Taking a page from Stephen Colbert’s claim at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner that “Reality has a well-known liberal bias,” Ann Coulter blames liberals for reality. As if. On the other hand, liberals are the last upholders of the concept of reality so it is easy to understand her confusion. The poor woman can hardly keep up, after all, hamstrung as she is by a nihilistic worldview. Specifically, Ann Coulter is upset by allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
As Politico reports,
During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.
Cain, of course, said he was falsely accused.
But Coulter has a much bigger enemy in mind: she isn’t angry at Herman Cain for being a sleaze-bag, but rather at liberals for reality itself.
“It’s outrageous the way that liberals treat a black conservative. This is another high-tech lynching.”
It’s not that Cain is guilty or not guilty. It’s not about that. What is key is that the allegations are real and were actually made against Herman Cain. They are not new allegations. They are pre-existing allegations. They are, we might say, part of the historical record. It is not liberals who were accused of harassing these two women, but Herman Cain. Therefore, it is impossible for liberals to be responsible for what is happening to Herman Cain. Only Herman Cain is responsible for what is happening to Herman Cain.
This is not, as Coulter claims, a case of how liberals treat black conservatives, but of how conservatives, including black conservatives, treat women (Clarence Thomas, anyone?). For Coulter, it is as though liberals are responsible for Cain being caught, an equally ridiculous distortion of the reality that governs the universe.
When Ann Coulter said, “This is an outrageous attack on a black conservative who is doing extremely well and I think will be our vice presidential candidate,” what she was really saying is that reality itself is outrageous.
For thousands of years, philosophers have argued over the nature of reality. Is it something that is in the mind only? Is there a reality of our perceptions and a reality that is really real? Is it completely relative, dependent entirely upon our individual perceptions or something fixed? Many of us see it in that latter sense, as something that is there, that is governed by the laws of the universe. It can be seen, felt, touched.
And here’s something Republicans don’t seem to realize, no matter how often they fall victim to it: It can even be recorded to be re-experienced later, analyzed and interpreted to be better understood by those who were not alive to experience it firsthand.
Because that is not how reality works for Republicans. For Republicans, reality has become something malleable, something, like Play-Do or clay to be shaped to the needs of the moment, and then re-purposed when that need is past and another has presented itself. Nothing is fixed and nothing is certain, because what they say is true, they say, is true for one person or group but not for another. For example, Eric Cantor can ask for federal dollars for his own district but still issue a blanket denunciation against accepting federal dollars.
Plainly, as most of us realize, there is a “really real” out there. It can be sensed; it can be measured and it can be quantified and it is governed by a set of rules that apply to all equally, whether we approve of the results or not. The universe continues to function as it is regardless of our approval or disapproval for its operations.
If we go back to German philosopher Immanuel Kant, we see the essential role of the mind in accessing that reality, which Kant calls the “external world.” Let’s say we see a tree. It is “out there” – a part of that really real. We cannot experience that tree directly because we are separated from it by the filter of our senses. We can only experience it through that filter while the mind processes what we experience and makes sense of it; but our differing perceptions do not make the tree less real, less what it really is. The tree’s reality is not subject to our sensing it. The filter works only one way.
We might argue, as many do, that perception is reality. Our perceptions, after all, are what most of us are limited to – a passing acquaintance with the “really real” tree. We all know how unreliable witness testimony is – for one witness the criminal was wearing a blue shirt, for another a green. But we can identify the tree as an oak, for example. If we cut it down we can even determine its age, just as a photograph can determine that the criminal was wearing neither blue nor green, but red.
This recorded history (or, say, a twenty-some year old complaint against a Republican politician) will persist in showing the same thing. We cannot suddenly decide that an oak is inconvenient to our purposes and that therefore it must have been an elm. And elm and an oak are nothing alike. So like it or not, it is an oak. In the same way, we know quite a bit about history – more than enough to disprove the revisionist nonsense spewed by the likes of David Barton – or Ann Coulter.
But this insistence that an oak is an elm is at the heart of the Republican paradigm and Coulter is as guilty as anyone else. Reality, in so many ways that it is difficult for an ordinary person to fathom, has become inconvenient to the Republican narrative. It must therefore be reshaped (or re-purposed) to better serve their ideological agenda. Steve Jobs, for example, long-time Democratic Party supporter, is suddenly a conservative. Deistic Founding Fathers are suddenly modern-day fundamentalist Christians, even though such forms of Christianity did not exist in the 18th century.
The Republican paradigm is really nothing but a conservative variation of post-modernist nihilism, where nothing can be known, were interpretations have more reality than reality itself. If we put Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to use, the shadows seen cast on the wall for the prisoners are reality, not just shadows of things. But unlike the prisoners, the Republicans know that the shadows are not reality but only reflections of it. Their sin is that they insist the shadows are reality. The Republicans are the puppeteers, misleading the prisoners. Let’s call the shadows on the wall “spin” since that word did not exist for Plato. The Republican puppeteers want to guide us into that cave and make of us prisoners of the reality they insist upon, to fool us with shadows and images while they turn the world upside down.
Ann Coulter likes the cave. She thinks we will see what she wants us to see (who knows, she may even see it herself given the apparently vacuous nature of her mind). Certainly there are many gullible conservatives anxious to take the place of the prisoners. It’s a comfortable world for them; after all, they can take refuge from reality as well. But hiding in that cave is no way to run a country, or to live your life. We can decide to be prisoners in a fantasy world of Republican manufacture or we can vote for reality and banish the shadows and the puppeteers along with them.