What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."
People who urge us to rely on the United Nations, instead of acting "unilaterally," or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the UN or government-run medical systems.
Those who believe in affirmative action likewise usually see no reason to find out what actually happens under such policies, as distinguished from what they wish, hope, or imagine happens.
The crusade for "a living wage" that will enable a worker to support a family proceeds without the slightest interest in finding out whether most people who are making low wages actually have any family to support -- much less seeking out the facts about what actually happens after the government sets wages.
People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society.
Witness the riots in France, where students there are basically demanding that the country's failed socialist not be abandoned, but be extended. Do they care that the policies they are protesting are designed to increase employment and improve working conditions? No. They don't care about the facts. If they feel something is true, they have been taught to believe therefore that it is true. Feelings trump facts.
Witness the demonstrations on immigration, which we find out are backed by our old friends A.N.S.W.E.R., the group Christopher Hitchens describes ANSWER as "the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda."
Ever since the 20th century revealed to anyone who bothered to look that both of these totalitarian systems had resulted only in bringing poverty, misery and death to any country that embraced them, we now have the dead-enders of that ideology making their last, desperate attempts to grab and/or keep their power.
Are the leaders of the pro-illegal immigration protests or the student protests in France interested in facts? Clearly not. They are only interested in promoting their ideology, and if they had to rely on facts to do that, then they would have nothing to support their fantasies.
Let's look at the two strategies that the leftist totalitarians have come up with in the last 40 years or so to respond to the complete and utter failure of their tyrannical systems in the real world.
The first strategy is the one leftist thinkers had to develop in order to account for the irrefutable fact that neither socialism nor communism had ever, in any place where they were implemented; been able to eradicate poverty. On the contrary, to the extent that socialist or communist policies were adopted by governments; one could find a decline in productivity; a decline in standard of living; and a general increase in poverty. Soon it became clear that far from eliminating poverty; these ideologies facilitated its development.
Hence the intellectual and ethical strategy was to switch from focusing on the elimination of poverty to the promotion of equality; specifically the concept that everyone was entitled to an equal share.
In France, the government has been desperate to decrease unemployment and increase productivity and shake off the stagnant economic growth the country has suffered from for years. This poverty effects all social groups in France, but it is perhaps the most destructive for the young, who have the largest unemployment and the bleakest future. Nevertheless, any threat of changing the status quo results in thse same young people clinging desperately to a system that doesn't work. They are unable to consider the facts of the situation; but even if they did, one wonders if facts would even matter.
They feel they should be entitled to jobs for life. They feel they should be entitled to a good life. They feel they should be entitled to these things and that they shouldn't have to do anything to make them happen. Some one else should make it happen. They feel it is their inalienable right and a job for life is their "fair share".
How will it happen with 20-40% unemployment? They don't know and they don't care. But they want it now.
The second strategy evolved from the Marxist ideal of "universal class consciousness". Sadly for Marx, this proved to be a unusable concept primarily because it turned out that in the real world, the proletariat--or "worker class"-- didn't want to rise up against their so-called "oppressors" as much as they wanted to be able to enjoy the same comforts and lifestyle of those "oppressors". In fact, as these workers came to enjoy the benefits of freedom and wealth, they sort of lost interest in Marx and drifted away. So much for class warfare.
Leftist thinkers discovered one way to counter this natural human desire to better one's self, is to further break down the larger group along ethnic, racial and/or gender lines. It is in these smaller groups that they efectively found a way to re-apply the old "oppressor-oppressed" dialectic with greater success. Is there a social group that has yet to achieve the same level of success as other groups? Then they are ripe for this kind of exploitation. Postmodern theories that address this Marxist failure lead to the multicultural formula that states that while all cultures are special and unique, western culture is uniquely bad and oppressive to all the others.
In this strategy, you can focus on not equality of opportunity -- but differences in equality of outcome. Does it matter that this alteration in one's focus leads to unbelievable, irrational, and insane results like this?
If Hispanics, or blacks, or Muslims, or Women as groups don't score exactly the same (or preferably better) on any test or criteria, then they must be victims of oppression!
They want the same grades; the same pay; the same rights whether they are citizens or not.
How will this happen when people are different and each has different capabilities, motivations and desires? They don't know and they don't care. Make them equal.
Finally, the overall strategy that makes these two strategies really viable in intellectual circles is to maintain exactly what Dr. Sowell is questioning--to maintain that facts are obsolete; that truth is relative; that emotions are superior to reason and logic. These "higher truths" don't need no stinkin' facts.
These postmodern political strategies were the life preservers thrown out by the left to rescue their drowning ideologies.
These strategies are now integrated into the k-12 curricula that those high school students in Los Angeles and other cities out protesting for illegal immigration, have been spoon-fed since kindergarden. Facts are irrelevant when they stongly believe they are doing right and good (that they might be useful idiots for what is wrong and evil does not even occur to them).
By the time they get to college, they have mindlessly repeated the socialist mantras and have had the ideology inculcated as deeply as any religious conviction. Thus they can come together Borg-like in the streets of France to protest any change in the status quo, yet somehow manage to think of themselves as "progressives."
They are not the only ones. Progressive" leftist intellectuals are scrambling all over the world, including the U.S., to find ways to further their anti-human ideologies. You can hear them claiming that the world needs more socialism -- not less. As Sowell suggests, the facts are obsolete and cannot compete with the "higher truth" these people know.
A "higher truth" that has led to millions of people dead; even more people living in abject misery and poverty; and the absurd people--bereft of reason; indifferent to facts--who are clamoring for even more socialism.
The left is so desperate to hang onto their ideology at all costs, that they have made alliance with even more ruthless enemies of civilization. The Islamic fanatics have only contempt for their weakness, but are willing to use them for a while to achieve their own unique brand of tyranny and death worship.
As I look around at the resurrection of this totalitarian monster in the U.S. and France; and its strategic alliance with the fanatics of Islam (since both wish to destroy western civilization as it currently stands)-- I feel a bit like Harry Potter in the Goblet of Fire as he helplessly watched Lord Voldemort be reborn.
Or, perhaps since others have also seen the parallels (here and here)it is more like what Mal Reynolds says in Serenity, after discovering an entire planet of death that resulted from the implementation of the same totalitarian principles:
Somebody has to speak for these people....Sure as I know anything, I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, they'll swing back to the belief...that they can make people...better.
And I do not hold to that.
Neither do I.