Homophonia revisited

Homophonia revisited September 22, 2003

Back before the war began I had a little bit of a problem with homonyms — questioning in one post whether or not Iraq posed an "immanent" threat to America's national security.

Brendan Lynch pointed out that I had confused "immanent" with "imminent" — rightly guessing that my theology studies contributed to the mix-up. (The kingdom of God, you see, is both immanent andimminent. Or is it imminent and immanent?)

To clarify (from Webster's New World):

im ma nent adj. 1 living, remaining, or operating within; inherent 2 Theol. present throughout the universe: said of God

im mi nent adj. likely to happen without delay; impending; threatening: said of danger, evil, misfortune

The war in Iraq has been fought and won, but the peace and the ever-shifting case for the war both seem to be faltering. The whole question of Iraq as an imminent threat had to do with the claim that it possessed "weapons of mass destruction." That claim has been steadily marked down like an ugly suit at Sym's — from "weapons" to "a weapons program" to the "capability of a weapons program." (Next week: the glimmer of a fancy of an inclination towards a capability of a weapons program.)

Cursor pointed out another example of this incredible shrinking clear and present danger, pointing out that today, September 22, is precisely five months since columnist Charles Krauthammer said the following at an American Enterprise Institute forum:

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem. I don't have any doubt that we will locate them.

"A credibility problem." Krauthammer said it, not me.

Anyway, I'm beginning to wonder if I had been misreading the case for war laid out in the early months of this year. I thought the Bush administration had been arguing that Saddam's 45-minute-ready arsenal of weapons of mass destruction made Iraq an "imminent" threat. Now I'm thinking that this war was chosen because our leaders perceived the threat as immanent. The threat is living, remaining, inherent. It pervades the universe. The threat is omnipresent and eternal.

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  • Brendan Lynch

    Slacktivist with comments – excellent!
    Although comment sections can contribute to enlightenment, they can also degenerate along a number of well-known fault lines.
    Fred, I urge you to set out some guidelines early on.
    Two recommendations:
    1. No ad hominem attacks.
    2. This is the left’s locker room – the discussion is open to those of all persuasions who wish to join in good faith. There are several progressives who inhabit Calpundit’s comment sections – esp. Zizka – who have stated repeatedly and explicitly that conservatives are not welcome, and should not try to ‘pollute the discourse with their lies.’ It’s your blog, Fred, but I think that’s completely wrong-headed – there are already sites where left-wingers can congregate for self-congratulatory echo chambers. Atrios’ comment sections function that way, for example. I think thoughtful conservatives ought to be welcomed to join the discussion on other blogs, though.

  • Glenn Condell

    You do get echo at Atrios but IMO thoughtful conservatives get a fair hearing and what results from the cross pollination is often worthwhile stuff. It’s just that so many winger trolls are unwilling or incapable (or both) of engagement; it’s almost a definition of the type. The real loonies (from either side) are best ignored; they eventually go away and look for greener pastures to soil.
    But for me one of the great advantages of comments boxes is the opportunity they afford to move away from the artificial and increasingly arbitrary left/right dichotomy. There are a lot of people who previously thought themselves conservative who haven’t (like some of their number) been carried away on the neocon tide; they can’t identify with the zealots running things but neither can they suddenly hop into bed with ‘the left’. Much of the ‘left’ has likewise found itself out of sync with a majority of progressive antiwar opinion. Places like the Atrios boxes may seem only to reinforce stereotypes but a closer look reveals people who shift, subtly or otherwise, their position on issues as a direct result of the to-ing and fro-ing of discussion. One in particular started as a garden variety troll who after a few months has turned into a thoughtful contributor with a conservative cast of mind. It may not dissolve such divisions (which may not be healthy anyway) but it can, esp with the option of anonymity, make them less rigid.
    Some of the most stimulating stuff on the net for me resides in comments… it’s a conversation, often cacophonous and shapeless but with shafts of insight that you won’t find scouring the big websites. There’s dross but there’s diamonds too; I sometimes find arguments or tropes (or memes) in comment boxes that end up conventional wisdom later on – the fact that people like Krugman now read some blogs daily is a good sign that perhaps all this interaction, so long assumed to be under the radar of ‘real politics’ is now emerging as a force. Also, for an Australian (or anyone really) one of the pluses for me over the last few years in visiting Atrios
    and the like is the balm-like reassurance that there are thousands (and by extension, hundreds of thousands, millions) of sensible, moral people in the US, who are just as worried and outraged as us (and not a little ashamed of their leadership) and who haven’t yet lost their sense of humour. When all you get otherwise are the regime’s spokespeople and apologists and fellow-travellers, this is important. it’s the best corrective to ‘reflexive anti-Americanism’ that I know.