“In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” – Aldous Huxley, 1958, in the article The Capitalist Free Press
Two things, of very different severity and importance and that I would have thought were very unsurprising, seem to have struck people as very surprising this week.
One of them is worthy of serious study and one of them is not. Most people have chosen the wrong one in order to get into a lather about.
The 2 things to which I am referring are the assessment that Anders Breivik is insane. The BBC report that this is causing some consternation in Norway and the second, which is of no importance compared to the first but is receiving a lot more publicity, is that Jeremy Clarkson is a twat.
The first issue has serious legal and philosophical questions involved. Here are just a few..
- Is anyone who carries our such a despicable act by definition totally insane?
- By this definition of insane, couldn’t a lot of leaders and warmongers be considered clinically insane too?
- If he goes to psychiatric hospital instead of prison does this mean he won’t be getting punished as he should?
- If he is clinically insane, shouldn’t he be treated instead of punished?
- Should the families of the deceased be allowed the right to get their own doctors in order to get a second opinion?
- Is punishment in general to be about prevention, redemption and/ or retribution?
- What are the general justifications for punishment?
This is all very meaty stuff and none of these questions are easily and quickly answered. However, all of them in one way or another lead to some serious thoughts about the direction of a society and its moral outlook. They also make us think about how law and morality mix (or don’t).
That the second is receiving so much more coverage speaks not to Clarkson’s words so much as it speaks of the fact that it is much easier for the left to have a 5 minute hissy-fit about morals, and that the right, as Synthjock said on twitter, get to turn the greasy fucktard into some sort of free speech hero.