I must apologize — I thought I’d written my last political commentary. But when I read Casey William’s April 17 New York Times think piece, “Has Trump Stolen Philosophy’s Critical Tools?”, my first impression was, “This is either very subtle satire or the most blatant exposition of cognitive dissonance ever.” The problem: Williams desperately wants to call Pres. Donald Trump a liar.
We’re used to this pattern by now: The president dresses up useful lies as “alternative facts” and decries uncomfortable realities as “fake news.” Stoking conservative passion and liberal fury, Trump stirs up confusion about the veracity of settled knowledge and, through sheer assertion, elevates belief to the status of truth.
Trump’s playbook should be familiar to any student of critical theory and philosophy. It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them.
However, the very critical tools upon which the academic left has become dependent for intellectual life-support forbids appealing to objective reality to back the claim that Trump lies. After all, if there is such a thing as an objective reality, we can’t know it for certain. The left has their facts, and Trump has his. Under postmodern critique, pace Daniel P. Moynihan,[*] the right to one’s own opinion is the right to one’s own facts.