â€œIgnorance has become a virtueâ€ is a theses argued by Tom Nichols in a timely book, reviewed in New York Times the other day. The author has of course plenty of recent illustrations with which to back up his supposition. But hasnâ€™t this race into darkness been in the works long before Trump?
After the failed attempts of revolution in the 1960s, progressives had difficulties in dealing with their disappointment. Some of them (also â€œleftistsâ€ in their own mind) made an about-face and ended up in the arms of Saussure, Nietzsche, Heidegger and other solid reactionaries (and, occasionally, Nazis). They effectively declared the end of all factual knowledge, roughly claiming that reality existed only in language and nowhere else.
It all started in France but spread like a flu to the â€œsoftâ€ departments of western academia, such as literary studies, social sciences and the like. Their scholars, who had lived in the shadow of natural sciences, now got a weapon against the intrusive scientists with their annoying claims to know anything about the reality (that the “soft” scholars had no clue about themselves). These delicate minds called their teaching by different names, often beginning with â€œpostâ€, but may for simplicity all be named â€œpostmodernistsâ€.
Michel Foucault, a kingpin among them, asserted that every narrative was as true as anyone else, only too late realizing that such theses can be aimed at itself, making it arbitrarily true or false. This is the level of postmodern thinking, only becoming increasingly absurd when the proud new thinkers ventured into science (hilariously undressed by Sokal and Bricmont).
The emperorâ€™s new clothes come certainly to mind here. Postmodernists donâ€™t seem to realize how naked they are. Noam Chomsky has famously said about them (paraphrasing): of the lashings of postmodern verbiage there is, I only understand a small part, and that is either truisms or false.
When large parts of the academic world have grown accustomed to believing in nonsense, it could not be surprising to find the political apparatus going down the same path. Is there even a class analysis to make here?
Postmodernism and neoliberalism are roughly contemporaries. The forceful counterattack by Capital, starting late 1970s, swept through the western world and stunned the progressives. Those â€œleftistsâ€ who retreated into the postmodern nonsense world became in effect fifth columnist. They distracted popular opposition by combatting the most important instrument for peopleâ€™s struggle: rationality.
If I were a multi-billionaire, strictly caring about my own money, I would certainly encourage and support every stupid prophet who deceives people into all kinds of gibberish that takes their eyes off me and my absurd wealth. Postmodernism has served that duty quite well, as far as it reaches.
Now the political world itself has been endowed with a master deceiver who certainly will do as much he has time for to lure and betray his electorate. Ignorance has not just become a virtue; it has been made a main principle by a ruling class that has everything to gain from public stupidity and everything to fear from rational class analysis.