Friday, May 11, 2012

COUNTERING THE POSTMODERN POLITICAL NARRATIVE

Wretchard writes in a comment to one of his recent posts:
A friend once told me “there is no better way of ruining a noble cause than by getting rogues to represent it”. That describes the process which has overtaken peacekeeping, environmentalism and even the campaign for racial equality. These causes, which are otherwise noble, will take decades to recover from the grifters who have made a fortune in their name. How on earth did peacekeeping get put in the care of Kofi Annan? Why was a guy like Al Sharpton allowed to assume the role of the racial conscience of America? How come Al Gore gets to pronounce on science?

The Narrative, probably. Always the Narrative.

NARRATIVE is defined by Mirriam Webster in the following way:

1: something that is narrated : story, account
2: the art or practice of narration
3: the representation in art of an event or story; also : an example of such a representation

Narrative is an essential element of the postmodern political rhetorical strategy to try to control or distort reality in order to gain power over others.

Here is an example of competing narratives as discussed by a political scientist:
Consider two accounts, the first of which resonates for most of the American public and the second of which baffles many Americans:

Two huge commercial jetliners smash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon after, the buildings collapse. Fires rage for days; eyewitnesses tell of the horrors they saw or experienced. Thousands die as the public learns that terrorists willing to commit suicide hijacked four planes and turned them into weapons of mass destruction in the name of their political/religious beliefs. This is an evil act and an act of war—a sneak attack like Pearl Harbor. It is perhaps a new kind of war, but a war nonetheless and the only response to being attacked is to attack back both to punish those responsible for the carnage and to prevent future attacks. Defending civilization against terrorism requires hunting down the supporters and perpetrators of terror and the regimes that support them.
For many the truth of this narrative is self-evident. Anyone denying or even questioning it is either an enemy or delusional (or both). The link between the events themselves and the conclusions is seamless to those who accept it. But a different narrative also exists:

Two huge commercial jetliners smash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon after, the buildings collapse. Fires rage for days; eyewitnesses tell of the horrors they saw or experienced. Thousands die as the public learns that terrorists willing to commit suicide hijacked four planes and turned them into weapons of mass destruction in the name of their political/religious beliefs. This may have been an evil act, but now the suffering Americans know what it is like to live in physical terror. It is an experience Palestinians and Iraqis and others in the Middle East have known for years. This will lead, once again, to attacks on Muslims, this time in Afghanistan, and perhaps in other countries. Once again, innocent civilians will bear the brunt of the suffering from the attacks from the western powers while corrupt regimes give tacit support to the US. As bombs fall from 30,000 feet and civilians die, new refugees will be created in a land that has already suffered from more than 20 years of on-going war.
The two narratives start in the same place, but then head in different directions which evoke far different images. Where the first emphasizes the reassurance a strong, military response can offer, the second expresses fears that this strong response will quickly become a vengeful attack on a vulnerable religious community. Whereas the first invokes images of justice, the second predicts uncontrolled revenge and more of the injustice that has long characterized the relationship between the west and Islam. It asks, if Americans claim that justice is so important, why have Palestinians been neglected for so long and subjected to frequent attacks using American-made sophisticated weapons? Why are Iraqi children unable to meet their basic nutritional needs while its leaders literally live in palaces? In short, the second narrative expresses the deepest vulnerabilities, humiliation, rage at both the west and the leaders of Muslim countries, and fears of annihilation.

The second narrative is connected to the anger and resentment against the US in many parts of the Islamic world, but it doesn't mean that all Muslims agree with it or hate the US. The power of the narrative is its plausibility, meaning that it resonates with how many Muslims understand historical conflicts with the Christian world as well as more recent events in their own lifetimes. At least four events are especially relevant here: (1) American support for the Shah of Iran and complete opposition to the Iranian revolution; (2) unconditional support for Israel despite their refusal to take significant steps towards the achievement of a Palestinian state; (3) the Gulf War, which was justified in the west in terms of turning back Iraqi aggression but which was widely understood by Muslims as propping up autocratic, unpopular and corrupt regimes upon whom American oil supplies depended; and (4) threats to Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem resulting from not only American presence in the region but the more diffuse forces of modernization and globalization which threaten Muslim cultures. A psychocultural analysis points towards the deep fears and humiliations these events have unleashed and links them to parallel past experiences.

