Postmodernists, who believe that truth is relative, reject such retro concepts as logic, evidence, and reason, all of which assume that truth is objective. Instead, postmodernists practice what they call “constructivism.” Truth is not something we discover; rather, truth is something we “construct.” Thus, argumentation involves “de-constructing” other people’s truth claims (showing them to be nothing more than impositions of power) and constructing “plausibility paradigms” to advance your own power-agenda. And, since truth is inherently personal, another way to argue is to attack the person who holds to that truth.
We all need to understand this, especially in today’s political climate. Both sides do it. The very notion of “spin”–which is openly recognized to the point that TV networks set up “spin rooms” and both sides openly acknowledge having “spin doctors”–is an open acknowledgement of postmodernist techniques. What matters is not overall truth but cherry-picking facts and then giving them an interpretation favorable to the power agenda of one side or another. For postmodernists, interpretation is more important than information. A successful argument is a construction of reality that wins over–indeed, that imposes itself on–other people
Here is a particularly blatant example of political constructivism, from the Washington Post in an article on President Obama’s post-debate campaign speech:
Obama said that when he reached the debate stage “I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney,” Obama said, adding that the “real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”
The Mitt Romney everyone saw onstage giving his views from his own mouth is not the real Romney. The real Romney is the one we have been constructing in our campaign ads.
And notice how the fact cited here comes from an elaborately spinning interpretation: It is claimed, perhaps accurately (a matter for old-school analysis), that Romney’s economic plan doesn’t add up and is off by $5 trillion. The Democrats then use this number in different ways. Here Obama calls it $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy. In the debate and in campaign ads he takes it as a $5 trillion tax increase on the middle class. This is because for his numbers to add up, he would have to get the $5 trillion from somewhere, so he would have to raise taxes on the middle tax. Notice the movement from “would have to” to “will.” Romney will raise your taxes.
Never mind the Republican belief in supply-side economics and that Republicans from the time of Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush never raise taxes to this magnitude, preferring instead to just let shortages add to the deficit.
Never mind that Romney said in the debate that he would not raise taxes by $5 trillion. Furthermore, that he would not cut what the wealthy are paying now.
No, this is not his real position. His real position is what we say it is, the way we have constructed it.