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Terrorism and Cancer

December 30th, 2005

I just received an email drawing the (far from original) comparison between terrorism and cancer. It struck me that, to make this metaphor exact we’d need

* attacks on cancer researchers for seeking to ‘understand’ cancer

* even more attacks on anyone trying to find ‘root causes’ for cancer in the environment, such as exposure to tobacco smoke

* lengthy pieces pointing out that the only thing we need to know about cancer cells is that they are malignant

* more lengthy pieces pointing out that criticism of any kind of quack remedy marks the critic as “objectively pro-cancer”

I guess Steven Milloy and other “junk science” types come pretty close to providing the first two. Has anyone seen examples of the third and fourth?

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  1. Terje Petersen
    December 30th, 2005 at 23:13 | #1

    It strikes me that the notion of a “war on terrorism” is about as intelligent and meaningful as a “war on hand grenades”. Terrorism defines neither the enemy nor the motivation of the enemy. It does not assist you in formulating a target for your response.

    Terrorism is a means of war not a participant. It is a means typically used when the power structure in asymetric.

    If we were to properly identify the enemy behind the events of September 11 then I think it would be properly called “Islamic Fascism” or some such thing. However if you include the name of a major world religion in the descriptor for your enemy then you are doomed to lose the propaganda war.

    Perhaps the best thing would have been to simply declare a war on Al Qaeda and then by inference its allies such as Jemaah Islamiah etc.

    Al Qaeda seems to be driven by a desire to reduce outside influence upon Islamic affairs. They object to US forces in Saudi Arabia and such things. No doubt they also loath Western decadance and use it as a form of propaganda against the west.

    I don’t think there is a lot of milage in the cancer metaphor. Neither do I think there is much mileage in trying to make any metaphor exact. At the end of the day all metaphors are inexact, they are merely a conduit for transporting concepts from one area of understanding to another.

    However to continue the fun we could further refine the metaphor by suggesting that:-

    * Terrorism is an attack from within.
    * Terrorism is best treated with chemical and nuclear bombardment.
    * Dealing with terrorism makes you bald.

  2. December 31st, 2005 at 00:35 | #2

    If terrorism is a cancer then there are plenty of politicla therapists out there who are violating Hippocratic Oath: do no harm.

    The quackery crosses ideological boundaries, with the “Invade the World” militarists and the “Invite the World” multiculturalists.

    The militarists try to stop terrorism by using martial policies to coerce the Southern hemisphere to be like us. This only stirs up the hornets nest of terrorists overseas.

    The multiculturalists try to promote tolerance by using cultural policies to make the Northen hemisphere more like the Southern hemisphere. This only breeds terrorist and gangsterist enclaves at home.

    The correct policy is for modern states to concentrate on putting our own house in order by trying to live up to ethical ideals, not ethnic lobbies here (eg Theophanous) or abroad (eg Chalabi).

  3. Dogz
    December 31st, 2005 at 06:47 | #3

    Chalk it up to another example of Generation X vs Baby Boomers.

    (disclosure: I am Generation X)

    The Baby Boomers rejected the absolutist morality of their parents, in favour of a kind of moral relativism in which no-one is responsible for their own actions – they’re just a victim of some hidden, deeper malaise. This led to all kinds of crap that Generation X-ers had to endure growing up: the victim mentality, affirmative action, postmodernism, declining educational standards, no comparative grades, political indoctrincation at school, etc etc.

    Most of us knew it was BS, but couldn’t do much about it at the time (the ones who did not survive the indoctrination became feminazi legal “scholars” or worse).

    The attacks you hear JQ are simply the sound of two generations (Generation X and their grandparents with whom they have more in common than their parents) telling the Boomers that it is time to grow up.

  4. Pablo
    December 31st, 2005 at 07:25 | #4

    It would be refreshing if Lefties actually bothered to spend some energy learning about Islamofascism, as opposed to maintaining a 24/7 bitterness against ordinary Western people. Let’s teach the old Maoists a new word today.

    It is about a strict form of Islam.

    It is called “Wahhabism”.

    “Wahhabism” preaches a literal interpretation of the Koran.

    It originates from the Saudi Peninsula.

    “Wahhabism” is spreading, gradually muscling out other Muslims from mosques and community centres around the world, using the sect’s financial clout, physical intimidation, and sometimes, extreme violence.

