Postmodernism and the media (rerun)

Just re-posting this so I can archive it:

No, wait … don’t stop reading … I’ll try to make this readable.

I’m no expert on postmodernism. I was just a part-time grad student, not a Ph.D. in English. Here’s what I was able to pick up on the subject:

  • History needs to include more than the people in power. So far, so good.
  • There’s no such thing as truth. It’s just a construct used by the (patriarchal, capitalist, elitist) powers-that-be to maintain their hegemony. Uh … yeah.

So there’s an emphasis on taking different points of view. That’s fine until it goes way too far. Taken logically, it means you try to get opinions from those who aren’t in the government. Taken illogically, it means Eric Cartman’s views on biochemistry are as valid as my dad’s. (For those who don’t know, my dad’s a biochemist.)

Here’s how it relates to the media: Journalists these days tend to be well educated — at least, they’ve spent a lot of time at good colleges. That means some postmodernist thought has slipped into their brains. Add that to the natural populist streak in the typical journalist, and you have a bunch of people who are determined to let anyone have a say.

Picture The Onion‘s “What Do You Think?” feature. (My favorite recent entry on media and the war: “I watch Al-Jazeera with the sound down and listen to NPR. I have no idea what’s going on.”) We let anyone have a say, no matter how ludicrous.

Another factor: We have a backwards view of “objectivity.” We think it’s “getting both sides.” That’s not true. It’s “giving pre-eminence to the facts.”

So we take a bunch of people who may or may not have a clue, put them on the air or in print, and let them say whatever they want. And we don’t dare challenge them, even if they’re obviously mistaken.

Now here’s a bit of irony. Postmodernism is a classic pointyhead liberal elitist school of thought. But it benefits people who are anything but pointyhead liberal elitists.

If I were covering a Kansas school board debate about teaching evolution in the schools, I’d be obliged to point out that every reputable biologist and medical researcher knows their work makes little sense without evolution. I maintain that’s “objective,” even if more than 50 percent of the people in the meeting disagree with me. If I’m in a room with a bunch of people who don’t believe in gravity, am I obliged to take them seriously?

These days, we’re doing just that. Notice that you don’t see a lot of academics in cable news debates. You get Ann Coulter and a bunch of people who are good at spinning insults off the top of their heads, not people who are actually experts. (War tends to be an exception, as everyone rushes to sign up top generals, most of whom indeed know their stuff.)

So the pointyhead liberal elites, who are the people who brought postmodernism upon us in the first place, are the ones squeezed out of public discourse by a slightly twisted offshoot of their own ideals.

Never believe anyone who says irony is dead.

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