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Critical thinking and terrorism
a resource page assembled by David Hitchcock, McMaster University
War on Terrorism Web Sites
"Links to web sites with information and, especially, opinions about the September 11 terrorist attack. Opposing views are placed side by side to provoke thought. Examples: Noam Chomsky vs. David Horowitz, Arutz Sheva Israel National News vs. Arab View, CATO Institute vs. Foreign Policy In Focus..."
The Unknown by Jeffrey Goldberg
Fascinating essay about the intelligence challenges facing the U.S. in its attempts to combat Al Qaeda. Full of valuable insights into critical thinking and human error. [5 Feb 03]
They want to kill us all by Mark Steyn
Steyn, as usual, calls a spade a bloody shovel. Regarding the Bali bombing: "I don’t have decades of expertise in the finer points of Islamic culture, so when people make certain statements and their acts conform to those statements I tend to take them at their word... Instead of trying to fit square pegs into Islamic crescents, why not take the event at face value? It’s a mound of dead Australians and Scandinavians and the non-Islamic Indonesians of Bali: no problem, they’re all infidels." [21 Oct 02]
Carroll's awesomely pretentious and imbecilic new book by Tim Blair
Acidic and humorous commentary on a chapter of a new book on 9/11 by one Dr. John Carroll who, I'm embarrassed to say, works at a nearby university. David Stove once urged that we develop a nosology of thought - that is, a systematic classification of the myriad ways thinking can go badly wrong. Carroll's writing would make an excellent specimen. [This, btw, is the first time CTOTW has ever linked to a weblog.] [8 Oct 02]
Osama bin Laden is alive and well and living in Utah by Katharine Mieszkowski
"As the anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, terror-related urban legends are running rampant. Luckily, Snopes.com is on the case." Magazine piece on the urban legends, jokes and rumors. [9 Sep 02]
The Odds of That by Lisa Belkin
What are the odds of that? Well, actually, considerably higher than you think... A fascinating essay describing our cognitive biases in thinking about coincidences, and relating those topics to terrorism and conspiracy theories. "Most often, though, coincidence is a sort of Rorschach test. We look into it and find what we already believe." [10 Aug 02]
Fighting Spirits by Benjamin Schwarz
The terrible events of last Sept. 11 demand clear and honest thinking; Bennett, D'Souza and Vidal have chosen instead to slip into their well-worn ideological grooves, unleashing kneejerk rhetoric to castigate their customary bogeymen. [29 Apr 02]
Enough Already! Time to Stop the War on Terrorism by Jonah Goldberg
"We ought to be able to declare that we are at war with a kind of Islam without saying we are at war with all of Islam. I don't know what it should be called, but I do know that "terrorism" doesn't do the trick. Providing such clarity would help Americans understand what this war is and isn't about. Such clarity would show that we take our enemies seriously. Such clarity would allow the world to choose sides. And such clarity would also make it more difficult for people to use fatuous phrases like "One man's terrorist…"" [11 Apr 02]
Seven Theses on the War of Terror by Paul Monk
The destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon have stirred enormous anger in the United States and around the world. The US Government is gearing up for a war with terrorism. Here are seven key things that we might do well to think about before making up our minds about what should be done or what the real challenge is in this stunning situation. This essay appears in The Australian Financial Review on Friday 21 September 2001.
A new terrorism danger emerges by John Whitbeck
"The greatest threat to world peace today is clearly "terrorism" - not the behaviour to which the word is applied but the word itself." [18 Mar 02]
Can there be a decent Left by Michael Walzer, Dissent Magazine
"The radical failure of the left’s response to the events of last fall raises a disturbing question: can there be a decent left in a superpower?... The left has lost its bearings. Why? I will suggest four reasons, without claiming that this is an exhaustive list... The world (and this includes the third world) is too full of hatred, cruelty, and corruption for any left, even the American left, to suspend its judgement about what’s going on..." [15 Mar 02]
GNN Interview with Janine Jackson of FAIR - Dead Link
"Our standards don’t change one wit when the country’s at war or involved in military action. As a matter of fact, it’s at this kind of time that we really, really need critical and independent journalism, when the standards have to be as high as they ever are. There seems to be a notion going around right now that it is unpatriotic for journalists to do critical and independent reporting at this time and I just think that nothing could be further from the truth.... It’s not unpatriotic to inform people at a time like this. I think that’s a silly idea and in fact, for journalists to be asking the hard questions, to be asking the difficult questions of authority figures, is the most patriotic thing I think they could be doing."
Civilization Envy by Jonah Goldberg
"Someone once noted that a "gaffe" in Washington is when a politician accidentally tells the truth... While critics have called his remarks "unacceptable," "barbaric," "silly," and — of course — "racist," I am at a loss to find a single untrue word in his remarks..."
Censoring dissenting voices is a danger to us all by Tom Gutting
"Two days after the president's speech, I used my regular column for the Texas City Sun to raise some doubts about the quality of his leadership. There was loud public outcry, and I was fired... It is important...for Americans to reflect on the dangers of silencing disagreement."
The Clash of Ignorance, by Edward Said, in The Nation
"These are tense times, but it is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis. "The Clash of Civilizations" thesis is a gimmick like "The War of the Worlds," better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time."
The Onion on Sep 11 (Link now dead)
Bush Sr. Apologizes To Son For Funding Bin Laden In '80s
MIDLAND, TX— Former president George Bush issued an apology to his son Monday for advocating the CIA's mid-'80s funding of Osama bin Laden, who at the time was resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "I'm sorry, son," Bush told President George W. Bush. "We thought it was a good idea at the time because he was part of a group fighting communism in Central Asia. We called them 'freedom fighters' back then. I know it sounds weird. You sort of had to be there." Bush is still deliberating over whether to tell his son about the whole supporting-Saddam Hussein-against-Iran thing."
Brain Drain by Mark Crispin Miller
"And yet it's just such [careful thought] that has all but disappeared since 9/11--as it always disappears in time of war. In bringing down the World Trade Center... the killers also managed, at one blow, to knock the brains clean out of countless good Americans."
Good Grief: Don't Get Taken by the Trauma Industry by Sally Satel and Christina Hoff Sommers. [7 Sep 02]
And of course it is a good time to re-read:
Politics and the English Language, by George Orwell
Classic. "Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists---is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase---some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse---into the dustbin where it belongs."
Last updated: 22 Jun 2007