Thursday, August 30, 2012

Republicans Are Converting To Postmodernism! Who Knew?

Larry Kurz points to a Politico report that rates John Thune's claim that "the Obama administration 'even proposed banning farm kids from doing basic chores!' a "pants on fire" lie. One would hope such claims would prompt a retraction or at least chagrin. Unfortunately, Thune, in his role as a Romney surrogate, will probably keep repeating the claim.

Writing in The Atlantic, James Bennet reports that the Romney campaign apparently has little concern for truth. Facts certainly don't matter when it comes to a Romney welfare ad:
"We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.
That ad has been defended; no one has said it's true; it's just not as false as some people think it is:
"The press is all full of itself about how they're going to declare that it's false," Kaus says, "but it's really a lot less false than you think it is."
I spend a lot of time telling my Lincoln Douglas debaters to stand for normativity and advocate that objective truth is knowable. A fact is not "true" because it's "less false" than others think it is. Questions of truth and falsehood operate on a far different level.

In his book After Theory, Professor Terry Eagleton puts the matter in perspective:
All truths are established from specific viewpoints; but it does not make sense to say that there is a tiger in the bathroom from my point of view but not from yours. You and I may contend fiercely about whether there is a tiger in the bathroom or not. To call truth absolute here is just to say that one of us has to be wrong.
If it is true that racism is an evil, then it is not just true for those who happen to be its victims. They are not just expressing how they feel; they are making a statement about the way things are. ‘Racism is an evil’ is not the same kind of proposition as ‘I always find the smell of fresh newsprint blissful.’ It is more like the statement ‘There is a tiger in the bathroom.’ One could imagine someone murmuring consolingly to the victims of racism that he understands just why they feel the way that they do; that he understands just why they feel the way they do; that this feeling is of course entirely valid for them – indeed, that if he were in their shoes he would doubtless feel just the same way; but that in fact he is not in their shoes, and so does not consider the situation to racist at all. This individual is known as a relativist. He might conceivably be known, less politely, as a racist. – Terry Eagleton, After Theory, 106
Romney's and Thune's claims are also like claim about the tiger in the bathroom. The tiger is either there or it isn't; the claims are either true or they are not. Apparently, the party used to stand for objective truth, a stand I applauded, has now become a party of relativists in which facts are true if a pollster asserts that they are.

Republicans are, however, showing some consistency. They are treating the Ten Commandments in the same way that they treat the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. Republicans hold the second amendment dear and mockingly tell those who assert fourth amendment protections that they have nothing to fear as long as they don't do anything wrong. Apparently, Republicans believe the tenth commandment "thou shalt not covet" takes precedence over the ninth "thou shalt not bear false witness."

Maybe postmodern Republicans have a new translation not available to folks like me.  Would it really translate Exodus 20:9 as "Thou shalt not bear false witness but thou mayest bear witness that is not as false as others thing it is"?



caheidelberger said...

The fear of relativism in the guise of multiculturalism drove me to Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Party in the early 1990s. Are Republicans simply adopting relativism as an elaborate exercise in performance art to blow raspberries at the relativism they perceive to run rampant among liberals? Really, that's the next most logical conclusion... right after "They're just lying."

LK said...

I think the Republicans are bit too philistine to do "performance art."

I'm guessing here, but I think they have decided to make a utilitarian calculus. In their mind, the greatest possible good is removing Obama from office. If that result is the greatest good, then a few lies or even a lot of lies don't matter.

Goldwater led Republicans into the political fray by asserting "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." The new guys are taking that principle, erroneous as it may be, to its logical extreme end.

As a side note, this is the party full of members who claim that Obama threatens liberty even thought the ACA does more to protect insurance companies than it does patients. Obama has shown a willingness to go to war at the drop of a hat. Extreme lying to remove Obama from office will not be seen as a vice. It will be a virtue.

larry kurtz said...

Yiddish curses for Republican Jews, #9: "May your son win his party's presidential nomination and may you have to sit through a keynote speech that mentions him once, eighteen minutes in."