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Metaphorical Thinking About War

The situation in Gaza is appalling. If you needed any more proof of that, after the premeditated destruction of three UN schools, Lenin, via Jamie, has linked to a Telegraph article that details the planned decimation of nearly an entire village. Apparently, after the IDF orders everyone in your community into a single building at gunpoint you can expect that building to get shelled.

But besides the news we’re not hearing about what sort of catastrophes are being perpetrated within the Gaza strip, we get all sorts of strange rhetorical devices. For instance, NYC’s own Michael Bloomberg, interviewed on — where else — Fox, paints a somber picture to defend Israel’s use of disproportionate response. (Skip to 2:28 for the relevant bits if you are pressed for time).

Bloomberg first dismisses the notion of proportional response, saying that “In, in the United States, somebody was sending rockets, over our shoreline or over one of our borders we would not respond proportionally. We would respond with everything at our res — with every resource at our disposal.” Moreover, this is “exactly, incidentally, what we’d do in New York City.” If any of “our people” are “under attack by a criminal or a terrorist,” Bloomberg’s instructions are for his police chief to use any and every thing he has available to “protect our citizens.”

The tired line about how Israel is “forced to respond” to Hamas’ flagrant abuses is not surprising, and the rather startling statement that “most people in the Western world” recognize that “their freedoms are directly tied to the freedoms of the Israeli people” should not be — I mean, it is practically the same as the strategy for containing communism: if terrorism wins here, it will spread everywhere! At any rate they have been dissected by many people many times over. But Bloomberg’s strategy for justifying disproportionate force is bluntly wishing to be clever. He employs a metaphorical scenario: suppose there is a criminal or terrorist kicking down your door? Would you want the police to send just one person, since that is all is kicking at your door? No? Well, then, you agree with disproportional response!

Except this doesn’t work. It is flawed in so basic, so childish a manner, you almost have to wonder why someone, even someone from Fox, didn’t ask about it: “But Mr Mayor, you seem to be saying that the entire Palestinian people are a single, faceless body, a single entity that can be described as a criminal or terrorist. I’m not sure that analogy makes sense. Doesn’t it seem more apt to describe a situation where a stranger walks into an apartment complex and scrawls some graffiti on the wall, so you send in a SWAT team and ‘clear’ the whole building, in the process executing a couple of the residents to aid them in remembering not to let strange people use their things? I mean, that’s how I would describe what is actually going on, Mr Mayor.”

More than his metaphorical idiocy, Bloomberg gently cozens his listeners with soft inclusive wes and ours: this is how we would respond; one of our citizens; etc.  We can all rest assured that this is exactly how we would properly react to protect our own.

Categories: Notes.

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