Welcome to the "Reality-Based" World

burn_oil.jpgI just read this lovely article / speech from The Nation, “Words in a Time of War” by Mark Danner, linked on Silliman’s Blog. Here’s a quotation from the first page:

I give you my favorite quotation from the Bush Administration, put forward by the proverbial “unnamed Administration official” [Karl Rove, as later revealed] and published in the New York Times magazine by the fine journalist Ron Suskind in October 2004. Here, in Suskind’s recounting, is what that “unnamed Administration official” told him:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality– judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

I must admit to you that I love that quotation; indeed, with your permission, I would like hereby to nominate it for inscription over the door of the Rhetoric Department, akin to Dante’s welcome above the gates of Hell, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Might be a bit “biased” for my Rhetoric & Composition students (he does slam GWB repeatedly), but maybe they should look at that quote and wonder what it means that those in power, “history’s actors,” act from such a skewed perspective; and maybe consider their status as students that are just joining the “reality-based community.” There is this quote too, a couple of paragraphs down:

This [attitude] is, after all, old hat to you [graduates of Rhetoric]; the line of thinking you imbibe with your daily study, for it is present in striking fashion in Foucault and many other intellectual titans of these last decades–though even they might have been nonplussed to find it so crisply expressed by a finely tailored man sitting in the White House. Though we in the “reality-based community” may just now be discovering it, you have known for years the presiding truth of our age, which is that the object has become subject and we have a fanatical follower of Foucault in the Oval Office. Graduates, let me say it plainly and incontrovertibly: George W. Bush is the first Rhetoric-Major President.

I’m still chewing on that one.

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to the "Reality-Based" World

  1. It’s very interesting that the very evening you post this, I come across something that relates to it in the Chabon book I’ve been trying to enjoy. The post on my own blog stems from both that and your blog entry. At present, my entry is too vague, with no backup links, but I thought I’d put it out anyway…

    Very interesting post you have here.

  2. Especially considering the block on the no confidence vote for Gonzo. We’re here to write down what they dictate, it appears. Good thing we’re writers.

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