On Being Wrong


I seem to be consistently wrong about almost everything.  I have been wrong about Donald Trump at every stage of his ascent. When Trump first started to make real headway in his quest for the Republican nomination, I compared his appeal to the Republican base to the delight some people take in smelling their own farts. His hateful, racist blather seemed to come from the bowels of the seamier elements of the Republican coalition. Trump’s subsequent success in the Republican primaries made confining his appeal to a small fart-smelling fringe implausible.

When it became clear that Trump would probably prevail and get the GOP nomination, I gleefully predicted that his nomination would tear the Republican Party apart. Before getting trounced by Trump in the primaries, Marco Rubio, or Little Marco, as Trump dubbed him, complained that Trump was a con artist and a fraud.  Texas Governor Rick Perry called Trump a cancer on the Republican Party. Both Rubio and Perry have now endorsed Trump. So have almost all the Republican establishment figures who swore they would never support him. The Republican Party is doing just fine.

I became ecstatic about democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and kept insisting that he could, and probably would, win the Democratic nomination. Obviously that’s not going to happen, although I suppose the fact that I just said it means it still could.

Then there is my propensity to pontificate on subjects I actually know little about. I have long had a bee in my bonnet, to use a slightly dated expression, about postmodernist writing and alternative medicine, the former because I could never make heads not tails of it and the latter because it just seems like utter rubbish. So I connected the two and wrote confidently and frequently that it was postmodernist gibberish that gave rise to the nonsense of alternative medical treatments and cures. There was indeed a postmodernist assault on science as “just one way of knowing the world” that one should not privilege over other ways of knowing the world such as witchcraft, drug-induced mystical states or guessing. The link between postmodernist denial of objective truth and the rise of alternative medicine seemed so obvious to me. The American historian Timothy Snyder makes a linkage between postmodernist relativism and the success of Russian propaganda, so I felt I was in good company.

But an academic friend who actually knows something about postmodernism has sown seeds of doubt about making postmodernism responsible for homeopathy. He contends that postmodernism is a symptom rather than a cause and simply part of a prevailing Zeitgeist. He cannot imagine that “a lexically baffling academic cult” could be much of an influence on anything. I have to admit that he has a point.

You would think that writing about one’s personal experiences, as I often do, would be safe ground, but I’m not so sure. Memory is fragmentary and any recounting of past events involves filling in a lot of details and leaving others out. In many ways the past is largely fiction.

I do know some things for sure. I know what I had for breakfast, but who cares?


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