Friday, March 30, 2007

Quote on Communication

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

--Joseph Pulitzer

This quote has the somewhat unusual quality of demonstrating what it advises--clear, enlightening prose to communicate an idea effectively. A lesson for us all.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Deviation of History? Maybe Not...

In The this Raw Story article about the movie 300 I came across this line:

Iran's [prime minister] has called foul over what it calls "deviation of history" but also because the Persians in the film were shown as "ugly and violent creatures rather than human beings."

I could not find an original source for the phrase "deviation of history" but it sounds like something someone might have said, or at least, a translation of something someone might have said.

But it does make one think, doesn't it? I assume the speaker of those words meant something like "This movie doesn't tell the story as we know it happened, ie, as it came to us in 'real history.' Therefore this deviates from history."

Surely they would have done better to say "we consider this portrayal of Persians an attempt to insult those of us living today who consider ourselves descended from the Persians who lived at the time this fictional movie takes place." This tells a more accurate story of their reaction, in my view, without the need to objectify "history" as if we have access to a single, verifiable, accurate account of what happened that would show this movie to be a 'deviation.'

Robert Anton Wilson was credited with the term Maybe Logic, which suggests that we limit our statements of "fact" with the word "maybe." For example he says:

Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering “Maybe Jesus ‘was’ the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do” — or every tower in Islam resounding with “There ‘is’ no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet”?

Can we imagine a world where movies use Maybe Logic to say "Maybe things happened like this," and people respond by saying "Maybe that's not what I learned about those events. Maybe what happened was something in between your story and mine, or something quite different. Maybe we'll never know."

And maybe if we talk like that, we won't get so angry at other people for having opinions. Because maybe doesn't seem quite so threatening, does it?