Re: OFFTOPIC:Re: [unrev-II] Fwd: Re: [PORT-L] Comments On Terrorist Attacks

From: Jack Park (
Date: Wed Sep 12 2001 - 12:58:33 PDT

  • Next message: Alex Shapiro: "[unrev-II] Re: Comments On Terrorist Attacks"

    Your post responds precisely to the vision I had when I forwarded the PORT
    discussion; you have just outlined the primary reason that I take interest
    in promoting the values espoused in Douglas Engelbart's vision: those
    values are would promote the kinds of communication necessary to form the
    bonds of trust you outline.

    At 08:30 PM 9/12/2001 +0100, you wrote:
    >My last post on this topic, because it [the atrocity] is so far removed from
    >the unrev feelgood factor.
    >Yes, it was an attack on symbols, with symbolic significance.
    >Yes, it has deep and far reaching meaning because so much of what the U.S.
    >is iconography.
    >The terrorists struck at those U.S. values. No less.
    >It was iconoclastic.
    >But underlying that is pure horror; a horror that is beyond icons, that has
    >only simple disgusting truth to it, that betrays facades, ferociously
    >exposes core human values, and unites all compassionate men in confrontation
    >with the blunt reality of the cold, fractured corpse.
    >That the perpertrators would inflict this on the U.S. says to my mind that
    >they have seen this before, and that they (for reasons they clearly believe
    >intensely) see the U.S. as having been the root cause of that for them.
    >(Whether the U.S. really was or not doesn't matter at this juncture, only
    >that the mesh of symbolism is traced back to that origin for the
    >perpertrators; for that too is part of mesh.)
    >As I see it, it's an attack that says quite clearly, "Your values are wrong,
    >in their aftermath we saw the truth, and now we return it all to you."
    >One must also understand that many of the mores that the U.S. has
    >promulgated so forcefully in recent decades overhaul centuries-old values of
    >great sophistication in different cultures.
    >And even I am inclined to suggest that many new American media values are
    >shallow, fickle, trite and debasing, with no respect for awesome histories.
    >It is certain that the attack was wrong, because it took human life.
    >But it is also certain that the picture that America painted of itself led
    >the attackers there, however mistaken they perhaps were.
    >That countries refused to be policed by the 'Western Democratic Alliance' is
    >no surprise to me.
    >They believe the 'policemen' are corrupt (and again is that because of a
    >self-portrait we painted?). It won't do any good to try overcoming that by
    >force, verbal or physical.
    >What is needed is the grounds for the trust that enables great friendships
    >and collaborations -- genuine respect, compassion, love, and true
    >----- Original Message -----
    >From: "Jack Park" <>
    >To: <>
    >Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 4:29 PM
    >Subject: [unrev-II] Fwd: Re: [PORT-L] Comments On Terrorist Attacks
    >On the PORT email list (I am currently unable to find the archives, so I'll
    >quote a bit here), Peter Becker wrote (in part):
    >"In my opinion the chain of causality starts in the States. Nothing can
    >be an excuse for what has happened but I fear that what has happened
    >will be an excuse for what might come now, if the States choose to
    >answer terror with more terror, not even noticing that they might be the
    >ones who started all this. Calling the Pentagon "a symbol of America's
    >ability and determination to project and defend democratic values" ([2])
    >is something that would be funny if it wouldn't be that serious."
    >I responded with:
    >"I am wondering how the wizards of Peircian thinking actually cast today's
    >events. For me, it is perhaps an overly simple notion to lay the beginning
    >of the causal chain on the US. "
    >Cliff Joslyn followed:
    >"Of course it is.
    >My thinking is as much cybernetic as semiotic, and what that tells you
    >is that no matter how good or true or accurate, casuality is but one
    >possible model constructed by us, the subjects, to explain our
    >world. It's not a "chain" of causality, but a multi-facetted web of
    >interacting linear and cyclic network components, which moreover have
