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Yes, this is the new standard

Posted by Richard on June 8, 2005

Glenn Reynolds quotes Howard Kurtz, who can’t believe how AI-USA’s Schultz justified AI’s misuse of the term "gulag" (emphasis in original):

"Excuse me, but did Schulz say that it’s okay to unleash words like ‘gulag,’ even if it’s not an ‘exact or literal analogy,’ because it gets him booked on Fox News? Is that the new standard? Yes, Chris, I called the president a war criminal because it was the only way I could get on Hardball?"

Well, yes. This is indeed the new standard, and it has been for some time. This is the standard of post-modernism, which maintains that there is no truth or reality, there are only alternative "narratives," each of which is valid (to the extent that "valid" has any meaning) to those who hold it. Edward Younkins’ article, "The Plague of Postmodernism," provides a good overview:

Postmodernism tends to revolve around the following themes:  (1) the attainment of universal truth is impossible; (2) no ideas or truths are transcendent; (3) all ideas are culturally or socially constructed; (4) historical facts are unimportant and irrelevant; and (5) ideas are true only if they benefit the oppressed. Postmodernists generally use Marxist rationale and concepts (e.g., oppression, inequality, revolution, and imperialism) to attack and discredit American culture.

To the sophisticates who embrace postmodernism, it’s meaningless to ask whether the term "gulag" accurately describes US detention facilities or whether Bush really is guilty of war crimes. These claims are part of someone’s "narrative" and are thus as valid as any alternative "narrative." Besides, getting Schultz on Fox News or Hardball benefits the oppressed and discredits American culture, so this particular "narrative" is better than others — in this bizarro world where all beliefs are equally valid, but some are more equal than others.

Postmodernism is the rejection of reason and the Enlightenment, and all their concomitants and consequences, which can be summed up as "modernity." In an excellent essay, "The Party of Modernity," David Kelley says:

"Modernity" is the term that historians use to describe this individualist and rationalist culture. Modernity accompanied the growth of science, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of capitalism and constitutional democracy. As a culture, however, it was an intellectual, not a material or political, phenomenon. It was the underlying constellation of beliefs, values, aspirations, and demands that led people in the West to alter their way of life profoundly.

Kelley notes that it’s modernity that the Islamofascists are bent on destroying:

It was obvious to virtually everyone that the World Trade Center was targeted because it represented freedom, secularism, tolerance, innovation, commercial enterprise, and the pursuit of happiness in this life. Our modernist values were thrown into sharp relief by the hatred they provoked in our enemies.

And this shared hatred for modernity explains, I believe, why so many leftists are sympathetic to or supportive of radical Islamists with whom, on the surface, they would seem to have little in common. Differences over burqas and bans on alcohol are trivial compared to all the more fundamental values that Islam’s advocates of 8th century life have in common with the anti-capitalist, anti-technology, socialist eco-freaks of the West.

Kelley argues that modernity also has many enemies on the right — the pre-modernists and cultural conservatives. But they’re a topic for another day.

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