January 28, 2017

SHOT: DONALD TRUMP IS THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO TURN POSTMODERNISM AGAINST ITSELF:

Democrats gleefully welcomed Trump’s victory in the Republican primaries with the expectation that they’d bury him in a pile of condescension for being a buffoon and scorn for being the next Hitler. Better yet, they figured that his astounding rise confirmed everything they had long assumed about half the country and were now free to say out loud: they are indeed a basket of irredeemable racist, sexist, homophobic deplorables. Mainstream Republicans would surely hop on board the progressive train rather than be associated with these creeps.

None of this happened, of course. But why? Because what Trump’s enemies failed to grasp was that he wasn’t winning because of the crazy things he was saying, but because of the phony outrage and affected condescension it provoked. Many people empathized with Trump for enduring the contempt that he deliberately brought against himself. Trump kept playing the role of the antihero, and Clinton kept playing the role of the pearl-clutching fraud.

So I’m a scoundrel because I don’t pay income taxes? Maybe so, but it also makes me smart, just like all the other billionaires who are backing your campaign. So I’m a sexist because you found a video of me bragging about how my superstar status enables me to grab women by the p—y? Maybe it does, but allow me to publically introduce four of the women who have accused your husband of everything from indecent exposure to rape. So I’m a greedy businessman who stiffs my contractors? Fine. You’re a corrupt politician who sells out our national interest to line your own pockets.

Maybe everything they say about me is true, but at least I’m authentic, at least I’m real: you on the other hand, are a bloody, disgusting hypocrite.

So say goodnight to the bad guy! Because this bad guy is now our president.

—David Ernst, the Federalist.

Chaser:

What unites these fake news narratives and gives them greater media resonance than other fables and urban myths is again their progressive resonance. Fake news can become a means to advance supposedly noble ends of racial, gender, class, or environmental justice—such as the need for new sexual assault protocols on campuses. Those larger aims supersede bothersome and inconvenient factual details. The larger “truth” of fake news lives on even after its facts have been utterly debunked.

And indeed, the fake news mindset ultimately can be traced back to the campus. Academic postmodernism derides facts and absolutes, and insists that there are only narratives and interpretations that gain credence, depending on the power of the story-teller. In other words, white male establishment reactionaries have set up fictive rules of “absolute” truth and “unimpeachable” facts, and they have further consolidated their privilege by forcing the Other to buy into their biased and capricious notions of discriminating against one narrative over another.

The work of French postmodernists—such as Michael Foucault and Jacques Derrida that mesmerized academics in the 1980s with rehashed Nietzschean banalities about the absence of facts and the primacy of interpretation—has now been filtered by the media to a nationwide audience. If the mythical exclamation “hands up, don’t shoot” was useful in advancing a narrative of inordinate police attacks against African Americans, who cares whether he actually said it? And indeed, why privilege a particular set of elite investigatory methodologies to ascertain its veracity?

In sum, fake news is journalism’s popular version of the nihilism of campus postmodernism. To progressive journalists, advancing a leftwing political agenda is important enough to justify the creation of misleading narratives and outright falsehoods to deceive the public—to justify, in other words, the creation of fake but otherwise useful news.

“Fake News: Postmodernism By Another Name,” Victor Davis Hanson, Defining Ideas.

Hangover: Anthropologists and other scholars plan read-in of Michel Foucault to mark inauguration of Donald Trump.

Inside Higher Education, January 16th.

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