Sunday, 24 June 2012

AA+ for Aaron

I saw Aaron Sorkin on Charlie Rose the other day.  He of "The West Wing" and "The Social Network" fame.  He was promoting his new HBO series, "The Newsroom".
I found him rather likeable. And one thing he said stuck in my mind: he said we're told from childhood that "there are two sides to every story".  That's not true, he said.  Sometimes there are five sides, sometimes only one.  And if there are two sides, it doesn't necessarily follow that they're both equally right (or wrong) and that the truth is somewhere in the middle.  
He talked of "neutral bias".  The need to always give "the other side" to the story, as if they are both equally valid.  Imagine if the Republicans voted uninimously that the Earth is Flat. The New York Times, in its obsession to be "fair" and "neutral", would carry the headline "Republicans and Democrats disagree on shape of the Earth".
Sometimes, there is just the truth. One and one is two, and if someone says it's nine, we must say they're wrong, or lying.
I like all that.  It's the opposite of the post-modern moral equivalence argument: that all views are equally valid, all cultures equally praiseworthy (or blameworthy), all religions the same, equally bad, or good.
It was refreshing to hear him talk like that and of the need to seek and say the truth.
But I wonder about the show.
There's a snip of it at the Daily Beast site, in which the main character, Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels says "it wasn't Muslims that attacked us on 9/11, it was psychopaths".
To be sure, Sorkin says that none of the characters is his sock puppet and he's not a ventriloquist, speaking his own views through the characters.  
But still I wonder this: will McAvoy have a revelation, will he see "The Truth", which is clearly that the 9/11 hijackers were most certainly not psychopaths, but motivated by clear and unequivocal doctrines and theology of Islam.  That these doctrines were expressed by al-Qaeda is irrelevant; what's relevant is whether Qaeda misread Islam, misinterpreted it or hijacked it in any way.  If you read Raymond Ibrahim's excellent "The al-Qaeda Reader", and you know your Koran and Hadith, you'll conclude that bin Laden and his mob have a very good grasp of Islam and quote it at length in justification for actions like 9/11 -- the need for Islam to dominate the world and to establish the caliphate throughout.
I somehow think that even given Sorkin's desire to seek the truth, this is one truth too far for him.
I guess I'll just have to watch it and see. 
Though so far the reviews have been lukewarm to stinging.