Who Paved the Way for Trump?

It was not Jerry Falwell (or his son).

It was the gatekeepers who decided gates were simply mental constructions and who celebrated those who ran with the new freedom.

Want to know where fake news came from? Looks like it was Harvard not Liberty University (thanks to one of our many southern correspondents):

Trump’s playbook should be familiar to any student of critical theory and philosophy. It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them.

For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power.

These ideas animate the work of influential thinkers like Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida, and they’ve become axiomatic for many scholars in literary studies, cultural anthropology and sociology.

From these premises, philosophers and theorists have derived a number of related insights. One is that facts are socially constructed. People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) that influences how they perceive, interpret and judge the world. They rely on non-neutral methods (microscopes, cameras, eyeballs) and use non-neutral symbols (words, numbers, images) to communicate facts to people who receive, interpret and deploy them from their own social positions.

Call it what you want: relativism, constructivism, deconstruction, postmodernism, critique. The idea is the same: Truth is not found, but made, and making truth means exercising power.

Casey Williams argues that the populist right has abused postmodernism.

The reductive version is simpler and easier to abuse: Fact is fiction, and anything goes. It’s this version of critical social theory that the populist right has seized on and that Trump has made into a powerful weapon.

One might object that Trump’s disregard for the truth is nothing new. American presidents have always twisted facts to fit their agenda and have always dismissed truths that threatened to sink them. Even George Washington’s great claim to honesty — that he ’fessed up to felling a cherry tree — was a deception. One could also argue that Trump is more Machiavellian than Foucauldian and that he doesn’t actually believe what he says: He propagates misinformation strategically, to excite his base and smear his opponents.

Not to be missed is what happens when other celebrities flout conventions. Then it becomes art and poignant. And so Lena Dunham is prescient (while Trump is so ordinary when he is not despicable):

The romance between this newspaper and the HBO show “Girls” is somewhat legendary. Between its debut in 2012 and its finale last Sunday, according to some exhaustive data journalism from The Awl, The New York Times published 37 articles about the show, its fans, its creator and star, Lena Dunham, plus her co-stars’ clothes and paintings and workout routines and exotic pets.

Except, fact-check: I made up the exotic pets, and The Awl’s list unaccountably failed to include my own contribution to The Times’s Dunham-mania, a love letter to the show’s flirtations with cultural reaction.

Was some of this coverage excessive? Well, let’s concede that the ratio of thinkpieces (all over the web, not just in this newspaper) to actual viewers was considerably higher for “Girls” than for, say, “Game of Thrones.” Let’s concede that the media loved to talk about the show in part because it was set among young white people in Brooklyn, a demographic just possibly overrepresented among the people who write about pop culture for a living. Let’s concede that Dunham’s peculiar role in electoral politics, as one of the most visible and, um, creative millennial-generation surrogates for Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton, played some role in the press’s fascination with her show.

But now that we have the show in full, I think the scale of coverage actually holds up quite well — my own small part in it very much included. Indeed, I suspect that “Girls” will be remembered as the most interesting and important television show of the years in which it ran, to which cultural critics will inevitably return when they argue about art and society in the now-vanished era of Obama.

I know it’s hard to seem to be upholding the status quo. Baby boomers would rather have an edge, be a little deviant, and resist being part of the establishment.

But at some point you grow up, or you find no rationale for opposing a man (now president) who has been simply floating along with the decline of standards.

6 thoughts on “Who Paved the Way for Trump?

  1. Who paved the way, indeed! Who, in fact, wrote the following? Sounds kinda like Trump maybe? Could be from someone like Dennis Prager?

    “… Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general…
    But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology …
    Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this. All we are trying to do here is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the WHOLE truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th centuries … the two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential …
    Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto- dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to upper-middle-class families….Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals) or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not mean to suggest that women, Indians, etc. ARE inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology.)…
    Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may NOT be as strong and as capable as men…
    Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful…”

    Give up? In fact, it is a snippet from the introductory comments by Ted Kaczynski in his “Unabomber’s Manifesto.”
    Was he on the wrong track? Ask any Trump or other “anti-Leftist” voters from the last election that question, see what kind of answer you get.


