I’ve been holding onto this article for a week, now, but I’m finally going to flag this for you now. It’s a great article with plenty worth reading in it. And in it, author William Davies asks the question many journalists have been asking since the election: are we living in a post-factual world? He weaves together the history of statistics as a tool of government along with what seems like a highly-energized world-wide rightward shift that seems to intentionally fly in the face of statistical and scientific fact.
I’m generally suspicious of any “grand unifying theory” of politics that blends political winds in the U.S., Britain, Eastern Europe and the Philippines. A general trend is worthy of consideration, but trying to blend them into some singular force evades the real human emotions and political grievances in play in all of those countries. It also highlights the weakness of a political system which recognizes only two diametric poles: any movement in any direction necessarily has to be viewed as either a rightward or leftward movement. Our political polarization has left us bereft of the vocabulary to describe it any other way.
About the best you can probably say about the combined shift in global politics is: “When the going gets tough, the tough take it out on the less-tough.” Regardless of the individual struggles in any one nation, there’s little doubt but that the population of refugees and asylees worldwide has reached the highest recorded levels. The trillions of dollars of global wealth lost in the subprime fiasco of 2008 has continued to trickle down, year over year, emptying bellies among the world’s poorest. Daily reports of terror attacks have eroded the confidence of even the safest people.
People – or at least enough people – in wealthier nations are increasingly saying “no” to pretty much everything. They’re focused on their countries, first. They’re withdrawing from unions. They’re reneging on promises. Yes, they are increasingly “clinging to their guns and their religion.”
But to the central question of whether our current culture is leaning not only rightward, but also away from science and statistics. It’s worth noting that science – yes, science – has already weighed in on this idea. The truth is that our political persuasion has little to nothing to do with our justifications. Our preferred reality has everything to do with an emotional connection to our beliefs. We generally choose to bolster our beliefs with facts that confirm them. And we do so after the fact.
For those whose beliefs swing right as defined by American politics, there is precious little in the way of scientific or statistical information to support their beliefs. And the number of available statistics is getting smaller every day.
The U.S. has actually admitted less refugees last year than it did in many other points in it’s history as recently as 1995. An American is 6 times more likely to die of shark attack than of refugee attack. And we’ve got a 1-in-49,000 chance of dying in a terrorist attack and a 1-in-400 chance of dying of a gunshot wound. An amazing shrinking and increasingly-unqualified pool of scientists believe climate change is either a hoax or attributable to “god” or whatever Conservatives insist on believing.
Americans generally are not with Conservatives on gay marriage. We’re not with Conservatives on marijuana legalization. We’re not impressed by private school vouchers. No one but a damned fool believes Mexico’s paying for the wall. The HPV vaccine will not make your daughter a slut, nor will vaccines cause autism. Obamacare is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to health care.
So pity poor Conservatives who insist on believing things for which there is no support whatsoever. Because their happy-go-angry bullshit train has just elected the man that’s already leaving a lot of them gobsmacked and red-faced. Small wonder, then, that the political right of our country are discarding facts, evidence, science and statistics as hokum. We are not living in a “post-factual world,” just because your beliefs are no longer supported by facts. You’re living in a bubble.