It is a fundamental truth of the postmodern political left that the difference between truth and fiction is not what it used to be--in fact (can't use facts when describing anything postmodern!) it never was what it used to be.

"Who controls the past", ran the Party slogan in 1984, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."


As Winston from that novel wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. What he meant was that Freedom can exist only when reality exists. Once you accept that there is an external reality, then the confusion generated by the postmodern narrative dissolves away; and Freedom is possible.

Let me again quote from a post at Belmont Club. In this one, Wretchard is writing about how the "reality based” community of liberals can’t believe what is happening all around them and how they attempt to NARRATIZE it all away. He quotes one noted HuffPo liberal:
>“Many of us already knew it, but Sen. Richard Lugar’s defeat in the Indiana Republican primary puts things into stark relief: In 2012 any vote for a Republican is a vote for crazy. Any vote. Any Republican. No matter how sane the Republican, it’s a vote for crazy.”

But Wretchard counters,
...it is his incredulity at what should have been obvious and rising discontents that is itself interesting. How could Casey have missed the rising gas prices, string of foreign humiliations, climbing unemployment, the stagnating incomes? How? How? As Naseem Taleb put it, most “unpredictable” events are really White Swans which are obvious in retrospect and were a long time coming. The only reason nobody saw it coming was that they didn’t want to. As Saul Bellow once wrote “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

To counter the Narrative that "REPUBLICANS ARE CRAZY" you do not immediately offer evicence that a psychiatrist has documented you are sane. Once you do something like that, it is too late: you have already accepted the left's faulty premise and are battling on their postmodern turf. You will not be able to score. As I pointed out in a previous post STOP ALLOWING THE LEFT'S RHETORICAL STRATEGIES TO DEFINE THE DEBATE on why the Democrats always seem to win the name-calling contests:
Not because they are actually correct or have truth on their side; not simply because they have the media referrees on their side, but because they always set the ground rules and they always insist on playing in their home court.

The "war on women" meme is not real, that is, it has no reality. Neither is the charge of Republicans being "anti-Black" or racist; or anti-poor. These memes are just a few of the ongoing, politically correct rhetorical strategies adopted by Democrats and the progressive postmodern left in general, to achieve their ends.

There is no desire for rational argument on the Democrats' part because Truth is not the objective of their rhetoric. Stephen Hicks in his book quotes Frank Lentricchia, a noted Duke University literary critic. Postmodernism, says Lentricchia, "seeks not to find the foundation or conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change [emphasis mine]."

Postmodern rhetoric explicitly rejects truth, and because of this those who use it are completely indifferent to consistency and dismissive of reason.Hence they tend to loathe rational debate and make sure that any discussion of issues plays out with their rules.

The only way to counter these postmodern political narratives is to destroy the premise on which it is founded. I would say something like: "How DARE you sir/madam insinuate that I am crazy/racist/homophobic/sexist/stupid, when your own behavior [insert behavior here] is evidence to the fact that YOU are the one obsessed with [insert insult here]. You are engaging in psychological projection as a way of denying a painful reality about your own policies. The real issue that needs to be discussed is the failure of the Democrats on the economy/international relations/etc etc [and lay out your argument]."

In other words, refuse to play on their soggy postmodern turf and get back to reality.


18 comments:

ThomasD said...

STOP ALLOWING THE LEFT'S RHETORICAL STRATEGIES TO DEFINE THE DEBATE

Jeff Goldstein, over at Protein Wisdom has been saying this, quite literally, for years with little if any attention paid.

Anonymous said...

The "how dare you" argument is also a losing argument.

When someone says "you're crazy" or "you're [anything]", what they're doing is changing the subject. They don't have anything substantive to say about anything, so it's ad hominem time.

