The talk is military and very macho. Targets are placed on maps and the need for vigilance is constantly stressed. There’s a war going on in the USofA, pitting two opposing camps against each other in a death match. There can be no quarter given as we learn of new fronts opening up every day. The enemy is all around us, mysterious forces forming one big movement that threatens our Way of Life™. But who is the enemy?
Welcome to the War on Reality. It’s like the War on Drugs … on drugs!
Anyone who pays attention to either the mainstream media or its more enthusiastic counterpart in the blogging brigade has seen the issues come and go constantly. They seem to add up to some vast conspiracy that threatens everything we have come to know. It started with the vaguely racist constant assault on President Obama first as a non-citizen and even a socialist bent on developing “death panels” who decide when we die. It has included school administrators who are promoting anti-American ideas. The job of commentators is not just to raise these issues but to link them together into one great force that sometimes seems hard to understand.
It’s hard to understand because it isn’t actually real. It’s the War on Reality.
It’s not as though we don’t have a lot of genuinely hard choices to make in this time of great economic and social upheaval. But like most reality, those aren’t a lot of fun and don’t make for a good story. That’s why the War on Reality reamins necessary as a diversion. The easy way out, heavily promoted by Fox, is to make stuff up that gets people excited and jumpy – and hooked on things that don’t actually make any sense if you pay any attention at all.
Islam has made a favorite target of the War on Reality, especially:
• The “Ground Zero Mosque”, which is neither at Ground Zero nor a Mosque,
• “Creeping Sharia”, or the attempt to supplant US law with Islamic law, and
• “The Global Caliphate”, a grand conspiracy that unites the left with Islamic fundamentalists in a fun twist on the traditional “New World Order” gag that used to be pinned the Illuminati or the Masons.
To be fair, a lot of conservatives have broken with the War on Reality on the last part. There are many good Republicans who have legitimate and serious qualms with things like deficits, Federal Reserve policy, and global systems. Their voices were the first to go silent, however, because the War on Reality came from “their side” – part of the mistaken belief that left-right divides are somehow very important. The loss is a terrible shame because they have important things to add to the debate.
Similarly, the other side that has engaged the War on Reality often gives these strange issues a terrible legitimacy by repeating them. As long as there are two camps, battling for “points” in a game where no one actually keeps score, it’s all nothing but playground rules. The War on Reality is a childhood fantasy made into something like a policy – but even sillier.
It’s not as though this is all that new, either. Long ago there was “Voodoo Economics” that started the detachment from reality. We went to war in Iraq based on a solid belief that one source must be telling the truth because, like any good con, it was a story we wanted to believe. And there are those who insist that cutting taxes always creates jobs despite a complete lack of evidence that this has ever worked out.
Those strange fantasies aren’t enough to make up a War on Reality by themselves, however. It takes a constant stream of factoids promoted as new fronts to keep everyone distracted and too busy in the fog of the conflict to realize that they are fighting reality itself.
Who are the footsoldiers of the War on Reality? Thanks to an extended battle with wikileaks, we know that at least some of them are the best fighters for this kind of war – imaginary people. HBGary was caught no only encouraging people to set up fake Ids to engage in comment wars on blogs but even providing programs to automate the process. Legions of “sockpuppets” can be whipped up to fight the War on Reality on a moment’s notice, imaginary soldiers fighting an imaginary battle for an imaginary issue. It’s a Sci-Fi story gone much further into the bizarre than magical realism ever dared to.
What can anyone do in the War on Reality? The first thing to do is to not play the game. The more we can keep it simple and honest, avoiding being sucked into the battle, the better. Barataria has always been about starting with first principles and focusing on what it is that really maters in a way that … well, some people have found pedantic and strange. I hope you can see now why it has to be that way. A strong island of reality, no matter how boring, is essential when the War on Reality heats up around us all.
Mostly, however, I think it’s time to start making fun of the supposed battlefields for what they are – very silly. Calling it the War on Reality is just one step towards giving these issues the credence they deserve, which is to say none at all. I’ve been using the twitter hashtag #WarOnReality to denote some of the sillier parts, and I hope you do, too. But while you’re here, tell me some of your favorite (very) small conflicts in the War on Reality so that we can all have a good laugh and get on with what needs to be done.