As you are no doubt aware, Errol Morris is a brilliant documentary filmmaker who has revolutionized both our view of pet cemeteries, and Werner Herzog’s view of his shoes. He has just released a book that takes a contrarian view of a murder most people assume was solved long ago.

In the linked article Morris talks about people who are convinced of MacDonald’s guilt and says,

I despise versions of postmodernism that suggest that there is no such thing as truth, that the truth is up for grabs, relative and subjective. . . Narrative does not trump all; it does not trump the facts. The facts are immutable. You may not be able to apprehend them or they may be elusive, but they are there.

This is an unfortunate if popular interpretation, and it allows people to pass over an discredit an idea that we have never needed to be more serious about. Postmodern theories about language tend to do a lot of of focusing on how meaning is created by power. What Morris is mischaracterizing is the idea that power manufactures truth and facts, and that there is a need to dig under the hegemonically-enfranchised “real.” Looked at accurately, he’s essentially denigrating a powerful tool for getting what he purports to want.

It’s sort of a shame, because we are really losing our grip on our ability to call out certain categories of liar. Decrying postmodernity’s unwillingness to admit of the real, we no longer care when the powerful discard it altogether.

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