Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tea Partiers: the Sokol Hoax Lives?

Ron Suskind quoted an unnamed source during the Bush administration, famously, as claiming the right to construct their own reality arising out of their power. The Tea Partiers seem to all but themselves increasingly at odds with reality, and the Republican Party increasingly unwilling to challenge them on even their most ludicrous beliefs. Such as Krugman, shaking their heads, say outright that their numbers don't add up, their assumptions at odds with data, that Ryan's and Romney's proposed budgets are fraudulent and out of fantasy rather than reality.

I've wondered in this context about the philosophical distance at which some on the left have positioned themselves from the notion of the correspondence theory of truth, the existence of an objective reality, the alleged hegemony of scientific over humanistic takes on life and the hard-to-define demarcation between the two. The right, trying to claw back shared power and reassert its claim to exclusive possession of it, demonstrates a potted caricature of postmodernism, raising the possibility that there's a fundamental problem with it. Or, perhaps, a less fundamental one, whose desperately needed clarification would exclude righty abuse of the notion. The Tea Partiers and, well, sane people, are obviously at odds. Their world views are irreconcilable, and not merely, seems to me, because of intrinsic assumptions equally valid though different, their validity a matter of social construction and nothing else, neither side privileged, but rather because one side is entirely crazy and the other is trying to deal with the real world. I don't see how that can be argued. I see their assertions as not stating facts, but, rather, laying out social markers, by which identification with the group is granted, and, therefore, unchallengeable by assertion of fact. For many of them, the Obama-as-Kenyan and Obama-as-Muslim assertions are completely unfalsifiable. And 58% or so of Republicans discard the theory of evolution despite vast, unchallenged scientific evidence.

The Tea Partiers, of course, would disagree with me, and assert precisely the same thing about, well, sane people, and are immune to factual and logical disputation of their positions. I'd like to refute them with more than a Potter Stewart hand-waving 'I know it when I see it'. I'd like to assert, with absolute confidence, that there's a way to objectively distinguish between socially constructed world views based on external correspondence, or lack of it, with reality. Then again, I'd like to do so with respect to science and other human enterprises--an exercise most scientists take as obvious or unnecessary, but which has resisted most rigorous philosophical attempts to do so. Or, perhaps, I can just say they're all bigoted, intolerant, ignorant, dogmatic poopyheads, and that lefties aren't. Obviously...

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