Friday, September 07, 2007

Moral relativism's ugly progeny

Many years ago, before blogs and even before the Web, we had Usenet. It was effectively a world-wide bulletin board in which it could take days for a message to propagate through the system, and when almost everyone used their real names.

In the early 1990s a group of Holocaust revisionists started spamming dozens of newsgroups with their heavily footnoted "proofs" that the Holocaust never happened. This upset a lot of people, and many people spent countless hours documenting proofs that the Holocaust did happen.

I remember seeing one post from someone saying that, after reading both sides of the issue, he was convinced that the truth was somewhere in the middle.

Here we see the effectiveness of lies. As long as they are dressed up with large words and references to source material that sound legitimate, and as long as the audience is uneducated on the matter, they are just as effective as the truth. The truth does not always win out - the winners are the ones with the best presentation who can appeal to the existing worldviews of people.

In this case, it is not only a situation of truth versus lies - it is also a case of right versus wrong, of morality against immorality. In a society where everything is relative, where everybody has an equal claim to the truth, where concepts of morality are considered naive - such a society is in deep trouble.

Two news stories that reflect this complete lack of both a moral compass and the ability to distinguish truth from lies came out yesterday.

In one, 42% of Democrats think either that President Bush caused 9/11 or knew about it ahead of time and let it happen. This is a direct result of the so-called "9/11 Truthers" who have come out with insane conspiracy theories and publicizing them to people who just don't have a clue. When the theories happen to coincide with existing prejudices, in this case against Republicans, they are much easier to swallow. It is a modern manifestation of the logic of Holocaust denial.

The other troubling story was that many younger, non-religious Jews have no attachment to Israel and most would not find it tragic if Israel would be destroyed. Again, this is a result of a combination of ignorance and relentless "even-handedness" where they have grown up seeing Israel demonized in the media and put on an equivalent moral plateau with the Arab world, although their own disenchantment with being brought up with an empty form of Judaism certainly plays a part as well.

Is the truth in between? Yes, if you define "in between" as being anywhere between 0.000% and 100%. The liars will hammer away at the 0.1% that supports their thesis and the ignorant will think that proof of of the 0.1% means that the truth is at 50%.

We are raising a generation of people who have no ability to think and check facts independently, who are not given the tools to distinguish fact from fiction, and who believe that there is no such thing as being "right." This is a truly frightening prospect.

UPDATE: Soccer Dad in the comments here mentions another factor for the Jewish apathy towards Israel - the unremitting left wing bias that Jewish weekly papers have towards Israel.