Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Yuval Levin notices something funny about the political left:
E.J. Dionne says that if the Court overturns any part of Obamacare, “we will need a fearless conversation about how a conservative majority of the court has become a cog in a larger right-wing project to make progressive political and legislative victories impossible.” James Fallows says that “the Roberts majority is barreling ahead without regard for the norms, and it is taking the court’s legitimacy with it.” Yale law professor Akhil Amar thinks the proper outcome is so obvious that if even four justices disagree with him then the Court must be a sham—and he takes it personally. “If they decide this by 5-4,” he told Ezra Klein, “then yes, it’s disheartening to me, because my life was a fraud. Here I was, in my silly little office, thinking law mattered, and it really didn’t. What mattered was politics, money, party, and party loyalty.” Other examples abound this week.

It would be easy to criticize all this for its sheer unselfconscious lack of seriousness: These people are actually saying that any outcome except the one they want must be driven by an outcome-oriented political crusade. Only their view could result from an actual engagement with the question before the Court, and any other view could only be a function of corruption or of cynicism. It must be nice to be so enlightened.[lINKS AT THE ORIGINAL PIECE]

Don't you think it's interesting that they don't seem to notice this about themselves? Or, if you are cynical, then maybe you think that these leftist ideologues do this deliberately and consciously, knowing full well that they are being led by the balls of their postmodern socialist ideology?

It is certainly true that some of them are not at all concerned about the lack of serious intellectual rigor; nor do they have any interest whatsoever of engaging you in any debate about the issues. THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED, don't you know. GLORY TO SOVIET POSTMODERN LEFTIST THOUGHT!

Facts are not important. Neither is reality. For today's left, the name of the game is Rhetoric and controlling the narrative.

Eric Allie captures perfectly the difference between rhetoric and reality in this cartoon:

Obama, the perfect postmodern political President is a master at the art of rhetoric--which is at the heart of all progressive postmodern leftist attempts to obtain and consolidate power.

With postmodern rhetoric you can "talk" tough, but carry a limp stick. You can say whatever your audience at the moment wants to hear and still be philosophically consistent when you do exactly the opposite. Or you can say the opposite to a different audience (just like these guys) since truth is not the objective; only manipulation and deceit to achieve the desired political effect.

It's a sleight of hand known as using "contradictory discourses" and it is a political strategy where truth is rejected explicitly and consistency is an extremely rare phenomenon. As I said, what matters more than truth (or honesty) is achieving the desired political outcome (i.e., getting others to believe what you want them to believe about what you believe).

And, if they don't achieve their policital outcome, then they do not revisit their premises; they only change their rhetoric.

If Obamacare fails, it's not because it's unconstitutional; it's because the court is a bunch of hacks. Or because we are all racists. Or because of Bush. Or all of the previous rationalizations.

They consider themselves so enlightened that it is inconceivable that they could be wrong.

What's important to the postmodern demagogue is the language's effectiveness at achieving the desired result. Stephen Hicks wrote in Explaining Postmodernism[pages 175-177]:
To the modernist, the "mask" metaphor is a recognition of the fact that words are not always to be taken literally or as directly stating a fact--that people largely use language elliptically, metaphorically, or to state falsehoods, that language can be textured with layers of meaning, and that it can be used to cover hypocrisies or to rationalize. Accordingly, unmasking means interpreting or investigating to a literal meaning or fact of the matter. The process of unmasking is cognitive, guided by objective standards, with the purpose of coming to an awareness of reality.

For the postmodernist, by contrast, interpretation and investigation never terminate with reality. Language connects only with more language, never with a non-linguistic reality....

For the postmodernist, language cannot be cognitive because it does not connect to reality, whether to an external nature or an underlying self. Language is not about being aware of the world, or about distinguishing the true from the false, or even about argument in the traditional sense of validity, soundness, and probability. Accordingly, postmodernism recasts the nature of rehtoric. Rhetoric is persasion in the absence of cognition....

Hicks goes on to note that:
Language is a tool of social interaction, and one's model of social interaction dictate what kind of tool language is used as....

And so given the conflict models of social relations that dominate postmodern discourse, it makes perfect sense that to most postmodernists language is primarily a weapon.

