Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Defense Of Reality

     “Good evening Mr. And Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press. Flash!

     Remember that line? Probably not; it ceased to be a regular feature of news reportage quite a long time ago. It was the lead-in catchphrase for Walter Winchell’s radio news program, which was loyally followed by millions of Americans in the pre-television decades.

     Back then, there was a presumption of reliability in news reports: a near-to-unanimous, subconscious conviction that journalistic ethics would preclude the telling of lies under the guise of “news.” People believed what they read in the papers and heard on the radio; they found it difficult to believe that a reporter of any significance would deceive them.

     That presumption made it possible for “journalists” to become propagandists. Indeed, Winchell became notorious for using his position to slander his enemies. Far too many people accepted what he said as factual because “I heard it on the radio.” Thus did the proclamations of media personalities begin to overtake reality.

     The progression has gone so far that millions of Americans will stoutly refuse to believe any assertion they haven’t heard on the six o’clock evening news – or which was contradicted by some mouthy activist on a talk show.

     Do you find it difficult to believe that someone would lie to you, to advance his interests at your expense? Probably not; ours is a much more cynical milieu than that of the Thirties, when radio figures such as Winchell were prominent. Today, the default presumption is that no one is trustworthy – at least, no one you don’t know personally and admire on the basis of your acquaintance. How, then, do the media succeed in duping so many Americans about important subjects in politics, economics, and the prevailing social order?

     There’s no single answer. Some people are easily led to believe an attractive face or a sincere-sounding voice. Some people are taken in by media cross-confirmation: the tendency of the major media to parrot the same general line, often because they’re all trying to anticipate what will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times. Some are merely uncritical, or insufficiently skeptical about the characters and motives of the public figures whose words and deeds propel the news.

     The consequence is that for a great many of our countrymen, reality is an unknown quantity. What they can see and hear around them has less of an impact on their thinking than the emissions of the major media.

     Political activists and the strategists of special interest groups are aware of this. They strive mightily to exploit it: in part by being visible and vocal everywhere there’s a camera or a microphone, and in part by drowning out opposing voices. It’s one of the larger reasons for their effectiveness.

     In this fashion, facts are being made secondary to the demands of activists and the representations of partisans.

     Reality itself – the objective world of real entities and immutable facts that surrounds us all – is in desperate need of a defense against the tides of propaganda. It’s a strange notion to entertain. How could mere demands have such power? Surely the world won’t renounce its Ding an Sich to conform to the activists’ dictates! The idea seems fantastic.

     What’s all too easily missed here is the intrusion of a relatively new and powerful mechanism between real things and events and their perception by human minds. We miss it because we subsume it into our consciousness of the world, unwittingly deeming it as real as what it strives to conceal or distort.

     Between the realities which are metaphysically given (and are therefore prior and superior to all theory) and the corpus of mechanisms by which we struggle to formulate useful, usable theories about them stands a mental process of immense importance. For obvious reasons, this process is impossible to grasp completely or objectively. Indeed, the word phenomenon, frequently but wrongly used as a synonym for event, was coined specifically to refer to Man’s perception of an objective event and its integration into his overall consciousness. That process can be influenced, sometimes to the extent that he who perceives can be led to deny the evidence of his senses.

     The number of persons laboring to wield such influence for purposes of their own has never been greater. A staggering percentage of them style themselves “reporters,” as if they were merely conveying the facts. In aggregate, they have constructed a nearly impenetrable screen between millions of ordinary Americans and the critical realities of our time.

     This morning, Stacy McCain reminds us of the core of the Left’s creed:

     “Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.”

     [George Orwell, 1984]

     McCain’s major interest is contemporary feminist dogmas, such as this one he cites in the same article:

     “If we accept that gender is constructed and that it is not in any way ‘naturally’ or inevitably connected to sex, then the distinction between sex and gender comes to seem increasingly unstable. In that case, gender is radically independent of sex, ‘a free-floating artifice’ as [Professor Judith] Butler puts it, raising the question as to whether ‘sex’ is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps sex was always already gender, so that the sex/gender distinction is not actually a distinction at all. Butler dispenses with the idea that either gender or sex is an ‘abiding substance’ by arguing that a heterosexual, heterosexist culture establishes the coherence of these categories in order to perpetuate and maintain what the feminist poet and critic Adrienne Rich has called ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ — the dominant order in which men and women are required or even forced to be heterosexual.”

     [Sarah Salih, Judith Butler]

     The tone of Salih’s tirade is much like that of the deconstructionists who strain to obscure the meanings of words, such that a “text” cannot have an inherent meaning. Her (and Butler’s) argument can be reduced to one sentence, and not a terribly complex one: Male, female, and the characteristics associated with them are mere opinions. That’s the essence of contemporary feminist cant. The underlying assertion shared by every component of the activist Left – that there is no objective reality – is often overlooked.

     In an early passage in 1984, antihero-protagonist Winston Smith attempts to buttress his sense of reality:

     The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth's centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O'Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:
     Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

     But O’Brien takes Winston for “re-education,” and deploys a tactic to override that sense of real, immutable facts: pain.

     “Do you remember,” [O’Brien] went on, “writing in your diary, ‘Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make four’?”
     “Yes,” said Winston.
     O’Brien held up his left hand, its back toward Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
     "How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”
     The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop.

     The torture increases near to the point of killing Winston with the pain...but not beyond, for O’Brien wants Winston alive and compliant – compliant not merely in his utterances but in willing subordination of his perceptions to the dictates of the Party.

     The Leftist propagandists of our time can’t strap us to torture devices just yet. The pain they inflict on us is of other sorts...but it is pain nonetheless.

     Physical pain can be endured, at least under certain conditions. Other kinds of pain make it more difficult to remain steadfast:

  1. The pain of isolation.
  2. The pain from being effectively slandered.
  3. The pain from being made an object of derision or contempt.
  4. The pain that arises from knowing that others deem you an enemy to be broken.
  5. The pain of knowing that those you love are being made to suffer for your words or deeds.

     The Left has wielded each of those whips, at various times, against those of us un-reconstructed ones who maintain that reality is what it appears to be. Yes, in other countries Leftists have made use of physical violence, and on occasion certain of its annexes have done so here, but the varieties enumerated above have been of more importance. The object is always the same: to compel not merely submission but concurrence with its proclamations.

     Reality might not seem to need defenders. After all, what is, is. But the effacement of reality by ceaseless, brutal propaganda and its adjuncts makes it imperative that we oppose reality’s attackers explicitly, not merely by snorting, waving dismissively, and walking away. Imagine, were Orwell’s Party opposed by an anti-Party of significant strength, dedicated to the defense of the proposition that reality is real, how much different the setting of 1984 might have been!

     The fight for the primacy of objective reality is the fight to say that two plus two make four. Pain endured in that fight is praiseworthy beyond my powers with words. The defense of reality is the cause of justice, for without objective reality and the facts it proffers, there can be no justice.

     Stand your ground.


Dystopic said...

There is nothing I can add to this. It is as perfect a description of the Progressive Left as I can imagine.

Arthur said...

"The pain of knowing that those you love are being made to suffer for your words or deeds."

That's the big one. I hate to use a hollywood product in a metaphor, but the John Coffey character in The Green Mile described how a rapist used two sisters feelings for each other as a weapon - "He killed them with their love".

An attack that only works on good hearted people. Perfect weapon for the left because they can wield it with impunity.