Rarely does a movie make a philosophically interesting mistake, but “The Invention of Lying“, which I just watched on DVD, is an exception. In the world of the film, no one is supposed to have any concept of lying, and the film’s conceit is that the main character gains lots of power by inventing lying, with unintended consequences. There is an interesting screenplay on this theme that has yet to be written, but it’s not this one. The problem is that “The Invention of Lying” makes a conceptual error that renders it not just difficult to swallow, but completely incoherent. The error is to confuse lacking a concept of lying with lacking a concept of falsity. To lack a concept of lying, one need only never have intended to lie or ever thought that one has been lied to. But to lack a concept of falsity, one must also have never noticed oneself – or anyone else – making a mistake of any sort. One problem for the movie is that while it would be fairly easy to “buy” a world of the first sort, that’s certainly not the case with a world of the second sort. But, more importantly, if one were to lack a concept of falsity, one would also lack a concept of truth (which is defined, in part, by its opposite); and lacking a concept of truth, one would lack a concept assertion; and lacking a concept of assertion, one would lack a concept of communication. But the people of this world communicate constantly, even compulsively, and clearly are aware of what they are doing. So by being presented with a world full of communicative people that lack a concept of falsity in addition to a concept of lying, we are presented with a world that makes no sense at all (and this makes a willing suspension of disbelief, at least for me, impossible).
The Oshkosh Northwestern ran a follow-up story today on the “Impeach Obama” billboard, emphasizing that George Bush similarly had to deal with calls to impeach him. The clear implication of this article, which was atop page A3 and not marked as editorial analysis, was that the two cases are basically the same; presidents just have to deal with such annoyances.
This is the worst sort of reporting: the sort that purports to be about facts, but stops at the surface without digging down even an inch. As The Northwestern itself reported six days ago, the anonymous folks who put up the “Impeach Obama” billboard admit (through their lawyer) that they do not believe Obama has committed any impeachable offense. By contrast, those who called for the impeachment of George Bush had lots of legal reasons in mind. Here are just a few of the least controversial ones, pulled from democrats.com–
1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal “War of Aggression” against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.
2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.
4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.
5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.
Now, I did not support impeaching George Bush (largely because the left tended in their enthusiasm to mix political with legal grounds), but the difference between the Bush and Obama cases couldn’t be clearer. It’s the difference between acting sincerely with legal grounds in mind versus acting insincerely with no legal grounds in mind, simply to reinforce resentment.
Remember the good old days, when political protesters courageously stood out on street corners with signs, putting their bodies on the line and proudly identifying their group so others could join them? Well, why go to so much trouble when you can hire a lawyer to rent a billboard for you (at $1000 a month), keep your actual affiliation secret, and scream out in ugly red Helvetica font-
Even better, once you do this, why not have the gall to have your lawyer claim that the billboard doesn’t really mean what it is screaming in that towering font: “The billboard is not meant to allege any impeachable offense has been committed; It is simply an expression of frustration by my client that politics in Washington should change to better support small businesses…” Oh, Please! “IMPEACH OBAMA” merely expresses “Change politics in Washington”? Doesn’t screaming “IMPEACH OBAMA” when you admit he has committed no impeachable offense merely perpetuate politics at its worst, whether in Washington or Oshkosh? If you really had problems with one of Obama’s small business policies, wouldn’t you get much more bang for your buck by citing that policy, and preceding that citation with a big red “Stop”?
Anyway, last time I checked, it was Congress that actually passed laws relating to small business. All Obama can do is make suggestions (and so far his suggestions haven’t made much headway in Congress). So why would the anonymous folks renting this billboard single out Obama? Hmmm… maybe it has something to do with the mentality of folks who like to hold signs with images like this:
Here’s a hilarious John Stewart clip about Obama’s invitation to the Republicans to come to a televised meeting on health care 2/25/2010. The scenes of Hawaii at the end made me homesick…
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Apparent Trap|
Recently I noticed some mysterious registrations for this blog by users that have never commented and whose names/email addresses I do not recognize. It’s odd, actually, that anyone would bother to register here, since I have not restricted comments to registered users for many months. However, given the dangers of leaving my site vulnerable to being hijacked by nefarious bots, I’ve decided to institute a simple “Captcha” task before any registration or comment will be accepted. You know the routine: just type in the characters embedded in the graphic above the “Submit” button.
If I have deleted your registration by mistake, and you wish to be a registered user, please take a moment to re-register. But remember that you need not be registered to comment on a post; you just need to submit an email address (which will not be visible on your comment).
As I was channel surfing tonight I stumbled upon an Austin City Limits show featuring Esperanza Spalding. Man, can this young woman sing and play bass. Her band is also quite impressive. You can catch the ACL show at the link above. That’s the best video recording of her I’ve found, but I did find this segment from the Jimmy Kimmel show, and it comes close.