The Left, Not Kellyanne Conway, Invented ‘Alternative Facts’
The left pioneered what it now criticizes. The irony there is so delicious that someone ought to open a restaurant named Alternative Facts, presumably in San Francisco or New York City, where irony is a delicacy. Serving up such delicious irony surely would earn three Michelin stars and an opulent clientele.
Real Fake News — the concoction of not merely fictitious but utterly concocted stories designed merely to draw traffic — indeed is pernicious. It’s also a minor, fringe problem. Its political effect is overblown.
Something fundamental is at stake. What we are seeing in the political arena is a War of the Narratives. Conway, of course, is only a proxy target. Trump is the real target. Trump’s adversaries are trying to strip him of his most valuable advisors through ridicule and catastrophizing their trivial slip-ups.
Meanwhile, the left and right have their own views of the way the world works, as do subfactions within each. Loud voices on each side now tend to invalidate the other’s views as “Fake.”
I am aware of some of the flaws and contradictions within my own worldview. While not softening my convictions, that awareness disinclines me to go ballistic when I (often!) detect errors or omissions in the arguments of my adversaries. As one who knows he dwells in a glass house it doesn’t makes sense to throw stones at those who disagree with me.
As it happens, though, the left laid the foundation for “alternative facts.” That’s an artifact of a worldview that it pioneered. It condemns this as pernicious only when adopted by populist conservatives.
What’s really going on? Postmodernism, that’s what.
I’ll let you in on this Open Secret. It is one I know as I myself am a self-identified dues-paying postmodernist. Postmodernism sounds scary. It’s not.
Consider its most succinct definition by Jean-Francois Leotard who distilled postmodernism into “incredulity toward metanarratives.” In plain English: “Don’t swallow stories that pretend to explain everything.”
I am incredulous toward my own passionately held arch-conservative metanarrative. That incredulity toward my own gives me license to be genially incredulous toward the progressive metanarrative. I don’t drink my own Kool-Aid®. I am not about to drink the other team’s.
Me, a postmodernist? In the light of the Copenhagen School of Quantum Physics and the powerful findings of modern cognitive psychology, isn’t everyone? Well, admittedly not. The world is still infested with Modernism. Bother!
Yes, postmodernism is commonly associated with the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. But holster that shootin’ iron, podner.
Postmodernism’s a neutral thing. It can be used for good or evil. There are neo-orthodox postmodernists. One was the late Umberto Eco. Another one: me. That makes at least two of us. Then there are the nihilistic postmodernists a.k.a. the “Bad Guys.”
Walter Truett Anderson, a Good Guy, wrote the clearest (and most fun) exposition of postmodernism I’ve encountered in his book Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be. Per cultureandyouth.org‘s review of this indispensable and delightful book:
Constructivists, with whom he [Anderson] generally identifies, understand that “we do not have a ‘God’s eye view of nonhuman reality, never have had, never will have.” (p. x) Rather, each culture, and now each generation, attaches meaning to reality by symbols. It is through these collective symbols that we begin to view and experience the objective “real world.” The world is not a “single symbolic world, but rather a vast universe of ‘multiple realities,’ because different languages embody different ways of experiencing life.” (p. xi)
As postmodern as some are calling today’s culture, the author notes the persistence of faith and spirituality; “if there is anything we have plenty of it is belief systems.”
People and societies today, then, are trying to adjust to the increasing plurality of worldviews. The author is optimistic as to our ability to make the best of this cacophony of beliefs, to make sense of it all, to find meaning in our lives, and to live with others in a positive manner.
What are the political implications? For one, the concept of “Alternative Facts” grew in the loam of postmodernism and its sister philosophical schools mostly hosted by the left. The left, not Kellyanne Conway, fostered this way of looking at things. Conway just played the hand she was dealt.
Read Page 2 at Forbes
Photo credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster