Dangerous American Extremists

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Dangerous American Extremists Billy Beck 11/14/97 12:00 AM

>From: "Maher, Steve \(SD-MS\)" <SMA...@nlvl.com>
>Date: Thu, 13 Nov 1997 14:10:00 -0800 (PST)
>Subject: Dangerous American Extremists
>Who said the following, this week?
>"The Marines are extremists.  Wherever you have extremists, you've
>got some risks of total disconnection with society.  And that's a
>little dangerous."

>(A)  Saddam Hussein, Iraqi dictator
>(B)  Theodore Kaszinski, The Unabomber
>(C)  David Bonior (D-MI)
>(D)  G. Gordon Liddy, talk show host/Watergate felon
>(E)  Sara Lister, Asst. Secretary of the U.S. Army

        It matters not a *whit* who it was who said it.

        Let me explain something.

        "extreme" (adj.) - 1. of a character or kind farthest removed
from the ordinary or average: "extreme case"; "extreme degree".  2.
utmost or exceedingly great in degree: "extreme joy"  3. farthest from
the center or the middle; outwermost, endmost: "the extreme limits of
a town".

        Etc.  This, from Webster's new Universal Unabridged - Barnes
and Noble edition - goes on in a similar vein for for a total of
fourteen definitions.  At risk, perhaps great, of offending some
present, I will nonetheless point out that the *purpose* of a
"definition" is to distinguish everything subsumed under a given
concept from *everything else* that exists.  This means that the
*essential* attribute of any given thing is the attribute which is the
referent of the definition.  Here is an example by implication: a golf
ball is *not* defined by its *color*.  (Did everybody get that*?)
Here is another: a pencil is *not* defined by its *length*.  Are you
still with me?  The point here is that, while the length of a pencil
or the color of a golf ball are very surely attributes of these
objects, they are incidental.  There is nothing *essential* in them
which can be used for the purpose of *denoting* the concept of a "golf
ball" or a "pencil".  Golf balls come  in a variety of colors, and
some manufacturers vie in good humor to produce pencils of ridiculous

        What we find in the *stupid* remark spotted by Steve, above,
is an attempt to reach an ethical and political judgment by the
process of *not* identifying the object of judgment.  How do we know
this?  Well, the questions are both legion and begged: what,
precisely, is the *essential* attribute or characteristic of a US
Marine which is the referent of the adjective "extremist"?  Is it his
honor?  Is it his courage?  Could it be his devotion of his life to
engage battle on behalf of his countrymen?  While we're asking, might
it be the length of his *hair*?  The colors of his dress uniform?  His
posture and bearing?

        This line of questioning could go on and on to the point of
silliness commensurate with that of the original non-statement.

        As a matter of tactical rhetoric, a significant aspect of
current use of the term "extremist" in political and (holding my nose
as I type the word) sociological comment is its essential *nihilism*.
"Extremist" and "extremism" are now words used to *obliterate*
legitimate concepts which mitigate or refute the indictments that they
serve.  What you have here is a rag-bag of concepts purposely jumbled
in order to sever logical hierarchies and toss the sum of cognitive
elements which form concepts *themselves* into a useless salad of
words without meaning.  This is nothing less than the destruction of
language, and only one-step removed from the destruction of *thought*

        What could possibly be the result?  Well, for one obvious and
worrisome (if not outright disgusting) thing, people who mindlessly
accept a *non*-essential characteristic as definition, like in a term
such as "extreme" in current usage, will also begin to substitute
those non-essentials in their thinking.  That means that they will
also form judgments which bear no *essential* relation to reality.

        Don't believe me?  Guess what: if such a non-thinking person
observes the word "kook" tagged to the example of one who expresses
strong doubts of the official story in the matter of Vince Foster,
then he will naturally conclude that all who are skeptical of
government are "kooks".

        Now, go ahead: tell me I'm wrong.  Tell me that you don't see
this going on around you every day.

        This is the very same argument by non-definition as that found
in this oh-so-painfully-common use of the words "extreme",
"extremist", and "extremism".  

        Is it *really* necessary to point out that the term "extreme",
used this way, has no meaning in and of itself?  Because "extreme" is
a *measurement*, it should be instantly obvious that the attribute to
be measured should necessarily attach to the *usage*.
"Extreme...*what*?"  Of course, the answer in today's moronic
political flail is, "Anything."  Whatever you do, don't hold a
*principle* too strongly, because it's not the principle that the
morons abhor - they don't even have to know what it *is*.  It is,
instead, the *degree* of that characteristic of principle which drives
them to their hysterics.

        At the very least: whenever you see "extremist" used without
fully explicit denotation of the referent attributes, you can be
certain that you are observing a person who has not thought precisely
about what he is trying to say.  This person's judgment cannot be
taken seriously.  At the *worst*, you are observing a person who *has*
thought about what he is trying to say...and who knows that he cannot
afford to say it clearly and precisely because the argument would not
bear value-driven analysis.  He resorts to substitutions of values;
offering security from a given principle by conflating fearful
principles for honorable ones.  The mindless attack on Marines, above,
is precisely what is going on in that particular example.  It was
offered to *connote* something horrible ("total disconnection with
society") in place of something *honorable* (the entire raison d'etre
of the US Marine Corps), and calculated to exploit that fear in the
minds of people who mindlessly accept and endorse the smear.

        Ask yourself what that sort of calculated mutilation of
concepts *means*.

        And, the next time you encounter such mindless use of the
term, "extremist", ask the person who used it *precisely* what he or
she means.  Don't let 'em off the hook until you get a complete and
straight answer.