US liberals and leftists who won’t vote for Clinton, even though that decision will help Trump, who is even worse, are an interesting case study. It reveals a deep difference, not between liberals and conservatives, but between “principlists” and “consequentialists”.
Consequentialists do what they have to do to get the best available outcome, even if the means – and the end – fall short of their ideal.
Principlists feel an inherent wrongness in doing anything against principle, even if the result is an outcome even further from their ideal.
They’re two totally opposed mindsets – ways of thinking about how to choose action – with little scope for persuasion between them.
The Daily Mash has really grown a beard in recent years. Once, it was merely an embarrassingly sub-standard attempt to do a British version of The Onion. Now, The Onion has disappeared behind a paywall and no-one’s reading it any more, and it’s The Daily Mash which gets shared virally around social media. Not only that, but the quality of its articles has vastly improved: its choice of satirical targets is spot on, its insights into the absurdity of contemporary politics and society are razor sharp.
For example, there’s this little gem: “Friends enthralled by gig filmed on phone”. Gig-filming is one of those phenomena which are especially bewildering, because everyone agrees it’s shit and people should stop doing it, and yet lots of people still do it.
The revelation that the Bush-era US was a rogue state responsible for systematic torture and other human rights abuses is as outrageous as it is unsurprising. For the world-weary and cynical like myself, it’s depressingly predictable that the only person currently in prison in connection with the CIA’s torture programme is John Kiriakou, the whistleblower who uncovered it. The US and its allies, including the UK, have a long history of committing monstrous acts against their own citizens and those of other states worldwide, and there is no indication that this is likely to change any time soon.
But while all reasonable and decent people should be appalled at the actions of Western governments, there are some who go too far, losing all perspective and pursuing their hatred of the West to illogical extremes. Here’s a typically nutty example I encountered recently:
“Anyone who believes the ISIS beheadings are real are deluded beyond belief. Watch the videos with a critical eye and then watch a real beheading. The west creates Muslims as enemy’s to push their agenda. Pure and simple. It is so they can attack poor brown people and take their natural resources like oil etc. Google the difference between say Afghanistan before American intervention and after. America and Britain are the real terrorists whose politicians earn more from war than peace. It’s not the people who need to give more but politicians and bankers who need to fuck off.“
In Jaipur, we visited the Albert Hall, an ostentatious Indo-Saracenic pile built by the British and now housing the state museum of Rajasthan. While we were there, I noticed a phenomenon occurring which I’ve often wondered about before. A young man was walking around the museum exhibits, scanning each cabinet and shelf with a digital video recorder. He wasn’t taking any time to look at the exhibits himself, just watching the swivel screen as he quickly passed from case to case, to make sure he captured every object in his sweep.
Now, let’s establish some basic truths. This video would be completely unwatchable. Not just because of the sickening motion of the camera (have you ever noticed how in television and film, almost all filming is done with static camera shots? And ‘tracking shots’, where the camera moves, are used only very sparingly, by expert directors? There’s a reason for this) but also because of the awful tediousness of the subject. I’m willing to bet that no-one in the entire history of humanity has ever sat down and watched one of these videos after their holiday. After all, if you don’t find the exhibits interesting enough to actually look at them while you’re there, you’re hardly going to want to watch them on a shaky, blurry video afterwards.