    It is the belief system of Al Qaeda, J.I., the Taliban, is behind the violence in Kashmir, Algeria, Chechnya, the Southern Phillipines, Southern Thailand, Western China…

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saudi/analyses/wahhabism.html

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saudi/

  5. Jim Norton
    December 31st, 2005 at 07:27 | #5

    Terrorism has now replaced Communism as the great evil. It can be used to justify anything.

  6. Pablo
    December 31st, 2005 at 07:50 | #6

    (The attacks you hear JQ are simply the sound of two generations (Generation X and their grandparents with whom they have more in common than their parents) telling the Boomers that it is time to grow up.)
    —–
    That is so true. The baby-boomers are the luckiest, most indulged generation of homo-sapiens to ever walk on this planet. They grew up in a historical period of ‘low hanging fruit’. Lucky them.

    They somehow forgot that the story of human existence has always been one of facing adversity, be it disease, warfare, a famine, hunger, poverty, persecution, scarcity of some sort, or all of them at once. This is their own ancestors we are talking about. Lefties have forgot this.

    The (Leftwing) boomers are emotionally and economically, sheltered and complacent.

    Just as the elite of ancient Rome were before it fell, to a more numerous, “hungrier” wave of people who did not share the same values as the Romans……

  7. Hal9000
    December 31st, 2005 at 09:01 | #7

    “Just as the elite of ancient Rome were before it fell, to a more numerous, “hungrierâ€? wave of people who did not share the same values as the Romans……”

    Pablo, you seem to have absorbed your ancient history from Hollywood. The Romans at their most decadent were an expanding empire (Caligula, Nero etc.). Rome was run by the straighlaced Christians for more than a lifetime before the first barbarian leader marched in (Visigoths, 410). No gladiators, no games, no orgies – none of the alleged moral depravity of the pagan Empire. The reasons for the decline of Roman administration are many, but the over-indulgence of the Roman elite wasn’t high among them.

    Similarly, the attempt to pin the blame for an imagined moral decline of the west on something as amorphous as a ‘generation’ is lazy and fallacious thinking. It goes – ‘most of our leaders in every field were born between 1940 and 1960, they are responsible for whatever I perceive as wrong with the world, and the only thing linking them all together is the decades of their birth, so that must be the thing causing it all.’ Complacent indeed, flabby even!

    A similarly feeble argument could be mounted to say that the ‘baby boomers’ are the brightest generation ever – consider the technological advances since 1970 such as this internet thing, consider the economic growth of the last quarter century. Or the most moral generation – consider the depravities of the generations that brought us the first and second world wars, industrialised murder, ninetenth century European imperialism etc etc as against the boomers who march in the streets against wars fought for immoral reasons or conducted immorally. Equally fatuous arguments, but equally sustainable up against the generational decadence line.

    As for the previous argument “It would be refreshing if Lefties actually bothered to spend some energy learning about Islamofascism, as opposed to maintaining a 24/7 bitterness against ordinary Western people,” I doubt whether a close reading of the fanatics’ literature will yield much. The phenomenon of Christian fundamentalism is similarly best studied by reference to its social and political origins and role rather than examination of its crazed texts. To take up Prof Q’s cancer metaphor, we need to look at causes rather than symptoms.

    Last, and to return to Prof Q’s question, the most obvious defect in the metaphor is that while a large proportion of contributors to this blog are likely to die from cancer, we are more likely to win Lotto than to perish in a terrorist attack. The total death toll from all terrorist attacks, even if we include the Iraqi insurgency, is up there with bee stings and lightning strikes as a cause of global mortality. I’d argue that the means adopted in the GWOT are a far greater threat to us all than the terrorists are. To take just one example, the dilution of the state monopoly on legitimate use of violence through the development of a market in mercenaries really does look like a parallel with ancient Rome!

  8. jquiggin
    December 31st, 2005 at 10:01 | #8

    I have previously demolished claims about generations of the kind made above. It’s easy to check that large proportions in each age group are found on both sides of most issues, and that membership of a particular age cohort is generally less likely to determine political views than, for example, education or social class.

    Use of generational claims is a clear indication that the person making the claims hasn’t looked at the evidence. It’s the last refuge of the lazy journalist.

    If anyone can find an issue where, say, 75 per cent of boomers are on one side, and 75 per cent of X-ers on the other, I’d be most impressed.

  9. Hal9000
    December 31st, 2005 at 10:19 | #9

    Ah, but as a baby boomer you would say that, wouldn’t you Prof Q? ;-)

  10. Lynette2
    December 31st, 2005 at 10:56 | #10

    If we can imagine for a minute that stress causes cancer, it seems to me that Australia is so stressed over terrorism and everything we’ve managed to associate with it, that we’re at a quite high risk of bringing about our own demise. Damage by terrorism by proxy.

