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  • The Unreality-based Community

    Posted by Steven Den Beste on October 8th, 2006 (All posts by )

    There’s a peculiar thing that’s begun to happen to the left in the last few
    years: when reality is, apparently, too difficult to bear; when things don’t go
    the way they wish things had gone, then they retreat into fantasy. And they’re
    doing it out in public.

    Lose the 2000 election? Well, create
    a TV show where the Democrats
    actually won in 2000. Wish Hillary would win, but fear that she won’t? Make
    another TV show about
    the first woman (a Democrat, naturally) to be President. Want the War on Terror
    to end? Just write
    the
    history of the future
    and and have a future President (a woman) end it. Hate
    George Bush, and wish he was gone? Then make

    a movie about his assassination
    .

    A few years ago left-wing bloggers embraced the term "reality-based
    community", apparently as a response to the the "faith-based community". But
    it’s increasingly looking like the left wing is actually hallucination-based.
    It’s a pathological manifestation of teleology: they seem to believe that if
    they just wish for something hard enough, it’ll happen.

    Or maybe it’s voodoo, only using TV and film instead of little dolls.

     

    25 Responses to “The Unreality-based Community”

    1. Jay Manifold Says:

      I see an analogy here to Shannon’s comment in The Disunited States of America about “grant[ing] the articulate intellectual a central role in defining and solving the problem.” In this case, “solving” the problem of a stubborn reality through pure fiction.

      I would warn us all, however, that bloggers routinely speculate in ways that give their own worldviews pride of place. I know I do, and I’m unlikely to stop. How reality-based am I? Only time will tell …

    2. Mark Says:

      My favorite anecdote on the reality based phrase: “It’s its own opposite,” said Bill Kretzschmar, editor of the Linguistic Atlas of America. “If it’s reality-based, it’s not real.”

      http://www.slate.com/id/2112150/

      It’s obvious what they’re trying to get at, but funny that grammar doesn’t agree…

    3. PSGInfinity Says:

      Steven, voodoo might not be very far off. A theory made the rounds a while back that Leftism is devolving into a Ghost Dancing cult. Gaghdad Bob has a really good post applying the theory.

      “Reality-based”, but not the actual reality. Mark, that’s a perfect metaphor for Liberals…

    4. pete Says:

      The phrase “reality-based” was actually an epithet used by a Bush aide. Wikipedia entry here.

    5. J Gerrish Says:

      The logical conclusion of basing one’s worldview on bumper-sticker philosophy like “Visualize World Peace.” If we all just imagine hard enough, it will come to pass…

    6. veryretired Says:

      But it makes perfect sense. For decades, the progressive, deconstructionist, revisionist, post-modernist intellectual gurus have been telling us that reality is perception, the medium is the message, that everything is subjective, that history is infinitely malleable to current academic fads, that issues don’t actually matter, just how they’re “framed”, and on and on.

      Haven’t we been told that rationalism is a dead end? That the scientific method is just a western construct, no more valid than any other cultural myth? That the populace is endlessly susceptible to advertising, helpless before the manipulation of media forms whose powers overwhelm their minds and create desires where none existed before?

      Why be surprised, then, when they believe their own press releases. Don’t like the outcome of an election? Invent your own results. Don’t like the policies approved by a majority of the citizenry? Construct a whole new, imaginary country in which things are done the correct way.

      Isn’t their fable every bit as valid as the one presented each night on the news?

      I bet you could find a whole bunch of trendy academics who would tell you just that—reality is whatever you want it to be.

      Such is the intellectual and moral state of a major actor in the most powerful culture on 21st century Earth—the reality based community.

      The term “oxymoron” was invented for just such situations.

    7. Matthew Goggins Says:

      I don’t wishful thinking is peculiar to the left; it’s just human nature. The reason the left seems to be fantasizing so much in public is because the left dominates our creative industries in Hollywood (and in Great Britain as well).

      For example, you could say Clint Eastwood represented conservative fantasy-making (Dirty Harry) about fighting back against urban crime and anarchy. If there were more Clint Eastwood’s in Hollywood, you would get more conservative wishful-thinking in our media.

    8. Tatyana Says:

      The funny point, Matthew G, is that fighting back urban crime and anarchy is not a fantasy-making. It’s a “reality given us in human senses”(Marx) – especially us in New York, every day experiencing a city that has been clean-swept by Giuliani after Dinkins’ reign.

    9. Matthew Goggins Says:

      Tatyana, nowadays, cleaning up cities through vigilant policing and law enforcement is no longer a fantasy. But back in the 70’s and 80’s, it wasn’t very clear when we would be able to get a handle on things.

      “Dirty Harry” represented the conservative wish for rogue cops to break the rules in a desperate attempt to establish some street justice during an era when the political and criminal justice systems dithered in a relatively dysfuntional state.

    10. GeneThug Says:

      I’d also add that the Colbert report to that list. Though well executed, it is a self conscious parody of conservative viewpoints, protecting partisan viewers from exposure to, say, actual ones.

      PS Elated to see you poli-blogging again, health and inspiration permitting.

    11. Jacob Says:

      Art isn’t supposed to depict reality just “as it is”. Art is a stylized, idealized version of reality. Art can depict things as they could, or should be, not as they are. Art should inspire people.
      (That is Ayn Rand’s definition of art, im my opinion borrowed from communist literature, but not implausible).

