Monday, August 07, 2006

Postmodernism and the Bushite Ascendancy

What prompted this post was the results of a recent poll stating that about 50 percent of the population believes that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that the number is increasing over time, not falling. Also, 64 percent continue to believe that Saddam had strong ties to Al Qaeda.

What the hell is going on? Well, an AP report notes (via the Carpetbagger Report):
"...experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die-hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq."
This gets us back to a fundamental philosophy underpinning the Bush administration: if you say it enough times, people will believe it. And if people believe it, it becomes true. We were given an inkling of this in Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, in which coined term "reality-based community". From Suskind (quoting a Bush loyalist):
"The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.""
Well, this is nothing more and nothing less than a cynical form of postmodernism, the denial of all objective truth, which can easily veer into a jaded moral relativism. [And Bush is the "Christian" president, because....??].

In an insightful essay earlier this year, Michiko Kakutani (in the New York Times) noted that such ways of thinking are becoming endemic in our culture:
"We live in a relativistic culture where television "reality shows" are staged or stage-managed, where spin sessions and spin doctors are an accepted part of politics, where academics argue that history depends on who is writing the history, where an aide to President Bush, dismissing reporters who live in the "reality-based community," can assert that "we're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." Phrases like "virtual reality" and "creative nonfiction" have become part of our language. Hype and hyperbole are an accepted part of marketing and public relations. And reinvention and repositioning are regarded as useful career moves in the worlds of entertainment and politics. The conspiracy-minded, fact-warping movies of Oliver Stone are regarded by those who don't know better as genuine history, as are the most sensationalistic of television docudramas."
Indeed. Our culture is saturated with this kind of relativistic thinking. Saddam had weapons of mass destruction because we said he did. Global warming is not a problem, and evolution can be mocked, because there is no such thing as objective truth in science. And the Bush administration is a postmodern cheerleader, that asserts that there is, (in the words of Kakutani) "no such thing as truly independent reporting or even a set of mutually agreed upon facts". In such a world, Mel Gibson's father's views on the Holocaust are not entirely out of place...

Kakutani is writing mainly about literature. She fails to use the most glaring example however: that the world is enthralled by the claims of the Da Vinci Code, which rewrites history in a perfect Bushite template, and, instead of being roundly denounced by the "reality-based community", people's (subjective) disdain for Catholicism leads them to an (objective) disdain for truth, as they note "well, it raises some interesting questions.."

It's all part of the same story. A society that disdains the notion of objective truth is a society in trouble. And the right keeps pointing to Europe? Weigel needs to take a long hard look at his own country before lobbing mortars across the Atlantic...

1 comment:

John Lowell said...

There can be no surprize that the myth about Saddam Hussein's connections to Al Qaeda and the reality of WMDs persists, MM. It's an old story perhaps best told by Josef Goebbels who explained:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

This from the all-time grand master of propaganda and the obvious model for American understudy, Karl Rove.

John Lowell