    The generational thing is quite ludicrous. It’s like astrology. All Capricornians will be the victims of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Cancerians this week.

  11. December 31st, 2005 at 12:58 | #11

    There are root causes of terrorism, but these are not the ones that either the Left or Right are particularly interested in investigating, for their own ideological reasons.

    The Right prefers to see the root cause of terrorism in some form of original malice, Islamic Hesperophobia and Western anti-semitism. This view gives Rightists the moral authority to pursue a “drain the swamps” attitude towards hostile ethnic jurisdictions.

    The Left prefers to see the root cause of terrorism in Israeli irredentism, discrimination against Arabs and “why do they hate us” blather about Western cultural and martial presence. This gives Leftists a carte blanche to disable their own nation states and make continual consessions and appeasements to ethnic gangsters at home or abroad.

    I see ethnic terrorism as a socio-biological phenomenon, caused by particular natures conflict with certain cultures. My pet theory is that terrorist tribes form through the confluence of pre-modern multicultural ghettos and post-modern sub-cultural gangstas.

    Hence the common reference to ethnic youths who are “caught between two cultures“when unintegratable ethnics come here. And likewise uninvited Western nations are prone to “poking the hornets nest” when blundering into hostile juridictions over there.

    This is part of the broader phenomenon of the failure of some ethnic groups to make the transition to modernity, forming civil society and a constitutional state. This leads to disposessed and unsettled males forming parasitic gangs – gangstas, mafiosis or jihadists – for the purpose of attacking host societies. A redoubling of efforts to integrate such ethnics into the modern nation state is indicated.

  12. Katz
    December 31st, 2005 at 13:43 | #12

    JQ’s challenge to discover an issue that divides boomers and non-boomers 75 – 25 / 25 – 75 is a tough one. Even the suggestion that it is unwise to trust anyone under 40 or over 65 may excite the innate liberalism and permissivism of many boomers, who would therefore be prepared to give the wrinklies and those cute, post-ironic subsidised young(ish) X-er homemakers the benefit of the doubt. I guess that sort of attitude is what makes the boomers just so special.

    And, it is true to say that even in the floodtide of boomer cultural cohesiveness (say between 1968 and 1975), there were many, many contemporaries who simply weren’t “on the program”. I doubt that the Young Liberal Organisation was ever more active than during those years. David Williamson’s “Don’s Parrty”, set in 1969, is a fine dramatisation of that cultural divide, (and much better than anything he wrote after he left Melbourne).

    Nevertheless, Dogz’s spittle-flecked diatribe does deserve some respect. It is true that the boomers were harbingers of enormous cultural change in Australia. One could go on at length about sex, drugs, rock’n'roll, the eclipse of organised religion. The list could be lengthy without being exhaustive. Perhaps if there had been fewer boomers this challlenge to traditional values and modes of life may not have happened. Or perhaps it may have not been as tumultuous. But no one can deny it happened, And Dogz is living proof that this history still has the capacity to excite passion,

    And no one can doubt that Howard has learned how to target the generations that bracket the boomers. His housing and child rebate policies are outright bribes to the Xers, An Xer friend of mine handed out ALP how-to-vote cards for the recent federal election in an inner Melb electorate. He reported that he was in constant danger of being deliberately run down by those voguish, enormous 4×4-style prams. Labor was on the nose.

    For my part, I find it highly amusing that many Xers do seem to be seeking solace in some of the shibboleths of our elders. It’s cute, and it gives them so much to talk about with their grandparents, Boomers should take solace in Wilde’s observation that there is only one thing worse than people talking about you.

    I wonder if Xers will pay particular attention to advice from their about how to stop the next generaton of baby boomers from rebelling against their own peculiar habits of self-righteousness and authoritarianism.

    The best thing is that because we boomers will live forever, we will know the answer soon enough.

  13. December 31st, 2005 at 13:55 | #13

    One thing bothers me about this trash debate about boomers – it is a process of projection and demonisation. Just like the construction of the terrorists, it stops us from finding solutions and ends with persecution.

  14. Ernestine Gross
    December 31st, 2005 at 15:20 | #14

    Dogz,

    Why did you take subjects or courses which you knew were “crap”?

    What was it that prevented you from doing something about ‘it’?

  15. .Dave Ricardo
    December 31st, 2005 at 15:40 | #15

    If the baby boomers are so influential, why have we never had one as Prime Minister?

