"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

In Praise Of Ignorance–Why Foul The Truth With Facts? How True Belief Corrupts Absolutely

Much has been made of ‘truth’ in the last few years.  Donald Trump was accused of distorting, obfuscating, and dismissing the truth in favor of politically convenient lies.  Joe Biden ran on a platform of truth, honesty, and transparency.  Of course Trump’s way is the American way, and voters have learned how to parse politicians’ words and how to decipher meaning from expression.

As a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas; a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, Trump didn’t ever mean what he said.  He said what he meant.  His was a political circus act with a semiotic foundation.  Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, Trump spoke a firestorm but was as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who spoke in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to ‘experience’. No one but unreconstructed liberal elite take him at face value.  Everyone knows that his call for expatriating all illegal immigrants is purposeful hyperbole, circus act exaggeration, and vaudeville at its very best. 

Image result for images donald trump with miss connecticut

Deconstructionists insist that all texts are equivalent.  There is no such thing as artistic genius, and the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Dostoevsky should be read only within the narrow context of  race, gender, and ethnicity.  Hamlet and Macbeth are nothing more than plays about political power, the corrupt nature of elites, and the alienation of the many to serve the powerful.  If one reads the text carefully, deconstructionists say, one will discover the true meaning behind the words which are mere and artificial constructs of individuals who can but express political zeitgeist and the particular configurations of social, economic, and cultural conflict.

So where were these deconstructionists when it came to parsing the stump performances of Donald Trump? Why were they so literal in their interpretation of his words?  How could they have assumed that his hot button rhetoric was anything more than getting sinners to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus as their personal savior.  Their true belief got in the way.  Trump was a demon, an incubus, an evil man who usurped the Presidency and must at all costs be removed from office.  His critics refused to look behind the bombast to see what Trump meant, what his policies were, how he would govern.  Trump was as clear as day when it came to his political principles concerning energy, taxation, economic opportunity, geopolitical balance of power, trade, religious freedom, sexuality, and free speech.  His bombast and braggadocio, his Borscht Belt humor, his political incorrectness were his popular appeal.  His supporters loved him for his dismissal of the cant, sanctimony, and intellectual arrogance of the Left, cheered him at every whistle stop, but also heard his simple, principled message.

At least Donald Trump was vaudevillian in his approach to the ‘truth’.  His performance was an act, the best of the best, top billing, star power entertainment.  Most politicians, on the other hand, are devious, dangerous, and scary in their out-and-out, bald-faced lies.  Entertainers, athletes, and preachers are no different and as insidious.

Everyone in America lies – or so it seems.  After so much deceit, evasion, deliberate distortion of the facts, and bald-faced chutzpah, how can we take any politician seriously. Nixon stonewalled, destroyed evidence, and out-and-out lied to the American people.  Lyndon Johnson used the fictitious Gulf of Tonkin incident as a casus belli. Bill Clinton tried to hide his dalliances through careful parsing of language, denials, and fancy dancing.  North Carolinian Mark Sanford used a walk on the Appalachian Trail to cover is unexplained absences from the State House and his fugues to see his Argentine lover.  John Edwards lied about his affair to his dying wife and to the public; and when the media got scent of a lovechild, his evasive acrobatics were worthy of Gary Hart, another well-known politician who lied through his teeth about his affairs.

Bill Clinton II

Lance Armstrong not only lied about his doping, but intimidated his teammates, reporters, and sports officials with threats of lawsuits and character assassination.  In a chilling documentary on Lance Armstrong, Stop at Nothing (Showtime), Australian filmmaker Alex Holmes tells of the cyclist’s rise and fall:

Comprehensively reported, director Alex Holmes’ documentary makes devastating use of Armstrong’s depositions and press conferences to illustrate the vehemence with which he denied doping allegations before coming clean, though not enough to soothe the feelings of those he badgered and sought to intimidate. Perhaps foremost, as shrewdly depicted, the story captures the collective hunger for heroes — and the speed  at which media can turn away from them (Brian Lowry, Variety 11.14)

It was not just that Armstrong lied about his years of doping, but intimidated others to lie as well. According to the documentary Armstrong, leader of the US Postal Service team, convinced all his colleagues to take Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED), maintain a code of silence as absolute and punitive as any Mafia pledge of omertà. As he won more and more medals (seven Tours de France), as his star power increased, and as he became an American hero, his ability to threaten and menace others to guarantee their complicity and silence was complete.

