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  • ‘Moral relativism’ - what Orwell actually said

    by Sunny
    5th December, 2011 at 10:38 am    

    This paragraph from Glenn Greenwald caught my eye:

    One other point: whenever you dare to suggest a comparison between the United States of America and whatever country happens to be the New Hitlers of the moment, you get accused of moral relativism.

    That has always struck me as so bizarre, because moral relativism actually refers to precisely what Orwell described: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.”

    As Rudy Giuliani said when asked if waterboarding is “torture”: “It depends on who does it.” That is moral relativism.

    This sounds about right. People who use the ‘moral relativism’ argument to shield the USA and UK from criticism really annoy the hell out of me. Now it turns out they also misinterpret what Orwell said. How… Orwellian?

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    1. douglas clark — on 10th December, 2011 at 6:45 am  


      Your commentary appeals to my old hippie soul. I never saw the point of Vietnam - the domino effect of states falling to communism now appears completely ridiculous, and not entirely unwelcome given Burma.

      And so it goes with (most) Western interventionism. The alleged ‘best minds’ on the planet are given over to justifying the inexcusable. Strangely, I still believe in an R2P philosophy, but the West has had little or no such moral support for it’s interventions. And when it has gained world wide support, e.g. over Afghanistan, it has subsequently squandered it. Iraq 2 is perhaps beyond understanding, except perhaps as a sort of Oedipus complex in the Bush family.

      The idea that the victors always write history is perhaps getting a bit old.

      There has always been a lack of moral outrage when we murdered foreigners in the name of the government. Its what these fat ugly [censored] bastards do to make themselves appear worthwhile. And we believe it and re-elect them?

      Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.

    2. sheffield company — on 13th December, 2011 at 2:57 pm  

      Great job.Please keep it up

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