Amnesty fights back
As many have noticed, Amnesty International recently went over the top in likening the prison at Guantanamo to the Soviet Gulag. Now Roger Simon asks a question:
So why did Amnesty make such an insane (word choice deliberate) accusation? That is what is perplexing me. Why are some people, in this case an important human rights organization, incapable of rational discourse? The answers are depressing, I think, and lie at the intersection of psychoanalysis and greed. What America has tried to do in Afghanistan and Iraq provokes rage in many people because they feel their own personas threatened. At the same time, organizations like Amnesty believe their fund-raising goals are best achieved through making outrageous statements - a dangerous combination.
I certainly agree with Roger's conclusions that rage and fund-raising are part of what's going on here. But I also think that this type of statement arises out of the idea of relativistic truth. Words have become stripped of their meaning, because "truth" is, in the eyes of so many, a word that is always in scare quotes (whether the quotes are actually put in there or not), because it is always seen as suspect and arbitrary. Therefore a word such as "gulag" is used for its emotional import, to mean, in some very general and amorphous way "a prison environment where people are sent by a government, for political reasons rather than for something like theft, and where bad things happen to them." To know (and care) what the actual Gulag was, how many people it affected, who they were, and why it has no relevance whatsoever to Gitmo, would be to learn something about history and facts--and truth.
It is no accident, no accident at all, that the metaphors used by Bush's critics in Old Europe or on the left are either Nazi or Communist comparisons. This has another function, which is to say: "see, you think you are better than we are, but really, you are the same or worse." If parts of Old Europe might feel a bit guilty about the Nazis or the Holocaust, well then, what better revenge than to say Bush is like Hitler? And if leftists might feel a tad remorseful about the excesses of Communism such as the Gulag, what better way to expunge their feelings than to say Bush is running his own Gulag?