PJ Media encourages you to read our updated PRIVACY POLICY and COOKIE POLICY.
X

January 8, 2018

WAGES OF POSTMODERNISM: Michael Wolff to MSNBC anchor on his book: “If it rings true, it is true.”

“If it rings true, it is true” may be the most Orwellian defense of slovenly reporting since the immortal “fake but accurate” line from the Rathergate days. This isn’t the way journalistic ethics are supposed to work, gasps an exasperated Haley Byrd of the Weekly Standard. It is if you want to sell a million copies, I guess. In fact, “if it rings true, it is true” is about as perfect a summation as you could ask for of the concept of confirmation bias. If you already hate Trump, the mix of fact, rumor, and third-hand smear in Wolff’s book, all relentlessly damning of the White House, is a political banana split with extra hot fudge. Nothing that tastes this good could possibly be bad for you!

And as Allahpundit quips, Wolff is “the second person in a hot media spotlight in less than 24 hours to casually undermine the idea of objective truth. The other, of course, was the 46th president of the United States.”

Heh.Ben Shapiro reminds Oprah that “There is no such thing as ‘your truth.’ There is the truth and your opinion.” But then, they don’t call Oprah “the pope of American gnosticism” for nothing.

On Friday, it was announced that the first guest on David Letterman’s upcoming Netflix series will be former President Obama.

But of course – there’s no reason why America’s first postmodernist talk show host should be joined by America’s most prominent postmodern former president. (Bill Clinton was the first of course, arguing over the meaning of “is” in 1998 to save his hide during the impeachment hearings. But his equivocating over a verb didn’t directly impact millions of Americans the same way that Obama’s fables did.)

In his recent book Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, author Jason Zinoman wrote:

In May 1985, Esquire magazine published an essay by a twenty-three-year-old Yale graduate named David Leavitt, who set out to do nothing less than explain his generation. It belonged to a long, dubious journalistic tradition in which a major media outlet sums up young people for its readers, using an envoy from their tribe. These stories follow a certain script: Mix some reported anecdotes with a few references to politics and pop culture trends, add a tone of alarm, and then draw a sweeping conclusion about wildly different groups of young people. The piece’s title: “The New Lost Generation.”

Leavitt argued that those coming of age in the Reagan era saw the idealism of the 1960s vanish and substituted a cynical and steely veneer. They sighed at political activism and rolled their eyes at passion and engagement. Unlike the hopeful kids from past decades, they were not marked by a particular cause to fight for. They were more likely to find all of politics contemptuous. What united them was a jaded outlook about not just politics but even the nature of honesty itself. “We are determined to make sure everyone knows that what we say might not be what we mean,” Leavitt wrote, building to a crescendo: “The voice of my generation is the voice of David Letterman.”

* * * * * * * *

Late Night had not become as popular as The Tonight Show, an impossibility, considering their respective time slots, but its cultural impact had surpassed it. By the middle of the decade, Letterman was the rare host who stood for something bigger than a television show. He was increasingly mentioned as the talk-show avatar of postmodernism, a movement marked by self-awareness and challenges to dominant narratives that was then shifting from academia to the mainstream press. He became the host who didn’t believe in hosting, a truth-teller whose sarcasm rendered everything he said suspect, a mocking challenge to anyone who pretended to take the ridiculous world seriously. Letterman became the face of an ironic sensibility that permeated comedy, television, and popular culture.

Andrew Breitbart famously said that “politics is downstream from culture.” In the 1980s, Letterman’s postmodernism made for fascinating and often wryly amusing late night television. But as Obama, and multiple DNC-MSM outlets have proven, it’s a lousy way to run a country or “report” its news. And of course, all of its worst practitioners are still clueless as to how they got Trumped.