Sunday, 18 October 2009

Evil Monster Or Perpetrator Of Worst Political Gaffe Ever?

Media Matters For America offers a "debunking" of Glenn Beck's claim that "the most important political philosopher to her [Anita Dunn - the White House Director Of Communications under President Barack Obama - pictured] is Mao Tse Tung.

It is an astonishing claim to a "debunking" given that Anita Dunn herself actually said that, along with Mother Theresa, Mao Tse Tung was one of the "two political philosophers" she "turns to most". Media Matters For America claims a debunking on the grounds that Anita Dunn did not actually use the words "worship" or "idolize" in reference to Mao Tse Tung. Yet the difference between "worship" or "idolize" and "turn to most" in the context of a political aid relating to the deeds and words of political philosophers is merely one of a direct meaning as opposed to an indirect meaning. Anita Dunn indirectly let it be publicly known that Mao Tse Tung is a source of inspiration to her.

Even if MMFA were to say that Anita Dunn may "turn to" Mao for inspiration but that that doesn't necessarily mean she endorses his destruction of the lives and political liberties of many tens of millions of people, this would still be an excessively weak defence of her. For if that were indeed true (I believe it most certainly is not and that the woman is an evil monster), then she would still be guilty of perhaps the worst political gaffe I can remember - a context drop that is quite literally frightening. And another thing, it's not as if there aren't a plentitude of alternatives when it comes to political heroes from whom one can infer the moral of "fighting one's own battles". American history alone is replete with such characters but without the stains of forty to over seventy million destroyed lives on their hands. Yet despite such obvious alternatives, Anita Dunn deliberately chose Mao Tse Tung. She wasn't making it up on the spot either - she was reading from a prepared speech. A sane person can only conclude that her reference to Mao Tse Tung was deliberate and not without purpose.

I believe her purpose was to say something truly evil under a rather thin veil of acceptability. In the context of high school students, the reference to Mao was ostensibly (if we can ignore the forty to seventy million deaths) a call upon students to think outside the box with respect to their future careers. (I gag back the obvious rejoinders). Yet the fact that it was Mao, rather than say, Ben Franklin, that she used to announce her encouragement to students renders this rather beyond the pale. The real, and rather lightly veiled, subtext to her remarks was that Mao's "refusal to accept other people's definitions" means political decisions ought to be left entirely to the discretion of political leaders - absent the value of rational criticism. Anita Dunn was encouraging to students to become pig-headed and to allude to such behaviour being normal among "visionary" political leaders too.

Yet rational criticism is one of the foundations of civilized life for without it, conflicts over common resources or cooperative ventures can only be resolved by failure or violent suppression - the life of the thug. The capacity to listen to and respond rationally to rational criticism is especially important to politicians and other public "servants" in positions of great power, such as Anita Dunn and others like her in the current US administration. This woman quite publicly rejected this value. My question: what does it take to do that?

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