  16. December 31st, 2005 at 15:45 | #16

    Caligula and Nero weren’t the apogee of Roman decadence – Elagabalus has them beaten hollow. And the Roman Empire wasn’t expanding significantly under them, but rather consolidating and assimilating what it already had. Indeed, the few post-republic gains – Britain was the most significant and enduring – were accomplished under other emperors anyway.

    It’s worth remembering that empires did not work simply by territorial gains for direct benefit anyway, but very largely via client states obtained for strategic reasons and which the empires had to take over once they had used up their existing legitimacy and free standing strength. This misconception of empires has fooled a great many of today’s Americans who don’t see what they are doing and why as at all imperialistic.

  17. Paul Kelly
    December 31st, 2005 at 16:20 | #17

    Baby boomers made dogz do it! They are so mean and nasty.

  18. Ernestine Gross
    December 31st, 2005 at 17:48 | #18

    I wish you all a Happy New Year – free of terrorism, cancer, oldcons and newcons (incorporated or unincorporated, of any gender, colour, height, weight, financial wealth,…………).

    I am off to a Baby Boomer’s party – one of those where a spade is still called a spade and ‘postmodernism’ is one of those many ‘ism-words’ that might come in handy for cross-words.

    Cheers

    Ernestine

  19. Pablo
    December 31st, 2005 at 18:41 | #19

    How come the bulk of Australian Lefties look just like these people?

    http://www.richardneville.com/Journal/webimages/L%2010904%20Large%20NHJ-wide-WEB.jpg

    —-
    “I doubt whether a close reading of the fanatics’ literature will yield much”.
    —-
    No, they couldn’t possibly mean what they say or do….

    When Islamic ‘activists’ blew up a market stand selling pork in Indonesia today killing at least 8 people and wounding 47, it’s really a ‘protest’ to raise support for Kyoto and the Lefty ‘Tobin tax’ on global capital movements….right?

    You realise they soak the nails, bolts and ball bearings in those bombs with rat poison, so after bolts fly through your torso at 900 metres a second, your blood won’t coagulate. And you bleed and bleed and bleed and bleed and ble…

    “To take up Prof Q’s cancer metaphor, we need to look at causes rather than symptoms”. Have fun with that:

    http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/05.10.09.TheirPerspective-X.gif

  20. Peter Evans
    December 31st, 2005 at 21:12 | #20

    Katz, you do realise that the housing subsidies (“first home owners” and the like) are a net subsidy to the elderly, not the young. Housing prices go up by the value of the subsidy, so sellers benefit, not buyers, and on average sellers are older than buyers. The brilliance of the scheme was that the Libs win with both demographics, though that merely re-states the obvious: appeal to the elderly for their greed, and play the young for the economic illiterates they are. Genious.
    -pete

  21. December 31st, 2005 at 21:40 | #21

    Hey, 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) is good too. I don’t see why you couldn’t use that as well as rat poison.

  22. Katz
    January 1st, 2006 at 09:58 | #22

    Nice point Peter E.

    Your observation about the actual financial consequences of the operation of the housing subsidy scheme is undoubtedly more correct than the way I characterised it above.

    However, I believe that your formulation of it amplifies the political point that I was trying to make: “And no one can doubt that Howard has learned how to target the generations that bracket the boomers.”

    Certainly, boomers too are downsizing and selling their homes to Xers, but I imagine that the pre-boomer demographic are more active in that market, and are therefore greater beneficiaries of Howard’s “genius”.

    I enjoyed your formulation of the economic illteracy of the “young”. Howard has tricked them.

    However, when the “old” voted for Howard, how many of them worked out that the housing subsidy actually advantaged them? Were many “old” voters any less politically illiterate than “young” voters?

    In other words, where did Howard get the bigger bang for the taxpayers’ cross-subsidised buck?

    From the ignorance of young or from the cynicism of the old?

  23. Dogz
    January 2nd, 2006 at 13:23 | #23

    [love that cartoon Pablo. Sums it up beautifully.]

    I have previously demolished claims about generations of the kind made above.

    Hardly a demolition JQ. A few claims about age groups, and that’s all. Maybe a demolition in your own mind. And your 75/25 criterion is disingenuous: the Boomer generation can be responsible for creating a “victim culture” without requiring a 75/25 split on any individual issue at all.

    However, you are right that the real issue is not which generation you belong to, but whether you buy into the claptrap (rightly or wrongly) associated with that generation (victim culture, affirmative action, postmodernism, etc).

