Post-Modernism—Just Like Zyklon B?

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More bizarro Pope-inspired Nazi analogies from The National Review, this time directed at you atheists and Objectivists out there:

Well, obviously there are atheists who have a strongly reasoned, and as they see it "objective" moral code based upon reason. They are not relativists. But there is now again, as there was in the 1930s, a spreading invisible gas of relativism, even among such atheists, not to mention among former believers in God. For growing numbers, it seems, ours is becoming again "a world in which everything has lost its meaning." The academic fashion of Post-Modernism puts an ideology to this, and its roots seem to me much too like those that led up to the fashion for Fascism and Communism among "the Clerks."

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  1. OK, are guys like Novak detached from the state of contemporary academia, or am I? My sense was that pomo as an actual philosophy (as opposed to, say, an aesthetic style–though probably that too) is a fad some years passed, one more embarassing pile of legwarmers in the university closet. Is that just wishful thinking on my part, or are these guys fighting the Battle of New Orleans here?

  2. I wish that someone would just come out and say (a la Jack Chick) “Anyone who doesn’t practice and believe in my faith to the letter is a sinner condemned to hell.” You’ll never hear that, but really, isn’t any acceptance of other faiths and practices “relativism”?

  3. “…its roots seem to me much too like those that led up to the fashion for Fascism and Communism among ‘the Clerks.'”

    I’m now imagining Dante in an SS uniform whining to the prisoners as they walk into the gas chambers, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”

  4. “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” was my first though too.

  5. zzzzzzzzzz

    I just can’t get interested in what an old man in funny robes or his followers think about me or anyone else. Sorry, Benny.

  6. isn’t any acceptance of other faiths and practices “relativism”?

    For most of these NR types, no, only godless, wicked faiths are unacceptable. You’re A-OK as long as you give up your will to some higher being and don’t think for yourself.

  7. I fail to see the correlation between people abandoning religious mythology of their own accord(as happens in western society), and being coerced into abandoning religion by a tyrannical state(Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Union, etc.)

  8. “OK, are guys like Novak detached from the state of contemporary academia, or am I?”

    I’m not in the academy, so I can only use the Barnes and Noble barometer of academic discourse. In the late 90s, I remember many thrusts and parries on the bookshelves over the trinity of postmodernism, multiculturalism, and political correctness. I haven’t heard a peep since about 2001. The lazy man’s version of the barometer is “What is James Bovard screeching about now?”

  9. the cult of “the absurd” among the intellectuals

    I wonder if Novak would consider this an example of “the absurd” in academia.

    I know I do, yet I’m agnostic, so I don’t know if I am an Objectivist or not.

    Oh well, back to the drawing board.

  10. STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!
    Stop linking to (or even fucking mentioning) those vile loathsome asshats at National Review.

  11. National Review became completely unreadable the day after Florence King retired The Misanthrope’s Corner.

    How’s that for “morally relativistic”?

  12. I’ll try posting here again.

    It is good that we don’t have to choose between the “everything is black and white” philosophy of the right and the “everything is gray” philosophy of the left.
    Reality has so much more to offer.

  13. “The academic fashion of Post-Modernism puts an ideology to this, and its roots seem to me much too like those that led up to the fashion for Fascism and Communism among “the Clerks.”

    I don’t find that to be all that unrealistic and worthy scorn as those posting here pretend it to be. Pomo is not altogether dead, as Joe pointed out, it still festers in our subconscious. Also, it is not a giant leap to liken pomo to other nihilistic philosophies paving the way for totalitarian societies.

  14. Shorter every NRO post on the subject: the things I believe in brings justice and light to the world, except when these beliefs are perverted by people who disagree with me politically.

  15. Really: yeah look at all ethnic cleansing that has already been done in the name of pomo.

  16. The problem with Post-Modernism is that it can’t be nailed down. After all, if nothing is certain then those that adhere to PoMo thought are free to pick and choose whatever shiny idea comes along and declare it to be PoMo.

    Since it’s a philosophical outlook defined by it’s lack of definition (heh) then it’s adherents are free to define anything as PoMo.

    And that’s to say nothing of Post Modern art.

    ‘It’s ‘PoMo’!
    Post-modern!
    Yeah, all right, weird for the sake of weird.

    — Moe Szyslak

  17. My God.

    Did that make any sense?

  18. Fundamentalism paves the way for totalitarianism.

    Look at how many times Hitler quotes “God” in his speeches.

    You’ll never see me knocking on your door and spewing “One nation, under Tom Paine,” even though that’s what I believe.

