A ponderous title indeed for a not-especially-ponderous post. The topic arises in light of Alex Beam’s Globe column today, in which he expresses displeasure with phrases like “evidence-based medicine” or, apropos of us, “reality-based commentary.” Says Beam:
I see that the Democratic-leaning Blue Mass Group blog claims to be trafficking in “reality-based commentary.” So Republican ideas are pure fiction?
Well, yes, a lot of the time. :-)
They have plenty of readers, you have to give them that.
Much appreciated. I must also add a footnote here: Beam gets the origin of the “reality-based” phrase a bit wrong. He says:
The nonsense phrase “reality-based” has become a hoary cliche, thanks in part to journalist Ron Suskind, who introduced the term “reality-based community” to describe critics of George W. Bush’s policies.
That’s not quite right (or, at least, it’s incomplete). It was indeed Ron Suskind writing in the NY Times Magazine who introduced the term to the general public. But it was actually Karl Rove who coined it, meaning it as a derisive insult. Here’s the relevant passage from Suskind’s piece:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush [later identified as Rove]. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
What happened then was that folks who were not fans of the Bush administration adopted the phrase, both as a rejection of Rove’s insistence that his “empire” could “create [its] own reality,” and also as a more general insistence that paying attention to the world as it actually exists is generally a good idea.
Which brings me to our friend EaBoClipper (also known as Rob Eno), the proprietor of our evil twin Red Mass Group. In the course of discussing our little dust-up with Rep. O’Flaherty over transparency, EaBo opined on Twitter as follows:
@bluemassgroup its not really just about Gene O but ur support of one of most corrupt orgs in US the @massdems party
Now, that’s just silly. Yes, there are some bad apples – the Mass Dems surely are not alone in that (*cough*Jeff Perry*cough*). And yes, we have our policy differences with Rep. O’Flaherty and others in the party. But “one of most corrupt orgs in US”? Like I said, that’s silly. And when I responded to Rob along those lines, he replied:
@bluemassgroup Oh how I wish it weren’t true, but can you show data proving otherwise? re:1of most corrupt political orgs in nation
Hilarious, for two reasons. First, obviously Rob wishes that it were true. That, after all, would make his life’s work of electing Republicans to office in MA a lot easier. Second, “can [I] show data proving otherwise”? Where I come from, the person making the outlandish claim has the burden of proving it. So, he gets to go first.