      Most artists, being lefties, create art (movies, songs) that depicts the world as they wish it to be.
      Does this mean that all lefties are unrealistic ? I don’t know. I tend to beleive this is so, but the art items cited aren’t conclusive proof.

    12. Helen Says:

      I am not sure that the parallel between the Dirty Harry movies and the sort of alternative reality, of which “Death of a President” is the latest manifestation, stands. The idea of using various methods to clean up the streets in American cities may have seemed like fantasy in the sixties and seventies but it was a fantasy about methods to be used in the future. In the same way, in Britain, organizations like the Institute of Economic Affairs, “fantasised” in the fifties, sixties and seventies about privatizing heavy industry and utilities. Some of it has now come true.

      The fantasy-reality, on the other hand, wants to create a world in which certain things simply have not happened. The Democrats did not lose, Bush did not become President, the people did not vote the way they voted and so on. I am sure there is a medical term for this.

    13. Tom Fuller Says:

      As a member of the (hopefully) reality-based left, I hope nobody minds if I remind readers of the Rambo series, and the alt/history it popularized. (Okay, you’ve got a point, but I see no evidence it’s limited to the Left).

    14. SFC B Says:

      The IMDB entry on West Wing shows it started its run back in 1999. Wouldn’t that mean it predates Bush’s election by about a year?

    15. _Jon Says:

      The difference between “praying” and “wishing” is what, really?

    16. SumoRunner Says:

      This meme is not new….

      Imagine there’s no countries
      It isn’t hard to do

      Nothing to kill or die for
      And no religion too
      Imagine all the people
      Living life in peace

      You may say that I’m a dreamer
      But I’m not the only one
      I hope someday you’ll join us
      And the world will be as one

      John Lennon

    17. dbett Says:

      Worse than creating a TV show about a Democrat winning the Presidency in 2000 are the folks with “Bartlett is my President” bumper stickers.

      I want to get some “…because I live in a fantasy world” stickers to put next to them.

    18. Richard Aubrey Says:

      Recall Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”? It had been a popular book prior to being filmed.

      Wishful thinking, especially when the film showed other people were taking up law enforcement, as well, following the example of the mysterious Bronson.

      We were seriously worried about urban crime at that point.

    19. Jim,MtnViewCA,USA Says:

      Agree that this is part of human nature but I am starting to wonder. Like the whole 9/11 was in “inside job” stuff…back when I was a leftist, people did lots of drugs. I wonder if the popular drugs have changed and are less benign to one’s intellectual faculties than before…

    20. Mog Says:

      The voodoo analogy is apt, but I think there’s some Cargo Cultism going on here. You have Moulitsas wishing to go away from Kos for a while and build vast ‘cathedrals of secularism’. The desire to create ‘left wing radio’.

      Clear indication that they feel that the medium, rather than the message, is the determinent of success.

    21. ELC Says:

      Core’s Law of Old Media: We see the Democrats in Self-Destruct Mode partly because America’s liberals believe their own lying propaganda.

    22. Anonymous Coward Says:

      Reality has a well known liberal bias.

      This does not mean the same thing as “Liberals have a well known reality bias.”

      Instead, reality actually transforms itself into whatever liberals believe.

    23. Scot Says:

      Best bumpersticker I ever saw, and oddly enough, germain to the discussion at hand, “Re-elect Gore in 2004.” It still makes me chuckle.

    24. Sigivald Says:

      Pete: Even more accurately, it’s a quote that Ron Suskind attributed to an unnamed Bush aide.

      I am, myself, inclined to think that might not be entirely accurate – though as the quote is presented, it doesn’t even mean what the “reality based” people think it does, since it doesn’t appear to be talking about “reality” vs. “fantasy”, but about how political action changes what is real in terms of world politics.

      The reasons that analysis is less popular as a cheap joke or blog subhead are left as an exercise to the reader.

      On Topic: Discussing politics with a progressive acquaintance, I was assured that “the country” was not only really secretly to the Left of the Republican party (which I do believe, though I don’t think it’s nearly as far left of the Republican center as the Democrats do), but even to the Left of the Democrats, and that Progressives will be controlling the government come November.

      My disbelief that anyone could seriously propose that can be inferred.

    25. Sharon Secor Says:

      A fascinating discussion, and a big thanks to Mr. Den Beste for getting it started with his post.

      Veryretired made an apt comment:

      “But it makes perfect sense. For decades, the progressive, deconstructionist, revisionist, post-modernist intellectual gurus have been telling us that reality is perception, the medium is the message, that everything is subjective, that history is infinitely malleable to current academic fads, that issues don’t actually matter, just how they’re “framed”, and on and on.”

      I also found the piece that the Gaghdad Bob links to to be very informative on the mindset behind such thinking as it filters more obviously into the political realm.

      Democrats, liberals and left leaning thinkers are not the only ones that fall into this sort of “magical thinking” mindset, which is one of the terms used by Jean Piaget in describing the stages of pre-adult or immature cognitive functioning, but history seems to reveal that when such left leaning magical thinking comes to fruition in real life policies, there are horrific consequences on a much greater scale than would be available to, for example, old-school small governement conservatives. After all, didn’t Joseph Stalin kill millions??