Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Relativity (Israel and Lebanon)

It's that subject again. After a relative lull, today the discussion over the VCN-list about the crisis in Middle East has started again in full force, with even stronger, bitter, rancorous statements. While I keep refusing to discuss politics on a list theoretically devoted in providing help to newcomers in Rome to get settled in and blend in the social texture of the city (and in this optic I find no way to justify political discussions of such kind) I can't but stop and wonder at the relativity of things.

I undoubtedly and clearly have a position on the issue which I repeatedly stated on this blog and on the side list I created (VCN-Rome-Discussions) trying to channel the debate out of the main list. I think it's just a matter of integrity to declare your standing when engaging a discussion of such kind, so that the others will know where you come from and can decide if what you say is indeed objective (as much as possible) or biased. It's a risk of course, as then most people will give less attention to your words and will prejudicially decide that, having taken a side, you can't but be irreparably biased, and yet I prefer it that way.

What I do not understand, and I find hard to tolerate, is people pretending to be neutral while throwing statements that even moderate supporters of a side would find exaggerated. For instance, how can someone writing:
The Age of Remorse is well abused by the Jews
Let's see the facts that if Israel wanted to kill the Hezbollah they could have sent special forces to do the job.. but NO.. Israel wants to publicise the massacre to put FEAR in the Arab world... obviously, it is NOT WORKING !!!!
the rest is... PROPAGANDA by Israel.... (Not to mention by the rabid allies the US) !!!
pretend not to have taken a side on the issue?

or someone who writes:
it seems to me some people out there have to do a bit of homework to discover that way back the U.N. had the final word on giving the majority Palestinian land to the minority Israelis and hence the consequences...
Who of us would not put up a fight if intruders moved into our "back garden" and refused to leave? This has been going on...what for... near 50 years?
If we had to live as the Palestinians do...under curfew sometimes lasting up to 90 days...at times without running water or electricity; trying to visit elderly relatives in "off limits" zones; shop for goods unobtainable due to the impossibility to deliver or the natural human instinct to stockpile in times of hardship; children unable to have a decent and continuous education; routine/daily duties becoming a long and arduous task of showing identification and being kept waiting eternally at check points under extreme temperatures...
And people wonder why they become suicide bombers....killing and maiming innocents?
I am sorry that Israeli soldiers have been kidnapped but I am even sorrier that the Israelis have again aggressively "gone in" and bombed Beirut.
(and yes, sadly this has been the average level of discussion so far, with a few notable examples)?

My question is, and moving from the particular VCN field to the most general world: do people really believe they are neutral when they so disproportionately take one side in a dispute, do they in good faith believe they are in fact taking a fair stance, or do they just pretend to be in order for their words to have an easier access to people's minds, without the filter they'd have to pass thro if they'd openly admit their siding?

1 comment:

Eugene said...

Some people certainly try to portray their own opinions as being neutral in order to give those opinions greater credibility over others. Some others are genuine in their (mis)belief that their viewpoints are actually neutral. In my own experience, which certainly may or may not be correct, this happens because of two reasons. On one hand, many people confuse centrality with objectivity. On a liberal university campus, for example, some may mistakenly believe that a left-of-center viewpoint is neutral because it is on the center of the immediate political spectrum.

On the other hand, people may believe that their biased opinions are neutral simply because they are ignorant and have only heard one opinion, which they have accepted as truth. A few years ago, a professor from Cornell conducted a study that showed that ignorant people think they know more than they do while knowledgable people tend to underestimate their own competence because knowledge is itself a prerequisite for recognizing how much knowledge one has.

The problem with the commentators that you have quoted is in my opinion weighted towards the second of the above reasons. It seems to me that they have simply heard one perspective on the issue that seems to make sense to them and have therefore accepted it as truth. They simply do not have any idea of the nuances of the issues, and at the same time they have no idea that they have so narrow a view of the situation.