The Rodeo Clown Media and their Crazed Bull
We need also to bear in mind that a rodeo clown doesn't just run around arbitrarily. Rather, he is there to protect someone who is in danger by distracting and throwing off some crazed bull. Similarly, the RCM is there to protect Obama when he is endangered by distracting us and throwing out some crazed bull.
As such, you might say that the RCM is at antipodes to the "well examined life," which involves first and foremost discerning between truth and error, or principle and manifestation, or reality and appearances, etc. The RCM may not always place error above truth, but the very best it can do is to put them on the same plane.
Charles Kesler, whose new book on Obama is called I Am the Change, has a piece at NRO entitled Obama's Truth. Note also the subtitle of the latter, which exemplifies the political pneumapthology we've been discussing of late: It may not be true, but it’s still absolute.
People who reject the absolute don't just end their cognitive descent there. Rather, unless they are truly insane -- and therefore irrelevant -- they inevitably fall into some version of absolute relativism, or systematic absurdity.
To call such people "thinkers" is an abuse of the term, for "thinking" is precisely what cannot occur in the context of relativism. If it can, then there is no relationship between thought and truth -- or mind and reality -- and thinking has no more to say about reality than does passing gas or watching MSNBC (but I repeat myself).
When we lay it out on the table like this -- naked before the the mind's eye without a figleaf of evasion or dissembling -- you probably think to yourself: "yeah, but nobody really believes this postmodern stuff, do they? Isn't it just a silly game for the tenured?"
If only. In his article, Kesler calls to the stand a tenured friend of Obama, who approvingly -- and accurately -- describes the variety of hammers available to the postmodern deconstruction worker:
"By antifoundationalism and particularism I mean the denial of universal principles. According to this way of thinking, human cultures are human constructions; different people exhibit different forms of behavior because they cherish different values. By perspectivalism I mean the belief that everything we see is conditioned by where we stand. There is no privileged, objective vantage point free from the perspective of particular cultural values. By historicism I mean the conviction that all human values and practices are products of historical processes and must be interpreted within historical frameworks. All principles and social patterns change; none stands outside the flow of history. These ideas come in different flavors, more and less radical and more and less nihilist" (Kloppenberg).
Eh. So what. What do I care about the jerk circles of academia, so long as they don't have any real power?
Kloppenberg: “Obama’s sensibility, his ways of thinking about culture and politics, rests on the hidden strata of these ideas.”
Here is an example of the sort of drivel that results from attempting to "think" while simultaneously rejecting the very foundation of thought. Don't laugh. It's your president speaking (from the Kesler piece):
"Implicit... in the very idea of ordered liberty was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or 'ism,' any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad."
Ah, I see. So the absolute truth that "all men are created equal" is a recipe for tyranny and a road to the gulag. Gotcha.
That is so surreal, it ought to be called a Firesign chat.
Jews will be particularly interested to know that the disclosure of, and their historical allegiance to, the absolute, is implicated in their own destruction -- that their style of thinking is responsible for the very pogroms that have persecuted them. This is actually true, in the sense that Jews are hated precisely because their absolutism is an annoying rebuke to all relativists. It explains why all wholesale anti-Semitism (in the west) emanates from the relativistic left.
Kesler: Obama argues that "There is no absolute truth -- and that’s the absolute truth.... Such feeble, self-contradictory reasoning is at the heart of [his] very private and yet very public struggle with himself to determine whether there is anything anywhere that can truly be known, or even that it is rational to have faith in. Anyone who believes, really believes, in absolute truth, he asserts, is a fanatic or in imminent danger of becoming a fanatic; absolute truth is the mother of extremism everywhere."
It cannot be emphasized enough that Obama has it precisely backward, and that the turn to absolute relativism is the mother of world-historical nightmares.
For one thing, as discussed in yesterday's post, once one descends into relativism, there is a kind of scattering of truth resulting in "a vast field of secondary issues" that "effectively obscures the center of the struggle in existential consciousness" (Voegelin). Here again, this is where the media Rodeo Clowns enter the picture, as they ensure that everyone is focused on peripheral fragments and distracted from the central truth:
"[T]he struggle for truth is liable to degenerate into a jungle war of 'positions,' articulating themselves as 'isms," that are blind for their own meaning in terms of noetic consciousness" (ibid.).
But again, the relative is covertly elevated to the absolute, so that "the noetically 'empty' becomes a form of thought imposing itself as obligatory on a society, and the war of positions creates a 'climate of opinion'... that proves next to impenetrable by noetic logic" (ibid.).
Voegelin has just described the tyranny of political correctness, which is a kind of "public unconscious" that protects its own power while deflecting insight into its workings -- like a public neurosis.
Voegelin wrote this in 1977. What would he say today? I mean, after he stopped throwing up? Perhaps he'd agree with Kesler's assessment of Obama's malevolently vacuous philosophical musings -- that they "ought to send a shudder down Americans’ constitutional spine, assuming we still have one."
History, then, turns out to be a process not only of truth becoming luminous, but also of truth becoming deformed and lost by the very forces of imagination and language which let the truth break forth into image and word. --Voegelin