rethinking the reality-based community

back in october this journalist/author, ron suskind, quotes someone from the bush administration as basically dissing reality:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do. (Without A Doubt, New York Times Magazine, Oct 17, 2004)

suddenly, as you might imagine, the whole blogosphere was up in arms. google reality-based community to see what i mean. after a cursory reading of the above passage, you’re apt to believe reality-based community = good, especially if you believe that bush administration = bad.

but i’m not convinced. since october, this idea that “reality-based community = good” kept repeatedly coming back to me in situations where it was very obvious that “reality-based community ≠ good.” case in point, a quote from something i read tonight:

I’ll expect all of you to help me out with the process of creating history. We all have to do our bit with free will. (Larry Wall, Apocalypse 1)

it occured to me again (thanks to this quote) that hackers are an example of the ultimate creators, usually portraying themselves as existing well-outside the reality-based community. and yet due the extremely passionate distaste for the bushian arrogance, the usually techno-savvy blogosphere (even boingboing!) fell for this conservative pigeon-holing.

i, however, want to be part of the reality-creating community. let’s call it the creator-community, shall we? and let’s create while being mindful of the existing discernible reality (what those in academia like to call “context”) and presumably after some significant and judicious study (what those in the blogosphere like to call “fact checking your ass”).



Wasn’t the original guy (Suskind) talking about the admin’s distaste for paying attention to data/facts and his kind’s apparent fondness for the same? I think the unnamed source meant creating reality in the sense of LYING. At least, that’s how I interpreted it.


btw, Suskind’s book on Paul McNeill is really interesting about these matters.

yeah, i don’t get that reading, from that exerpt at least. it’s clearly very arrogant and foolish (think frat boys running the country) but it’s easy to imagine the founders of google saying something very similar.

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