a small observation to begin the day
A prominent conservative on Twitter, playing to the whole right-side Twittersphere, writes, “Time for Cain to go away. Continuous smoke is nearly as bad as fire.”
Without getting into the specifics of Cain accusations, let me start by saying this is simply not so — and in fact is precisely the kind of dangerous thinking that will determine our ideological fate.* “Continuous smoke” may prove nearly as bad as fire to those intent on cursing the smoke. But if it’s you who’s being falsely accused of having set a fire, clearing that smoke long enough to understand where exactly it’s coming from is rather important to you, I dare say.
Conservatives arguing that the truth is immaterial, that perception is reality — or, at the very least, that because your optics are bad, you need to think of the Greater Good and sacrifice your individual autonomy on its altar — are adopting the left’s epistemological paradigm.
Perception is not reality. That is, perception only comes to count as reality to the extent that we accept that formulation and surrender to it — be it out of expedience, intellectual laziness, or a desire to rationalize our unwillingness to endure a prolonged fight over what some consider to be a marginal point.
Surrendering to it institutionalizes it. And once it’s institutionalized it functions as a fait accompli.
Even Richard Rorty, one of the preeminent philosophers of postmodern thought, distinguished between things as they are and “truths” irretrievably weakened by our structural need to express them in a second-order representational system. That is, language.
But such a pedestrian observation — that language is a step removed from the reality it seeks to signal and signify — doesn’t magically cause reality to disappear.
If there’s a fire there’s a fire. Smoke only signals the possibility of a fire.
Fight for reality. Or else you are fighting on a playing field set up by the left to reduce reality to a power struggle over narrative dominance.
And in that battle, the individual always loses to the collective.
*yesterday I was cast as some sort of Cainiac True Believer rather than what I actually am — a conservative / classical liberal who refuses to let the Left set the rules for how we come to see reality. Recall that when Cain accepted the left’s framing of the Perry “Niggerhead” story, I was quite hard on him — and for precisely the same reason I’ve been defending Cain against thinly-sourced hit pieces (as well as against those on “our” side who have suddenly determined that Politico is a paragon of journalistic ethics).
If it comforts certain “reasonable” GOP boosters to dismiss me as an hysterical True Believer who doesn’t understand the ways of politics and is himself enthralled by charismats, so be it. But as I said yesterday, what I’ve been fighting for is the IDEA of a candidate — that is, for the notion that we can have as legitimate candidates those who have traveled non-traditional political paths, who haven’t gone to the Kennedy School or practiced polishing up their political bromides for so long that they’ve become rote, meaningless, perfunctory utterances that can be readily tweaked for each potential audience.
That is, I’ve been fighting the status quo — and in so doing, carrying the flag of the TEA Party.
What’s surprising is just how many of our “conservative” opinion leaders believe that to do so marks you as a nutjob fringe extremist — not a too different view, mind you, as the one shared by both the President, the Democrats, and many in the GOP establishment.
These observations of mine are not “fundamentally unserious.” They are paramount. Until we save the underlying structure, it doesn’t matter who gets to choose the furniture. Because the whole damned thing will eventually collapse on itself — at which point, anybody living it in gets trapped beneath the rubble.
Which, fuck that.