    “Difference of opinion is advantageous is religion. The several sects perform the office of a censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support rogeury and error all over the earth.”
    T. Jefferson

  19. xray,

    Um, ethnic cleansing has been done in the name of other nihilistic philosophies which are not altogether unlike pomo in their essential composition, it isn’t a great feat of the intellect to see the similarities between pre-war German/Russian philosophy and pomo. So, no, ethnic cleansing was not committed in the name of pomo per se. Did someone say it was? Perhaps you were confused or were trying to be cute at the expense of reading comprehension.

  20. Kind of makes you pine for the days when fundamentalists thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ, doesn’t it?

  21. No, Really, I was really just trying to illustrate how weak your position is. You think it is not a giant leap from pomo to the holocaust. Your relativism makes B16 look thoughtful.

  22. look at all ethnic cleansing that has already been done in the name of pomo.

    When I first skimmed this, I misread “pomo” as “porno” and had this mental image of a naked blonde screaming, “Fuck me harder, mongrel Jew!”

  23. Atrocities like the holocaust are entirely dependant upon an insidious philosophy destroying one’s rational faculty. How else could the German’s acquiescence be explained, but by a long gradual decay of reason-based ethics? Pomo, similarly, is wholly irrational. Could it lead directly to a holocaust? Not likely. Could a continued and sustained disregard for reason, which pomo exacerbates, lead to a holocaust? Certainly.

  24. Atrocities like the holocaust are entirely dependent upon an insidious philosophy destroying one’s rational faculty. How else could the German’s acquiescence be explained, but by a long gradual decay of reason-based ethics? Chrisitanity, similarly, is wholly irrational. Could it lead directly to a holocaust? Quite likely. Could a continued and sustained disregard for reason, which christianity exacerbates, lead to a holocaust? Certainly.

  25. How’s that for a pomo response?

  26. holy fucking shit, some people are afraid of weird things. and thanks to reason, i got a national review invite in the mail the other day. thanks a lot, you and your fucking free markets.

    i watch my wife struggle with lacan and other freudian jackassery for this one criticism class she’s taking for her phd. if this is the wild and wolly world of “no meaning” or “moral relativism” it is news to every single writer, great and small, assigned in these classes. they have an extreme definite sense of right and wrong, and in many ways it is a grotesque parody of the neo-osirian death cultists they’re generally criticising.

    except in the crossroads of semiotics and feminism, because that stuff is far beyond weird in its own right. the humorless flipside to RAW’s little speeches on the catholic church and why priests need to have “magic wands.”

  27. “How else could the German’s acquiescence be explained, but by a long gradual decay of reason-based ethics?”

    have you read “on the jews and their lies” by a certain martin luther?

  28. xray and dhex:

    God bless you!

  29. “For growing numbers, it seems, ours is becoming again “a world in which everything has lost its meaning.”

    If you need an invisable friend to give your life “meaning” (whatever the fuck that means) you have self-esteem issues, not a philosophy.

  30. “National Review became completely unreadable the day after Florence King retired The Misanthrope’s Corner.”

    Ahhhhh… Good old Florence. I wonder how many conservatives where hacked off by the fact that she was both an open lesbian AND pro-abortion.

  31. So, is the pope going to declare a holy war against the moral relativists?

    I fear for humanity. Our animal rage and tribal instincts keep getting us into trouble. When will we ever learn?

  32. “The academic fashion of Post-Modernism puts an ideology to this, and its roots seem to me much too like those that led up to the fashion for Fascism and Communism among “the Clerks.”

    As the official proponent of the idea that cruel, inhuman and degrading acts aren’t tortuous unless they’re relatively intense, isn’t Alberto Gonzales the new high priest of morally obnoxious relativism? …I know conservatives once viewed Gonzales with suspicion, but weren’t a whole hell of a lot of people on the right–and people over at NRO–recently defending the practice of torture using relativist arguments?

  33. Kind of makes you pine for the days when fundamentalists thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ, doesn’t it?

    Amen, Dan. Amen.

  34. If you need an invisable friend to give your life “meaning” (whatever the fuck that means) you have self-esteem issues, not a philosophy

    Well put, Akira.

    I find moral weakness in those who behave civilly only because of fear of a diety. Especially when the drone on about how empty their lives were before the found God, Jesus, Allah, etc. They can’t comprehend for a second that you could live a decent life, and treat other decently without God, because they couldn’t. Pitiful creatures they are.

    Also, has anyone noticed that the world loses its meaning” when people are having tough economic times. Bolshevism and Nazism both grew out of situations where the people were in rough straits, and looking for a way out.

  35. “Kind of makes you pine for the days when fundamentalists thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ, doesn’t it?”

    Well, there is still Jack Chick, and from time-to-time I’ll hear some fundie on squawk radio claim that “Catholics aren’t really Christians.” However, I always thought it amusing that hard-line Protestants flocked to see “The Passion Of The Christ”; a bluntly pre-Vatican II version of the alleged events as told by a hard-line Catholic director.

  36. “Kind of makes you pine for the days when fundamentalists thought the Pope was the Anti-Christ, doesn’t it?”

    I keep drawing this line, but I think there are still a lot of fundamentalists who think that the anti-Christ will be the Pope; I think it’s the Evangelicals that are doin’ the swoonin’ here.

    …Sounds like hair-splitting, I know.

  37. David: It was not tough economic times, it was the publication of Ulysses that pushed the world into fascism/communism. Your relativistic world-view has probably blinded you to the real causes of murderous totalitarianism.

  38. “Also, has anyone noticed that the world loses its ‘meaning’ when people are having tough economic times. Bolshevism and Nazism both grew out of situations where the people were in rough straits, and looking for a way out.”

    All you need to do is give the poor desperate masses a mission of utopia (e.g. Heaven, the Workers Paradise, a 1000-year Reich), a prophet who proclaims the “truth” (e.g. Jesus, Marx, Hitler), and a bad guy who everyone is supposed to hate and fear (e.g. Satan, capitalists, jews).

    Of course, despite all the bloodshed, enforced ingnorance, and tyranny done in the name of such beliefs, the theo-cons have the gall to claim that Christianity is needed to give life “meaning” while Nazism and Marxism are “relavistic.”

    I guess they can’t stand the competition.

  39. xray,

    As per your 2:11 post, fair enough (and funny), but that only adds another philosophy to the long list of irrational ones. It does nothing to refute my original contention that pomo is inherently destructive and that the statement I quoted from the article is hardly laughable, as everyone is pretending.

  40. Really: What is your evidence that pomo is inherently destructive, or even irrational? (just one example from the real world, please.)Personally, I find the quote you used to be funny, but not as hilarious as, “It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally.” (also from the cultural critics at NRO.)

  41. I think Really may be referring to the argument Leonard Piekoff makes in The Ominous Parallels.

  42. “…or even irrational”

    (?!?!?) Ask any postmodernist if they belive in reason.

    Pomo, by definition, rejects any form of objectivity, the foundation of reason. It holds as a matter of faith that all perspectives are equally valid and that there is no external measurable reality. How this can be destructive has been illustrated by every tyrant.

  43. i think you’ve got that backwards. tyrants tend to work on a rather simple principle – that they’re objectively valid and everyone else had better watch their ass.

    i get the feeling you have no idea of what you speak, and i FUCKING HATE critical theory.

  44. Left and right are both carrot and stick pragmatists.
    Christian’s (and appraently Muslims as well) fear the end of their own personal existance and so, cling to the offer of eternal life promised by their cults. The left promises a worker’s paradise where you won’t have to struggle to survive and the carrot and stick are wielded by the state rather than by the priesthood.

    Both treat humans as simple animals to be manipulated by the promise of comfort/continued existance and the threat of hell/termination.

    There is much thoughtful exposition on both sides, but when the lard is rendered, we are left with carrot and stick psychology.

  45. As a recent escapee from the “academy” I can say that

    …pomo is alive and well, at least among the humanists.

    …Really is correct. Post-modernism is explicitly relativistic in philosophy. In fact, in the last year I have heard multiple professors argue that the entire system of Western logic must be thrown out, that ‘we can know things without using logic.’

    In my mind, that’s one definition of “irrational.”

  46. Really: Hitler and Stalin were postmodernists who believed that “all perspectives are equally valid.” All I can say is, really? That doesn’t sound like the totalitarian despots I learned about in grade school. I naively believed they were quite decisive and actually spent a fair bit of time making sure that what they knew to be true was understood by their countrymen. But ya learn something new everyday.

  47. i think you’ve got that backwards. tyrants tend to work on a rather simple principle – that they’re objectively valid and everyone else had better watch their ass.

    I agree with dhex. While every tyrant has his own particular rhetoric, and while some of that rhetoric may (for all I know) include things that sound like moral relativism, when you get down to it every tyrant operates on the principle that the Dear Leader is right and all others are not only wrong but enemies of all that is good in the world.

