[Previously on A Postmodern Dark Age: The Populists: The purge is underway, at least in the US. The erasure of data that don’t fit with the ideology of the populists in charge has begun.]
It comes in the form of ‘fact-denial,’ a concerted effort to undermine the legitimacy of empirical research, all in the name of dubious agendas.
The policy was first tried out with success in the UK during the Brexit campaign. Populists took up the banners of resistance and marched against the perceived oppression of the UK by federal Europe using lies and misinformation, promising things they couldn’t deliver. They pledged £350 million pounds per day to the NHS, money to be saved in the event of Brexit (an outright lie!) and reassured everyone that jobs would be secured for all Brits after the UK borders would be shut down to European immigrants (a policy impossible to implement due to economic reasons).
Still, the populists advanced. Their alarmist and lying approach worked. The voters of Great Britain fell for it, all the crap its Brexiteers were spewing, statements that flew in the face of hard facts and data. The institutions and experts raged against them, raising caution, citing concrete evidence against all things dubious and flimsy, exposing the fabrications and falsehoods one after the other, showing in real-time how most of the Brexit promises were bogus from the start.
To little effect. The majority of voters of Great Britain heard only what they wanted to hear, trashing the facts and data, and a new way of doing politics, some say of doing business, was born.
Fact-trashing. It’s now a thing, spreading faster than anyone could have anticipated. A modern-day pogrom, its advocates plow through reality with impunity, leaving behind a trail of damage we’re going to have a hard time recovering from. Like the burning of books and manuscripts by the Nazis, only more sophisticated, more underhanded. Driven by the new heads of Departments and Agencies from the inside, Trump/GOP/Bannon stooges, it is taking on an official nature, targeting valuable, hard-earned data.
It projects authority and knowledge while lacking in scientific and critical backing.
It uses the power of authority to legitimize its actions.
It corrupts reason and undermines intelligence.
It’s everywhere, becoming a global fad, the new political tool. We would be foolish to underestimate it, irrational and unhinged as it is. It’s not going to fix itself, not when it promises the world to the disillusioned, filling their broke lives with anger and pipe dreams. We’re talking the takeover of common sense by institutionalized jingoism, fanatics hell bent on getting their way at the expense of knowledge. Ideology gone mad, rampant, forcing the square in the circle and calling it gumption.
Calling it righteousness.
We’re talking the systematic and organized sabotage of institutions whose role in civilization in terms of progress and health and hygiene has been tantamount — institutions currently standing in the way of Trump-Bannon-Ryan conservatism, which the Trump-Bannon-Ryan minions would torch to the ground. Anything for the ideology, evidence be damned.
We’re talking a fiasco, a setback of monumental proportions. The slow deletion and reconfiguration of inconvenient data has began, a purge of facts in the name of conservatism gone awry. The advance of lean republican economics mutated into a crazed form of Ayn-Randism; a rampant deconstructionism that has nothing to do with Ayn Rand’s astute observations on the power of the individual. This here ideology we’re currently facing is a zombie version of all things logical; a once beautiful resistance to the leviathans of socialism and federalism somehow turned werewolf, mad, this resistance, rabid with self-indulgence, tearing apart not just the crushing parts of big government but also every muscle of honesty, decency and common sense in the constitution of the Western world, if not the world at large.
It does this while serving an alternative set of lobbies, corporations looking to fill in the gap and grab a part of the pie they hadn’t heretofore managed to secure, at least not while the establishment was in place.
It’s a power switch, nothing just or reasonable about it, which is what happens pretty much after every election, only this time we have some real nasty types in office, people willing to erase data and reverse policies in the name of unfounded, crooked beliefs and worldviews. Theirs is the promotion of ideas that cannot hold their own, funded by powerful lobbies, sold wholesale in the wake of a people, or set of peoples, reeling under the pressure of QEnesian statism and feelgood economics (‘keep investing in an interconnected world and everything will work out in the end, went the mantra, until the world broke). From one ideology to the other, from finger-wagging leftism to face-slapping righteousness, from extreme to extreme, only this time everything is under threat, the entire world, even the illusion of a civil society. Under threat. That last shred of decency, gone, assaulted and flushed out in a coordinated effort to undermine and nullify scientific evidence, scientific consensus, rigorous research, and civic decency.
I watched this flagrant and vicious coup take place a few months ago, and I wasn’t surprised at the anger with which it was being put into effect. Nor was I thrown by the level of bigotry that surfaced with it. It was only expected, people blaming it on immigrants, minorities, other people.
But I was taken aback by the viciousness with which the fanatics attacked the data and the science behind them. That was something I had not taken into account. Scientific progress was solid, I thought, and so was the tenet of scientific and methodical research. Skewed as it had been even under the previous administrations, driven by financial interests, bottom lines and corporate dividends, it was all carried out on a relatively clear understanding in the difference between fact and fabrication, truth and falsehood. Surely that was one thing that would persist throughout the long volatility. The scientific method. The respect for data.
Then this happened:
Like Lawrence Krauss, a prominent physicist and cosmologist, said: ‘This is either extreme scientific illiteracy or more likely evidence of outright fraud & bribery. What a disgrace!’
Agreed. An absolute disgrace — a step back in the swamp from which it took us five hundred years to emerge.
WAKE OF LIBERTY called it eleven years ago, and will now monitor the developments, calling it again (the next set of developments) in due course.
From your ever-discerning Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.