Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Choosing Sides

A good quote from Den Beste (via):

There comes a time in every man's life when he has to choose sides. I have chosen my side. I am comfortable with my decision. I do not think everyone on my side is a saint, but I know that those on the other side are much, much worse.

Sometimes a man with too broad a perspective reveals himself as having no real perspective at all. A man who tries too hard to see every side may be a man who is trying to avoid choosing any side. A man who tries too hard to seek a deeper truth may be trying to hide from the truth he already knows.

That is not a sign of intellectual sophistication and "great thinking". It is a demonstration of moral degeneracy and cowardice.

I agree, and find the intellectualization of politics that removes moral concerns to be bankrupt. The avoidance of conclusion and judgement is a way to avoid responsibility -- you can never be wrong if you never believe anything. But it's ironic that he and I disagree completely in our conclusions (he backs the Iraq war).

We cannot reformulate our beliefs everytime new facts are revealed, in fact we cannot even determine the facts. First, we must choose who we believe -- what version of the facts, what interpretation of the situation. This is why we must choose sides.

When I choose my side, I base my judgement on the many evils those in the administration have supported, these men who sold weapons to Iran to fund another terrorist group in Nicaragua; who supported Iraq even as it was using chemical weapons; who supported the mujahideen, who besides their recent infamy were made up of drug dealers and men who would throw acid in the faces of women who didn't wear veils; or the anti-democracy apocalypse-seekers like Pat Robertson... these are dealers in oppression and death. There are good effects of the Iraq War -- for all I know it will be ultimately positive -- but I must oppose it out of principle. Not an anti-war principle, not a leftist principle, certainly not a pro-Saddam principle, but I oppose it because I oppose those men.

We have to choose our sides. We can't just decide what story is more appealing, we can't settle for mere plausibility (terrorism, WMDs, democracy) when the real motivations stare us in the face. (Now Kerry has said he was lied to when he voted for the war, which should not have surprised him because the administration is made up of liars. He now acts surprised -- how could he have known!?! -- but in fact the whole world knew, and he knew too but decided to pretend otherwise as it was more politically expedient. Bastard.)

If you don't believe in choosing a side you might as well forget about the whole thing, be apolitical and ignore the news. If you don't choose a side, all the attention you give to events is no more meaningful than keeping track of the plotlines on soap operas.

Created 27 May '04
Modified 14 Dec '04


"We cannot reformulate our beliefs everytime new facts are revealed, in fact we cannot even determine the facts. First, we must choose who we believe -- what version of the facts, what interpretation of the situation. This is why we must choose sides"

What a world. You say we can never know the true facts, yet we still must take sides.
That we cannot change as new facts come to light.

Why would anyone not be open to considering new facts?

Yet what is your argument against taking sides?
That attention to world events is no longer meaningful?

When was the last time my attention to world events was meaningful on the world stage?
# Anon


Thanks for the pointer to the Noam Chomsky article. I had read it, but forgotten it.

I think you have overstated your case a little. It is true that many of the facts about this issue are only available in highly filtered form, and we do have to choose which of those filters are trustworthy. Even so, it is possible to reach some amount of certainty based on these reports and even "change sides."

It's similar to the "debate" over cigarette safety. The tobacco compaines are still telling anybody who will listen how safe their product is. Despite the spin and filtering, most people have made a decision about the safety of cigarettes without having first been on one side or the other.

# Alan Green

Obviously someone can change sides and change their opinion of things. I don't think hypocracy and inconsistency are that bad -- neither is a substantive sin, certainly. They've only become such great sins in our culture because we've lost any sense of basic values. When everything is relative, consistency is the only thing that can be judged.

So sure, given new facts and personal analysis of those facts you can change sides -- and it's certainly better to change sides then to knowingly hang onto incorrect beliefs. I don't advocate blind partisanship. But I don't think it's very effective to try to reach conclusions as events unfold, and I don't think it's constructive to analyze every detail of events. At some level we must place some faith in a leader (not necessary a political leader).
# Ian Bicking