Friday, August 11, 2006

Will to power(-point)

(Cross-posted at Sine qua non)

Once upon a time, I naïvely assumed that only education and business meetings and, I learned recently, some court rooms were the domain of PowerPoint. Unfortunately, I'm now deflowered via the article below, but at least what I know now seems to confirm my suspicions about how PowerPoint affects its audiences' receiving and processing of information--and, perhaps, also affects how those under the spell of those slides behave when the facts on the ground don't conform to the schemae presented in said slides.

Via Crooked Timber comes this dismaying post by John Holbo regarding an excerpt from Thomas Ricks' book about the Iraq war, Fiasco. Be sure to take a close look at the slide that Holbo includes below his post's fold.

I've opposed this war--our pretexts for beginning it, our entrance into it and its prosecution--from the start, yet as I said here what now seems like a lifetime ago, we owed it to the Iraqis and, just as important, to ourselves and our ideals as a nation and people, to do this right and not leave until the job was done, that failure in this could not be acceptable. Alas, the disavowing of my assumption that the present administration was willing to invest a whole lot more/something other on the Iraqi people and our ideals than the hot air needed to say words like "freedom" and "liberty" and the legal and political machinations needed to deal with anyone who might be getting too nosey or too critical of the prosecution of the war has been another deflowering, this one of a much more prolonged and painful sort. To learn that the truly hard, expensive (in terms of time and lives as well as money and materiel) work of the military's role in the work of Iraqi nation-building was reduced to confusing slides and words so abstract as to be meaningless is dismaying but is of a piece with how things have gone these past 3 years--chiefly, the near-total detachment (as it appears to me) of the Pentagon's civilian arm and the Executive branch generally from the military, political, social and religious realities not only within Iraq but the consequences of that adventure for the region and for our standing in the world.

This--what we have now 3 years later--is most assuredly NOT "how it was drawn up." But geez, Louise, as Mrs. M. would say, at some point you'd have thought someone would have figured out that at some point, if we must have the war and nation-building PowerPointed out, s/he'd need some new slides at the very least.


R. Sherman said...

I think what we, as in, "we youthful idealistic Americans" failed to realize is that there are some people/cultures/mindsets, etc. which refuse to acknowledge the truth of "equality of human beings." They either cannot or will not see that truth or for whatever reason, refuse to subscribe to it.

These people could be of the Stalin/Hitler/Sadaam ilk, who want power over others from pure Machiavellian reasons, or they can be Shiite mullahs in order to usher in the appearance of the 12th Imam.

I think there comes a point where our evangelism is conclusively demonstrated to have fallen on deaf ears. Then it is time to shake the dust from our sandals and leave them to a judgment of their own choosing.


Sine.Qua.Non said...

I'm thinking r. sherman missed your main point here, but nevertheless...
excellent post. The one percent rule in action? And, we have also seen what happens in this administration to the messengers of news the administration does not want to hear and subsequently any such information falls on deaf ears.

Ditto here.

R. Sherman said...

Sine: I guess I was looking at the "power point" image more metaphorically. That is, actions are based on assumptions. Sometimes the assumptions are inaccurate. When they are shown to be innaccurate, then they must be discarded, like Power Point slides.

The failure to have "new slides" demonstrates the failure to alter assumptions, whether they concern WMD's, "Iraqis will love us," or whatever.