Ed Driscoll

Outside the Matrix, Looking In


In a new article titled “A World of Lies,” Dennis Prager writes, “The Left has no scruples about distorting the truth in service of its agenda.” As I’ve joked a few times, “Everything You Know About the 20th Century is Wrong,” at least if you get your news and worldview from the MSM.

I can’t quote all of Prager’s new article, but here’s a whirlwind summary of most of the terrain he travails: He begins with the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 — which was universally presented by the media as an anti-gay hate crime, when it was, according to later reporting by gay journalist and TV producer Stephen Jimenez, simply a drug deal gone horribly wrong.  Prager then goes into all of the other race- and gender-based lies told by the MSM: “Remember the 2006 story about nooses that were hung by racist white students in Jena, La., to signify lynchings?,” Prager asks. Then the MSM’s Duke lacrosse fabrications, and then the grandaddies of them all: Walter Duranty’s denial of Stalin’s terror famine in the Ukraine in the New York Times, and, thirty years later, the MSM’s denial that JFK was a victim of the Cold War. Then he asks, “Why all this mendacity?”

There are truth-tellers and there are liars on the right and on the left. But for the Left, truth is subordinated to whatever it is the Left most cares about. Gay rights, minority rights, women’s rights, government health care, and environmentalism are only the most obvious current examples.

That’s why talk radio, conservative websites, Fox News, and conservative opinion pages are so important.

Europe doesn’t have them. And its population is brainwashed. No wonder Europeans believe that America and Israel are the most dangerous countries in the world. Their media told them so.

Which brings us to another reason why talk radio, Fox News, and conservative Websites (err, like the mothership we broadcast from) are so important, via Seth Mandel of Commentary, on “Bursting the ObamaCare Bubble”:

One reason conservatives were right and liberals were wrong about ObamaCare is that they were essentially having two different conversations. Conservatives were treating health-care reform as a policy issue. So they correctly explained what the health-policy implications would be thanks to the design of the law.

To the left, however, the health-policy implications were close to irrelevant. They viewed ObamaCare simply as a wealth transfer, as a financial insurance plan. I explained yesterday why this is wrong in many cases as well. And that also explains why the website’s disastrous rollout garnered such attention from across the ideological divide, but especially, and finally, from the left. Liberals by and large weren’t troubled by the fact that ObamaCare kicked people off their insurance plans. The key question was: can lower-income Americans sign up for this wealth transfer? When the website failed, the answer was no.

There are a great many scandalous aspects of ObamaCare. This is the one that captivated the left because it’s the only one–the confiscation of some Americans’ money to give to others, under the guise of insurance reform–that endangered what they see as ObamaCare’s core mission.

At the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan has another read-the-whole-thing column that looks at the failures of the Obama White House from the point of view of someone who’s worked there herself. As Noonan writes:

Commentators like to decry low-information voters—the stupid are picking our leaders. I think the real problem is low-information leaders. They have so little experience of life and have so much faith in magic—in media, in words—that they don’t understand people will get angry at you when you mislead them, and never see you the same way again.

And from their titular boss downward, while the current administration has self-esteem to burn, in many ways, they’re really not all that well-informed, in terms of both history and the real-world consequences of their actions. “From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book,” Noonan spot-on writes:

They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view. They’ve only seen the movie—the Cubans had the missiles and Jack said “Not another war” and Bobby said “Pearl Harbor in reverse” and dreadful old Curtis LeMay chomped his cigar and said “We can fry a million of ‘em by this afternoon, Mr. President.” Grrr, grrr, good guys beat bad guys.

It’s as if history isn’t real to them. They run around tweeting, all of them, even those in substantial positions. “Darfur government inadequate. Genocide unacceptable.” They share their feelings – that happens to be one of the things they seem to think is real, what they feel. “Unjust treatment of women—scourge that hurts my heart.” This is the dialogue to the movies in their heads.

There’s a sense that they’re all freelancing, not really part of anything coherent.

For four years I have been told, by those who’ve worked in the administration and those who’ve visited it as volunteers or contractors, that the Obama White House isn’t organized. It’s just full of chatter. Meetings don’t begin on time, there’s no agenda, the list of those invited seems to expand and contract at somebody’s whim. There is a tendency to speak of how a problem will look and how its appearance should be handled, as opposed to what the problem is and should be done about it. People speak airily, without point. They scroll down, see a call that has to be returned, pop out and then in again.

It does not sound like a professional operation. And this is both typical of White Houses and yet on some level extreme. People have always had meetings to arrange meetings, but the lack of focus, the lack of point, the sense that they are operating within accepted levels of incoherence—this all sounds, actually, peculiar.

It also sounds very much like what Tom Wolfe would call “The land of the Rococo Marxists” — that postmodern academic milieu where history and language are both entirely fungible, the one in which the president marinated his entire adult life, before exchanging it for the equally fantasy world of politics. Which helps to explain “Obama’s Slow Learning Curve,”  a topic that Peter Berkowitz explored late last month at Real Clear Politics.

Quoting Obama’s cringe-inducing mea culpas that occur on a regular basis in his administration, producing such classic face-palm lines such as “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects,” and we’re “also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy,” not to mention horrible gaffes such as “profit and earnings ratios,” Berkowitz writes:

It’s a cliché that democracy is messy and difficult; it’s a truism that politics demands the cutting of deals and the hammering out of trade-offs; it’s common knowledge that implementing public policy and conducting diplomacy involve unforeseen obstacles and intricate maneuvering that are hard to grasp from the outside.

Yet all this keeps catching Obama and his aides by surprise. Team Obama’s surprise, however, is really not all that surprising.

The president and the officials around him are the product of the same progressive version of higher education that simultaneously excises politics from the study of government and public policy while politicizing education. This higher education denigrates experience; exalts rational administration; reveres abstract moral reasoning; confidently counts on the mainstream press to play for the progressive political team; accords to words fabulous abilities to remake reality; and believes itself to speak for the people while haughtily despising their way of life.

The education President Obama received at Columbia University and Harvard Law School — and delivered to others as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School — encourages the fantasy of a political world subject to almost limitless manipulation by clever and well-orchestrated images. This explains why the harsh exigencies and intractable forces of politics keep stunning the president, each new time as if it were the very first.

How might higher education be reformed to produce political leaders more familiar with how the world really works, more alive to the realities of social and political life and better able to discuss them honestly with the American people?

In 1909, Woodrow Wilson, the academician turned president who was the prototype for the current occupier of the White House in all sorts of ways, wrote, “The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible.” (Sadly, that advice didn’t seem to apply when it came to separating Barry’s worldview from his old man’s.) Given the cossetted nature of the Boomers and succeeding generations, and their increasing disconnect from history, for those of us outside the Matrix and looking in, it seems obvious that there’s only so much than be done to transform a man, before he becomes the Last Man.