Well, boys and girls, it's not often that I post here these days. Work pressures and all that. And it's even less often that I daylog, and it's been quite a while indeed since I participated in any kind of public personal debate. But today's lucky winner is Deckard97, who has prompted me to write a little about aggression. Deckard97 was the second person to get a writeup on to the node September 11, 2004. I'd expected the daylog for this significant anniversary to be fairly well-supplied with In Memoriam writeups, which it isn't. Deckard97 decided to grace the occasion with a peculiar joke. To summarise this effort at humour, it asks what members of different purported political affiliations would do if, armed with a gun, they were attacked by a black man with a knife. The original writeup specifies the race of the attacker, but not the victims. The subject is assumed to be male, as we're told that as well as a gun, he has his wife and children with him. A Democrat, we are told, stands there worrying about a wide variety of issues of varying relevance. A Republican fires once and presumably kills. A Southern Republican, whatever that means, shoots many times, reloads, shoots some more, and earns a plaudit from his daughter on the quality of his shooting and (I understand) ammunition.

This richly nuanced comedy is prefaced by a quotation from a speech by Senator Zell Miller, who badly needs a writeup, but whom I associate mainly with the misconception that the United Nations is controlled by American-hating Frenchmen. The moral of the tale, we are told, is 'Don't be a girlie-man. Move south and vote Republican.' I read this in disbelief, trying to work out what it could conceivably have to do either with the author's activities that day, or with the third anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks. Once I'd satisfied myself that it was what it appeared to be, I voted it down. I also did something I perhaps ought not to have done, and mentioned the writeup's existence in a usergroup. I apologise both to Deckard97 and to e2 generally for that abuse of the system. The writeup sat there, gradually accumulating downvotes, and I sent a message to Deckard97. I suggested he might consider having it taken down, as it showed him in a bad light. He did not respond favourably to this suggestion, and I answered with a short statement about why his post was objectionable. I described the violence it depicted as 'horrible'. Today, I logged on to find the following in my message inbox:

Deckard97 says What I find 'horrible' (besides your haircut) is your apparent lack of understanding of how the term 'mercenary' is actually defined in international law, per your highly subjective Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal writeup. Makes you sound like a
Deckard97 says self-righteous, ignorant blowhard, but then, unlike you, I don't become too worked-up over people posting stuff I don't agree with.

Now, as ad hominem attacks go, a jab at what someone's hair looked like on a windy day over a year ago is pretty feeble. I was a little more concerned at the accusation of excessive subjectivity and inaccuracy in a writeup which I felt to be of a reasonably high journalistic standard. I began writing a reply, ignoring the cheap shot and encouraging Deckard97 to post a writeup of his own on the Abu Ghraib situation. I wasn't being facetious. I really do think that the subject deserves wide debate and a good airing. However, when I tried sending the first part of this request, I got this back:

root says You were blocked by 1 user total: 1 (Deckard97) ignored you.

This was a disappointment, to be honest. If anyone else is able to explain to me how I can clarify and improve the Abu Ghraib writeup, and what my mistake was over mercenaries, I'll be very grateful. This whole thing got me wondering about politics and violence. I'll freely concede that I'm broadly speaking a liberal. But I'm not sure where this stereotype comes from of liberals as being too concerned with wide-ranging issues to take action. It's repeated in a recent book of alternate histories entitled What Might Have Been. The 'Al Gore wins the 2000 election' scenario at the end of the book was penned by one of President Bush's advisers. It features President Gore on Air Force One on September 11, 2001, worrying about infringing the human rights of the perpetrators. Now aside from the point that this counterfactual contains a number of obvious errors of fact about the attacks, it also presents a disturbingly unconvincing view of liberalism. I have little doubt that a Democrat response to 9/11 would have been in most respects at least as robust as the Republican one we witnessed. I'm not sure what a 'Southern Republican' response would have been. I'm also not really sure what's so bad - outside a crisis situation - about considering the broader issues. It's as though any kind of philosophical activity is stigmatised as 'girlie'.

It's interesting that I should have been attacked for my broadly non-political coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal, which in many people's minds epitomises the consequences of not taking time to consider issues of human rights and the like. I do not wish to suggest that the order to abuse prisoners came directly from the desk of Donald Rumsfeld, and I don't think it needed to, in order for it to be an effect of the policies of the current administration. But that's not to say that it might not have happened under a much more liberal regime. People are always going to be fallible, and some will probably always be vicious. I am not about to attempt to defend the perpetrators of any crime, or excuse the actions of one group or another. I don't really feel the need to write a second apologia for my original writeup. I hope that at this point, all the matters presented will speak for themselves.

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