Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vile, repulsive, and small

That would be WM Romney. He has always creeped me out, but it does bring me up a bit short to have to reconcile his basic incompetence with his success at accumulating vast wealth. It just proves that intelligence -- whether cognitive, social or emotional -- is largely unrelated to success at finance capitalism. The only qualities that really matter are greed, the luck to get an opportunity, and utter lack of conscience.

Now that we have that out of the way, some of the discussion of his latest mendacious assault on Barack Obama, in the midst of a very dangerous international crisis, by the way, makes a couple of category errors.

1) As I have said here many times, I think that all religions are equally ridiculous and I am not personally offended by mockery of religion as a general principle.

2) Yes, we have in this country both a constitutional protection against government suppressing political speech (although it has been inappropriately extended to commercial advertising), and a cultural norm in general against private suppression of speech, as by employers, schoolmasters, boycotts and so on.

3) However, that does not mean that some specific instance of mockery of religion cannot be legitimately called objectionable. Satire is ethical when it enlightens more than it wounds. Pious people do have sensitivities which compassionate people must respect, and we certainly won't get anywhere in the cause of persuasion by ignoring them.

Those principles aside, the film The Innocence of Muslims, as PZ tells us, happens to be offensive, false, and inane in many ways. It is deliberately offensive, in fact, and intended to provoke just the reaction it has gotten. U.S. diplomats everywhere, and particularly in predominantly Muslim countries, are doing the job of diplomats by condemning it and trying to make clear to people that the U.S. government does not condone it.

Romney is rightly taken to task for falsely implying that the Cairo embassy issued it's denunciation of the film after the attacks on that embassy and the consulate in Benghazi; and for falsely claiming that this constituted Obama's first response to the violence. It wasn't a response to the violence at all, nor was it in any way a statement by the administration, but only by local diplomats. However, that is actually all tangential. It would be completely appropriate -- indeed called for, in my view -- for the administration to condemn the film now. Not censor it, obviously, but just say that it's ugly and stupid and wrong -- just like Mitt Romney.

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