Moral relativism

Digby has a post up at the Campaign for America’s Future about right-wing postmodernism. I avoid the word conservative because “epistemic relativism,” as Digby puts it, is rather radical.

I’m not sure if it’s that we’ve become used to it or the administration has used less of it recently, but I don’t find myself pounding my head on the desk as often I once did at some Bush official (or often the president himself) essentially saying “you can believe me or you can believe you lying eyes.” Creationism, the denial of global warming (indeed, all scientific inquiry), the Enronization of the budget, even the continuing insistence among many that there were WMD in Iraq — there are examples around us everywhere of conservatives(particularly regular Fox News viewers) who, because they are delivered by a “trusted” source, believe things that have long since been proven wrong or make no sense.

But just as I’ve become somewhat inured to this right-wing epistemic relativism over time, I’ve become more and more astonished at the right’s simultaneous rejection of some of the great moral taboos of human history. After all, even more than their assault on liberals for rejecting rationalism or universalism, for years they characterized liberal social tolerance as despicable “moral relativism” and excoriated those who sought equality as threats to the foundations of civilization itself. It’s more than a little bit stunning to see these so-called conservatives suddenly dancing on the head of a pin trying to defend the immoral act of torture by saying it all depends on what the meaning of waterboarding is.

I’d like to draw attention to two articles she links to: the Josh Marshall article on “The Postmodern President“, and most especially this essay by a former SERE instructor.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

No they don’t, silly. Because the fact that they embrace it means it isn’t torture. Q.E.D.


2 thoughts on “Moral relativism

  1. Nicole

    Ok I didn’t read this post, but I just had an hour long conversation with my friend about moral relativism and I think the coincidental chances of you posting about it on the same day is just a little mindblowing.

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