Friday, May 10, 2019

How Nihilism Cripples the Left

5/10/2019—Actually, nihilism does not cripple the Left, but it should. Often, when the Left or Left-leaning institutions want to criticize others, they do so in the name of universalist values, such as “the rule of law” or “truth.” But in other contexts, such claims would be taken to be totalizing fronts for rhetorics of domination. As in, there are many truths. Or, there is no rule of law, only political commitments.

I saw this tendency again recently in an article in the New York Times and an add for The New Republic—not that Left, I know.

The story was from May 7 and concerned the interference by the far right in Europe where the Right has attained actual government power or influence. Political agendas are now interfering with judicial and security functions that had long been thought to be outside politics.

So, for example, the agency that monitors security threats was asked to turn over the identities of informants who had infiltrated the far-right movement. The agency refused. Then the agency was raided by the police.

Yascha Mounk, the author of The People vs. Democracy, called this in the article “an assault on independent institutions, the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

But what is Court-packing but that exact same thing? An assault on the rule of law.

The far right just believes there are Trump judges and Obama judges—just like most people do here.

Now take The New Republic ad I got last week—headed “Trump’s War on Truth.” “Only fearless, fact-based journalism can stand up to him.”

Aside from the slippery fact/value distinction imposed here—do we really disagree about facts or do we use facts to support positions we would hold anyway? Even if we limit ourselves to facts, I thought there were no texts, only interpretations. And I thought all interpretations were equal.

The point is, a new kind of objective viewpoint is needed to combat the war on truth. And Trump is not the only, or main, or most important, combatant in the war. That war had been waged for many years, including in the pages of The New Republic. Until the Left takes some responsibility for where we are, we cannot move forward.

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