Monday, August 08, 2005

It's a well-known fact that there are people of different shapes and sizes. There are tall people, short people, fat people, thin people. So, try this as a thought experiment. You say, after seeing a couple of thin people in your garden, 'There are thin people in my garden.' Some other people object to your saying this; they reply, 'I am not a thin person', or 'You are a thin person', or 'Being a person is not in itself the same as being a thin person'. None of the other people who say these things to you meet your claim that there are thin people in your garden by trying to show that there are not any thin people there, or that the people there whom you took to be thin, though people, are fat, or though thin, aren't people, or are neither thin nor people, or even vice versa.

Wouldn't happen, right? No, it wouldn't, because the logical errors in responding in these ways are just too glaring. Somebody who affirms the presence of thin people in her garden hasn't denied the existence of other types of people and neither has she claimed that anyone is a thin person other than the two particular thin people she saw in her garden. If, in affirming the presence of thin people in her garden, she has even made it explicit that she knows there are other kinds of people than thin ones, such responses are doubly stupid.

Two weeks ago the Guardian ran a piece by me (adapted from this post) which said, about some of the commentary following the London bombings on 7 July, including in the Guardian itself, that 'there are apologists among us'. To this I had a large email response, slightly more than half of it negative (see here). Of the slightly more than half, if one leaves aside communications of the sort that I must obviously be looking for some form of preferment from Tony Blair, or that it was a mystery how a professor could hold the opinions I'd expressed, or that I must, in one or other variant, have fallen into a pit of political depravity, the great majority of these email responses were to the effect that they (the emailers) were not apologists for terrorism, or that I was an apologist for George W. Bush and/or Tony Blair, or that trying to understand the causes of terrorism isn't the same thing as condoning or offering an apologia for it. An adequate answer to all these responses is provided by the addition of a single word to the last of the just summarized claims: trying to understand the causes of terrorism isn't necessarily the same thing as condoning or constructing an apologia for it. Still, being a generous-hearted sort of a guy, I will offer more than the addition of that word.

He follows there, and then in a new post; don't miss this show of common sense and wisdom from my favorite Marxist!

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