What you want to do is specifically call them on it. A good response to "you're crazy" is "so, in other words, your position is so unsupportable and so evidently incorrect/fallacious/destructive, you've decided to change the subject to my personality. But this isn't about me, this is about [restate your original argument]."

Anything else allows the leftist to change the subject. And they have to change the subject because modern leftism is essentially evil. If you focus attention on it without allowing distractions, the evil heart tends to show through all the pretense.

Bernal said...

This is the battle.

I like post modern science myself, choose a narrative, find the "facts" to back it up, get your twelve best friends to attest, publish.

Liars from the beginning.

Ray said...

The media reinforce the leftist narative and they will lie to promote the narative. As an example, do you remember the stories from the mid 1990s about the rash of black church burnings in the south. There were dozens of newspaper stories, congressional hearings, FBI investigations, denunciations by Jessi Jackson etc. Well, the narative was a fiction. According to insurance industry statistics there was no rash of black church burnings. It was all made up. It was an invention of the media and liberal politicians. However, you would not know that unless you checked the insurance industry statistics.

pumping-irony said...

Y, it's a more sophisticated variation on the old "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?' type of loaded question. If you answer the question directly, you've blown it because you've tacitly accepted the faulty premise (that you did, at one time, beat your wife.) The trick is to not be caught off guard and challenge the premise and make sure everyone else UNDERSTANDS the unfair and faulty premise implicit in the question.

Anonymous said...

Postmodernism (nihilism) is the culmination of several thousands of years of bad philosophy, beginning with the Idealism of Plato.

Plato's Idealism posited a supernatural realm of perfect Forms and counseled folks to "get together" to form the ideal State:

"The best ordered state will be one in which the largest number of persons ... most nearly resembles a single person. The first and highest form of the State ... is a condition in which the private and the individual is altogether banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasion, and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost ..." (Plato's _Republic_ & _Laws_ c. 370 BCE)

Later, Plato's metaphysics would help Augustine of Hippo forge the formal philosophical structure of Christianity.

During the Age of Enlightenment, David Hume would destroy (in men's minds) the immutability of the Law of Causality. Most critically, though, Hume would divorce (in men's minds) fact from value (is-ought dichotomy), thus placing morality outside the realm of reason.

Thanking Hume for his cue, German Idealist, Immanuel Kant, would go on to destroy (in men's minds) the immutability of the Law of Identity. As well, he would distill Judeo-Christian ethics into a lethal brew: self-immolation in the name of nihilism.

(Kant's philosophy, though he had help, is, more than any other, responsible for the madness into which the West is sinking today.)

Finally, Hegel (the patron saint of the Nazis, communists and New Left) would provide the nuts & bolts of totalitarianism; later, pragmatists like James & Dewey would add the icing of expediency, which they claimed was the standard by which one measured what was true and "what worked."

The result?

1. A primacy of consciousness metaphysics, which consciousness was either the super-consciousness of a deity (religion) or the collective consciousness of a super organism called, society (Hegel).
2. An emotionalist epistemology, which emotionalism--whether religious or "secular"--was faith.
3. A self-destroying morality, to achieve either immortality or to gain prosperity--for the generation-after-next.
4. A political system of tyranny, either a religious one--monarchical or theocratic (e.g., Islamic)--or a "secular" one (e.g., fascist, Nazi, communist).

All that adds up to a single hard fact: Religion makes socialism not only possible, but--most importantly--gives it its moral sheen.

More precisely, if you like:

"It is the religious metaphysics of Neo-Platonic Idealism, the emotionalist religious epistemology of faith and the Judeo-Christian ethics of self-sacrifice that make the irrational politics of socialism possible."

SB
"The mind never fully accepts any
convictions that it does not owe to
its own efforts." -- Frederic Bastiat

Anonymous said...

PS. To counter all this, I recommend a healthy dose, taken daily, of 1) Aristotle; and 2) Ayn Rand--the only philosphies that assert:

1. a primacy of existence metaphysics
AND
2. an epistemology of reason

As well, from the latter:

3. a morality based on reason: rational egoism.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vogz said...

