I’m no fan of postmodernism, but I somehow doubt that this obscure academic ideology is responsible in any meaningful way for our post-truth woes. For one thing, the writings of postmodernists are so opaque and filled with jargon that I’ve often wondered whether the authors themselves have any idea what they’re trying to say. It’s hard to see how they could exert much influence outside of their own small coterie.
I would say instead that the downgrading of truth, both within the academy and without, shares a common cause—namely, the promotion of political ends above all else. We have lost the capacity to limit the reach of our ideologies and the identities that go with them. Perhaps modern life has so unsettled traditional identities that many of us have nothing better to fall back upon than the crude claims of politics. And it is certainly the case that new media bear some of the blame, with their unprecedented capacity to distort and heighten every point of ideological disagreement and to disseminate it far and wide.
My emphasis. I wish that politics would retreat. Instead, if we look at how businesses are feeling impelled to take stands on political issues, politics seems to be advancing.
Yuval Levin and I were speculating the other day that perhaps our society just wasn’t prepared to handle the media environment that has emerged. Maybe as we adjust and learn, the political tribalism will die down.