QED

Ideology Stomps on Truth

The Left’s rules: The personal is political. Belief trumps argument and evidence. Don’t change your mind when the facts change, simply summon a Twitter posse of the abusively like-minded. ‘Shut up’ is a valid argument. There can be no debate with racists/misogynists/climate deniers…

snow warmingThe increasing inability to reach a “sensible centre” consensus on important political and cultural issues – what the late Christopher Pearson called “club sensible” – has been much noted across Western countries.  The capacity to “reach across the aisle” in the USA, for example, is all but a distant memory.  Ideological and partisan opponents have dug into entrenched positions on most issues and refuse to budge.  More and more, we find that ad hominem attacks substitute for reasoned, solutions-oriented, respectful conversations among antagonists. There are a number of reasons why this has occurred. 

One is the pervasive influence of relativism – the belief that there is no truth, not in relation to anything.  Another is the coming of social media, which encourages all sorts of people with all sorts of views to vent them boldly to audiences they may not know personally and will ikely never meet face to face.  A third reason is the general shallowness and incoherence of the age in which we live.  A fourth is the decline of critical thinking skills that were, in former times, routinely developed in the many classics, humanities and liberal arts programs that now more or less no longer exist.  Critical skills that supported reasoned arguments, and therefore reasonable positions on topics of the day.  A fifth, I believe, is that now it is just about universally (and erroneously) accepted across most political and cultural institutions that “everything is political”, and that “the personal is political”.  Again, this is post-modernism 101.  A sixth is the close contemporary alignment of the political with one’s group “identity”, guaranteeing a deeply personal and entirely subjective stake in one’s political positions.  This applies specifically to those of the left, who so often are allowed to set the agendas for political and cultural debate.

But there is something else at work.  This is an age of ideology, of group identity, of culture wars and warriors.  Of in-built, reflexively and tightly held positions on issues.  There is much intransigence, often viciously expressed. And the stakes are high.  If you are religious, for example, it matters deeply when supporters of gay rights press on beyond the acquisition of agreed, sensible respect for all persons and their dignity, towards dictating whom Christian schools can employ.  We see all around the attacks on freedom of speech and of belief, their enemies gussied-up with awards and accolades despite representing the antithesis of that which they are purported to champion.  The stakes are indeed high.  People can lose their jobs, their careers even, when they express the “wrong” views (especially in public) on a contested subject where there are ideologically entrenched positions in play.

There seems very little desire abroad to say, “Well, you have a point, you know. Let’s sit down and discuss this over a coffee.  We might both be right, or at least we might both hit upon parts of the truth.”  Yeah, right.

One of the ultimate fears of the ideologue is of losing face.  Hence there can never be an admission or error , no ejaculative “Crikey, you may be onto something!” when new facts emerge or a compelling case is made which undermines one’s core position(s).  There is simply too much at stake when one is deeply dug in, and when one sees much riding on the outcome of the argument. The thinking is entirely self-serving: If I admit this bit, well, my whole philosophy looks shaky.  The commanding heights, won so hard, must never be conceded. No one, therefore, seems inclined to follow Lord Keynes, who famously and sensibly said, “I change my mind when the facts change.  What do you do?”

I recall a 2016 conversation over a dinner at a conference where I and another were prosecuting the case that Donald Trump would be a far less disastrous president than Hillary Clinton, who, we suggested, was a crook and known to be a crook.  The response was, “Well, that’s your truth; it isn’t necessarily mine” — a guaranteed conversation stopper.  There is little comeback, when the notion of truth itself, the very possibility of reaching a conclusion to the debate, is jettisoned.  Ideology breeds entrenched positions, and denies the possibility of reasoned argument, especially when it is buttressed by relativism as the operating system of debate.  I hate Trump, ergo Hillary Clinton cannot be a crook who broke the law (as she clearly did) through her use of private email servers and accounts that exposed or potentially exposed state secrets. And that is before we get to her peddling of influence for profit.

One of the consequences of ideology-driven, rather than fact-driven, political positioning is that it ensures baseless positions and arguments survive in the marketplace of ideas for way longer than they should, indeed long past their used-by dates.  It also often makes ideologues simply look stupid, when they hold to embarrassing positions in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. Yet because ideology trumps evidence, these people have no option but to keep digging the hole.  The results ain’t pretty.

Case one:  George Monbiot of The Guardian during the recent snow storms in Britain, opined as follows:

Look outside.  That’s what global warming looks like.”

Really.  This would have to be the archetypal case of ideology forcing someone to hold to a position that simply makes him look like a plonker, all because he cannot accept the consequences of changing his position.  The investment in his ideology is too great.

