Among the many campaigns being conducted all around us, I deem this one to be critical: the war against immutable facts.
You don’t have to be an intellectual giant like Thomas Sowell, one of the most important public intellectuals of the century behind us, to understand that facts trump any and all theories, hypotheses, concepts, opinions, and offhand notions that don’t square with them. You just have to be honest. However, in our time the formation of public convictions, especially about politics and public policy, is largely in the hands of utterly dishonest persons.
It hardly matters why they’re dishonest. Some are partisans. Some are paid shills. Others are partly irrational. Still others are quasi-solipsists. Yet others are just thieves. I’m sure that’s not a complete taxonomy. The results are what matter, especially in an era in which the dishonest dominate the mass media.
I’ve saved ten links from today’s and yesterday’s news that bear directly on this subject:
- The “Russian Interference Elected Trump” canard.
- Joy Reid Can’t Remember Ilhan Omar’s Reprehensible Statements.
- Joy Behar Wants Us To Believe That Republicans Planted The Classified Documents on Biden.
- CPSC: “We Never Intended to Ban Gas Stoves!”
- Kathy Hochul: “Ban Gas Stoves? What A Great Idea!”
- Hochul: “But I’ll Keep Electric Power Cheap!”
- Carlin: “Save the Planet? We Can’t Take Care Of Ourselves!”
- CNN Talking Head Accidentally Reveals A Fact, And Now She’s “In Trouble.”
- Affirmative Action Press Secretary Can’t Handle Facts, Calls Press “Contentious.”
- Congressional Democrats Are In League With The Death Cults.
I was barely able to resist hysterical laughter as I cruised through all that material. Let it suffice to say that the Left, of which the Democrat Party is the political arm, is irrevocably hostile to facts. Facts undermine the Left’s agenda. Facts make the Democrats look like what they are: dishonest power-grubbing tools. And though their rhetorical methods vary, their essence is consistent: “Away with the facts, if they cross-cut our plans for totalitarian power!”
Citing facts to a Leftist is like waving a red cape at a bull. You’re asking to be called everything but white. They demand that you eschew the study of verifiable facts in preference for their proclamations on “what we must do.” If you refuse…well, then you must be evil, for everyone knows that Leftists are morally superior to non-Leftists. Ask any Leftist.
It’s ridiculous, tiresome, and ominous all at once.
About half of forever ago, a man entirely without academic credentials – I believe he earned his living as a longshoreman – published a provocative book: a study of the convictions, attitudes, and methods that characterize mass movements. It caused a sensation, especially as he struck the jugular in every respect. Academic philosophers tried their damnedest to devalue his little book. They poured a great deal of scorn on it – and on him. Yet the years since his book’s appearance have verified his claims in all particulars.
Here is the passage that come to mind this morning:
The readiness for self-sacrifice is contingent on an imperviousness to the realities of life. He who is free to draw conclusions from his individual experience and observation is not usually hospitable to the idea of martyrdom. For self-sacrifice is an unreasonable act. It cannot be the end-product of a process of probing and deliberating.
All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world.
They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ. “So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.” To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason. It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbeliefs. The fanatical Japanese in Brazil refused to believe for years the evidence of Japan’s defeat.
The fanatical Communist refuses to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about Russia, nor will he be disillusioned by seeing with his own eyes the cruel misery inside the Soviet promised land.
It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor balked by contradictions because he denies their existence. Strength of faith, as Bergson pointed out, manifests itself not in moving mountains but in not seeing mountains to move.13 And it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncertainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the world around him.
Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is. What Pascal said of an effective religion is true of any effective doctrine: it must be “contrary to nature, to common sense and to pleasure.”
[Eric Hoffer, The True Believer]
The penetration exposed in that passage eclipses anything anyone else has ever said on the subject of mass movements. It gives the mass movement its true coloration: It’s an exhortation to self-sacrifice. It requires that the individual submerge himself in the movement – and that requires that he deem his own interests irrelevant whenever and wherever they conflict with the goals of the movement.
If you doubt this, review the agendas of the mass movements of today, virtually all of which are Left-inspired and Left-directed. Which of them don’t demand that the adherent place his own interests – his prosperity, his comfort, his individuality itself – behind those of the movement? The ones that seem relatively inoffensive – for example, the various “save the XXXes” movements – nevertheless demand that human interests must be subordinated to the Cause. They may not be openly allied with the Death Cults, but the commonalities, once noticed, cannot be overlooked.
To perpetrate their villainies on the world, the conductors of mass movements must conceal, obscure, or deny the facts. Facts are their mortal enemies. An individual in possession of the facts would turn away from any of the various mass movement in revulsion.
Many years ago, I wrote:
Truth is an evaluation: a judgment that some proposition corresponds to objective reality sufficiently for men to rely upon it. The weakening of the concept of truth cuts an opening through which baldly counterfactual propositions can be thrust into serious discourse. Smith might say that proposition X is disprovable, or that it contradicts common observations of the world; Jones counters that X suits him fine, for he has dismissed the disprovers as “partisan” and prefers his own observations to those of Smith. Unless the two agree on standards for relevant evidence, pertinent reasoning, and common verification — in other words, standards for what can be accepted as sufficiently true — their argument over X will never end.
An interest group that has “put its back against the wall” as regards its central interest, and is unwilling to concede the battle regardless of the evidence and logic raised against its claims, will obfuscate, attack the motives of its opponents, and attempt to misdirect their attention with irrelevancies. When all of these have failed, its last-ditch defense is to attack the concept of truth. Once that has been undermined, the group can’t be defeated. It can stay on the ideological battlefield indefinitely, preserving the possibility of victory through attrition or fatigue among its opponents.
Can there be truth without objectively verifiable facts? I can’t see it. Yet the Left, especially its mass media arm, has indeed “put its back to the wall.” It demands the privilege of dismissing facts when they clash with the Left’s prescribed agenda. What matters is the movement: its cohesion and unceasing advance.
But facts, as John Adams and others have observed, are stubborn things. Once they’re known, they can no longer be denied. As Bertrand Russell has said, though a man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant.
Judge those around you, and the causes they espouse, according to their willingness to deal with the facts. What else need be said?