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Deafening silence

Time for a crusade against this damnably idiotic phrase, beloved of journalists who ought to know better and bloggers who don�t. It appears that I alone among men have been vouchsafed a fundamental truth about the universe, which Great Truth I propose to share with you know.

Not everyone cares about the same things that you do

Attached to this fundamental truth is a Great Moral Principle, with which I will also enlighten the world. Call me Bodhisattva if you must:

There is no moral obligation on anyone to care about something just because you do

This is true whether you�re a warblogger talking about the “deafening silence” of moderate Islamists condemning Osama bin Laden, a Democrat talking about the “deafening silence” of Senate Republicans on the subject of what Trent Lott said about segregation or Andrew Sullivan talking about the “deafening silence” of the New York Times about whatever bee is in his bonnet that day. Sullivan in particular seems to spend so much of his day hearing the sound of deafening silence that I begin to fear he has actually gone deaf.

In general, if somebody hasn’t said anything about something, it’s probably because they don’t find it interesting, or it doesn’t touch their lives, or they don’t think anyone else will find it interesting. That (rather than insidious PC bias) is almost always what determines which murders end up on the front pages. Another good reason for not saying anything about a subject is that you aren’t in posession of all the facts, and you don’t want to just randomly shoot your mouth off and say something for the hell of it. We’d all be better off (and Blogspot.com would have a much lower cost base) if more people remembered that.

And finally a damn good reason for not saying something is that the same bunch of ideologues who are screaming for you to say something, are most usually preparing to crucify you pretty much no matter what you say, and they will not scruple to twist your words in order to do so.

I commend the following passage from Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” to anyone who has used the phrase “deafening silence” in the last six months, as a vivid example of what happens when the mentality which supposes itself to have a right to decide how others express their views gets any sort of power:

Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed.They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers.

To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twnety-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new strategem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.

Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squandron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

Alright, bollocking over. Gan forth and sin nae more. And anyone who refers to the “deafening silence” from this blog over the last month gets a slap in the mouth.

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