Isis Isn’t Real

Perhaps only the allegory of the Empire remains. For it is with the same Imperialism that present-day simulators try to make the real, all the real, coincide with their simulation models. – Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (1983)

a message signed with blood to the nation of the cross
When ISIS burned Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh alive for all of the world to see it was a simulated event. Many wondered why burn rather than behead as they have become very skilled at doing. By burning him in a cage and dumping tons of concrete and steel on him, they created a punishment that corresponded directly with an aircraft bombing a building filled with people.

Where ISIS differs from their terrorist predecessors is both their media sophistication and their cheesy Western bravado. They are like the Mandarin from Iron Man 3. He is a terrorist who turns out to be an actor masking the reality of the person who is behind the violence.

ISIS operates like a Hollywood studio with production values high enough that it is difficult to discern their violence from green screens, makeup, and set production. Our experience of violence is flattened. From Ferguson, 9/11, O.J., and the “shock and awe” of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and from Jarhead, Black Hawk Down, and Welcome to Sarajevo the line between a simulated war and war itself is erased. We no longer see the difference.

ISIS, The Killing of David Haines
Your evil alliance with America, which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the Haditha Dam, will only accelerate your destruction, and playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinnable war.

The Mandarin, Iron Man 3
My disciples just destroyed another cheap American knockoff: the Chinese Theatre. Mr. President, I know this must be getting frustrating, but this season of terror is drawing to a close. And don’t worry. The ‘Big One’ is coming: your graduation.

Our emotional responses are an attempt at feeling disgust and horror when the referent of what actually happens is simply not there. While we raise our fists and prayers at the terror of ISIS, we have been inoculated from the bloodbath of retaliation. We do not see the beheadings and disembowling of the enemy both before and after an ISIS film production.

ISIS delivers us films, previews, and advertising of their violence while our violence comes in identical packages from Hollywood. The brilliance of ISIS is not in their killing. Their brilliance is in understanding that the West can decode meaning only through advertising and fantasy. If we do not understand the real, we will understand its simulation.

We are a society that can no longer feel anything real. We have created simulated affect to mirror a simulated reality.

There is nothing of “shock and awe” to the privileged.

There is only apathy and cynicism.

There is only resentment.

There is only “contempt prior to examination.”

Abortion is Never Permissible at the University of Scranton

The university will no longer cover any abortion procedure in its private health insurance plan. This includes cases where pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at stake should she continue carrying the fetus. There is one ambiguous consideration when the life of the mother is in question. That includes what university President the Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. might call, “indirect abortion.”

The moral teaching of the church on abortion is unequivocal, and circumstances, “however serious or tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being,” Quinn wrote. University insurance would continue to cover medical procedures that are intended to preserve the life of the mother, so long as the procedures are not a direct abortion.

Here is the moral quandary: If there is no doubt that the mother will die as a result of carrying the fetus, electing to allow her death to occur does not, according to this logic, count as the “deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

It is cases like these where the life of the mother is disregarded in favor of the fetus. This is where we have to address important moral questions. These are questions that have no satisfying answer. But if we are to stand in a firm pro-life stance, we are often faced with difficult decisions. This is the most difficult of all. It is difficult because we have to, in effect, choose between two lives: the woman carrying the child and the child itself.

A rule without exception cannot apply here because the moral issue is simply too complex. The University of Scranton, according to this rule, has made the choice that the life of the fetus is of greater value than the mother. They will never say this outright, but it is nonetheless the substance of the moral reasoning.

It seems that the University of Scranton has concluded that letting someone die is permissible while killing is not. It forces a family to sacrifice one person for the sake of another. The probability of survival of the one that they are saving is irrelevant. In this way, the church is clearly making a utilitarian move which is ironic given that Catholic moral teaching rooted in “natural law” is, in general, opposed to utilitarianism.

Natural law and utilitarianism are compatible provided that a moral agent does not directly intend an evil intermediate action to achieve an end of greater utility. Compared to natural law, utilitarianism is deficient in that it considers only the result- increased pleasure or pain- of an action and not its means. Utilitarianism is therefore one form of consequentialism, defined as an ethical “theory [that] focuses on the good [gained] and gives no weight to the morality of the way [the act is achieved].”

The reasoning must be that the end, saving the fetus, justifies the means, allowing the mother to die. Pushing Catholic doctrine to answer this question garners really slippery responses. Here is how it looks:

The clearest and surest example is the ectopic pregnancy. As everyone knows, should the fetus become lodged in the oviduct or fallopian tube, its continued growth will result in the death of both child and mother. A normal and proper procedure in this case is the removal of the fallopian tube, from which the death of the unborn child inevitably follows. In this case the death of the child is not sought, nor is the mother´s life saved by the child´s dying.

This is not an abortion. Quite simply, the mother´s life is saved by the surgical removal of the oviduct, not by the death of her child.

“I don’t mean to kill you, but what I am going to do will kill you to save the life of someone else, therefore it is morally permissible.” Something unequivocal and absolute has just gotten a pass based on intention. An “indirect abortion” is one where I don’t “intend” to kill the fetus even if I know that what I am about to do will do exactly that. This is sort of like self-defense. “I don’t want to kill you, but to protect my life, I will.”

However, in either case allowing someone to die, or killing in this sort of “indirect” manner is still killing. It is still placing higher value on one life over another. Catholic doctrine is not helping the situation, but making it more difficult and perhaps placing more guilt on the shoulders of the family that has to make a horrible decision. While Pope Francis may call for forgiveness and peace to those in this situation, making the decision itself has become that more difficult for the University of Scranton community.