Didn't realize you were getting back to regular blogging. Excellent news.

RJ said...

Geez...we order people to prison to do what?

Punish them or give them an opportunity to rehabilitate?

At every law school one is taught the "classic" arguments when presenting a case.

Why are the lions considered the "king of the jungle" in Africa?

And finally, why did Hillary Clinton have only one child, especially with such a rake for a husband roaming about in the martial home?

Terry Smith said...

Fortunately Joseph Smith introduced a Christianity based on agency. In his view, the creation and the atonement were for the purpose of creating beings with their own moral agency. Collective action for the public good was to be sought, but only by people freely deciding to join, bounded by law, and free to leave at any time; otherwise no moral purposes could be achieved. The success of Mormons as a group in a post modern society is partly attributable to these counter-prevailing ideas.

Naut Right said...

That was so good, including the comments that I waited to eat and pee!

T said...

OT compliment: Ed Driscoll (p?), subbing for Glenn Reyolds during finals week at instapundit, posted a link to you last week.

A trip here alerted me to your site's NEW MAKEOVER! Congratulations, Pat.

(I'll catch up with the Dr's diagnoses soon - only after admiring the NEW cheery skin on display!)

PLEASE RETURN TO POSTED PROGRAMMING.

T said...

OT compliment: Ed Driscoll (p?), subbing for Glenn Reyolds during finals week at instapundit, posted a link to you last week.

A trip here alerted me to your site's NEW MAKEOVER! Congratulations, Pat.

(I'll catch up with the Dr's diagnoses soon - only after admiring the NEW cheery skin on display!)

PLEASE RETURN TO POSTED PROGRAMMING.

T said...

At dissectingleftism, Aussie political psychologist (retired) John Ray (PhD) objects to Jonathan Haigt's blind acceptance of what Leftists say about themselves. They lie. Haigt simply accepts their lies at face value..

In fact, while Leftists self-describe as libertarian, but still cheerlead all manner of fascist regulations of real life and death, from FDR, LBJ and RMN to Stalin and Lenin - from soup to nuts. Rule, regulate, and ruin people in the name of freedom? Therefore they lie.

Yet I remember when the Left, at least the Democrat left, was honorably anti-authoritarian. Only tow decades ago.

What happened? Communism fell, and PoMo arose.

BackwardsBoy said...

A better (and shorter) rebuke to the false premise of the typical Leftard narrative is, "BS. Where did you get that from?"

BTW, I love what you've done with the place. Glad you're back blogging again.

Jeff S. said...

Anonymous referred to an "emotionalist epistemology". That's a pretty succinct formulation of my own train of thought lately. My leftie Facebook friends continue to be utterly convinced they are in the right and that they can out-argue any wingnut foolish enough to challenge them. (I don't, I just sit back and observe.) To them, belief equals truth, and the more passionately one believes, why, the more pure the truth. What they fail to realize is that reality doesn't care.

Stephen R.C. Hicks' "Explaining Postmodernism" is a real gem and I recommend it highly. I've seen nothing else like it.

OBloodyHell said...

I dunno, I have to say, one of the most fun things there is to do is to start any debate with a libtard by asking "What I can't figure out is, how it is you can support, and define yourself by, a bunch of racists and their anti-black ideas."

Usually, their heads explode almost instantly when confronted with such an easily demonstrable truth.

Sometimes, you have to actually go ahead and lay it out, and it's always a good idea to do so from an adequate distance that they can't hit you with a sucker punch. It, of course, behooves you to actually be able to lay out their racist background in detail.

At no point should you expect any kind of actual conversion -- this is not about convincing a libtard about anything, this is utterly impossible. What it's about is getting anyone observing to see the obvious that they've likely been trained not to see.

... oh, and watching libtard heads explode. That popping sound has a really wonderful schadenfreudy sound.

You may find the following article of substantial use for forming your own list of ideas worthy of detail:

Wolf Howling: Civil Rights, The Left & The Legacy Of MLK