Thursday, January 23, 2003

To what extent does it matter who organizes the anti-war protests?

Responding to my post on Sheltering readers from what happens in the world, Lex Alexander, proprietor of Blog on the Run, writes that:

I agree that because ANSWER was the main organizer for the march, its background should have been explored in more detail. Absolutely no argument there.

But I have to wonder how much difference doing so would have made to those who had chosen to be there.

This is sounding familiar -- perhaps you and I discussed this before -- but I think a lot of people who participated in the march did so for reasons that had little or nothing to do with ANSWER's larger agenda. I also think that even participants who agreed in their opposition to attacking Iraq fell at many different places along a spectrum of reasons, terms and conditions. (For one example, see Mary McGrory's column in today's WashPost; the Valerie Lucznikowska quoted therein was my employer in 1982-83.)

We've only got one national capital, and the fact that people felt a need to assemble there in numbers to express their viewpoint does not mean, and should not be taken to mean, that every participant agreed with every other participant, or with the main organizer, on every detail. Besides, how many people do you think a rally consisting only of ANSWER and its sympathizers would have drawn? Surely nowhere near as many as marched this past weekend.

To which I responded:

Yes, but I think that misses the point. Don't you think that conservatives would be justly criticized if they held large demonstrations organized by a front group for the Klan or for the American Nazi Party?

To my mind, the anti-war movement deserves all the opprobrium it is getting for allowing itself to be organized by an odious group. Moreover, the message of speakers at the demonstrations appears to be as much, or more, anti-Americanism than anti-war.

By allowing itself to be co-opted by the Workers World Party, the anti-war movement discredits itself.

I’ll allow Lex the last word:

But -- and we're wandering a bit far afield of journalism here, but I can't help asking -- EVEN IF the whole country had been properly informed about the background and views of the organizing group, is it not possible that many participants might not have cared? I think it is. For one thing, I suspect that many marchers, and perhaps many who did not march and would not have, probably would consider the American Nazi Party and the Klan much closer to being a clear and present danger to the public than ANSWER is or ever has been.

For another, the specific viewpoints of the participants were so varied that I doubt many of them felt it logical or rational to speak of "the anti-war movement" as an entity so cohesive that it could or should worry about its associations. Just among people I know who participated, the viewpoints include:

--No attack on Iraq, period.
--Rebuild Afghanistan and keep after bin Laden and al-Qaeda first, while monitoring Iraq for possible future action.
--Attack Iraq if needed, but only with UN sanction.
--Atack Iraq if needed, but only with UN sanction AND allied military support.

My point is not that the motives of some organizers aren't questionable. But I suspect that a big chunk of the participants didn't know and wouldn't have cared if they had known, because they were there for their own reasons, with their own messages for the government and public.

posted at 2:55 PM

NNNNobody expects the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty!!!
Responding to the Pythonesque holding of the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty (shouldn’t they be against dishonesty?), that his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, is “clearly in violation of the norms for good scientific behavior," Bjorn Lomborg defends himself in today’s OpinionJournal.

What makes the committee's holding truly Pythonesque are the procedural irregularities committed by the committee in order to issue its denunciation. To summarize points originally made by statistician Iain Murray:

1. The committee did not reach a consensus on the premise that Lomborg’s book was a work of science. Hence they should not have proceeded to apply standards applicable only to works of science and should have stopped right there.

2. In order to label conduct as “scientifically dishonest,” the committee’s guidelines state that “it must be possible to document that the person in question has acted deliberately or exercised gross negligence in connection with the activities under consideration.” Instead the committee invented a new standard, finding that they had “not found-or felt able to procure-sufficient grounds to deem that the defendant has misled his readers deliberately or with gross negligence.” As Iain observes, the committee ”cannot find him guilty of scientific dishonesty. They therefore invent a distinction between objective dishonesty and subjective dishonesty, thereby inventing a category of unconscious dishonesty.” Iain coincludes that this is “such a blatant contradiction in terms [that the committee’s] work should be referred to the Danish Committee on Philosophical Dishonesty.”

The good news is that rather than burying Lomborg, the committee appears to have done the opposite. He has been defended, inter alia, in the pages of The Economist and, as he notes:

The baseless denunciation by the Danish committee--which some have called Orwellian--has led to an academic outcry. In Denmark alone, 280 professors have signed a petition rejecting the decision.

Seeking to punish an apostate, the Danish committee has instead given him greater prominence than ever. Lomborg's reputation survives the denunciation. The question is will the committee's?
posted at 1:15 PM

Proofread that bill!
One clue that proposed legislation isn’t to be taken seriously is when it’s obvious that no one has proofread it. I count no fewer than four instances in which Rep. Charles Rangel’s bill to reintroduce the draft (HR 163) refers to “reverse” when it should read “reserve.” For example:

In this Act:

(1) The term `military service' means service performed as a member of an active or reverse component of the uniformed services.

via The Edge of England's Sword
posted at 10:11 AM

Smug and ugly at the BBC?
Cut on the Bias reports on a BBC article on the recent shooting of two Americans in Kuwait. She observes that “It was a fairly straightforward piece, until you get to the very last paragraph,” which she describes as “so flagrantly biased, so clearly opinion, so disgustingly smug and ugly. And it doesn't even make any effort to portray itself as anything but that - it's not a quote, not even an extrapolation from what anyone else said. It's just editorializing in the guise of a hard news story.” The paragraph in question?

Whatever they decide, the expat communities of both countries will chew on the irony that they were probably safer before their nations decided to fill up their adopted homeland with tanks and soldiers.

The tacit assumption the BBC makes is that terrorism against westerners is a result of our buildup in the Middle East, as opposed to a consequence. Yet there is a history of increasing violence against westerners (particularly Americans) in the Middle East that substantially predates the events of 9/11/01 and the subsequent military buildup and showdown with Iraq, so that assumption is questionable at best.

Good catch Susanna!

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