A pop quiz.
Question: What do the following facts have in common?
-Juan Williams saying that it doesn't matter if the memos are faked, it only matters if the content is true (no link, but I watched it yesterday);
-Dan Rather continuing to insist that his story is "essentially correct" even if the overwhelming number of facts prove it wrong;
-Paul Krugman defending Fahrenheit 911 for its "essential truth" despite its lies and deceptions;
Far from being the "Defenders of Truth" that I imagine these people see themselves as, what they all have in common is a complete disdain, and even contempt, for the concept of an objective, verifiable Truth. Unbeknownst to them, they represent Truth's greatest enemies. Why?
Because, what they all are promulgating is that Truth is elastic; Truth is relative; Truth is whatever you want it to be if it feels "right" to you. Facts and Reason be damned. Distortion and even lies are acceptable if you are pursuing a "greater" Truth.
Much greater thinkers than I am have grappled with this issue. Aristotle, Ayn Rand and Thomas Sowell come to mind. But let me just take on Mr. Williams, NPR Correspondent for a moment. Let's say I forged a memo that said:
September 11th, 1991
1. Moody is putting pressure on the news staff to treat Williams’ opinions and hack jobs with respect and lay off asking the hard questions. I have said that he will drive viewers interested in truth away, but it’s clear he’s already gone to the top to get
approval. As his supervisor, I am not permitted to say anything negative and have to sugarcoat my evaluation of his performance.
2. It’s well known that Williams performance on the show has been extremely poor and that he is always whining about getting less exposure than other reporters. I will let him stay on the program, but respect is something I can’t give him.
Would you have to accept that the contents are "true", Mr. Williams? Mr. Huntley is deceased, so we can't ask him if he wrote it. Oh, was he already dead in 1991? He died in 1974 when you were just a kid? But that's irrelevant since the content of the memo has "essential truth"--at least from my perspective. So, I think we should focus on the content, not the possibility that it was forged! Why waste time on minor details? I feel your views are "stupid", and I believe you are a lousy reporter and news analyst-- so it shouldn't matter that I "faked" the memo, or forged Huntley's name to it, should it? It serves that greater truth.
"But it’s not true--and can't possibly be real!" you might say. But, Mr. Williams, IT IS MY TRUTH, isn't it? It's what I feel, deep in my heart; and since I have no objective evidence outside of my feelings (except of course for almost every word from your own mouth), I decided to take Truth into my own hands, do everyone a favor and write a memo that proves what a moron you are. I believe that by doing so I have become a true "Defender of Truth"like you claim to be. Some people might suggest that it makes me a lying, cheating, opportunistic sleazebag. But hey! They don't understand the real nature of Truth, like you and I do.
IF YOU HAVE ACTUAL FACTS, PRODUCE THEM. Reporters have been trying to prove for many years now that Bush was AWOL; that he didn't meet his obligation and that he was caught in a dereliction of duty. They think it is true because their feelingsabout Bush make it true.
But the TRUTH is that President Bush was HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the ANG. And that precludes the possibility that he was AWOL; in dereliction of his duty; or somehow "failed to meet his obligations." The TRUTH is that President Bush has shown himself to be an effective, decisive and even innovative Commander-in-Chief, and he doesn't even have to rely on his record of 35 years ago! He can run on his record of achievement of the last 4 years.
But, if it makes you feel any better, I can certainly understand why your method of confusing feeling with thinking is so popular. I feel really wonderful calling people like you, Dan Rather,Paul Krugman, and Michael Moore complete assholes!
But, you see, I don’t actually have to resort to feelings, lies, distortions, forgeries, emotional projection or intellectualization to prove my point; since I'm willing to let history decide. I think the facts are on my side.
UPDATE: I was commenting over at Roger Simon's blog and another commenter posted this, in reponse to my blogpost here:
Thanks for the link. I've been enjoying your comments.
What keeps striking me about this are the two views of reality, of truth, espoused by Plato and Aristotle respectively. For Plato, the only "true" circle was the imaginary, perfect circle. All the real circles we see around us, which are always flawed, are only imperfect copies of the one true circle which exists in the one true reality. For Plato the ideas were paramount and the world of the senses was secondary.
For Aristotle, whose father was a Greek physician, in the long tradition of famous Greek physicians (cf. "I, Claudius"), reality was what you see before you. Ideas you had about reality were just that, ideas. For Aristotle, the world of the senses was paramount and the world of ideas was secondary.
Epistemology necessarily precedes politics.
If "Bushitler is evil" is the one true reality, it scarely matters what occurs in the world of the senses. Whether the memos were faked or not, whether they make any sense or not, none of this has the least bearing on the ultimate reality to be found in the heads of these people. I'm sure they've long hence forgotten why they came to believe "Bushitler is evil" in the first place.
How can anyone fail to see the guise of the religious fanatic in such an attitude?
Posted by: WichitaBoy This was such a good post, WichitaBoy, that I had to include it on my site! Thankyou