For a group that wholeheartedly subscribes to moral relativity and subjective ethics, you've got to wonder about the left and their constant search for some kind of "moral authority" to justify their beliefs. After all, if morality is relative; if truth is subjective and there is no objective "good" or "bad"; then why bother?
Let us look at their tactics to try to understand the underlying psychological motivations in this obvious contradiction.
Cindy Sheehan is an "absolute moral authority" on the Iraq war because her son was killed in Iraq. To the leftists, it doesn't matter that there are hundreds--even thousands--of parents who happen to believe the opposite. The only opinion that matters and conveys authority is one that they agree with.
The Jersey Girls' view of the Iraq war has "absolute moral authority" since they had loved ones who died on 9/11. That there are others whose loved ones died that day is immaterial. Only the Jersey Girls have absolute moral authority and their motives are always completely pure--as Ann Coulter discovered when she dared to criticize them. No relativity of opinion there.
This article discusses the frequent leftist accusation of being a "chickenhawk" if you support the war but have not been a veteran; or have not lost a loved one or sent your own "children" off to fight in the war. John Murtha is one who makes this accusation. He has the proper moral authority, because he fought in Vietnam. So does John Kerry. The other 25% of the Congress who served in the military have no such authority (because they disagree with Murtha and Kerry perhaps?); and the opinions of the vast majority of the grown-ups who are actually doing the fighting for the American public are unimportant.
In all three of these cases, the persons in question have become the left's vocal "moral authority" because they happen to agree with the left's beliefs about the Iraq war and are anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and anti-American.
What these three examples (and there are many more) have in common is both a breathtaking subjectivism and relativism in one breath; and ideological absolutism in the next.
This is as good a demonstration as any of the inherent philosophical and psychological contradictions that the postmodern left exploits in order to achieve political power. They are perfectly aware that their positions don't make any sense and can be refuted by anyone with basic knowledge of logic and logical fallacies; but their goal is to maintain the psychological denial necessary to believe in the left's ideology. Interpreting this defense and exposing it is essential to countering that ideology.
Stephen Hicks asks this important question (page 184):
The pattern therefore raises the question of which side of the contradiction is deepest for postmodernism. Is it that psotmodernists really are committed to relativism, but occasionally lapse into absolutism? Or are the absolutist commitments deepest and the relativism a rhetorical cover?
The possibility that the relativism is primary can be ruled out with some thought. If the modern leftist truly embraced relativism, then you would not see the uniformity of their politics. Hicks again:
If subjectivity and relativism were primary, then postmodernists would be adopting political positions across the spectrum, and that simply is not happeniing.
Indeed. Thus we must conclude that the moral relativism that characterizes the left's equation of terrorism with America; deliberate targeting of innocents with herculean efforts to spare innocent life; Bush with Hitler; Iraq with Vietnam; etc. etc. are simple rhetorical devices being used to manipulate and forward their socialist / totalitarian agenda.
The truth is that the postmodern leftists don't need to believe anything that they say. In fact, they can easily ignore evidence that contradicts their arguments; never acknowledge that their arguments (or more precisely, their beliefs) have been debunked and; and ultimately they can simply redefine words or resort to word games (the various meanings of "is" for example); or move the goalposts (those aren't the WMD's we were looking for) when convenient.
The word games and much of the use of anger and rage that are characteristic of much of their style can be a matter--not of using words to state things that they think are true--but rather of using words as weapons against and enemy that they still hope to destroy.
The value of people like Cindy Sheehan, John Murtha, the Jersey Girls et al; and incidents like Abu Ghraib and other leftist shibboleths-- is that they can be thrown out by the MSM to the population at large to "get your opponent off your back and get some breathing space."
If your opponent accepts that the debate is a matter of opinion or semantics, then your losing the argument does not matter: nobody is right or wrong. But if your opponent does not accept that everything is a matter of opinion, then his attention is diverted away from the subject matter at hand--namely politics--and into epistemology. For now he has to show why everything is not merely semantics, and that will take him awhile.
We see this done cyclically. No issue is every resolved. When the left realizes it is in a losing position, it simply backs off until it is opportune to revive the argument. And then they start back at the same points which were countered and try again, this time with more passion and outrage.
This theory of relativity works very well for them. We haven't heard from Cindy for a while, but we will. Soon Murtha will disappear from the MSM headlines and news shows as Haditha ebbs in the public consciousness--but both will return when another milestone in the Iraq war is met and surpassed or when something unquestionably positive happens--as we witnessed when Zarqawi was finally dispatched from this space-time continuum.
You might want to remember all this when the cycle of gloom, doom and quagmire starts up again. Those who take the time to counter the left's relativistic and out of context arguments will never get the exposure that the original article receives.
It's just a matter of opinion or semantics anyway. Right?
UPDATE: And, speaking of word games, did you know you can get away with treason these days? All you have to do is redefine "treason" to mean "patriotism".
Meanwhile, Diana West has this to say about WWII:
The question is, did bombing Dresden to defeat Hitler or dropping two nuclear bombs to force Japan to stop fighting make the Allies into barbarians?
I think most people would still say of course not and argue that such destructive measures were necessary to save civilization itself — and certainly thousands of mainly American and Allied lives. But if this argument continues to carry the day, it's because we still view that historic period from its own perspective. We view it from a perspective in which Allied lives — our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons — counted for more than Axis lives, even those of women and children.
How quaint. That is, this is not at all how we think anymore. If we still valued our own men more than the enemy and the "civilians" they hide among — and now I'm talking about the war in Iraq — our tactics would be totally different, and, not incidentally, infinitely more successful. We would drop bombs on city blocks, for example, and not waste men in dangerous house-to-house searches. We would destroy enemy sanctuaries in Syria and Iran and not disarm "insurgents" at perilous checkpoints in hostile Iraqi strongholds.
In the 21st century, however, there is something that our society values more than our own lives — and more than the survival of civilization itself. That something may be described as the kind of moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people — Western elites — never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadists. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of, anyone who does. This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn't win wars. And it won't save civilization.
No, it won't. But the simultaneously morally relative and morally superior left doesn't seem to care much about that minor detail.
UPDATE II: Assistant Village Idiot takes on an angry psychiatrist suffering from BDS, whose postmodern rhetoric isn't just postmodern...it is right out of elementary school.