A paramoralism is a psuedo-moral statement designed to get what one wants and to undermine the moral thinking of others. Paramoralisms are the stock-in-trade of the psychopath. Here’s an example via shrinkwrapped (who refers in turn to an article in The New Republic).
Everyone by knows of the absurd claim by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his recent address at Columbia University that homosexuality does not exist in his country.
A Columbia professor, amazingly, agrees and provides an academic backing to the claim. He is Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History.
The case for gay rights in the Middle East is an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West, he says in Desiring Arabs (2007, University of Chicago Press). It is the “Gay International” whose “discourse…produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist.” The “missionary tasks” of this worldwide conspiracy are part of a broader attempt to legitimize American and Israeli global conquest by undermining the very moral basis of Muslim societies. And so on.
Are you familiar with the academic appraoch called Deconstruction? It provides a useful set of skills for picking a text apart to show how it works, etc. However, deconstruction used for directly political ends is (without fail?) bad faith. It’s using a set of tricks to make a problem disappear. In the case at hand, the discourse of homosexuality is deconstructed to reveal its dirty secret: It is the act of using the category ‘homosexual’ that creates homosexuals; before that there were only, what, Iranians, I guess. (Some of whom feel unaccountably attracted to members of their own sex.)
It’s magic. In New Zealand one could use deconstruction to argue that it is the discourse which produces Maori and pakeha. Poof! There are only New Zealanders. Or one could do exactly the reverse and make New Zealanders disappear.
It’s no cleverer than Bill Clinton conveniently deciding that ‘sexual relations’ means intercourse, not ‘just’ oral sex. Poof: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
And now we have Professor Massad: It’s the “discourse [which]…produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist.” This qualifies as a parmoralism – it sounds sort of moral and it shifts the moral blame. It’s not Ahmadinejad who has evil intent towards homosexuals in Iran. Oh no, it’s ‘The Gay International’ which has colonial intentions or something.
To re-iterate. The paramoralism is the stock-in-trade of the psychopath: he gets what he wants which includes having others’ convictions about right and wrong go all fuzzy.