    Dogz,

    Why did you take subjects or courses which you knew were “crap�?

    What was it that prevented you from doing something about ‘it’?

    Not many options at high-school Ernestine, although I certainly voiced my opinion at the time, which was about the only avenue of dissent available.

    If the baby boomers are so influential, why have we never had one as Prime Minister?

    Very telling question. Despite dominating nearly all areas of leadership in the public sector (federal and state public services, education, academia), the Boomers have never managed to elect one of their own to Prime Minister. Shows how much support they have outside the nanny state, and why they so hate Howard and the people who elect him.

  24. jquiggin
    January 2nd, 2006 at 14:17 | #24

    So, Dogz, your admiration extends to the nonboomer Keating? His victory over the boomer Hewson is an indication of the Australian people’s rejection of the nanny state?

    You’re just digging yourself deeper here.

    More seriously, abusing actual people, then saying you are merely referring to views “rightly or wrongly” associated with these people is sloppy and offensive.

  25. Dogz
    January 2nd, 2006 at 15:12 | #25

    Ok JQ, I am abusing an entire group: those responsible for instigating and promulgating the victim culture, affirmative action, post-modernism, political correctness, middle-class welfare and the nanny state. For want of a better name, let’s call that group the HUTA (Heads-Up-Their-A*ses) group. Then the precise statement of Boomers vs Gen-X is that the intersection between HUTA and Boomers is far greater than the intersection between HUTA and Gen-X.

    Keating and Hewsen were philosophically a lot closer than you seem to think.

  26. jquiggin
    January 2nd, 2006 at 15:52 | #26

    “Keating and Hewsen were philosophically a lot closer than you seem to think.”

    Umm, that was my point.

  27. Dogz
    January 2nd, 2006 at 16:22 | #27

    “Umm, that was my point.”

    Well, neither Keating nor Hewsen could be accused of being part of HUTA (athough a surprising number of HUTA members seem to think Keating was one of them. A testament to his political skills I guess, given that no modern Laborite can afford to get HUTA offside).

    They straddle the start of the Boomer generation (Keating born 1944, Hewsen born 1946), so assuming culture is a continuous function of time (reasonably valid at least without catastrophic interfering events like wars or depression), they’re from the same generation regardless of where you draw the Boomer boundary (butressing your argument using outliers or boundary cases is weak, but maybe it is common practice in economics.)

  28. Ernestine Gross
    January 2nd, 2006 at 19:42 | #28

    Dogz, what is going on?

    Are you cross with the Howard government spending money on private schools, family allowance (nanny state), using budget surpluses to fund superannuation of the pre-boomer generation (middle class welfare), spending on advertising campaigns (political correctness), reducing funds to Universities (affirmative action)?

    Also, is it really the case that high school subjects such as Latin, Greek, French, German, Indonesian, Chinese, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, History deal with political correctness, postmodernism, victim culture, nanny state, middle-class welfare, affirmative action? I find it hard to believe.

  29. David Cake
    January 3rd, 2006 at 13:12 | #29

    To understand ‘islamofascism’, a good starting point is moderate liberal Islamic scholars, Ziauddin Sardar for example. His book ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’ is a very readable memoir with a great deal of insight into the modern Islamic world and its malaises and their origins.

  30. Dogz
    January 4th, 2006 at 09:52 | #30

    Are you cross with the Howard government spending money on private schools, family allowance (nanny state), using budget surpluses to fund superannuation of the pre-boomer generation (middle class welfare), spending on advertising campaigns (political correctness), reducing funds to Universities (affirmative action)?

    No, to some extent, definitely (they are not funding the pre-boomers, just public servants), yes (but they’re not pushing political correctness), no – judging by the low international standards of Australian universities it is well past time the majority of academics and university administrators were sacked and forced to reapply for their jobs.

    Also, is it really the case that high school subjects such as Latin, Greek, French, German, Indonesian, Chinese, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, History deal with political correctness, postmodernism, victim culture, nanny state, middle-class welfare, affirmative action? I find it hard to believe.

    By their nature, most of those subjects are free from political indoctrination peddled by the HUTA brigade. But there are plenty of other subjects. The president of the AEU (Australian Education Union) is quintessential HUTA

  31. abb1
    January 4th, 2006 at 20:56 | #31

    [love that cartoon Pablo. Sums it up beautifully.]

    Yes, it does. I’m assuming the guy in black is a pro-war American patriot, right?

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