Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Postmodernism by Another Name

02/03/17

From an Angry Reader:

Re: Fake News: Postmodernism By Another Name

 While I thought the article was well written and cited several good specific examples. I find is a bit disingenuous that only the progressive movement is called out. Perhaps it would be worth mentioning the “Swift Boat” stories that were promulgated against John Kerry. The concept of fake news is used by both sides of the political spectrum for the purpose of “flash blinding” the masses in the middle to move them to be more in line with the agenda of the author of the false narrative. A story is created to convince the general audience that there is an “outrage” that must be addressed. One of the more recent was of a Muslim Arab immigrant who had four wives and 24 children living on welfare that amounted to more than $300,000 in cash per year. Now we have shut down immigration. If that was the goal of the “fake news”, to confuse the issue by fostering “outrage”, it seems to have worked.

 I agree with the point that “fake” news is also just poor journalism in many cases. But, I find the right is up to their ass in the BS, too. The supposed candid “video tape” of Planned Parenthood that turned out to be “lie”, because it was selectively edited to misrepresent the actual discussion, is an example. I don’t accept that this behavior is right or ethical from either side. But, it appears you have adopted a “well our shit doesn’t stink” approach in the article so we won’t talk about it. Sorry to say it, but in fact it does stink. My solution is to be skeptical of all news and especially anything that is intended to foment “outrage” in the readers/viewers. I felt pretty certain that your article was treading close to that “rage against the progressive media” and not really observant of the whole problem. The creators of this BS are seldom called on it from either side. With a wink they just go back and start working on the next false narrative. Back in the sixties they said “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Today we can update that to, “Don’t trust anyone.”

 Fake news is designed to target a specific audience. Its goal is emotionalism and not about presenting objective facts. Your argument is that this is “acceptable” to the progressives. But, they hate it when is happens to them. So I don’t believe that they actually swallow the whole postmodernist meme you have described. Just like the right, when it is to their advantage they play around with the facts to “emotionalize” the issue and try to bury any objective rational discussion.

 Stay the course, no compromise. — Karl Rove

 Rick Barrett

Reply from Victor Davis Hanson:

Dear Angry Reader Rick Barrett,

I don’t think you really read the article.

I mentioned that all politicians spin and distort, as is the nature of politics since the Athenian ekklêsia. But the media has a particular and partisan propensity to highlight “hands up, don’t shoot”-like fake news to advance the progressive media on the postmodern notion that the exalted ends justify any means necessary.

Your “Swift Boat” example I think makes my case; it is the bookend to the 2004 fake memos that Dan Rather peddled about George Bush’s supposed AWOL episode. The media promulgated Rather’s clearly false story; in contrast, it attacked the Swift Boaters, whose charges ranged from challenging Kerry’s recollections of his war service, his congressional testimony, and charges of American atrocities. While both attacks on the two presidential candidates were clearly political, the media promulgated one, but not the other, although the Swift Boaters had at least offered a few legitimate queries in a way not true of the clearly forged Bush documents.

The Planned Parenthood stealth tape was selectively edited, but no one has denied the general charge of organ trafficking caught on tape.

Faking narratives is as old as the Greeks (read Demosthenes), but what is different is that the mostly liberal media, by and large, choose far more often to traffic in stories like the Duke rape case, the Tawana Brawley hoax, “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman and his edited 911 tape, “mattress girl,” or the Virginia fake rape charge—on the notion that these mythologies are advancing social justice and therefore acquire a sort of truth regardless of facts, or lack of same.

And I further pointed out that the media’s fake narratives are the natural dividend of 30 years of academic postmodernist thought that insisted facts were mere narratives and had to be deconstructed on the basis of race, class, and gender privilege to assess their validity.

I don’t think the Left “hates” fake news at all or it would have cried foul about the Duke or Virginia cases; the mainstream media rarely concocts stories that advance conservative causes, so Leftists have little to be angry about other than an occasional outlier story that morphs into a crisis of “fake news.” In our world, Trump’s versions of “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” distortions become “fake news!”; a Time reporter’s false story of a missing Martin Luther King bust from the Oval Office is picked up and spreads because it “proves” that Trump has a racist agenda and that “fact” is deemed a good thing.

To sum up:

1) All politicians, as I wrote, spin and distort. So do all media outlets on occasion for political purposes.

2) But the great majority of the most common fake news involves race, class, and gender issues and are passed off as true because they are felt by the media to advance a higher truth that is not predicated on facts or data.

3) And such narratives gain traction because our universities have long taught that truth is a fiction and narratives are branded true or false depending on their currency of power—and thus the Left needs to invest in stories that advance social justice, even if the facts, as ascertained by arbitrary and privileged methods, do not support such narratives.

Two final points: why does the Left always resort to profanity? Your talk of excrement (“sh*t”) offers no enhancement to your argument.

And why do you (quis custodiet ipsos custodes?) peddle in fake news with falsehoods like. “Now we have shut down immigration”? How does a temporary ban on arrivals from seven war-torn countries of the Middle East and environs, affecting less than 1% of all immigrants, constitute “shutting down immigration.” Is that really true or a fake narrative that becomes “true” because its ends are deemed noble: demonizing Trump and his supporters as xenophobes.

Sincerely,

VDH

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: