I have to confess that before I read this devastating piece by Bruce Bawer, I had never heard of Greg Mortensen. So I guess his self promotion wasn’t universally effective.
In recent days many commentators have lamented that it is dismaying to know that Mortenson’s a phony. No, what’s dismaying is that so many people were taken in in the first place. What’s dismaying is that so many people don’t seem to recognize a huckster, a con artist, a flimflam man when they see one — and, by the same token, don’t seem to recognize authentic virtue, selflessness, and humility either. Have we become so coarsened by celebrity culture, so accustomed to slick showbiz packaging and self-promotion, so habituated to feeding the ravenous narcissism of the famous, that we’re no longer capable of detecting what Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof called “a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity”? Hemingway said that the one thing a writer needed most of all was a foolproof “bullshit detector”; are twenty-first-century Americans’ bullshit detectors hopelessly out of whack? Have the glossy, streamlined, highly polished and tidily ordered versions of human reality served up on all too many “reality” programs and Oprah-type talk shows destroyed our very ability to separate the genuine from the bogus, the real article from the counterfeit, and even caused us to turn our noses at the imperfect, unprocessed, clunky, smudged, and pockmarked real thing? Do we want to be fooled?
Like Bawer, I think it explains why Barack Obama is president as well.
[Update a few minutes later]
More thoughts from Mark Steyn.
This seems related. Despite appearances, the administration isn’t deliberately trying to destroy the nation, it is simply ignorant and stupid:
With academia, mass media, most of the publishing industry, and Hollywood on their side, how would these policymakers know any better? Their professors told them they were brilliant; the books they read all tell them they’re right. Nobody corrects or criticizes them except those who they can rationalize are opponents — and evil people, too! — and thus these are partisan carpings to be disregarded.
If the critics can be described as conservatives, their views are discounted. If you are proven to be correct, that seems to have no effect on the powerful institutions and elite opinions.
In fact, the very fact of being a critic is used to disqualify criticism. When I wrote a detailed critique of Obama’s policies in a prestigious policy journal, the prestigious authors responded that what I said should be discounted — and my specific arguments need not be persuasively countered — because…I was critical of Obama’s policies!
I cannot imagine any other time in modern Western intellectual history when this kind of thing has happened.
So the usual corrective institutions aren’t functioning. If no one tells the emperor and his courtiers that they are under-dressed, such people are going to keep peeling off clothes confident of the fact that nobody (or at least anyone who counts) will tell them that they are naked. With so much insulation, they don’t feel the chill.
Those certain that Obama and his government — and I only speak of foreign policy here — must be acting deliberately out of malice generally have one thing in common: they have never actually dealt with high-level politicians and decisionmakers.
As someone who has, I have to agree. For instance, I know it looks like there’s been a massive government conspiracy to keep us from conquering space for the past half century, but there really isn’t. Ignorance and stupidity, in combination with public choice in the face of a topic of so little national importance, is a sufficient explanation. On the other hand, as J. Porter Clark noted (in reference to spammers), any sufficiently high level of cluelessness is indistinguishable from malevolence. It’s the other Clarke’s Law.
[Update a couple minutes later]
I will note, and agree with, commenters at Rubin’s piece, with which he ends up agreeing himself, that the ideology at work is objectively anti-American. But in their warped view, it is good for America to weaken its power in the world.
[Update a while later]
Truth, or tea? That’s why they call it the “reality-based community.”