Graphic Witness home page

A Political Contradictionary from A to Z

The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism
by those who don't have it.

George Bernard Shaw *





RRANGED to the left (the letter A) and below, alphabetically, are images that link to a number of political contradictions: at least 26 are offered.

Select the initial letter to go to any particular page. Within the contradictionary, arrows will move the reader forward or backward, from letter to letter.

What is meant by a political contradiction? They abound, but often remain hidden in plain sight. An example may make this clearer:

Legally, the doctrine of habeus corpus is a right worthy of cheering and defending zealously. It ensures no person can be locked up, keys tossed, without someone else, usually a disinterested judge, giving the incarcerated one the benefit of a hearing, or if it comes to that, a trial. In the bad old days, the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham could have locked away Robin Hood and all his merry band in a deep dungeon, with no one the wiser, but King John was forced to sign something called the Magna Carta, which guaranteed that this abuse of power would not be allowed henceforth -- and outside of tin pot dictatorships and fascist governments, (with a temporary, embarrassing lapse during the American Civil War), habeus rights have not been suspended...not until the Bush II Administration, that is.

The right of habeus corpus should no more be ignored or trampled upon than the flag, which symbolically represents this and all the other protections built into the Constitution. Yet after 9/11, those who waved their flags the most, up to and including wrapping themselves in Old Glory, were the first to throw out habeus, followed by expeditions into extraordinary rendition, torture, warrantless wiretapping, and who knows what other mischief, conceived or condoned in the name of the very freedoms and rights they say they seek to protect. That is a political contradiction.

A note on sources:

Most of the decorative initial letters come from 1851 issues of Punch. Often, John Tenneil is the illustrator. His characteristic signature is found in the Letter A. The author William Makepeace Thackery also did illustration work, both for his own books and for Punch. He drew the Letter C.
The Letter Q, c. 1451 illustrates a knotty contradiction: two knights engage in battle, but it is the unarmed serfs who are trampled under the horses hooves in the process, an early example of 'collateral damage'.

BIBLIOGRAPHY, often available on-line:

Dean Baker, The Nanny State: how the wealthy use the government to stay rich and get richer, 2006.

Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 2008. available on-line from the Earth Policy Institute

I. Glenn Cohen, The Price of Everything, the Value of Nothing: Reframing the Commodification Debate, Harvard Law Review, vol. 117, no. 689, 2003

Jason DeParle, American Dream, 2004.

Robert Frost, Mending Wall, 1915 in the collection, North of Boston

Eduardo Galeano, award winning Uraguayan writer, thinker, and someone who clearly and consistently challenges contradictions. Be sure to see The Open Veins of Latin America, Memory of Fire trilogy (Genesis, 1982; Faces and Masks, 1984; Century of the Wind, 1986)

Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Culture Wars, Owl Books, 1996.

Seymour M. Hersh, My Lai, the First Detailed Account of the Vietnam Massacre, Harper's Magazine, May 1970.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1660. Full text on-line thanks to Oregon State

Eric Hobsbawm, Marxist historian with numerous books to his credit:
see a profile in The Guardian, September 14, 2002 and Identity Politics and the Left, an address given at the Institute of Education, London 2 May 1996.

Naomi Klein, "The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism", Metropolitan Books, New York 2007.

Paul Krugman, "A Socialist Plot?", New York Times August 27, 2007. Actually, almost any column by Krugman is an exploration of political and/or economic contradictions.

Jerry Markon, "Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence U.S. Estimates Thousands of Victims, But Efforts to Find Them Fall Short", Washington Post Sunday, September 23, 2007; A01

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World, London, New York, 2002.

Bruce Schneirer, "What Our Top Spy Doesn't Get: Security and Privacy Aren't Opposites", Wired Commentary, January 24, 2008

R. Kerry Turner and Brendan Fisher, "To the rich man the spoils". Nature vol 451. 28 February 2008 pp. 1067-1068

United States State Department website, an article by Michael Watts, What is a Market Economy?, 1998.

Marc Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2007

*G. B. Shaw quote from Gabriel Robins web page.