    >a temporal horizon as arbitrarily far back into the past as one cares
    >to draws one's boundaries. Therefore, WHERE one draws one's boundaries
    >(e.g. the cockpit; the terrorist operatives; Bin-Laden (or whomever it
    >actually is); Saudi Arabian or Iraqui or Iranian policy since 1985;
    >the Taliban; Israeli policy since 1995, or since 1967, or since 1945;
    >the Soviet Afghan invasion; US policy since 1991 or since 1967 or
    >since 1945; the fall of the Ottoman empire following WW I; British
    >colonial history since 1850; the Crusades; Mohammed; Jesus; Moses; or
    >God for making the distribution of oil and people and temperate land
    >masses unequal across the planet or setting the melting point of steel
    >and the boiling point of Aviation A fuel) says SO MUCH MORE about
    >one's OWN perspective than about any OBJECTIVE truth of "causality".
    >So, Mr. Becker, while (despite working in the belly of the US
    >military-industrial complex) I'm the first to criticize my government
    >and my society for its arrogance and ruthlessness and evil, please try
    >to get some perspective on what you're saying. For better or worse, on
    >the order of 5,000, and perhaps as many as 10,000 or even 20,000,
    >Americans are tonight the victims of the greatest terrorist attack in
    >history, and the entire world is reeling. While certainly the overall
    >socio-political context, and America's role in that, is relevant, no
    >single, narrow historical analysis or fact can explain this, let alone
    >justify it."
    >Here is what follows. I post this because I believe there is merit in
    >finding ways to look at information flow with an eye biased by the thinking
    >of C.S. Peirce.
    > >X-Sender: "Jon Awbrey" <>
    > >
    > >才~~~~~~~~才~~~~~~~~才~~~~~~~~才~~~~~~~~才~~~~~~~~
    > >
    > >Susan Awbrey wrote (SA):
    > >Cliff Joslyn wrote (CJ):
    > >Bob Rosenberg wrote (BR):
    > >
    > >SA: What the terrorists don't understand is that
    > > the meaning goes far deeper than its symbols.
    > >
    > >CJ: I agree: this is where semiotics can help us, understanding these as
    > > acts of COMMUNICATION. In that way, the terrorists are committing a
    > > referential fallacy, mistaking the symbol for the referrent, the map
    > > for the territory, the token for the sign function. Note that not
    > > just the buildings are symbols; from the terrorists perspective,
    > > the dead innocents also serve only as sign-vehicles, not as humans.
    > > Indeed, from Bin-Laden's (or whomever it really is) perspective,
    > > his own OPERATIVES are symbols. That's what martyrdom is,
    > > elevating a person to the level of a symbol.
    > >
    > >BR: A few years after Perry opened Japan to the West in 1853, some
    > >southern lords
    > > adopted the slogan, "Restore the emperor and sweep out the
    > > Samauri killed a number of merchants, burned their shops, and so on.
    > > Rebelled against the larger forces of Westernization, which they could
    > > not put their hands on, by destroying the people and structures that
    > > symbolized it. They restored the emperor (the Meiji Restoration)
    > > in a nominal way -- the Westernization obviously did not stop.
    > >
    > >BR: Does this sound familiar? I have a funny feeling
    > > there are a few other similar examples in history.
    > >
    > >In the spirit of examining self and other in the same image,
    > >Friend U and Enemy X in the same frame, we might return to
    > >Max Weber's 'Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism' --
    > >he was not especially picking on Puritans and Capitalists
    > >but died before he could complete his survey of worldviews,
    > >economic, political, religious, whatever -- one of the most
    > >crucial points of what he noticed being the way that abstract
    > >symbols, detached from their humane context, can operate like
    > >viruses, parasitically living off and often turning against the
    > >substantial embodiments and the flowing lifeblood of meaning that
    > >served as their initial host, now a hulk to be cast away. I think
    > >that understanding the dynamics of this malfeasant conversion process
    > >might be a useful bit of knowledge in these times.
    > >
    > >Jon Awbrey
    > >

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