams, the common source is Calliclean Cynicism -- the Real Politik school of governance, the Hobbsian school of life. The salesman and business manager is taught that “only the bottom line” matters and the bottom line is PROFIT. The law student likewise is taught that law is nothing but a collection of pre-cut bullshit, all that matters is the outcome: WINNING. In the case of the press, the Calliclean cynicism is actually born of laziness. It is one of the chief functions of the press (in “watchdog mode”) to ferret out the crimes, vices and follies of mankind. Of course, this takes leg work and the press corps would rather be munching canap├ęs at some press-release buffet. So instead of doing the hard research and leg work, they cultivate a jaded, jejune “hardness” which they then fob off as being “in the know” and “no one’s fool”. In fact, they are the biggest fools of all.

Uh’Murka has long made a cult of this sort of thing: “Nice guys finish last” and Nothing Succeeds Like Success. Up to a point the cultivation of this attitude is no more than an adolescent society trying to appear sophisticated and worldly. But as the adolescent grows up, the feint becomes a habit and the habit becomes a disease.

For all time and everywhere, the politics of brutishness was distilled by Plato and put into the mouth of one of Socrates’ interlocutors, the Athenian entrepreneur, Callicles. It is the enduring genius of Plato that his stylus could perfectly turn and polish such a thuggish collection of lusts and scorns as those uttered by Callicles. Plato so guilds the mud that Callicles almost seems to espouse something that might be called a political philosophy. There is at any rate no better or more paradigmatic text of why might makes right and why governance consists in the art of duping and exploiting the many.

Needless to say, Socrates butts heads with Callicles, and academics titillate themselves with the fact that “in the end” Callicles is made to blush....all of which supposedly proved that Socrates was right and that decency held the field at the end of the day. Actually not. Plato was not able to come up with any argument that would defeat Callicles, for if he had he would have stated it. No, philosophy was in fact powerless against brutality, and in the end, Plato could only achieve a fools victory by going to the end of the stage and offering narrator’s aside to the effect that, “in his heart of hearts, Callicles knew he was wrong.”

The draw... like other Platonic draws is one of those stalemates that approach the tragic. At very bottom, Callicles was not a truly bad man and, in the end, the Philosophy of decency and humanity is not able to prevail. What could be more tragic than that?

But the whole grotesque legion of zioCon cynics from smirking Kristol to leering Rumsfeld to sneering Cheney, to whining Wolfowitz and gurgling Perle - to say nothing of the think tanks where they fester -- is not tragic. Unlike Callicles, these thugs don’t blush.

©WCG, 2005
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