Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ted Turner is a loudmouth bigot but he did not say that he is in favor of American servicemen committing suicide per se.

This is part of the apparent inability of large swathes of people raised in our "sound bite culture" to actually, you know think. It's part of the same motivation that causes mouth-breathing liberals to pretend to think that a Republican senate candidate is in favor of rape, when what he clearly was in favor of was letting living human beings being permitted to remain alive.(For a powerful dissection of this "crime against reason," check out Taranto's "In Defense of Richard Mourdock."

Ted Turner is catching flack for purportedly telling Piers Morgan that the suicide of soldiers is "good." Here's the relevant portion of the interview:

In an interview with CNN host Piers Morgan last week, Media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner said the fact that there have been more suicides than combat deaths in the Army this year is not “shocking,” but “good.”

Highlighted first by, the Oct. 19 interview has Turner speculating that “it’s time to put war and conflict behind us and move on,” and the rising rate of self-inflicted troop deaths is good because it brings attention to that view.

Here’s the exchange:

TURNER: It’s time to put war and conflict behind us and move on, and start acting like civilized, educated human beings.

MORGAN: You made the point to me in the break there, more American servicemen have –

TURNER: — are dying now from suicide over there than are dying in combat.

MORGAN: That’s shocking, isn’t it?

TURNER: Well, what — no, I think it’s — I think it’s good, because it’s so clear that we’re programmed and we’re born to love and help each other, not to kill each other, to destroy each other. That’s an aberration. That’s left over from hundreds of years ago. It’s time for to us start acting enlightened.

President Barack Obama has spoken out to condemn Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments on abortion and rape in recent days. Will he let this remark go unaddressed?

What Turner is saying is that the human capacity for love and charity - which he feels expresses itself in the self-destruction of soldiers who have been forced to act opposite to their true human nature - is good. I take it that he would prefer that no one engage in acts of war or to commit suicide.

Is Turner right about suicide being related to a human aversion to killing other humans? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably there is a human aversion to killing other human beings - and that is a good thing - but this aversion is mediated through the individual's understanding of what the action means. If the individual understands that he is protecting his home, then he may feel better about it than if doesn't have that understanding. There are limits to this, of course. For example, the SS concentration camp guards apparently had high rates of suicide despite the Nazi indoctrination that they were serving the good of Germany. Apparently, there comes a point where the cognitive dissonance becomes so great that self-deception is no longer possible. With the SS, it was blatantly obvious that they were abusing defenseless human beings, not protecting Germany.

And that is a good thing.

You see a similar wilful inability to understand an obvious point when people assert that Thomas Aquinas taught that those in Heaven would be entertained by the punishment of the damned. That is simply BS. Thomas never said any such thing. What he said was (Supplementum, Q.94.3):

I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

In his own maladroit way, Turner is making the same point. He is not rejoicing in the suicide of soldiers; he is rejoicing in what he sees as a natural order that makes people sympathetic to others.

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