Friday, September 30, 2005

Surreality-Based Blogs

Dr. Taylor over at Poliblog has a post about, among other things, "reality-based" blogs. He takes one blogger in particular to task for un-ironically claiming to be reality-based, then citing a National Enquirer story.

I've noticed for a while this simple formula: The degree to which a blog is based in reality is inversely proportionate to the degree it emphasizes the "reality-based" meme. In other words, nearly every blog I have seen that uses the "reality-based" slogan traffics in the most paranoid conspiracy-mongering on the web. Well, actually, the truth is that EVERY blog I can bring to mind using that slogan is of the mimeographed-pamphlet-on-the-streetcorner flavor (wherein the blogger suspects that Karl Rove has been following them in his black helicopter and using mind-control powers to hypnotize Kansas voters while spiking the water supply in an attempt to sap their purity of essence), but I'm going to leave the caveat "nearly" in there in case there are any I haven't noticed that really are based in reality.

Of course, there are plenty of bomb-throwing blogs on the left and the right that don't have this "reality-based" meme, but why are so many that embrace that reality tag living in surreality?

I think herein we see deconstruction operating at its most fundamental level. Now, before your eyes start to fog over, don't worry -- this won't be in Literary Cant. I'll keep it simple and jargon-free.

Deconstruction points out that implied in any word is its opposite. In other words, the fact that we have a word for "light" implies that we have darkness. The fact that we call some animals "female" implies that there are non-females (i.e., males) among the animals. In some ways, this principle can also be implied outside of language. For example, if you find that a town has an odd law outlawing donuts, it does not imply that the town does not like donuts -- rather, it implies that the town had so many people who like donuts that it sparked the Great Donut Riot of '37, compelling the city fathers to pass the Donut Restriction and Public Peace Ordinance of the same year. [Note: if you Hegelians out there think you smell a whiff of dialectic in deconstruction ... you do]

I suspect that the reason the Surreality-Based Web Community latched on to the "reality" meme so hard is that, in their hearts, they fear that maybe they are losing their grip on reality. When an inarticulate Bush staffer said "reality-based" to mean "based in the status quo," perhaps they were relieved that someone called their beliefs "reality" because it lent some validity to their positions.

Dr. Taylor described the reality tag as "taunting." I suspect it is instead meant to be self-reassuring.

1 comment:

  1. It's taunting insofar as its original intention was to demonstrate that the blogs in question were secularist/non-religous--i.e., they were "reality based" as oppossed to "faith based." Hence the idea was that these were bloggers interested in empirical evidence, not belief.

    It also evolved in a way that made it overtly partisan (given Bush's "faith based" initiatives"). As such, most "reality based" blogs are Democratic blogs (or, at least, anti-Bush blogs).

    The blogger in question, Mark Kleimnan, is respected professor of public policy at UCLA, although I will note that when it comes to Bush he clearly has issues.

    I simply found the very mention of the Enquirer (which wasn't the main focus of his post, I will note) to be ironic, for obvious reasons.

    My initial intent was to be sort of teasing in my post, although I don't think Mark took it that way, plus I ended up focusing on the question of sourcing in a more direct way.