  2. You mean that “fake news” is NOT the fault of Protestants who disagree with each other and who deny the reality of Christ’s human presence on earth ( in them and in the sacrament) and who teach the priority of God’s extrinsic (fake forensic) imputation of Christ’s death to the working of the Holy Spirit inside us? Trump is what you get at the bottom of the slippery slope from rebellion against the ancient Orthodox church. And Jerry Falwell’s disregard for the truth and the Roman Catholics covering up their scandal…

    Dreher–“The nominalists thought they were doing God a favor, by recognizing God’s power. In fact, they undermined God’s reality. . Today, most people doubt that entities like God, beauty, and evil are real in the same sense that the physical world is real. They imagine a boundary between the transcendent plane, where God lives, and our (secular) material world. This boundary makes God abstract—a designer, a describer, a storyteller—rather than a concrete presence in our everyday life. By contrast, the early Christians were realists who lived in a world charged with God’s presence. “We won’t start to recover spiritually and morally until we begin to recover this ancient Christian worldview.”

    William Evans— McCormack takes Calvin to task for saying that justification flows from mystical union with Christ. This, according to McCormack “would seem to make justification the effect of a logically prior ‘participation’ in Christ that has been effected by the uniting action of the Holy Spirit.” This, McCormack says, is a problem from a truly Reformational standpoint in that “the work of God ‘in us’ is, once again made to be the ground of the divine forgiveness of sins.”

    William Evans: It is this effort to protect the doctrine of forensic justification by means of an extrinsic soteriology that helps to account for the use that Scott Clark’s colleague Mike Horton is now making of McCormack’s theological ontology For Scott Clark, the crux of the matter is his conviction that the doctrine of forensic justification demands extrinsic relationship between Christ and the Christian …


    Scott Clark: On what basis does God accept us? Who earned that righteousness? How does a sinner come into possession of that righteousness? Where is that righteousness to be found relative to the sinner, within us or without? Evans may scoff at the doctrine of an “extrinsic” doctrine of justification but Paul himself asked these questions and historically the only alternative to extrinsic (alien) righteousness is a “proper” or “intrinsic” ground of divine acceptance and in that case we’re right back in the medieval soup….


  3. https://www.bustle.com/p/john-oliver-uses-ivanka-trumps-own-words-to-prove-she-may-be-more-deceptive-than-we-realize-video-53138

    The Trump Card (2009) Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true. This doesn’t mean you should be duplicitous or deceitful, but don’t go out of your way to correct a false assumption if it plays to your advantage

    The people in his PCA congregation were not made aware by the presbytery of their senior pastor’s adultery, and so the people said to each other —thank God that we are not autonomous congregationalists but have accountability structures.


  4. I wouldn’t exclude the role people like Falwell and Graham played in electing Trump. But a certain post modern parallel exists between post modernism’s rejection of pre modernism’s and modernism’s metanarratives and Trump voters and the political establishment. If the political establishment had, either during the primaries or the general election, admitted their failures and asked for support, I believe that Trump could have been defeated–we should note here that Clinton’s attack on the coal industry helped save the day for Trump all of which might be a small chink in my argument. But that wasn’t the case. Trump voters knew more about what they didn’t want than what they were assured in getting. And what they didn’t want was the status quo because much of it had failed them just as post modernists see the metanarratives of pre modernism and modernism having failed them and the world.


  5. I agree. “Nominalists” has become a swear word, like “zwinglian” or “secularist” . It’s popular story right now to blame everything on Scotus (and all protestants) but I am not buying it. I don’t believe it when Dreher does the pop version of John Milbank, and also not when Evans re-runs Nevin.

    Lee Irons— “Kline clearly rejects the voluntarist position that all merit is based upon God’s free and gracious condescension to make himself a debtor to man’s finite works. The voluntarist definition of merit presupposes that “a distinction is to be made between the inherent value of a moral act and its ascribed value under the terms of the covenant.” The covenant becomes a way, therefore, of CIRCUMVENTING STRICT JUSTICE, making possible the arbitrary acceptance as meritorious of that which is not actually meritorious.”

    Lee Irons—“The voluntarist seizes on the notion of a voluntary condescension expressed by way of covenant. The voluntarist definition of merit is qualified as a lesser merit that cannot even exist apart from God’s gracious acceptation. But Kline teaches that “God’s justice must be defined and judged in terms of what he stipulates in his covenants.” The covenant is the revelation of God’s JUSTICE. ”

    Lee Irons—Although the Westminster Confession’s opening statement on the covenant employs the language of the via moderna, we believe that the Confession’s overall system of doctrine supports the covenantal nature of creation.
    The Confession speaks of “the holy nature and will of God,” as a covenant (WCF XIX.1-3; WLC # 93, 95). Furthermore, the Confession, when dealing with the imago Dei, states that Adam and Eve had “the law of God written in their hearts” (WCF IV.2), thus strongly suggesting that man was constituted n a covenantal relationship with God as he was created…

    Click to access redefining_merit.pdf


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