October 16, 2004

Believing in the Will

Everybody and their dog is going to be blogging Ron Suskind's story in the New York Times magazine (cache), but I can't help saying some things myself. This is the key passage, but the rest of it just provides more details which make things worse.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend --- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality --- judiciously, as you will --- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

My thoughts, on finishing the article were approximately as follows.

  1. Holy fucking shit.
  2. The shrill line about the Bush administration's "simple disconnection from reality" isn't funny any more, and not just because the disconnection from reality is complex, profound, total, deliberate and desired.
  3. Holy fucking shit.
  4. That passage sounds like a warped mixture of vulgar pragmatism ("we'll act again, creating other new realities"), manifest destiny ("we're an empire ... we're history's actors") and positive thinking ("we create our own reality"). The fundamentalist, evangelical strains of messianism --- the parts where it becomes clear that Bush thinks he's on a special mission from God --- show up elsewhere in the article. I'm sorry to disagree with Prof. Kleiman, but we can't blame this on the post-modernists; discourse and social construction don't enter into this --- it's as American as Norman Vincent Peale, Mary Baker Eddy, or Jim Jones.
  5. Holy fucking shit.
  6. The Medium Lobster isn't funny any more, he's saner than the President of the United States of America.
  7. Holy fucking shit.
  8. Most people alive today can't even remember a time when we didn't dominate the world, anchor the global economy, or lead in every area of science and technology; we're the furnace where the future is being forged; and we're ruled by a cargo cult. What is wrong with this country?
  9. Holy fucking shit.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run gibbering into the night.

The Continuing Crisis; The Running-Dogs of Reaction

Posted by crshalizi at October 16, 2004 19:09 | permanent link

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