This is an interesting time to be a lefty blogger. It was one of those weeks when, despite the basic unglamorousness and generally pathetic nature of blogging, one feels like one is fighting for something that matters. I'm serious. Looking over some of the stories in the blogosphere from the past week or so, you get the impression that the left in this country is fighting not just for its own political life, but for the concept of truth, or, a least a basic set of standards in human communication, itself.
Let's take a look at a few stories:
#1, of course, remains the Gannon/Guckert story. The left suggests that there's something wrong with a gay prostitute who has no journalistic background and doesn't work for a news organization getting to be a de facto member of the White House press corps for two years, and, possibly, getting access to classified documents. The right pretends like they don't have a problem with it, that Gannon is a journalist, and that calling attention to the photos that he posted on the internet(s) is an invasion of his privacy, even though he posted them. The right also claims that they're not hypocritical.
#2 must be USA Next's ad against the the AARP, claiming that the American Association of Retired Persons is anti-military and pro-gay marriage. The claim is obviously false, yet when confronted with the ad, USA Next's founder defends their legitimacy.
#4: The continuing story of a California college student who wrote possibly the worst essay in the history of higher education, got a bad grade on it, complained that the bad grade was a result of political bias, and is apparently lying about the circumstances of the story.
#5: Whether a former US President is a traitor.
#6: A right-wing advertising outfit that used to be located in the same suite as USA Next changes its address overnight, after their "colocation" is made public, presumably in order to maintain the fiction that they're not the same organization.
Those are just off the top of my head.
The thread that connects all of these stories is that the issues involved are really all beyond reasonable debate. The White House press corps should be for members of the press. Ahmad al-Qloushi's essay was bad. The AARP is not anti-military. Etc.
In each case there is some factual information. Like, say, Jimmy Carter isn't a Soviet Spy. Then is some make-believe. Like, say, AARP is a hotbed of gay activism.
In each of these cases, the position involving the factual information is that of the left. In each of these cases the made-up, fantasy-world position is that of the right.
We're not talking "does Saddam have WMD or doesn't he?" Two years ago, no one really knew. There was a body of evidence. Some thought it was convincing. Some didn't.
Nor are we talking about whether or not it was a good idea to invade given that there weren't WMD, or whether Saddam had the intention to produce them at some point in the distant future.
It's not even like the Social Security debate. In the "debate" about whether or not the system in crisis, we're dealing with future projections, not anything currently empirically verifiable.
It's this: a reasonable person who looks at the totality of the evidence can't believe that the AARP is anti-military and pro-gay marriage. A reasonable person who looks at everything that we know couldn't possibly conclude that Jimmy Carter tried to aid the Soviet Union and undermine his own country.
Yet, somehow, in our country, a not insignificant segment of the population has either chosen to believe or been fooled into believing verifiable falsehoods, stark untruths, intentional deceptions.
The left is increasingly taking the position of defenders of political discourse in this country. It's no longer "left vs. right." It's "'there is a way to tell whether something is practically true or not' vs. 'here's a thing we've always believed and are going to continue to believe.'" I would compare it to medievalism vs. the enlightenment, but I don't want to insult people that lived in medieval Europe.
The word "Orwellian" is thrown around, and Josh Marshall wrote a good piece a while back called The Post-Modern Presidency. But isn't it more than that? Doesn't a post-modern epistemology depend on some sort of inherent ambiguity, something structurally unknowable, in the nature of what you're talking about?
And it might have been that way with the Iraq war (we want UN inspections, but not really, because we don't want anything that might prove us wrong), but that's not what we're looking at now. No one could look at the totality of scientific evidence and seriously question evolution as a process.
The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
The right-wing, increasingly, wants you to think that apples are going to rise tomorrow.