    Bottom line is that any ideology, if taken too far, can lead to bloodshed if the audience is desperate, the leader is charismatic, the promises are large enough, and the designated enemies are unsympathetic in the eyes of that audience.

  48. The tyrants come afterward.

  49. “- that they’re objectively valid ”

    Hitler nor Stalin made no pretense at appreciating objective reality. They didn’t believe in it at all. They admit time and time again that they don’t believe in objectivity. You really don’t know this?

    “i get the feeling you have no idea of what you speak”

    🙂

  50. Tyrants ride into power on a sea of relativism and promise to end the chaos with the iron fist.

  51. Hell, I’ll bet that if the Island of Doctor Thoreau (the island nation paradise that I promise to start some day for libertarian scientists) came upon hard times, a sufficiently charismatic leader could probably lead the inhabitants in a genocide against non-scientists and/or statists and/or dumb people (eugenics).

  52. Moral relativism makes the mechanics of arbitrary political power theoretically acceptable; as long as desirable ends are promised, then the means are irrelevant.

  53. Does anyone else find it odd that not one PoMo thinker, academic, or artist has yet been named in this thread? Or that one or two foundational PoMo ideas haven’t been raised and discussed (and don’t say “everything is relative” is the PoMo creed just because you heard that somewhere)? Makes one suspicious.

  54. Really and linguist: Hitler and Stalin were not a couple of birkenstock-wearing humanities profs who spent their time deconstructing western-centric paradigms in order to boondoggle the people into mass murder. They were murderous totalitarians and they were very clear abt what they believed and what everyone should believe. Thye admitted time and again that they did not belive in objective reality? Where’s the quote? One quote! Your willingness to just make stuff up to prove that you are right and good and pomo profs are the root of all evil just proves your own sorry relativism. H&S had blood on their hands. Real human blood. Not even Chomsky is that bad.

  55. Generally, tyrants are not deeply into philosophy.
    They are into the exercise of power.

  56. yes, but chomskykerrysaurus, created on the island of dr. thoreau, would be worse!!!

  57. There is no truth! Doctor Thoreau has deceived us with his science! I will reign supreme on this island!

  58. Damn you Thoreau! I wanted to be the Panther-Man!

  59. I don’t know who this Doctor Thoreau guy is, but I’m the one in charge of this island, not him.

  60. Does anyone else find it odd that not one PoMo thinker, academic, or artist has yet been named in this thread?

    That’s because all good contemporary thinkers, academics, and artists are pomo.

    Of course, adherents of PoMo will never admit this, but it’s obvious if you just listen to one blather on for a couple of minutes.

    “Did you see Kill Bill? Tarantino’s style is utterly PoMo.”

    Of course, you’ll never hear one say the following:

    “Did you see Alone In The Dark? Uwe Boll’s directorial style is utterly PoMo.”

    PoMo is only in the tacit, momentary approval of the nimrods that adorn themselves with the lable.

  61. This thread sure hasn’t become very productive, but I’ll just throw into the fray this possibility: that the specific political/ethical/environmental beliefs of many self-proclaimed postmodernist thinkers haven’t accorded very well with the underlying theory. Just as we shouldn’t ignore or trash Christian ethics because a bunch of bastards like to pick and choose moral injunctions from Leviticus, we shouldn’t ignore or trash postmodernist insights just because it’s often been used hypocritically in the service of America-bashing.

  62. Incidentally, I don’t think that Post Modern thought gives rise to totalitarian oppression directly.

    However those who subscribe to Post Modernism will sit idly on the sidelines blathering on about how they cannot fight oppression because then they would be departing from the realm of impartial relatvism.

  63. Thye admitted time and again that they did not belive in objective reality? Where’s the quote? One quote!

    Stalin was a Communist. Any first year econ student can illustrate why Communism is an unworkable system. Yet he still clung to a false ideology despite all of the proof that a centrally-planned economy sucks.

    Hitler blamed Germany’s economic woes on the Jews and set about exterminating them as a result.

    Given the two above examples, one hardly needs to quote either Stalin or Hitler as saying “I don’t believe in rational thought.” After all, it’s blatantly inherent in all of their actions!

  64. “Does anyone else find it odd that not one PoMo thinker, academic, or artist has yet been named in this thread? Or that one or two foundational PoMo ideas haven’t been raised and discussed (and don’t say “everything is relative” is the PoMo creed just because you heard that somewhere)? Makes one suspicious.”

