The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Crude Emotionalism

Regular readers of this blog will recognize this aphorism, often attributed to Jonathan Swift:
"You can not reason someone out of a position they never reasoned themselves into in the first place."
Today, reason has been jettisoned by a significant percentage of the body politic. For that matter, "truth" has morphed into something that has no relationship to what used to be called objective truth, but rather to a truth that aligns with a political narrative.

Peter Schwartz comments on this when he writes:
Our postmodernist intellectuals claim that no objective reality exists; there is only the subjective world we create, shaped by the social class to which we belong. While this may seem like an ivory-tower issue, irrelevant to real life, it is actually the premise behind major campaigns in today’s culture — from #MeToo to Black Lives Matter to the campus “safe-space” movement.
The belief that no objective reality exists causes a cascade of odd and potentially harmful behaviors, particularly if those who exhibit those behaviors are decision makers. For example, since a booming economy that has elevated the job-related prospects of many minorities and almost all of the middle class is simply 'one truth,' many progressives continue to believe that the GOP governance that gave us lower taxes and the consequent increased economic activity somehow "oppresses" minorities and the middle class. No matter that facts belie that position, or that polls of minorities and the middle class indicate their general satisfaction with the economy—the progressive 'truth' trumps any clear objective truth.

Schwartz continues:
Feminists regarded the Kavanaugh hearings not as a dispassionate quest for the truth about Ford’s charges, but as a clash between males and females. And in any such conflict, they insist, the decisive factor is not the objective facts, but the need to support the “oppressed” class over the “oppressors.”

The same applies to cases that have given rise to Black Lives Matter. If a white police officer shoots a black suspect, the officer is presumed guilty. There is no commitment to discovering the facts of the case. If it is claimed that the shooting had no justification, that the suspect had posed no threat, that he had plainly surrendered, that he had uttered the words “Hands up, don’t shoot” — then that is the narrative to be upheld, even after a thorough investigation reveals it to be false.

Objective facts don’t matter. The conflict is viewed as being between two social classes — between wielders of “white power” and their black victims — with two very different perspectives on reality. Justice, accordingly, consists not in discovering and evaluating the facts, but in condemning the powerful and defending the powerless.

(Of course, we also have a president who embodies this non-objective mentality. Donald Trump’s militant obliviousness to facts starkly demonstrates the contrast between “It’s true because I can prove it” and “It’s true because I want it to be.”)

The famed legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon has said: “I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated.” (Emphasis added.) So it is a woman’s feelings, not the facts, that determine whether rape has occurred. There is supposedly a female way of perceiving the world and a male way — as there is a black way, a white way, a Hispanic way, etc. The truth, then, is not the product of reason, but of crude emotionalism — i.e., the truth is whatever some group feels it is.
What we have experienced over the past few years is, in fact, "crude emotionalism" that jettisons real life facts (or lack thereof) and replaces reality with fantasy. That's why millions honestly believe that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency. That's why additional millions believe that men must prove themselves innocent when unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct arise. That's why still other millions believe that our entire society is systemically racist today, despite 70 years of positive efforts at correcting the racist legacy of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. And on, and on.

But there are many more millions who reject crude emotionalism and demand a realistic assessment of actual facts. They are unquestionably less loud and far less emotional. They tend not to demonstrate in the streets or accost those they disagree with in mob-like confrontations. They rarely shout "hey, hey, ho ho, [insert objectionable person/event/policy] has got to go." They don't wear pink pussy hats or dress in red Handmaid burkas. They are, in fact, less sure of the rightness of every position they take, relying instead on common sense, objective facts, and long-standing wisdom to guide themselves through a complex world. Until fairly recently, they have remained relatively quiet as crude emotionalism has accelerated.

No more.