Alex Rodriguez lied to the Yankees, to the public, and to his teammates about his doping, and only after years of federal investigation and the likelihood of jail time did he cut a deal and agree to a year off from baseball. He was not the only athlete who doped, lied, and finally admitted what he had done.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams admitted to making up a story about taking enemy fire while in Iraq in 2003. When recently exposed, he said that he had ‘conflated’ his helicopter which did not take fire and the helicopter in front of him which did.  An unfortunate error in judgment for which he apologized.

Investigation into his reporting on Katrina from New Orleans has suggested that he made shit up there, too. His reports of suicides that didn’t happen, bodies falling from the top of buildings which never flew, and other distortions, misrepresentations, and flat-out inventions are being scrutinized for ‘veracity’.

The ‘conflation’ issue is inexcusable; for not only does it damage the cause of investigative reporting and honest journalism, it makes a joke of the men and women who do come under enemy fire.   It is scandalous.

Evangelists for two hundred years have shamelessly lied about their indiscretions, financial dealings, and secular ambition. We cannot possibly take Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart seriously.  However, we discount their personal dishonesty.  It is the Word of God we want to hear, and they preach a very good sermon indeed.

Image result for images crying jimmy swaggart

It is one thing to confabulate, exaggerate, and create believable, satirical scenarios.  Everyone but the most humorless progressive touts laughed at Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ line about Elizabeth Warren who disingenuously – no, callously – claimed American Indian heritage in order to consolidate her position with her race-gender-ethnicity-identity-obsessed progressive supporters.  Warren did no harm by her ridiculous claim and deserved every joke and chortle it encouraged.  Nixon’s lies were profoundly damaging to the Republic.  LBJ’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin were deliberately designed to influence Congress to declare a state of war against Vietnam.

Edwards, Hart, Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Sanford all lied about their sexual indiscretions.  They were judged by their constituents, some more harshly than others, but damaged only the reputation of politicians – hardly a low blow since indiscretion and lying has always been their stock in trade.

JFK lied – or at least manipulated press and Secret Service – to keep his dalliances quiet; but J. Edgar Hoover found out and blackmailed the President with the information.  Because of that blackmail, the cause of civil rights – which Hoover opposed – was delayed unconscionably.

Now the issue of ‘truth’ has taken on a new and much more insidious dimension.  Today’s progressives, so convinced are they of the rightness and goodness of their agenda, label all dissenting opinions as lies, distortions, and craven manipulations.  All evidence that suggests that global warming might not be the existential threat liberals content, is dismissed as ignorant blather, and those scientists who dare to speak out are damned as shills and claques of the Right.  The gender spectrum – i.e.  sexuality is a choice not a biological given – is presented as absolute, undeniable, and permanent; and anyone objecting is cast as racist, homophobic, and sexist.  The Pro-Life movement, outspokenly against abortion, is maligned as gullible, misinformed, patriarchal,and misogynist

These progressive activists are the worst type of liars, for they are inhibiting the search for facts, objective data, and scientific inquiry.  It is lying by omission.  The social media have jumped on this anti-cultural, anti-social bandwagon; and have instituted measures to limit free speech, and specifically that speech which counter the progressive agenda.

It is the phenomenon of received wisdom at its worst.  Not only is there no need to question global warming, alternative sexuality, redistribution of wealth, racial preferences, and liberal fiscal and financial policies; it is wrong to do so.  The truth has been received, and anyone contending it, is a liar.

This is not to say that the electorate is innocent in all this.  Americans are historically gullible, credulous, and easily manipulated.  Which is why the disingenuous, exploitive, use of cant and ceremony in the place of objectivity is even more suspect and damaging.  Progressive censorious absolutism has become so mindlessly adopted in politics, social media, and public and private institutions that objectivity has lost all meaning.  Unless one fully subscribes to the liberal agenda, one is an anti-democratic, obstructionist liar. 

While Trump paraded and strutted and was as deft as a magician, he understood the side show, big top ethos of America; but beneath our love of circuses, melodrama, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, we are not stupid.  We can listen, sift, laugh, judge, and decide.  We are sophisticated about lying and know when it is part of fictional melodrama, part of a stage persona, personal weakness, or malicious intent.

The Left insists that there are too many of us on the idiot fringe – conspiracy theorists, hard racists, and capitalist overseers – to permit the free flow of ideas.  Yet the current ethos of restricting debate, closuring of discussion, and inhibiting free speech in the name of truth, while directed at the margins, affects us all.  Lies, both of commission and omission are equally reprehensible. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.