Case two. Embattled Greens leader Richard Di Natale just the other day

“We are seeing climate change … have an impact on the risk of bushfires.”

No, they are not.  Of the many falsely claimed impacts of (claimed) global warming, this is one of the most ridiculous of those regularly repeated.  There are many causes of bushfires (with apologies to Aristotle), whether they be formal, material, efficient or final causes.  But if one holds the view that councils must never engage in hazard reduction through controlled burnings because of harm done to the environment, then one has to find another cause for the often tragic bushfires that rip through the waiting bonfires of accumulated fuel loads.  Hence “global warming”.  The ideologically sustained fallacies in this instance are twofold, as the catastrophists must keep finding fresh and scary things about (claimed) global warming.  So let’s add bushfires to the list! Those who make these inane arguments do so because their ideological investments are so pervasive and so deep.

Case three. Twitter celebrity and one of the ABC’s most garrulousl Muslim hood ornament Yassmeen Abdel-Magied

This whole idea that refugees need to be ‘good’ in order to afford them protection is BS”

To summarise, it is racist to offer refugee status to white South African farmers who are regularly murdered on their farms, and who are now under the real threat of having their farms and incomes confiscated without compensation by their government.  Those who hold this view do so because of an ideological belief in the ghastliness of any and all post-colonial vestiges of Western imperialism.  In this case, it is quite OK not to defend group rights because of South Africans on the pointy end of home invasions and rural massacres because of what there are and their ancestors were.  (In point of fact, the real racism here is the very use of the phrase “white farmer”, but that is another matter).  Again, the argument is silly and looks silly, but the folks who believe the argument against logic and honest evidence must sustain their overall positions and, most important, deflect scrutiny from their previous positions and statements.

Case four. Greg Jericho gives Guardian readers another helping of the same old, same old

“…the issue of childcare – who does it, its accessibility and cost – remains
a massive barrier to work for women…”

The subtext here is that we must forever extend, facilitate, subsidise and make a career of child care so that women can fulfil their destinies to escape the grinding heel of patriarchy and domestic drudgery (and become wage slaves like their unfortunate male partners).  The deep and pervasive upper-middle-class chip-on-the-shoulder feminism that underpins the belief in subsidised child care trumps any evidence that it might do harm to children — and, indeed, to their mothers. It, too, is based on ideology, not science, as the consequences of one of the greatest social experiments in human history must never be raised, let alone questioned.  We cannot not do this.  We simply cannot concede there might be problems with institutionalised, subsidised care of very young children by strangers.  These are some of the fruits of the feminist revolution — and the revolution’s ideology trumps children’s welfare.

In all four of the above, and many other cases, there is too much at stake for ideologues to give ground on the core issues on the basis of logical thought and empirical argument, or even to concede that there might be another position.  The personal is political.  Ideology must prevail over argument and evidence.  When the facts change, I don’t change my mind,  I simply shout louder.  Scream even.  Abuse opponents.  Unfriend them.  Shut up – the science is settled!  There can be no debate on this.

Far more dangerously, though, acquiring and retaining power is now routinely the means of enforcing one’s positions on the many, typically using state power but now also deploying corporate power when state power proves insufficient (see under Joyce, Alan or AGL or Bank Australia. “Let’s be honest,” the AGL ad begins. How’s that for chutzpah!)

Ideologues are so often forced to defend the indefensible, and look silly doing so, because they have lost the will, and perhaps the ability, to argue their positions on the facts.  But on a deeper level, now that ideology is so entrenched in our society and institutions one’s ideological position scotches critical thinking and reason.  It nukes the very possibility of debate.

No, this is not an enlightened age.  There can be no sensible centre.  Derrida wins.

4 comments
  • ianl

    > “No, this is not an enlightened age. There can be no sensible centre. Derrida wins.”

    Cassandra agrees.

    The future now lies with China.

    • Jim Kapetangiannis

      Ian

      I am intrigued by your final comment, “The future now lies with China….”.

      In a quiet moment at the office, I was discussing with Chinese staff the effects of the “one child” policy and the damage that it has done to China and we agreed that this damage was not irreversible as the most powerful enemy of Marxism begins to take firm hold. It will eventually supplant the dominant, heterodox Marxist ideology.

      Almost imperceptibly, as the new empire of “Eurabia” arises in the West, with its’ FascistIslamo-Marxism underpinnings, what we have rejected has become the new driving force in the East. As you may be aware, China reputedly has more Christians than the United States and the Church (all branches) is growing more rapidly here than just about anywhere else on the planet. History teaches us that the “leavening” brought about by Judeo-Christian ethics takes some time (it took over 300 years to become the state religion in the West) but have an effect (for better or worse depending on one’s position re; Christ) it does.

