Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Clintonian Lassoes, Latin Roots, and the Uncut Ubermensch (Manhunter #29, Cover Date May, 2007)



Characters

Major Heroes:
Manhunter, Wonder Woman
Minor Heroes: Batman, Dylan Battles, Cameron Chase, Mark Shaw

Major Villains: Everyman, Dr. Trapp

P'Shat

Wonder Woman and Kate debate using the unaltered video footage as part of her defense, but Diana refuses to do anything to sully Superman's reputation. Kate Spencer contacts Lois to see if Superman himself can change Wonder Woman's mind. Superman talks to the judge and prosecutor, but the judge tells him that the unaltered footage can only be used as evidence at trial, because the grand jury is already deliberating.

Batman informs Kate about the results of his Blue Beetle DNA tests, which show that the DNA mimicked Ted Kord's, and that "Ted" is really "Everyman". Manhunter and Everyman fight through Los Angeles, with Manhunter eventually prevailing, just as the grand jury comes back in.

In other news, Cameron Chase and her sister are suspended above a vat of molten wax by Dr. Trapp, but appear to be rescued at the last minute as Super Dylan Battles breaks into the wax museum using some sort of borrowed Supersuit. Also, Mark Shaw -- apparently the new Champion of St. Dumas -- is surprised to find himself awake in Dylan's apartment, rather than Nepal.

Drash

Let's talk for a minute about our embattled Defendant, Wonder Woman. Faced with the surprising prospect of Ted Kord returning from the dead, Diana ties him in her Lasso of Truth back in Manhunter #28. This exchange follows:

Ted: Now for the kinky part?

Diana: Ted, please.

Ted: Sorry.

Diana: Are you truly Ted Kord?

Ted: The DNA sample will prove it.





But, when the DNA samples come back, they actually prove that the creature impersonating Ted is Everyman.



So, the question is -- did the Magic Lasso fail to work, or what? The answer, seemingly, has to do with the nature of "Truth". If an insane person who believes he is Napoleon is wrapped in the Lasso of Truth and asked "Are you Napoleon", what will he say? Under one definition of "Truth" -- things are they really are in the world -- he should say "No." Under a different definition of "Truth" -- things as they are really believed by the speaker -- he should say "Yes." He is Truly stating his false belief.

It strikes me that the Lasso has to use something closer to the second definition. Even if you are not crazy, if I lie to you and tell you we are boarding a plane to Seattle, when we are really going to Detroit, you should say you are going to Seattle when wrapped in the Lasso. Or, really, you should say, in total and absolute candor -- "It is my true belief that we are going to Seattle, but I am not the pilot so have no external validation of that fact." Does the Lasso make you just speak "Truth", or does it make you speak "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth." I would think it was something like the latter, but then the "Whole Truth" would require so many caveats ("assuming my memory was not a dream induced hallucination, and assuming I am not currently under the control of Brainiac. . .") that you'd never get a solid answer.

In the actual case, Ted/Beetle/Everyman's statement is "The DNA sample will prove it." This is a statement about the future. Can a statement about the future ever be "True" of "False" at the time. I can certainly believe that Everyman has a "True Belief" that the DNA sample will prove that he is Ted Kord, even though he also knows that the DNA proof will actually be wrong. In reality, Batman is smart enough to do a more thorough test than Everyman expects, but a statement must be True or False at the moment it is spoken -- it can't be given retroactive falsity. The fault here lies primarily on Diana, who I don't think has thought enough about what Truth "Is" to ask the right questions, or to realize the problems of determining the truth of future tense sentences.

Another possibility, though, is that Everyman in fact DID speak the whole truth. This has to do with a "Clintonian" definition of what the word "Prove" mean. "Prove" derives from the Latin root "Probare" meaning to try, test -- or taste! Everyman, we know, gains the ability to mimic any other life form by "tasting it." So, when he says that the DNA sample will prove it, he may have been saying not that the DNA sample will prove he was Ted Kord, but that the sample would EAT the Ted sample.

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Second point: I guess, if you stopped to think about it long enough, of COURSE Superman isn't circumcised. I mean, only a Kryptonian Mohel would be strong enough to do the job, and even if you had one, it would probably just grow back anyway. Still, the point was that I HADN'T thought about whether or not Superman was circumcised until I saw this picture, which removed all doubt.

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