Sunday, November 07, 2004

First Observation: Wim Wenders and the "Argumentum ad Delirium"

A first rather banal and obvious observation on the extracts from ARD’s pre-election debate reproduced below. Note Wim Wenders’s response to Rudolf Scharping’s remark that one should not always adopt the pose toward America of the “moral superior” or, as the French would say, of “the giver of lessons”. (The expression “Besserwisser” means literally “one who knows better”.) Apart from the vacuous and pissy retort “No, it’s the President who thinks he’s morally superior”, Wenders’s response consists simply of a string of non-sequiturs that have no more obvious connection to Scharping’s point than they do to one another. Perhaps the proposed trip to the clinic would not be a bad idea. This style of what I propose to call “argumentation ad delirium” has, regrettably, become extremely common place on the so-called “Left” in both Europe and the Americas. I would venture to suggest that its ascendancy as a major factor in political debate dates from the first weeks after 9/11, when “proof” was required by so many on the “Left” that the United States was somehow itself responsible for the disaster that had befallen it. Marie-José Mondzain’s September 18 op-ed in Le Monde, from which I cite large extracts in “The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy”, represents a locus classicus. It should someday be studied by the historians, sociologists, and psychologists of a – let us hope – calmer epoch as a cultural artifact of the highest importance.