      Make of it what you will but ancient prophecies speak of the time when the great Antichristian darkness triumphs west of the Euphrates for a period of time. At some point in time, during these great geo-political shifts, it is the “kings of the East” who cross that ancient divide with their mighty armies and bring Antichrists’ political kingdom down. Christ’s return completes the destruction of Antichrist’s kingdom by demolishing the evil intellectual, spiritual and unethical principles on which this empire is founded, slaying Antichrist by the “word of his mouth”.

      When will all this happen, if those ancient prophecies are true? No one knows really but given where we have come to in our civilisation with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and enough satanically possessed men and women to use them, we would have to worry that human existence hangs, quite literally, by a thread. As you have said and possibly quite prophetically in your own way….it’s over to China.

  • Jacob Jonker

    So much for the analysis, but what about the diagnosis, prognosis and remedy? Derrida wins only when you let him. China wins, certainly, where its sway cannot be resisted. Yet it is never too late to gain an understanding about why things are happening and salvage what can be had from the wreckage of European society, if people are so motivated. Ai, there’s the rub. Westerners have become either demoralised or immoralised by developments since the welfare state could not sustain itself. Benign paternalism has morphed into malign vulturism at the behest of the various elites pulling the geopolitical strings to which we are all attached.
    Those who considered themselves supporters, servants even, of the Establishment have by and large never understood what the Establishment stood for, in fact. There is hardly a more convenient and profitable way of harvesting ideological crops than cultivating, feeding and fomenting beliefs and their supporting narratives which have long ceased be accordant with the facts of life, if ever they were. Politics, and the politics of religion, now including any ideology, is ever the art of theatre, make-belief, make-believe, fooling others, fooling oneself, and so on, the total package. Competition and struggle are a given. Apparently the universe cannot function without it. Hence, to give up without understanding how it works is to cede the field. That is indeed what many commentators in the West have done. So they analyse what is wrong to their heart’s content and leave it at that. This is what Leftist and feminist followers have been conditioned to do. Complain, vent spleen, protest, emote, shout what is wrong, offer a utopian chimera as an alternative, which must be adopted come what may, and more such kindergarten performances.
    They who are more fit to survive than others, survive. Whatever it takes to be more fit for survival is that essential quality or quantity, usually a successful combination, which guarantees survival over they who are less so equipped. Fukuyama writes of political decay, amongst other things. It is the decay in they, in the democratic West, who have been either worn out, never been fit for participatory democracy in the first place, or, more often, beset by the fatigue of ennui, surfeit, languor, whatsyamacallit, too much welfare state-The notion that politicians, bureaucrats and administrators are like doting parents, that htere is no need to be vigilant and aware. Well, it was never thus for long and, at any rate, the situations where people could from cradle to grave live in a haze of benighted stupor, easily ignoring the reality of the world, were and are exceptions to the rule.
    The Establishment has ever sought to befuddle and fool its mass of supporters for a base to its hierarchy. The hierarchy, as any, itself also a layering of gradations in befoolment of the order below. In order to suffer the indignity of fitting in and serving, people who understand their position hand down their burden to those below. The costs are loaded onto others, as much as possible, the benefits, after paying the various commissions, are ring-fenced and secured by all means, of which spinning and putting about a certain narrative to support the status is the basis. Attacking the narratives of others’ interests all part of the equation. Does one allow one’s efforts to be wasted by competing with hopeless aspirers to a better, more secure existence within a setting of sub-servience and a straitjacket of exploitation? Best to leave that to the serfs. Democrats in the European, Western sociopolitical tradition should know better than to hand crutches to those not willing to walk by themselves, think for themselves. Even less, should one find oneself in a lifeboat, as the Europeans in Europe are now, is it at all helpful to wreck the lifeboat one relies on, in order to make others, in other lifeboats, who are in the business of wrecking their own and everybody else’s lifeboat, feel a little better. I learned one lesson, to my relative discomfiture at this stage, that in order to help others one has to help oneself first and make certain one is able to look after oneself while helping others. Giving up your own lifeboat to others who have wrecked their own is no solution. So, never mind the suicidal Left, Right, Greens and not least, women who think they can run the world before they have a clue as to change their own emoting into effective politicking, let alone change the world, the point is to seek cooperative effort from those willing and capable of working on the same songsheet.

  • Jody

    As my late father once quipped, “everything is always about WHO GETS WHAT”.

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