    Suspicious? It’s got me majorly fucking pissed! As the inventor of the term “post-modern,” I want some royalties! Really, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers!

  65. “Does anyone else find it odd that not one PoMo thinker, academic, or artist has yet been named in this thread?”

    I thought ignoring primary source material was par for the Pomo course!

  66. You know, I’m beginning to think this whole Free Will thing wasn’t such a hot idea.

  67. Yeah, but you know what would be a good idea?

    The ability to kill a yak from 200 yards away…With Mind Bullets!

  68. “Really and linguist: Hitler and Stalin were not a couple of birkenstock-wearing humanities profs who spent their time deconstructing western-centric paradigms in order to boondoggle the people into mass murder.”

    “Does anyone else find it odd that not one PoMo thinker, academic, or artist has yet been named in this thread? Or that one or two foundational PoMo ideas haven’t been raised and discussed (and don’t say “everything is relative” is the PoMo creed just because you heard that somewhere)? Makes one suspicious.”

    -apparently someone or some-two isn’t/aren’t reading very carefully. Xray puts me in the group claiming that relativism leads to fascism (which I never claimed nor supported, but instead pointed out that Really was right about PoMo being irrational).
    Then hysteria claims there has been no concrete discussion of PoMo theory. I in fact did give you an example: the theory of “knowing” that comes from an anti-Western logic stance. The idea is that other cultures had non-logical ways of thinking and that they got closer to “the truth” by not using formal logic. And that idea is espoused by several professors of my own university (who I could actually name but can’t be bothered), mostly from the cultural studies (read: urban studies, women’s studies, etc) programs.

  69. “And that idea is espoused by several professors of my own university (who I could actually name but can’t be bothered), mostly from the cultural studies (read: urban studies, women’s studies, etc) programs.”

    Yes, our thousand-year Women’s Studies Reich is coming any day now!

  70. I believe my set of moral precepts are the best. That’s why I take them as mine.

    But I realize that other people have a different set of moral precepts. In fact, there’s probably no one on Earth whose moral vision perfectly matches my own.

    Just as I don’t see my personal musical taste as somehow objectively absolute, neither do I see my personal moral vision as somehow more objective than others’.

    And on the whole, I’m okay with that. I may feel that people are sometimes doing something or believing something “wrong,” but I don’t consider someone evil or think they’re going to hell (which I doubt exists) based purely on their differing moral view. I accept differing moral views from mine as a fact of life.

    Am I a moral relativist? If the only alternative is to be a moral objectivist or absolutist, then I would think I must be. But there doesn’t seem to be any other rational or sane way to be.

  71. Thaat whole matter is vastly confused by religions that convert their particular mor?s into universal morality. Handed down from GOD via the prophets, of course.

  72. Moral principles must have a purpose. When you decide on their purpose, then you can try to figure out what they are.

  73. linguist: I took your first sentence, “Really is correct.” to refer to his entire position, but I see that you were much more specific. Sorry for ascribing Really’s views to you.

  74. “Pomo, by definition, rejects any form of objectivity, the foundation of reason. It holds as a matter of faith that all perspectives are equally valid and that there is no external measurable reality.”

    Robert Anton Wilson’s version of post-modernism doesn’t claim that all perspectives are EQUALLY valid, just that they fall on a varying scale of validity. This means it’s easier to grade things according to their likelihood, using korzybski’s General Semantics. Tends to make my ideas a bit more precise when I use it, rather than either/or logic. Quantum Logic, they call it.

  75. http://www.colorado.edu/English/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html
    http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&q=post%20modernism

    After reading some, I don’t know what a brief definition of modernism or post modernism would be. I would suggest that those are just rather broad terms of little real utility in discerning the world. Academics like to appear to be creative.

  76. Given the two above examples, one hardly needs to quote either Stalin or Hitler as saying “I don’t believe in rational thought.” After all, it’s blatantly inherent in all of their actions!

    I think you’re confusing irrationalism with postmodernism. Certainly a rejection of reason is part of postmodernism, but this rejection does not, in and of itself, constitute postmodernism. Romanticism also rejects “reason” as such, and yet it would be incorrect to say that Romanticism is, therefore, postmodern.

  77. Republicans (as opposed to true conservatives) are keen to blame all the evils of the world on the left/liberal “others”. This relieves them of the discomfort of any critical self examination and the possibility of discovering their own contributions to the mess.

  78. Not that I am certain what a “true conservative” is.

  79. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”

  80. Gary Jason has an book review discussing PoMo in the June Liberty, which might interest some.

    Kevin

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