Attila the Pun
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
The more things change

After the departure of Margo Kingston, the SMH has replaced her with journalist Andrew West. His spelling is a lot better than the margonauts, but unfortunately the content appears to be similarly themed. Why the called the blog "the contrarian" is beyond me - lets look at the posting on the Bali bombings:

I don’t want this to be my “Susan Sontag” moment, but in the wake of the second, awful – and yes, evil – round of bombings in Bali this past weekend, we need to ask a lot of questions. We’ve already started to answer some: who, what, when, where and how. But we still haven’t asked, at least not in any depth, the most important question: why?

We haven't asked why? For a journalist he appears to be amazingly out of touch. Ever since 9/11 we have been bombarded with demands that we ask "why do they hate us" and calls for us to look for root causes. That may not have swung into full swing after the latest murders, but it is only a matter of time (this article confirms that)

Why are the perpetrators – fanatics, lunatics, to be sure – willing to martyr themselves in process of murdering scores of innocents?

Let me guess - Jews, Bush, Iraq etc etc?

The late Jewish-American writer Susan Sontag won herself infamy in American conservative circles when, just days after the September 11 2001 attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, she wrote, in an essay in The New Yorker, “… whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards”. Sontag was emphatically not excusing the 9/11 mass murderers. She was merely trying to understand – in a provocative way – why such sacrificial madness was taking place.

Hmm, I am not sure which article he read, but I don't see that she was "emphatically not excusing" anybody, in fact she said that the 9/11 attacks were a "monstrous dose of reality" which were "undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions". It is only a brief article, and I struggle to find any reprimand for the perpetrators at all.

And she was rejecting the empty sloganeering of George W. Bush that the attacks were "cowardly" and "mindless".

Hang on - you just said the Bali bombers were "lunatics" - does that not suggest a degree of mindlessness? West is falling over himself to have sentences damning the bombers ("look - I condemned them!") but is contradicting himself when he actually sets out his arguments.

Like the bombings in Bali in both 2002 and last weekend, the 9/11 atrocities were anything but. They were meticulously planned – in the case of the World Trade Centre, right down to hitting the building in just the right place to raze it – and involved a perverted form of courage.

He is going so far as to elevate the 9/11 murderers' luck (the buildings collapsing in the way they did) to the level of meticulous planning.

The problem is that after any act of terrorism like the Bali bombings, the right-wing brands anyone who dares to discern the reasoning or the perverse logic behind the attacks an apologist, or charges them with blaming the victim.

Well gee Andrew, if you go around apologising for terrorists and/or blaming the victim, then don't act hard done by if the evil "right wing" calls you on it.

But surely if we are to stamp out, or at least limit, such carnage in the future, we must understand the perpetrators’ motivation or grievance.

Nope, their names and addresses would be more than sufficient for our purposes thanks.

It may be – and probably is – the case that their grievance is utterly without merit, completely undeserving of sympathy.

You aren't sure? He is suggesting that the people who incinerated 202 people in Bali in 2002, and dozens more this week might have legitimate grievances and may be deserving of sympathy. At the risk of being labelled right-wing, but I am pretty confident in branding you as an apologist on the strength of that alone.

This is not some 1970s social worker-style desire to understand the "pain" of the perpetrator. It is a clear-eyed, strategic need to determine the root cause of the terror.

Cha-ching! It must be his inexperience in working for the SMH that caused him to take this long before mentioning root causes.

And frankly, it is a way of avoiding the kind of quagmire in which US-led troops are now floundering in Iraq, where a combination of conveniently ignored pre-war intelligence and misdirected vengeance over 9/11 has lead to an unmitigated military disaster.

Stuff like this makes me want to grind my teeth to the bone. People have such short memories that anything that doesn't go perfectly gets labelled a disaster or a quagmire. No one would argue that the liberation of Iraq has gone perfectly according to plan. There is a military axiom that no plan surives first contact with the enemy.

That said, Iraq fell in a matter of weeks, and the losses sustained (both military and civilian) whilst tragic, are extremely minor when you consider the scope of the undertaking. In the history of "unmitigated military disasters" (I would consider the removal of Saddam as a pretty big mitigation) this doesn't even come close. Before people want to make stupid statements like that, I suggest they read a little history first.

We have a duty to mourn and a right to be angry over the latest outrage in Bali. But it would be grave mistake if our response was driven by rage and not reason.

You mourn out of duty? Big of you to agree with our "right" to be angry though. And what's wrong with rage? Blind rage can be counter-productive, but properly channelled rage can be extremely appropriate and useful. See here in that regard. Note the date when it was written.

I’ve been doing some serious research about the positioning of buttons in forms in general. And what I’ve come up with is to put the “Primary Action”-button left-aligned with the form. One of the reasons for doing this is that the eye automatically searches for a new form element to the left just under the previous element.
Very good site, brilliant write up.

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