Postmodernists tend to be
relativists about truth, but not
indiscriminately: if their personal interests are involved, they are as
absolutist with the truth
as most are, which can be explained in the following way:
Suppose you offer me a
closed box with walls I cannot see through, and
you ask me to shake it, which I do, and while doing so I hear something
that seems to be hitting the walls of the box. You ask me whether I
know or can guess what's in the box, and you may offer me money to do
so, in the form of a bet or a reward if I get it right. Suppose I am
willing to accept a reward and guess there is a coin in the box. You
open it and show me it is a die.
Now, if I am a
postmodernist, and I find the reward enticing, I may
argue that "a die" or indeed " a 'die'", when "interpreted" 'correctly',
in the "hegemonic episteme" of this "epoch",
is "the equivalent" of "a coin", and therefore you owe me the reward.
If you are not totally
spoiled by modern philosophy, linguistics,
politics, or public relations, and are a sane person, you'll probably
answer me along the lines that I must be hallucinating or that I do not
know what I am talking about, and that I must be very eager to get the
money if I talk in such a crazy way - and you would be quite right, and
almost everyone would agree with you.
If we alter our terms, and
call the closed box "reality",
opening it to see what's in it "an experiment", we have a pretty close
analogy of the postmodern argument about truth and interpretation -
except that many people fall for the deception that "the fact"
the experiment discloses is not really "a fact", but -
somehow - "an interpretation", that is quite "relative" to someone's
How postmodernists "know"
that - and I am intentionally
"quoting" a lot, and using italics, because they do, in order
to question aka "problematize" or "critique" things, by which they
certainly succeed in making it very ambiguous what they are talking
about - they usually do not deign to explain, or explain in such a "fashion"
that few if any can follow what they mean.
But in fact you have now
gotten the essence of the swindle that is postmodernism:
You create a highly convoluted and pretentious language in which you
"freely" "quote" any term you want to "problematize"; you ask
many questions but offer no answers except by innuendo; and you keep
insisting that there are no "facts" because - somehow - "every" "thing"
is "a narrative" - as in: 'tale told by an idiot" 
- with many "interpretations", that all are "relative",
to whatever you claim, which in postmodern contexts usually has at
least a whiff of sex, Freud, power, and "epistemology" in it.
This phony bullshit - as pure a case of
the emperor's clothes as can be conceived - took the academic world by storm from
the 1970ies onward, though of course there was a minority - Chomsky, Bloom, Sokal, for example
- who did not fall for it, nor pretend they fell for it, for there also
was a lot of pretension involved. See also:
It got very popular because
it was very pretentious, because it
associated itself with fashionable political ideas of the left, such as
"emancipation" and "liberation", and because it offered a trendy
apparently academic philosophy and style of writing, that came with a
few basic fallacies
such as begging the question and writing ambiguously so as to win
arguments, while it also seemed to assure that everybody was right
because nobody could be conceivably wrong if there was no truth, and
besides that everybody was equal because there were no true standards
Public relations and truth
I have been aware of
postmodernism since the early 1970ies, when Michel Foucault
got well-known in philosophy-land, so to speak, with "Les mots et
les choses", and I wanted none of it, because it seemed to me
dishonest nonsense and pseudo-philosophy, of which there has been a lot
in the 20th Century, mostly because clever cheats could make a lot of
money and/or find academic tenure with it.
What I mostly missed was
the arisal of modern "public
relations" and "marketing", that issued from the preparatory work
of Edward Bernays, but only got into full stride, where it could
manipulate literally billions, with the social spreading of TV in the
1960ies and 1970ies.
It is in some ways very
similar to postmodernism,
which was created later, though it can be traced back to existentialism
and the later Wittgenstein, in that it relies on techniques of propaganda to
get power over ideas and values, and does not use appeals to facts,
truths, or rationality to communicate or convince, but it is
considerably more insiduous in being intentionally contrived to
persuade people by playing on their desires, fears, and ignorance while
pretending to "inform" them.
The only truth that matters
to public relations is which schemes of deception
are most profitable, but that is
an issue that is closely and empirically studied, by marketing firms
and departments, that try to establish what emotions and desires people
connect with commodities, and how these emotions and desires can be
manipulated and used.
What gets communicated by
"public relations" about a commodity is
usually only very partially factual, and mostly emotional: how buying
that commodity would make a person feel and be looked upon and judged
by others, again not because this may be factually so, but because the
belief this is so sets up the desires and feelings that help sell the
most of that kind of commodity.
Public relations consist
mostly of lies and intentional deceptions,
though indeed it may also
communicate truths if that helps bring in more profits or more
credibility of the propaganda it spreads.
The five main reasons that
it works are:
- Public relations is made
to deceive, made to look other than what it really is: Material meant
to deceive, mislead, misrepresent or emotionalize.
- The public in majority
is neither rational
nor informed about what they can be propagandized about.
- The public is easily
deceived by emotional manipulations, promises and wishful
- In "democratic
tends to be covered and protected by free speech laws
- Since it often works,
and then pays for its costs, there is a lot of money for it, that can
buy the best professional confidence tricksters.
Propaganda and truth
relations are species of intentionally deceptive persuasion and
propaganda, that disguises what they really are: phony
philosophy designed to be always right and defeat any opposition by
sophisms and appeals to the emotions, and phony information designed to
trick people in associating values, feelings and desires with products,
persons, parties, or firms.
Their shared essence is
lying for profit through disguise, dishonesty,
falsifications, deceptions, misrepresentations, fallacious arguments,
spurious correlations, and plain lies.
But it should be noted that
not all propaganda is reprehensible,
notably not if it is at least implicitly honest about what it really is
- an attempt to make one think or feel something specific about some
subject - while it also is probably not easy to undeceive most people
about the propaganda
they have been deceived by, except by appeals to their values, feelings
Here is a link to a useful
if perhaps a bit simple site about
This contains in its
Conclusion this useful bit:
Ask yourself these questions when you are confronted with
anything that you suspect is propaganda. By asking these questions you
will be less likely to be wrongfully convinced if you take personal
responsibility to fight propaganda and false information.