Victor Davis Hanson: The New War against Reason

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.]

Barack Obama promised us not only transparency, but also a new respect for science. In soothing tones, he asserted that his administration was “restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making.”

In our new Enlightenment of Ivy League Guardians, we were to return to the rule of reason and logic. Obama would lead us away from the superstitious world of Bush’s evangelical Christianity, “intelligent design,” and Neanderthal moral opposition to human-embryo stem-cell research.

Instead, we are seeing an unprecedented distortion of science — indeed, an attack on the inductive method itself. Facts and reason are trumped by Chicago-style politics, politically correct dogma, and postmodern relativism.

Mythical Jobs

For decades, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has maintained a rational, scientifically based, and nonpartisan system of reporting the nation’s “seasonally adjusted unemployment rate.” Presidents of both parties respected its metrics. Their own popularity sunk or soared on the basis of officially released jobless numbers, as tabulated and computed by the nonpartisan Bureau. The public trusted in a common standard of assessing presidential job performance.

The BLS is still releasing its monthly report, but alongside it the Obama administration has created a new postmodern barometer called jobs “created or saved.”

Over the last nine months, the official government website has informed us how the stimulus has saved jobs — even as hard data reflected the unpleasant truth of massive and spiraling job losses.

In other words, not the real number of jobs lost, but rather the supposed number of jobs saved by Barack Obama’s vast dispersion of borrowed money, was to be the correct indicator of employment.

The message? In superstitious fashion, the public is to ignore what statistics say, and trust instead in the Obama administration’s hypotheses.

And if pesky doubters still want “facts,” and if there are not enough supporting data for such speculation, then why not simply fabricate them out of thin air? Thus mythical congressional districts were posted on an official government website with more fanciful data of “jobs saved.” Just as creationists insist that the world was made 6,000 years ago, so too the Obamians believe that joblessness must show a decline because their messianic leader says it’s so — bothersome facts be damned. In this current Orwellian climate, a scientific document listing the latest unemployment figures is the equivalent of a stegosaurus footprint — an inconvenient truth for the upbeat employment gospel according to St. Barack...

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