Dan Hind: The Threat to Reason

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Hind, Dan. The Threat to Reason (New York: Verso, 2007)

Dan Hind's The Threat to Reason begins by noting that his writing "has two aims, one destructive, one constructive:"

Firstly, I want to destroy the persuasiveness of the idea that the Enlightenment is something that must be defended against its irrational enemies, as though it were an invalid or a helpless child. Secondly, I want to establish a more convincing account of what it would mean to be enlightened right now. (p. 8)

Hind writes about various conceptions of the Enlightenment, divided into two schools of thought. Folk Enlightenment essentially divides the world into rational and irrational, (following the model of Stephen Bronner's Reclaiming the Enlightenment) while Occult Enlightenment "is in love with secrecy:"

It is ambitious for total power, and therefore total knowledge, and it . It is happy to promote irrationality and misunderstanding among those whom it wishes to control; it is voracious for data at that same time that it radiates deception. (p. 149)

Hind is clearly in the politically liberal camp, identifying mostly with the left-wing Folk Enlightenment while noting that "those on the Right locate the spirit of Enlightenment among scientists and in the business community." (p. 26) He writes about various GOP corruption scandals, and broaches the "suspicion that support from the religious is a commodity sold by its leadership:"

"This must call into question their fulsome praise for Bush. It must also qualify the sense in which the religious right is properly speaking a religious phenomenon at all. In light of what we know, it looks much more like a protection racket." (p. 73)

Hind also criticizes the largely conservative politicization of science, and notes conservatives' "exaltation of powerful institutions, especially the state and the corporation" (p. 149). In discussing the media, Hind cites the standard liberal critics: Edward Bernays, the Noam Chomsky/Edward Herman opus Manufacturing Consent, and Ben Bagdikian's Media Monopoly. Hind is not a blind acolyte, however. He criticizes Manufacturing Consent:

We don't have to accept the Chomsky-Herman analysis wholesale to recognize that, in light of recent and glaring failures, the mass media cannot provide a tolerably reliable picture of reality. (p. 128)

while still recognizing the fiscal incentives behind media mendacity:

The private sector spends hundreds of billions of dollars making deception both palatable and ubiquitous. To the limited extent that we can grasp the facts in a given context, we find ourselves contradicted by the major media groups. In such circumstances we cannot reasonably claim to live in enlightened times. (p. 131)

As an aside, Hind wrote that "no politician could get away with open atheism" (p. 69), but the lone example of Pete Stark (D-CA) has since disproved that assertion. (Stark's atheist coming-out took place in March 2007, and Hind's book--released in June 2007, according to Amazon--was probably already at press.)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on September 17, 2008 11:32 PM.

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