Beware of “The Narrative”!
Beware of “The Narrative”!
Back in 1979 philosopher Jean-François Lyotard was commissioned to do a report for the province of Quebec that turned into a book, The Postmodern Condition. I remember that book well because I read it during my graduate studies that focused on narrative analysis. A central theme of Lyotard’s book was the “death of metanarratives,” such as the Idea of Progress or Marx’s Class Struggle as the engine of history.
Fast forward to 2021 and “The Narrative” has become a core talking point of right-wing paranoia and propaganda. Whatever they disagree with is framed as a totalitarian Narrative that makes their rebellion against it heroic. Of course, a large part of this anti-narrative narrative is projection. The conformity of the GOP/Fox talking points is notorious. But that is precisely what makes their precious melodrama so effective. By first accusing their designated other of foisting a narrative, they disarm any criticism of themselves foisting a narrative.
Dr. Julie Ponesse, Professor of Ethics at University of Western has made herself a lost cause celebrity with her stand against the “narrative” of Covid-19 vaccination. Professor Ponesse builds her case against the presumably monolithic narrative by cherry-picking some research studies (that wouldn’t even exist if the narrative was as monolithic as she claims) and by flagrantly misrepresenting VAERS data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Professor Ponesse, she has been put on administrative leave and faces “imminent dismissal” for refusing to comply with the university’s vaccine mandate.
The National Post reports that, “Ponesse has also made questionable claims about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. In a video posted online, she calls the vaccines ‘experimental.'” The CBC quotes Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and assistant professor in the faculty of health sciences at Western and Co-Director of the Health Ethics, Law & Policy (HELP) Lab:
The strength of a position in ethics comes from the support provided via reasons & arguments, not that it’s uttered by an ethicist. And her reasons used to support her position are distorted by falsehoods & concern areas about which she has no apparent expertise.
But pay no attention to the opinions of all those authorities, her employer the university, the official guide to interpreting VAERS data, and The Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health who has strongly recommended mandatory vaccinations. They’re all part of “The Narrative.”
yes, but consider if you can the possibility that there was a “narrative” that was being opposed by an honest and knowledgeable person. how could such a person survive a “narrative” that painted them as a dishonest lunatic?
second, i suppose, is that this whole “modern criticism” which i really know nothing about except by hearsay, seems to be denying the possibility of truth at all…a narrative the modern Republicans seem all to glad to run with.
And please try to understand that I am not denying the truth of the vaccine narrative (the official one, not the looney one), I am just cautioning against too much confidence that “our” side is “right.” How much is too much confidence? I suppose when you are prepared to do extreme things that would not seem so necessary if you were just a little less sure of what you “know for sure.”
[grammar note: i think the use of the plural form “them” to mean “him or her” is well supported by usage both recently and in history. i’m a little uncomfortale with it because…because i went to the eighth grade where they taught us proper grammar…another narrative.]
typo? i meant h e a r s a y, not heresy, but spell-check has its reasons.
Heresy does kind of fit given what they are espousing, “corrected”
addendum: learned proper grammar? I wish I did also.
addendum2: Corrected cold to covid and desribe to describe.
I find presenting the facts as I know them to be exhausting. The operative of the opposing side with their falsehood is to tire you. You give up and only their narrative remains. Just like the room of people who insist one object is larger than the other when plainly you can see it is not true. FDo you go with the majority or hold to what you see and or know to be true?
That is an excellent question and, trust me, there are in fact “narratives” that paint honest, knowledgeable people as untrustworthy lunatics. I have spent much of the last two decades dealing with one such narrative. I can assure you that denouncing it as a narrative is not a game changer.
We can’t be certain about the vaccine and we can’t be certain about climate change. That’s actually at the core of “our side’s” narrative, scientific uncertainty. What we can be fairly confident in, though, is a preponderance of evidence that appears to support our side to the extent that we don’t need to cherry pick outliers to make our case. If you look at the actual evidence presented by the anti-vaxxers and/or climate change deniers, some of it is research that merits consideration but most of it is either misrepresentation of the significance of that research — relative to all the other research — or sheer diatribe against the scientific cabal that is suppressing the truth. It’s funny how the evidence for our side relies so little on diatribe and ad hominem!
The post modernist fad in literary studies (mainly) certainly had its excesses. I believe a lot of that was due to academic inflation. There were all these PhDs with no place to go trying to make a name for themselves and one of the features of the pomo discourse was that incomprehensibility often passed as erudition. If you read carefully, there were a few valuable nuggets buried in the piles of crap.
