Having spent very little time studying the humanities, I’m always coming across terms in soft science papers that everybody agrees with, but nobody bothers to define.
One is the “Moral Project“, for which I finally broke down and Googled, finding this:
I don’t know if that’s the right definition, but from the context, I think it is probably good enough for our purposes.
The document discusses the flow of information between specialized disciplines. its “transdisciplinarity”. It concludes, in part:
The advances in modern science lead one to forsee the birth of a new rationality, infinitely richer than that bequeathed to us by the scientific hopes of the 19th century.
So it sounds like a good goal — a truthful and honest information exchange between disciplines to reach conclusions that otherwise would not be possible to reason out, to arrive at a better position of morality.
I debate with folks in other venues about morals all the time, and have arrived at a working definition that I am probably not first to have noted: Because, what is “morality”, except the ethics of human conscience?
But what good is such a “moral project” to “Joe Everyman”, if such ideas are not allowed to inform our democratic self-government that we hold so dear in our democracies?
There’s a movie from my generation called Turk 182, where a young man fights a corrupt system that is delivering injustice to his injured brother. He does so with a series of hacks (in the larger sense) against the city’s mayor, which eventually embarrass the mayor enough that he gives up and “does the right thing”…even though said mayor had also been called out on illegal (or at best, shady) activities. The hero calls himself “Turk 182″, which is his brother’s nickname, coupled with his brother’s fire department shield number. And if it isn’t already clear: Turk 182 was anonymous, until the end of the film.
It’s a great movie, but I always thought the mayor’s final reaction when he “gives in” was unrealistic — sure, it ended the movie, but people don’t give up that easily. Having newly found out the name of the secretive “Turk 182″, you can bet that said mayor would be coming at the boy with “both barrels”. But as far as the movie goes — information got to the people thanks to an “end run” around the existant media power structure.
Fade-out, fade-in. We now have a “group” (actually, more of a “movement” or even a “shared pseudonym”) that is engaging in their own series of hacks — and as before, they aren’t just embarrassing the subjects of their hacks, but actually uncovering illegal, and in some cases, unconstitutional actions being taken by various bad actors.
But instead of focusing on (say) the very great damage being done to victims of U.S. foreign policy, our fourth estate makes statements of extreme prejudice against anons, as well as someone “they” are supporting: Julian Assange.
In some cases, radicalized politicians in our own United States have called for the execution of Assange. But even this example of extremism doesn’t seem to be enough to awaken the U.S. media to the fact that their own very narrow “corridor” of “acceptable political spectrum” has shifted so far to the right, that they are reporting what amount to illegal death threats from tea party radicals.
So let’s ignore the legacy media behind our own version of the “Iron Curtain”, something I’ve begun calling the “Gold Curtain”: they have made plain that King Dollar is in charge of their “news”. They have determined that the way forward, pointed to Fox News, is the hole down which U.S. press has gone: eliminating investigative journalism, and even fact-checking.
Thus, they report lies, and therefore, are a hindrance to the moral project. They have their pile of gold. They have their mammon — and I hope they’re happy with it.
Fortunately, said fourth estate has not — yet — found a way to bottle up the Pandora’s box that is the Internet. Indeed, for the last three years, more people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers. That’s where the real news can be found — and rather than return to a position of journalist integrity, our U.S. fourth estate has abdicated their responsibilities, leaving us with no choice but to seek other sources of information…and if they keep going down that road, I daresay U.S. legacy media is doomed to economic ruin.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that we placed too much reliance on the top-down “journalism” that we’ve relied on since the advent of newspapers and television. It was too easy for them to lie, to act against the moral project Today, it is easy to criticism their faulty “journalism”, pointing out flaws that — if sent back to the media companies through their “ordinary channels” — would be summarily ignored. Today, we call out the liars, who for the most part, are whistling past the graveyard, wondering how they can “kill the messenger”…sometimes literally, messengers like Assange or even the notorious Sgt. Manning.
But what are our authorities in government up against? We the People, demanding that our wishes be carried out. Because as secrecy increases, the moral pressure of human consciences resists — until, when the illegal and immoral information can no longer be borne, the information will eventually leak out, informing We the People of the evil deeds being committed in their name.
Though I actually don’t think Manning was the source of the cable leaks, but I think it clear that he has become a symbol of “shoot the messenger”. No, they haven’t shot him — yet — but they would seem to be using some tactics that North Korea used against U.S. soldiers to crush their spirits and extrude false confessions. We can also see the treatment Assange has undergone — defamation and violation of his rights.
Couple to this the fact that we are talking about an information flow from one discipline (secret foreign policy decisions and actions) to another discipline (We the people, who are ultimately responsible for those actions), and it becomes clear that this complex issue can be made sense of through these two theorems of the “ethics of conscience”, morality:
1) Information about activities that violate clear reason and good conscience will always, eventually, leak, and
2) Should that information be leaked, the person leaking it is best protected by remaining anonymous.
And if anybody has an alternative to those two theorems, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, anonymity is vital to the moral project.