For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power....How you get from that to the idea that Trump has "stolen" anybody else's "tools," I don't know. It's a description of what everybody is always already doing, and Trump, being one of us humans, is doing it too. He just does it very well. Williams admits as much, but insists that "Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism." Which would make Trump more honest, no? If only honesty were something real.
People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) that influences how they perceive, interpret and judge the world....
In his essay “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” Latour observed that conservatives had begun using methods similar to those of critical theory to muddy debates around issues, like climate change, that required immediate and decisive action. Conservatives were casting doubt on the reality of planetary warming by pointing to “the lack of scientific certainty” around the issue. Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side:Okay, now I get the idea that the "tools" have been "stolen." There were insights that were not kept secret, because it was thought that they'd help only one political side, and it didn't work out that way. The "tool" and "stealing" metaphors are inapt here, because each mind that thinks an idea contains the idea and doesn't deprive anyone else of the idea. And different minds can reach the same idea independently. And someone who never thinks the idea himself may behave in a way that is illustrative of the idea (which is probably what Trump is doing). I'm not saying Williams doesn't realize all of this. He's just expressing annoyance that ideas that came from the left didn't restrict themselves to serving only the interests of the left. That's not how ideas work. They get out and about and wreak havoc.
Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.