Saturday, August 26, 2006

Offending the right people (for the right reasons) - I agree with Noam Chomsky

They say that even the devil can quote Scripture--or, if you prefer to look at it from the other direction, even the devil sometimes says things that are true and important, however suspect his intentions. So, in an open-minded and ecumenical spirit, leaving open the question here of whether I'm the one playing the devil's role or the one quoting the devil, let me agree strongly with something that Noam Chomsky said in an interview in 1995:
"If you are not offending people who ought to be offended, you're doing something wrong."
=> That sounds right to me, as long as you not only offend the right people but also offend them for the right reasons.

Applying these criteria ... the following are a few of my recent items that offended especially significant numbers of people and/or offended some people especially strongly.

(But let me emphasize that not all of these were bad people--which is what Chomsky mostly has in mind here. Some of them were, indeed, people whose basic perspectives I believe are factually delusional, logically fallacious, and/or morally pernicious, so I certainly hoped to offend them, and their angry reactions were a sign that I had done something right. But in more cases they were intelligent people of good will, people with whose basic principles and sentiments I feel considerable sympathy--precisely the sort of people in whom I hoped my interventions might provoke reflection, rethinking, and perhaps even second thoughts.)

So it seems that these items hit a nerve in usefully thought-provoking ways. Those of you who haven't read them might want to consider having a look.

"Mass Murder: What Causes it? Can It be Stopped?" - Some afterthoughts on the ASA forum (8/15/2006)
"The outrage of so many outraged people outrages me" - André Glucksmann
Lebanon/Israel - "Proportionality," war crimes, and international law (Doni Remba)
What happened to the Genocide Convention?
Ku Klux Klan & neo-Nazis rally against Iraq war
The Chomsky problem (Peter Beaumont & Brad DeLong)
Boycotts, blacklists, and anti-Zionist obsessions - Two thought experiments (6/13/2006)
"HUGE News" | Rule of Law - 5, Bush/Cheney - 3 (7/1/2006)

Yours for reality-based & morally serious discourse,
Jeff Weintraub