The Death of Expertise and the Rise of Idiot Gods

There are many forms and manifestations of post-modern hell and for me, the death of expertise is the pressure point of public pain and existential shame reminding me that I never bought in to the maudlin and poorly argued assumption that there is no truth. I’m sure if I was to take the time to catalog all of the petty little annoyances in the course of a year hoisted on me by the press and the public I could find many a sore joint and trace each psychic wound back to some kind of Stamford undergrad cocktail party philosophy but drop a coin in me and shout “post modernism proves there is no truth” in my ear and I will immediately vomit out a diatribe quite similar to this blog.

My local paper does it to me on a weekly basis. There, counter balanced against the letters to the editor section, is the wandering photographer. Six cleanly laid out marginally photographed idiots all answer the question of the week. “Should President Obama send more troops to Afghanistan?” it queries.
“Oh no! I hate President Bush. “Explains the first overfed and undereducated citizen. “He’s an idiot. We should pull out of that war immediately and let the UN army take over!”
Turd number two opts for a more conciliatory tone ” I voted for him and I am sure he will do the right thing.” she opines. It carries on in this fashion, wasting a half a page of precious rainforest paper and vegetable based ink. I have special, insider knowledge of this particular paper and this particular column. Ya see I worked for the paper as both a writer and staffer at various points in the past fifteen years and still count the almighty editor a semi-regular dinner guest in my home. As a result I know that in order to secure this fascinating peek at the political winds of change the wandering photographer often spends days cornering people in order to find the anointed six. He has many monumental hurdles to leap in his pursuit of opinion. First and foremost most of the people he stops will look glassy-eyed and quickly betray that they have no idea what an Afghanistan is. The next subset that happen to have heard of this obscure way station in US history will immediately blurt out that they have no opinion. They no they should and they intend to have one sooner rather than later but, dang blammit, they just don’t know. After ticking his way past these savants he must then cleverly jump out of the way of potential republicans. These wily creatures will often blurt out the opposite and wrong answer thereby queering his pitch. It’s actually a miracle that after spending two or three eight-hour days in front of the most expensive coffee bar in Orange County he can finally turn in six completed releases with six conveniently vanilla quotes.

When I went out of my way to corner the editor of the paper and ask why, in god’s name why?… must they subject me to this each and every week she says quite earnestly “The public’s opinion is what it is all about! It brings in readers and they have a right to be heard talking about the important topics of today.” This is a blatant lie, or perhaps just some basic sophistry but either way it evades the core reason why Miss Mable Cosgrove of Slate Hill gets to tell the whole county that mandatory strip searches at NY airports are a tad embarrassing but necessary to keep us all safe. At the heart of it all is a cancer that has consumed America in the past thirty years. It may have started out as Stamford cocktail party bullshit or obscure Yale doctoral dissertations but it has spread rapidly to become the dominant worldview of the media and tacitly the government.

In short the failure of cultural logic goes something like this… All human thought is based upon subjective experience and as a result is just an opinion, nothing more. There is no actual truth. All facts are collected by biased, often, eek! racist, sexist, people and as a result corrupted beyond any use. Since there is no truth, no one person or persons can hold any special or exclusive knowledge (truths) and everyone possesses a form of the truth that is valid in its own way.  Hence, little 9-year-old Courtney’s opinion of geopolitical strategy is not only valid it is, by definition, valuable.

Recently a lady friend of mine uttered the following statement. “I’m sorry I know you would like me to talk about [fill in the subject] but I don’t really know that much about it and as a result wouldn’t feel comfortable offering an opinion.” I froze and waited for the earth to open and swallow her for speaking such a sacrilegious statement.  For brevity’s sake we will call her statement the Schultz defense ” I know Nothing, Nothing!” (if you are too young to remember Hogan’s Heroes then you are too young to remember when truth was still just an endangered species) Coincidently this professed failing was unquenchably sexy in a I’m good at what I’m good at kinda way.

Obviously this logic train is idiotic, moronic and deadly for any culture that aspires to maintain indoor plumbing and the ability to jot down complete sentences. So why is it that this flawed and dastardly logic has become so pervasive as to operate as the dominant paradigm? My answer would be to point to the methods that power is gained at the expense of a well-informed citizenry that wishes to strictly control the power of government.  A portion of our culture, in a particular, the political left and it’s supporters that are entrenched in the University system have a vested interest in poisoning the well of logical discourse. It is so much simpler to foist hare-brained schemes on the population when you rewrite the rules of discourse to make Buffy the Vampire Slayer a self-appointed expert on the environment or say the illiterate Sean Penn cast as an expert on geopolitical stability in South America.

There are further levels of much more subtle sophistry and misdirection. Once anyone can apparently speak with authority on any subject it’s quite easy to recast an MIT Linguistics Professor as a political scientist or expert historian.  This reworking of scholarship quietly sidesteps the cornerstone of real scholarship, peer review.  The characters involved can be easily identified by the fact that they are writing popular books far afield of the college departments that hand them the freedom of their sinecure.  The little discussed fact that retiring members of the House and Senate have flocked to the offices of University Presidencies is an interesting clue that the hippest path to unlimited dirty cash and control of the political discourse is unquestionably the taxpayer-funded higher education system.

In my father’s generation the experts ruled. If the idea of a Nuclear Power Plant was being discussed the press would dutifully print the summarized opinion of an Engineer with a lifetime of experience building similar facilities and compare this with the testimony of the leading scholars in that field. In today’s media the opinion of the homeowner that bought a cut-rate house next to the proposed site is compared with the most vocal critic venting their spleen as a cathartic, emotionally unstable hobby. This is labeled scholarship and further research is conducted by the wandering photographer outside the local elementary school.

In an effort to hamstring the most obvious argument against my indictment of the rule of America by Idiot Gods I will also acknowledge that another grand misfortune for the fate of intelligent discourse is the rise of Pumpkin Farmer bloggers with no credentials and unlimited reach bought for the price of Cable modem access.


~ by Brad Morrison on January 4, 2010.

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