Saturday, August 17, 2019

“I Can’t Hear You!”

     Have you ever tried to tell someone something – something grounded in facts that are easily observed and multiply verified – something he doesn’t want to hear? There’s no non-violent undertaking that frustrates worse. It’s the archetype of thanklessness. Persistence in such an effort can seem a kind of masochism. In the aftermath you’re likely to ask yourself “What was I thinking?”

     Yet there are times when it seems morally obligatory. Times when the unwilling hearer clearly needs the information and is almost guaranteed to come to grief unless he accepts it.

     Consider in this light the election to the presidency of Donald Trump. He was up against a heavily touted opponent whose victory had been proclaimed “inevitable” (including by herself). His predecessor had practically guaranteed that “Donald Trump is not going to be president.” The entirety of the news media mocked him, his proposals, his many rallies, and his chances.

     Then he won – and by a convincing margin.

     Did those who laughed at Trump’s campaign draw any lesson from his victory? Damned few, if any. Mostly they grew angry at having been refuted. Many sought excuses for their predictive failures. Many are still trying to explain it away by some mechanism that would allow them salve for their egos. The failure of the “Russian collusion” farce to hold a drop of water seems to have rendered some of them permanently incoherent.

     New York Times editor-in-chief Dean Baquet recently had a meeting with his staff. In case you’ve spent the last four years in a coma, I will mention here that the Times dislikes President Trump and has for some time pushed the “Russian collusion” nonsense as the explanation for his victory. Apparently Baquet’s staff meeting was for the purpose of resetting his subordinates’ focus: from “Russian collusion” to “racism.” Just a spot of preparation for the 2020 election, don’t y’know.

     Among those left of the political center, not one millisecond goes to consideration of the possibility that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because the people of these United States preferred him to her in sufficient numbers. No, there simply must be some other explanation.

     Must? Yes, must! Because if there isn’t, we’re all fools! We’ve all been duped! We’re the ones who are out of touch. We’ll be compelled to apologize for being so cocksure – and that mustn’t happen to a true-blue left-liberal!

     There are some diseases of the mind for which professional help is not available. Unwillingness to face facts is one of them.

     The world of journalism is heavily slanted to the left, for reasons beyond the scope of this tirade. Yet there are a few openly conservative mavericks therein. Here’s a piercing statement from one of them:

     Sometimes people ask me how I, as a member of the very liberal newspaper industry, came to be a conservative.

     The answer is that I’ve been around liberals enough to know that we don’t want them running —— well, anything.

     Will Davis, the author of the article, speaks for quite a few Americans, including several of my acquaintance. Extended exposure to liberals’ endless sanctimony and self-justifications can do that to anyone. But more valuable still is Davis’s report of a reply he received after he’d dared to dispute the liberal piety of pervasive “white supremacism:”

     “I imagine it would be easy for you to agree that white supremacy isn’t a problem,” wrote Gottschalk. “You are a white male who included an image of the confederate flag on your senior page. Just last week, my husband, who is black, went to the farmer’s market and was asked by the vendor if he was looking for collard greens, because you know, black people only eat collard greens. Racism is everywhere. You do not see it because you are never the victim of it.”

     “False consciousness” rides again. But whose consciousness is false? That of Will Davis, who grounded his opinion in personal observations accumulated over many years? Or that of Candace Gottschalk, who argued from her interpretation of a single encounter she hadn’t even witnessed?

     Ironically, Davis slides around the most important point:

     Why am I a conservative? Because I know liberals. There is no grace there. No love there. Only hatred and judgment and pettiness.

     The hatred and judgment and pettiness Davis encountered are quite real, but they aren’t fundamental. What’s fundamental is liberals’ unwillingness to accept facts that contradict their already-formed opinions and convictions.

     The deterioration of the national discourse has practically nothing to do with the relative merits of the worldviews and policy positions of Left and Right. If those things really mattered, our arguments would involve evidence and causal reasoning, two things conspicuous by their absence from exchanges between us. Rather, what we in the Right face is a Church of the Left. Its members remain securely inside it lest they be corrupted by sober consideration of observations and convictions not sanctified by their priests.

     Two aspects of this opposition stand out above all others. First is that it renders conventional argument and the tactics thereof largely pointless. There’s no way to argue with someone whose principal motivation is to remain in good standing with his church – and doubt it not: that is what most concerns the great majority of those within the left-liberal “bubble.” The journey toward it might have been motivated by other considerations, but for those within it, what swiftly comes to matter most is the sense of approval and acceptance from one’s priests and fellow congregants. These are not assets the typical worshipper would willingly forsake.

     Second, and far more critical for the long term, consider this oft-repeated quotation from military SF writer Tom Kratman:

     [I]t has been said more than once that you should choose enemies wisely, because you are going to become just, or at least, much like them. The corollary to this is that your enemies are also going to become very like you....

     If I could speak now to our enemies, I would say: Do you kill innocent civilians for shock value? So will we learn to do, in time. Do you torture and murder prisoners? So will we. Are you composed of religious fanatics? Well, since humanistic secularism seems ill-suited to deal with you, don't be surprised if we turn to our churches and temples for the strength to defeat and destroy you. Do you randomly kill our loved ones to send us a message? Don't be surprised, then, when we begin to target your families, specifically, to send the message that our loved ones are not stationery.

     I cannot overemphasize the importance of Kratman’s observation. He has captured the pattern of adversaries locked in lethal combat, as two thousand years’ records can confirm. It applies equally well to political combat.

     The Right must not become a church. We must remain reliant on evidence and reasoning, never on whether some point is about Us versus Them. Yet the pressure to do as the Left has done – to abandon our rational allegiance to our convictions for a pseudo-religious one – is mounting. If we have a chance to resist it successfully, it lies in remaining aware of the danger...and of what it would presage for the resolution of the destiny of these United States of America.


Ed Bonderenka said...

I just got into an on-air argument (discussion) with a friend who, on her radio show, said she wants to have a rule in place to force the media to attend to the Constitution and not misconstrue the truth.
She was waiting to have Professor William Wagner come on the air and I told her I'd wait to see what he thought.
Thank God, he agreed with me.
I couldn't get her to see that she wanted to adopt the tactics of the Obama administration that tried the same thing.

Paul Bonneau said...

Whenever I run into a critique of the left by someone on the right, or vice-versa, I ask myself, "Could the accusations apply equally well to the critic's own side?" Usually the answer is yes.

I have to admit though, that the right does seem a *tad* more inclined to consider the evidence. After all, they have largely reduced or stopped their earlier saber-rattling behavior, and the tendency to send young men to fight for the crony class and for Israel, and the usual response to throw everyone in jail for possessing some "illegal" substance, and they seem to like free speech better now than in the past, or to homeschool their kids more frequently. But of course the last two tendencies are a reaction to socialist control of the government schools, and to being de-platformed by leftists. If the shoe were on the other foot, leftists would be in the same situation conservatives find themselves in now.

I don't know for sure, but the current rightist reasonableness may mostly be a reflection of circumstances, and nothing more. It's easy to be decent when you are on the sidelines. As Lincoln noted, "Nearly all men can stand adversity; but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." A test Lincoln himself failed, by the way.

Andy Texan said...

If a truism that one adopts the evil methods of one's enemy, let it be done with eye wide open and quickly so that we can defeat them and get back to civilized society.