Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
As the self-proclaimed party of “science,” progressives assert that their interpretations and explanations of people and events comprise “facts” that only the ignorant or evil refuse to believe. But this faith in science more often reflects the nostrums of scientism: contested ideas or beliefs that present themselves with the jargon, formulas, and quantitative data that characterize real scientific research, but that lack the reproducibility and established foundational facts that support authentic scientific research.
As such, these “facts” of scientism reflect ideological and political aims that appropriate the prestige and authority of science to camouflage their partisan prejudices. Unfortunately, too many Republicans in their public discourse and deliberations accept these “facts” as truth, thus empowering technocratic progressives by legitimizing their malign policies.
Climate change, of course, is a prominent example of this phenomenon. But anthropogenic, catastrophic global warming (ACGW)––the actual theory disguised by the banal, self-evident phrase “climate change”––is not a scientific fact, but a theory with some facts that support it, but others that challenge it. Our foundational knowledge of global climate as of now is too incomplete, and so is unable to create a predictive model because we do not yet fully understand or can quantify how all the numerous components that govern global climate over time interrelate. Yet based just on one element, human-created CO2 concentrations, warmists conclude that doomsday for the planet is around the corner.
Despite that uncertainty, too many Republicans accept the “scientific consensus” and “settled science” canards and support carbon taxes or other policies created by Joe Biden’s executive orders, like the ban on fracking. But carbon taxes, even if ACGW is true, will only increase the price of energy, while doing nothing about the true drivers of increased CO2––China and India.
A more immediate example of this Republican bad habit are the multiple, bipartisan claims that the recent presidential election was not compromised by fraud, and so contrary claims that there was fraud are counterfactual fantasies of partisan conspiracy theorists. For decades this claim, along with the contention of wide-spread “voter suppression” of minority voters, has been a Democrat talking point aimed at eliminating voter identification requirements and increasing the use of mail-in ballots.
But the numerous evidence that something untoward took place last November 6 cannot be dismissed by mere assertion or slurs about “conspiracy” theories. Most of that evidence has been marginalized by calling it circumstantial. But as Thoreau said, a “trout in the milk” may be circumstantial evidence, but it’s pretty strong, since the trout obviously didn’t swim into the milk pail.
The big “trout” in the last election is the huge increase in mail-in ballots––more than twice as many as in 2016. Mail-in ballots are inherently prone to fraud, since the chain of custody of the ballot from voter to vote-counter is vulnerable to interference and manipulation. That’s a major reason why only a quarter of 166 countries allow mail-in ballots. Another “trout” in the last election comprises the rejection rates of such ballots: In 2020, rejection rates for non-matching signatures were nearly half as much as in 2016, and a third less for a missing voter signatures.
Given that only 43,000 votes in three swing-states, out of 159 million total votes cast, decided the election, it is reasonable to suspect that some fraud had taken place. We know from previous elections that voter fraud regularly occurs, so to claim no fraud took place in 2020 is an assertion, not a fact. If one admits that fraud took place, but not enough to change the outcome, that too is not a fact. No one knows the actual number of fraudulent ballots was less than 43,000.
These and other anomalies, such as election laws being illegally changed just before the election, that should have triggered an investigation to settle whether or not fraud determined the outcome. Given the importance of the integrity of our elections, we should not rely on mere assertion from either party. But no one other than Trump supporters seemed interested in conducting such an investigation. Instead, the media and the political establishment rushed to claim as a fact that fraud was not abundant enough to reach beyond 43,000. But that claim is no more a fact than the claim that the election “was stolen.”
Another spurious “factual” claim regards the rally Trump held at the Ellipse in D.C. on January 6. The brief invasion of the Capitol lobby and some legislators’ offices by a breakaway group of Trump supporters is alleged to have been “instigated” by the President’s speech in order to overturn the results of the election. That this charge is considered a fact is evident in the articles of impeachment–– filed in House with support from 10 Republican House members–– which include fomenting “rebellion.” Other Republican politicians and pundits have joined the Dems in accepting as a fact that Trump is responsible for the invasion and thus encouraging an “insurrection.”
But that claim is not a fact, but an allegation on the part of those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. The transcript of Trump’s speech only mentions that the participants “peacefully and patriotically” exercise their First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The vast majority of protestors did just that, with only a small number turning to violence.
Moreover, there is evidence that the perpetrators came prepared with weapons, zip-ties, and other implements visible during last year’s five months of rioting, vandalism, arson, and violence led by BLM and Antifa. Many of the rioters at the Capitol didn’t even attend Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. It’s hard to argue that these groups were “egged on” by Trump. Finally, at least one Capitol rioter has been arrested and identified as a BLM participant from last year’s violent protests. If the authorities release information on others apprehended and charged, we may find more “false flag” participants. Then again, we may not. To say that the violence was completely a “false flag” operation is not a factual assertion, any more than the charge that Trump willfully and knowingly “instigated” the invasion of the Capitol is factual.
The charge against Trump, then, is not based on facts, but on partisan interests, spiteful vengeance, and irrational hatred.
These are just a few examples of progressives who brandish the banner of “science” but in fact are driven by the “passions and interests” that Madison identified as the tragic, permanent truths of human nature. The commentary and policies regarding the Wuhan Virus, such as keeping children out of school, or closing down restaurants and other small businesses, reflect the same bad habit of cloaking ideology in the guise of science. Such behavior shouldn’t surprise us, given that progressives are relativists who use “any means necessary” to achieve their aim to aggrandize more and more power.
But for the self-proclaimed party of conservatism to endorse such a politicized definition of “fact” is shameful. Conservatives should know that there is such a thing as truth and virtue, goods beyond mere ideology and partisan interest. Moreover, they also are supposed to know that truth is critical for a democracy. As French philosopher Jean François Revel put it,
Democracy cannot thrive without a certain diet of truth. It cannot survive if the degree of truth in current circulation falls below a minimal level. A democratic regime, founded on the free determination of choices by a majority, condemns itself to death if most of the citizens who have to choose between various options make their decisions in ignorance of reality, blinded by passions or misled by fleeting impressions.
Truth, then, is democracy’s immune system. When conservatives go along with progressive manufactured “facts,” they weaken our political freedom and hasten its decline. They should know better.