The Postmodern Narrative-Based Election

Oh, how we love story above rational analysis and propositional truth. That is one of the big digs against postmodernism and the emerging church.

I’ve dealt with that criticism several times on this blog, so I’ll spare us another round here.

But this came back into my head as I read the Sept 22 edition of Newsweek. In it, there’s an article by Sharon Begley entitled, “Heard Any Good Stories Lately?”

She writes that “this election have conspired to push people away from the reason- and knowledge-based system of decision-making and more down the competing emotion-based one…
The outsized power of the personal narrative today compared with even a generation ago…reflects something that has become almost a cliché in political analysis—namely, that emotions, more than a dispassionate and rational analysis of candidates' records and positions, determine many voters' choice on election day. The emotion can be hope or fear, pride or disgust. And don't be too quick to pat yourself on the back for thinking you cast your vote based on a logical parsing of a candidate's positions…

When FDR was making radio addresses, "people had the time needed for reflection, to mix emotion with facts and reason," says [neuroscientist Antonio] Damasio [of the University of Southern California]. "But now, with 24-hour cable news and the Web, you have a climate in which you don't have time to reflect. The amount and speed of information, combined with less time to analyze every new development, pushes us toward the emotion-based decision pathway." And not even emotions such as hope. Voters are being driven "by pure like and dislike, comfort or discomfort with a personality," says Damasio. "And voters judge that by a candidate's narrative.

Are we going to vote in this election for the person that has the best answers to the major issues facing our nation, or are we going to buy into the mythic fable-like stories that are being peddled about the candidates? Obama the Savior, McCain the Maverick, Biden the Scranton Boy Done Good, Palin the Small Town Christian Hockey Mom. We are more interested in the narratives than the facts. And the news is NOT about the candidates' stands on the issues, but on how they are coming across to the voting public, and whether or not the latest gaffe will cost votes.


Nate said...

Well put Bob. Makes sense in theory. The only problem I have with suggesting that we vote on the facts is that it is quite difficult to locate the "facts" from a perspective that is unbiased... or even a perspective apart from the dominant narratives that are shaping the election this year.

I personally think we must make the best of what we have available, but even at that I can't help but to admit that I am quite skeptical of anyone who claims the "facts"

Bob Robinson said...

Yes, absolutely! Just a quick look at the link in my previous post (factcheck.org) proves your point that BOTH sides are simply scandalous in the way they lie in their campaigns. And we are to blame as well, in the fact that we consume our media in such a biased manner: If you are a Republican, you probably watch Fox News and believe the analysis of Hume, O'Reilly and Hannity (and also the ramblings of Limbaugh on the radio). If you are a Democrat , you probably watch MSNBC and believe the analysis of Matthews, Olbermann, and Maddow (and also the satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central).

I am trying to wade through the candidates' stands on the issues based on their website's "Issues" pages, but man-oh-man, that's a LOT of reading and work to decipher! It is so much easier to listen to narratives and just choose that way. Yikes!