The GOP version of the contingency of truth does indeed take advantage of the relativism of post-modern thought but the way they do it is to posit a contingent and opportunistic counter-truth as beyond questioning. The strategy predates post-modernism by about a century. One might even argue that post-modern literary criticism was a reaction to the distorted discursive world fashioned by modern propaganda.
trust me, I know. The Social Security “debate” is exactly as you describe the covid “debate.”
Lunacy and lies on one side, and attempts to present facts and at least presentable logic on the other.
My caution for AB’ers was/is I thought I was seeing the emergence of a little excess enthusiasm on our side that could lead to one kind of disaster for us or another.
As far as “can’t be certain about climate change…i suppose we can’t, but we can be as certain as we are about smoking. And I really don’t like someone smoking in my airspace..I am certai about that. And I can see the death of the planet all around me…with certainty. Can’t say it’s “global warming,” can say it’s stupid human excess and criminal disregard for what is really the poperty of other people and their kids.
There is no point in calling the ordinary people caught up in the lies names. But the people propagating the lies for profit…well, still no point in calling them names, but we have only ourselves to blame that we don’t stop them.
Yes, the Big Lie predates post modern criticism. Even predates Hitlerism.
Earliest example I know of “you will become as the gods, knowing good and evil…” [even already knew good, she would come to know evil. so you see, there was no lie at all.
and by the way, i offer this not a the “word of god,” just as early story about evil.
i am sure i wrote covid..and got spell checked into “cold.”
yes, sometimes spell check is smarter than i am.
yes. i am exhausted by SS deniers.
you missed one: “even” for “Eve.” I am reasonably sure my fingers are making most of the mistakes, but that leaves spell check to decide what I really meant. I wish they’d at least ask me. I have gone back and carefully retyped the word i meant, only to watch spell check reach up and in cold blood change it to what it thought i should have meant.
the three bucks is in the mail.
It takes me a while to write, read, rewrite, read, and write again. And still there are errors. NP. If I catch, I will correct it.
Thank you. I need to discipline myself to not hit the post comment button until after I have checked it twice. My eyes, fingers, and internal spell-checker are not what they used to be,
I like to complain about the automatic spell-check because it is an example of the machine centered stupidity we are letting ourselves in for. But from what I have seen, attempting to run a country of 300 million people generates its own inevitable stupidities without any help from computers at all. Efficiencies of scale notwithstanding.
I have been reading Eric Laursen’s “The People’s Pension,” A history of the SS war starting (mostly) with Reagan. What hits me is that…even Carter (before Reagan) did not get the crucial point about Social Security. He thought the government was paying for it, Even though Roosevelt had insisted it be paid for by the workers themselves. Carter had some excuse (not a good one) because at the time SS was running out of its own money because Congress had not kept up with the needed tax increases…made much worse by the combination of high inflation and a recession.
But the intersting part is that when Reagan and Stockman got in, they were floating ideas to “save” Social Security that had not a damn thing to do with any problem in Social Security. They were just using the projcted shortfall in SS and the (unrelated) Federal goernment deficit to throw out plans that would have cut Social Security where at best it would be welfare, and,what they really wanted, would cease to exist altogether. Laursen does not specifically call attention to this, but it becomes obvious if you read the proposals… the were just looking for any cut in benefits that they could rush through Congress.
The moral to this story that I thought I was coming to was that it’s not necessarily bad faith that we get bad government… it’s just stupidity. But no, I think it’s bad faith relying on stupidity.
Stockman is gone, but the stupidity remains. And the bad faith has become a well organized monster. The Right has discoverd that a majority of Americans are insane… or stupid….not that it helps us at all to say this out loud. But it has always been the fatal flaw of democracy…which, as Churchill said…is the worst possible form of government, except for all the others.
So much for self spell-checking: phone rings. could be important. i hit “post comment” and pick up the phone. ROBO CALL from phone company letting me know my phone was working again (they fixed it two days ago, after refusing to take my service order unless i filled in the box that said “contact phone number” that came right after the box that asked if I had a contact phone, which I answered “no.”), thanking me for being a valued customer, and giving me a number to call in case my phone stopped working again. Like I said, computer centered stupidity.
Can’t wait to see computer driven cars.