Balloon Juice is (all) Wet

Tim F at Balloon Juice today writes on a New Yorker piece on Ms Rice and Mr Scowcraft. He concludes:

When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’ Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things. Further, in a fight not understanding your opponent usually goes along with losing. There’s no reason why that same rule shouldn’t apply equally well to politics.

This is just plain well wrong. Hitler wasn’t evil, just misunderstood? The Rape of Nanjing, a understandable cultural misunderstanding? Stalin’s purges? Oh, Josef was just just working out a little personal insecurity issue? Wrong. All of these are examples of evil. Evil is not a term which need necessarily be left out of debate, political rhetoric, and discourse. Calling your opponent such, it is true, might be intellectually lazy and a way to dismiss the opponent. It might also be the correct term to use when describing your opponent after you understand him.

It is a major blunder most often committed by the modern Academy and liberal intellectuals who have convinced themselves that there is nothing but misunderstandings of our “rational” reasons for our actions and that evil is not alive and at work in the world. Apologizing for and reducing the horror inherent in the Evil that is in the world … well if not evil, it certainly is wrong. And sometimes the correct companion to bring to a conversation with evil is wears a steel jacket with cordite accompaniment.

And guess what? Choosing to frame your political discourse by engaging in random acts of terror against a civilian populations is … you guessed it. Evil.

There however, is a small grain of truth buried deep in what Mr F would claim. It is good at all times to recall that your counterpart “on the other side”, while he may be evil:

Nobody thinks of his actions as evil. All (without exception) choose to act in accordance with that which they perceive as good.

That however is not the same thing as “not being evil”. If my intentions are “good” (in my mind), but my actions evil … guess what? Well, that is left as an exercise for the rest of the world to straighten out.

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  1. Mr. Moderate says:

    You have to admit that the term is thrown around far too liberally nowadays. We have Democrats and Democratic operatives calling Republicans evil. We have the same thing coming out of the Republicans and their operatives. The blogs are no exception. To you it sounds like moral relativism, but it is quick to see how easily we apply and remove the title to people.

    I would say that without any bearing a military dictator is more often than not an evil person. They squash resistance through torture and mass murder. They supress the masses and line their own pockets. They crush liberty and the will of the people and replace it with their own. That title applies to Hitler and Saddam very well. It also applies to Stalin, but would we have called him an evil dictator in the 1939-1945 period? We certainly would after 1946, but things change. He didn’t magically become evil in one year did he?

    In our modern era we have the same thing. Saddam is an evil man, yet we (and the rest of the world) gave him arms through the 1980’s, knowing the attrocities he was committing as a military dictator. We weren’t calling him an evil man morning noon and night, until he invaded Kuwait. Then he was modern evil incarnant.

    Have we learned our lesson? Sadly we have not. Do you know any other military dictators that exist in the world today. Chavez for one! The right has no problem calling him an evil man, the left takes a more cautioned approach. However both the right and left have very little to say about another little known dictator–Musharref in Pakistan. We treat him like a golden example of a 3rd world leader, when in fact he is as evil as Chavez, but the title is absent. So as he said, the title is very lazily applied to people that in some cases (like Musharef) it is warrented and others (like Hillary Clinton and George Bush) where it is not.