This explains the harsh nature of much postmodern rhetoric. The regular deployments of ad hominem, the setting up of straw men, the regular attempts to silence opposing voices are all logical consequences of the postmodern epistemology of language. Stanley Fish, as noted in Chapter Four, calls all opponents of racial preferences bigots and lumps them in with the Ku Klux Klan. Andrea Dworking calls all heterosexual males rapists and repeatedly labels "Amerika" a fascist state. With such rhetoric, truth or falsity is not the issue: what matters primarily is the language's effectiveness.

If we now add to the postmodern epistemology of language the far Left politics of the leading postmodernists and their firsthand awareness of the cirses of socialist thought and practice, then the verbal weaponry has to become explosive.{emphasis mine]

All threats to the effectiveness of their message--and to the perceived threat to their sense of superiority-- must be attacked, and they will scarcely notice the cognitive dissonance required to compare the empty suit with FDR one minute and Ronald Reagan the next. Or, that when the court agrees with them it is a beacon of social justice and an example of truly enlightened consideration; but when the Supremes disagree with their ideology (and stands in the way of their progressive postmodern agenda), the court becomes "a sham" and "illegitimate."

Of course, we shall see tomorrow what the court's decision is about Obamacare. I am sure, that in the end the Justices will make their decision based (as all decisions are based) on their understanding of the law. Could that understanding be flawed? Certainly.

Whenever human beings are involved, you can expect the imperfect; but that doesn't mean we are not capable of wonderful things. Nor does it mean that we should suspend that particular reality and try to change human nature.

In postmodern philosophy and rhetoric, the political left, and the remnants of Marxism, socialism and communismhave found the perfect epistemological, ethical and political vessel to reassert their ideology--an ideology that requires the willing suspension of reality by its adherents to "win the future."

And, it's absolutely inconceivable to these arrogant bastards that the implementation of their perfect progressive, "reality-based" future is always being blocked in some perverse way; or, that they could ever be wrong about anything....

I'm glad that I find it so extremely conceivable.


RJ said...

Why do so many of our elected politicians, both state and national, seem to have a "law degree" in their formal education?

Could this education be the front line in teaching/developing rhetorical skills?

Answer: Of course it is, dummy!

1. How to admit nothing...
2. How to deny everything...
3. How to talk around any subject...

Steve D. said...

‘They consider themselves so enlightened that it is inconceivable that they could be wrong.’
Dr. Sanity: Process check. How often do you consider the possibility that you might be wrong?
It seems to me that most of the enlightened on both sides of the political spectrum believe they are always right.
I prefer to look at the ideas, not worry about how the other side might be dysfunctional.

Dr. Sanity said...

I 'm only wrong several times a day :-)

Look, Steve the problem is that for the most part , the political left consider themselves better people, while we poor flawed humans on the right just think we have better ideas. It makes all the difference in the world when assessing pretentiousness and un mitigated arrogance.

Supertradmum said...

OhMyGoodness, this is all spot-on and to have the reminder that language is used as a weapon is so needed.

Part of the problem is the lack of a cohesive ethic other than the "me" gospel.

This type of thinking brought down the Republic which was Rome before the Empire. The clarity of logic and rational discourse became rhetoric along-how something was said and the effects on the people, which I would call advertising, or gross manipulation at the expenses of truth, became an art.

So it is today.

Keep writing, Dr. Sanity, as your honest words are inoculations against the disease of lying which surrounds us.

Steve D said...

The political left consider themselves better people, while we poor flawed humans on the right just think we have better ideas.

That’s definitely true. You don’t often see libertarians accusing liberals of being bad people; just wrong. In fact often they fall all over themselves using words such as misguided, to point out that liberals are good people but with the wrong ideas.

Part of the problem may be that many on the political right may secretly believe liberals are morally superior and therefore back down from a ‘moral’ confrontation.

Jeff said...

At least Dr. Sanity doesn't pretend to care about people in Iraq any longer.

Andrew_M_Garland said...

Progressives have hit on an amazing tactic (per Alinsky). They act in stupid, doctrinaire, grasping, controlling, and offensive ways. Then, they accuse conservative and libertarian opponents of doing exactly what they have just done. This would seem to show that progressives are flaming hypocrites.

Yet, this tactic immunizes them from criticism. When they are accused of acting badly, they reply that conservatives are so stupid and lacking in arguments, that they can only mindlessly repeat back the accusations that were just directed at them.

This is the plagiarism defense. You can't accuse me of something which I just said about you. That shows you to be mindless and unoriginal.

pst314 said...

"“we will need a fearless conversation..."

"fearless conversation" = "Those who oppose the Dear Leader are class enemies!"