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Posts Tagged ‘The Unknown Known’

A. O. Scott skrev så här i The New York Times om Errol Morris och hans dokumentär om försvarsminister Donald Rumsfeld.

Clips from press briefings during the Iraq war illustrate his penchant for using semantics as a weapon, one he wields with undiminished glee against Mr. Morris. When the filmmaker presses him on the “torture memos” authorizing harsh treatment of suspected terrorists, Mr. Rumsfeld rephrases the question in such a way as to minimize any moral stigma and also any hint of his own responsibility. “Little different cast I just put on it than the one you did,” he says, breaking into a smile and raising a finger of triumph. “I’ll chalk that one up.”

And “The Unknown Known,” which draws its title from one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s most famous rhetorical flights, is very much a battle of wits and words. Yes, it is a probing and unsettling inquiry into the recent political and military history of the United States, but it is also a bracing and invigorating philosophical skirmish. The tension between those two registers — between hard facts about state violence and devilish abstractions about causes and consequences — is what gives the film some of its energy and suspense. It is clear enough that an ideological chasm separates the unseen interviewer from his crisply dressed subject, but the real drama between them arises from a clash of epistemologies.

While it is unlikely that Mr. Rumsfeld would describe himself as a postmodernist, he does seem to be invested in the obscurity of truth and the indeterminacy of meaning, and to believe that what we know is constructed by language rather than reflected in it. An important figure in a political faction famously committed to creating its own reality, he patiently explains the role that “imagination” plays in world affairs. Mr. Morris, an ardent old-school positivist, suggests the word “intelligence” as a substitute.

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