Monthly Archives: March 2008

What is Enlightenment?

Peter Knox-Shaw has drawn my attention to Jane Austen and ‘Modern Europe’, an article he has published in this month’s Notes & Queries (55:1, March 2008), suggesting that ‘this recent piece might help convince you!’ Now what I am to be convinced of is the topic of this article but first I have to explain what Peter is driving at.

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Idiot Compassion

In Stop the Rhetorical Violence I questioned what I seemed to be an ‘angry thread’ running through the Media Lens media alerts and David Edwards has written a comprehensive and interesting reply as a comment to the article raising some excellent questions. This article picks up on those questions.1

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Stop the Rhetorical Violence

The latest Media Lens alert, Israeli Deaths Matter More, provides a timely and refreshing analysis of the patently biased coverage of the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

However there is a disturbing aspect of the Media Lens alerts, an angry thread running through them, especially directed at those in power. This is difficult to capture in a quotation as it diffuses though the whole piece but the superfluous and emotive adjectives appearing in the latest alert are marked, e.g., ‘repeated and brutal transgressions of international and humanitarian law over forty years’, which could have been written ‘transgressions of international law over forty years’.

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The Cannibalistic News Hounds

In Flat Earth News Nick Davies has written a great book, one that every responsible literate person should read, and then read again. And Davies has certainly got people’s attention. I saw him talk at a media worker’s conference in December and the case he made was compelling, his book deepened this sense, and I found myself equally transfixed by a subsequent talk he gave. (If you get the chance go and see him talk—I hope some people unlike us have the wit to record him.)

For me, the most surprising attempt to turn Davies’s book into dog food was made by the Media Lens hounds, given their commitment to ‘correcting the distorted vision of the corporate media’.

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Face facts, George Monbiot. Our environmental catastrophe is partly your responsibility

[It goes without saying that I would only write such an article about someone I truly respected and admired. My line of reasoning in the heading is that George Monbiot the high-priest of agressive secularism and George Monbiot the environmental campaigner contains a fatal contradiction, a contradiction that is pervasive in the modern, industrial, Enlightened philosophy.]

Dear George Monbiot,

Last Tuesday’s article in the Guardian, Face facts, Cardinal. Our awful rate of abortion is partly your responsibility, made its central point very well, better far than I have seen it made elsewhere. However there was one telling sentence.

Murphy-O’Connor has denounced contraception and abortion many times. That’s what he is there for: the primary purpose of most religions is to control women.

This last sentence is of course a rhetorical assertion. It makes a mistake which is truly endemic in our culture, a bundling together of things that we resent and then projecting their causes onto religion. This habit is surprisingly pervasive, being widespread for example in Buddhist circles (I am a Buddhist), the assumption being that Buddhism is somehow different and authentic while Christianity is shallow and a kind of crude mind-control that we have out-grown. It really isn’t at all possible to parody this kind of thinking for the more crude you make it to try and make the point, the more you just find people nodding in agreement. It is a lazy kind of thinking and we are very fond of it.

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