Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, August 23, 2010 9:38 pm

Welcome to post-Enlightenment America

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:38 pm
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Neal Gabler at Politico (which, to be contextually accurate, has contributed significantly, via poor reporting and fabrication of/adherence to distorted and even just flat wrong narratives, to the very problem Gabler describes):

Daniel Moynihan famously said that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. Well, Moynihan spoke too soon. From the political shoutfests on TV and radio to the endless drone of sports radio callers to the millions of vanity blogs, opinion has rapidly become fact. …

Indeed, of the multitude of ways that President George W. Bush changed America, this may have been the most important. He helped legitimize the idea of individual truth. In doing so, he became the first president to challenge the old Enlightenment foundation on which this country was established. …

So when you read that the preponderance of Americans doesn’t know what religion our president practices, it is not that they are ignoramuses. It is that they have come to feel that whatever they think is fine because — in post-Enlightenment America — facts really don’t matter.

The immortal but anonymous Bush White House aide who dismissed journalist Ron Suskind as a member of the “reality-based community” wasn’t just being snarky; he and a lot of people like him really believed that they had the power to alter reality — that facts are malleable:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

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.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”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.”

The problem is, 2 and 2 are always going to equal 4, it doesn’t matter how close to the Oval Office you work. As somebody said on some blog somewhere, you can ignore reality, but reality is not going to ignore you.

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