I make it point to visit Obsidian Wings daily, and hilzoy is a favorite of mine, because she’s pretty darn thoughtful, but something was seriously off kilter today in her post about Obama’s Cairo speech.
This bit from Obama’s speech also struck me as very strong:
“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.”
The normal criticism of Palestinian violence is moral. That is as it should be, and Obama does not slight that: “That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.” But that criticism leaves open the possibility of framing the debate over Palestinian violence as one of principle versus effectiveness. As long as it is framed that way, one can understand (though not agree with) Palestinians who say: you’d think differently if you didn’t have a state; if it was your land that was constantly being seized, and your pregnant wife who had to wait for hours at a checkpoint to see a doctor. You’d put aside your principles and do what works.
That’s why it’s immensely important to say, clearly, that violence is not just wrong, but ineffective.
It’s not so much that I agree or disagree with the double-barreled blast of “morality AND effectiveness” lines of argument. It’s kind of like the torture debate: it’s not only immoral; it plain doesn’t work reliably. Blam! Blam! You dead! Rhetorically speaking. That’s fine.
The part of the argument that indicates a severe case of hemi-neglect (when a brain-damaged patient can easily lift one arm on command, but when asked to lift they other, they say, “What other?”), was when she suggested:
This bit from Obama’s speech also struck me as very strong.
When did rank hypocrisy become a strong argument?
If violence is both “wrong AND ineffective,” Blam! Blam! You dead!, didn’t Obama just shoot himself in the foot in front of the entire world? It seems so obvious that when someone fails to take note, it suggests altered cerebral hemispheric processing, specifically that the two halves of the brain are no longer “talking to one another.”
Roger Sperry’s and Michael Gazzaniga’s work on “split brain” patients showed decisively that for many, many functions an intact corpus callosum (the massive “super-highway” fiber bundle connecting hemispheres of the brain) was essential to coherent information processing.
Split-brain patients may sometimes confabulate a rational account of their behavior, if the true motivations cannot be reported since they may depend on processing in the linguistically inaccessible left side of the brain.
I suspect that Obama severed hilzoy’s corpus callosum, then made his speech to her right hemisphere. When she later reconstructed a narrative for her post, the linguistic processor in the left hemisphere was unaware of all that the right hemisphere knew.
At least it’s a testable hypothesis.