October 29, 2009
Simplistic thinking in politics and the ad hominem fallacy
Sad to say, in politics logical thinking seems to come a poor second to emotional appeals -- and we see a pernicious example of that below.
Historical revisionism is found among both Leftists and nationalists, though it is far and away most prevalent on the Left. Some surveys have shown, for instance, that a majority of U.S. Democrat voters are "truthers": People who believe that it was George Bush who blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. And the chronic Leftist denial of the horrors of Communism is legendary.
Compared to that, the skepticism about the Holocaust seen among some nationalists is small beer but the Left-dominated media seek out such views like sniffer dogs and make a huge deal about any of it that they find. So one skeptical word about the holocaust serves to stigmatize someone for life, even if it was a passing phase or an incidental element in the evolution of that person's thinking.
The prime example of that at the moment is of course Nick Griffin of the anti-immigration British National Party. And the fact that he is a staunch friend of Israel is not allowed to excuse him. So the Jewish writer below is right to say that support for Israel from nationalists is an embarrassment. But it is only an embarrassment because of the simplistic thinking of Leftists in the media and politics -- who with kneejerk predictability resort to the ad hominem fallacy (The fallacy that a statement is wrong because of who said it). So if Griffin supports Israel, support for Israel must be wrong: Quite incredible stupidity but staple fare for the Left.
In politics Over the past few weeks, the Jewish state has been publicly endorsed by two particularly controversial members of the far right.
Firstly, Nick Griffin, leader of the racist British National Party, which currently accepts only white people as members, declared that his was the only party to support Israel in its "war against terrorists" during Operation Cast Lead.
While Griffin, who was elected in June to the European Parliament, is not usually paid much attention, this time was different. He was speaking on Britain's most prestigious political television program, BBC's Question Time. The decision to invite him had proven so controversial that 8 million viewers tuned in, compared with the program's usual 2 to 3 million. The entire country was hanging on his every word.
Just three weeks earlier, the Conservative Party — now widely expected to win the next election — was embroiled in a national row over its alliance with another European member of parliament, Poland's Michal Kaminski.
Kaminski, who leads an important rightist bloc, has been disliked in Jewish circles since he declared in 2001 that the Poles should not apologise for the massacre of Jews by Polish residents of Jedwabne in 1941, unless "the whole Jewish nation [apologises] for what some Jewish Communists did in eastern Poland". There were also concerns that he had worn the Chrobry Sword, a symbol of the Catholic ultra-right in Poland and that he still maintained these unsavory connections.
So when, in early October, he appeared at the Conservative Party's annual conference, the main Jewish representative body – the archaically named Board of Deputies – wrote to Conservative leader David Cameron asking for reassurances. Labour's foreign minister, David Miliband, went on the attack and the ensuing media row, which is still ongoing – the Conservatives were forced to recently reassure Hillary Clinton on the subject — tarnished what should have been Cameron's moment of triumph.
But it did not go unnoticed that Kaminski was in Britain as the special guest of the Conservative Friends of Israel — who had also taken him, this summer, to Israel, where he was pictured smiling by the Western Wall and was welcomed by deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. Kaminski, it emerged, was considered a staunch friend of Israel in Brussels, where he regularly spoke up for its right to self-defence...
But for Israel, this is a disaster. From now on, anyone in Britain supporting Israel publicly can be expected to be told they are holding a position only the racist BNP, or the likes of Kaminski, holds. It will many years to shake off these associations.
Perhaps I should add a few words about the Mieczyk Chrobrego or Chobry Sword, and point out that it too has become the target of an ad hominem slur. Some history: Boleslaw I Chrobry became the first King of Poland in 1025. He was a brilliant man and very successful militarily. He greatly enlarged Poland by conquest of neighbouring areas. He was able to turn Poland into one of the largest and most powerful monarchies in Europe. In the summer of 1018, in one of his most famous expeditions, Boleslaw captured Kiev (now in the Ukraine), where, according to legend, he notched his sword when hitting Kiev's Golden Gate. Later, a sword known as szczerbiec, meaning notched sword or "The dented one", would become the ceremonial sword used in the coronation ceremony of Polish kings. It is now kept at Wawel Cathedral, a church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, which is Poland's national sanctuary. The cathedral has a 1,000-year history and was the traditional coronation site of Polish monarchs.
So it is easy to see why a representation of the Chobry sword would be chosen as their symbol by a minor 20th century Polish nationalist political party. That it was a patriotic icon long before the 20th century, however, is the main point. That 20th century nationalist political parties have used it does NOT mean that it is solely a 20th century nationalist political party symbol. It is simply a Polish patriotic symbol generally and any Pole could wear a representation of it with pride.
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