Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Faux" News, the Media Vs. Trump, and the Right's New Relativism

When I saw the old man in my gym deliberately change the TV to Fox News and proceed to watch a segment in which "Fox and Friends" (Fox has friends?) lamented President Trumps labeling of news organizations, including Fox and its friends, as "fake" news, I was mesmerized. Here was the channel, with its famous links between right-wing political organizations, that helped create Trump's victory being lumped in with CNN (and its friends?).

It must hurt for Fox News to be out 'righted' by upstarts like Breitbart.

But even more than this, the leveling of the charge "fake" news to organizations across the spectrum by a man who flat out lies, distorts, and equivocates is a fascinating turn for the right. These are the folks who lay their claim to legitimacy in ideas like the fundamental uniqueness of America, in claims to a closer affiliation with God. Hell, these are the folks who fought the culture wars back in the 90's against a cult of relativistic elitists running rampant in wild Nietzche-fueled orgies at The Universities. People on the right believe they are "right" about a lot. Maybe I am simply out of touch, but I remember a right with 'no nonsense' religious types who believed that their ideas were the bulwark against a relativist slide into chaos.

Yet here we are in 2017 with the 30-odd percent who think Donald Trump's election is not a sign of the apocalypse (figuratively speaking, of course) reveling in his supposed outwitting of the liberal journalists. (Read the comments here--at your own risk!) In other words, what he said. The dissolution of truth was supposed to be some pinko-commie (though not Marxist 'cause materialism and all, but you get what I mean) nonsense from the left. And yet here we are.

Bruno Latour does a pretty good job of laying out what happening in his paper, Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam. His basic argument, a left-facing mirror of right-wing pundit Sykes' point in Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying: on the left and right, a critical discourse of Trust No One was pushed to make college students (left) and voters (right) savvier media consumers. As Latour puts it, it's completely nuts that he's considered naive now because he does NOT believe 9/11 was an inside job. Or, in other words, skepticism has been weaponized into cynicism. The only thing left standing is a retrenched and intense belief in one's previously held beliefs.

So now the left is trying to reclaim the mantle of secular humanism, rational discourse, or just telling it like it is after all these years. You can contemplate all of this, or just watch John Oliver's recent video about all of this.