1. Act as if there are no facts. There are simply things that people say or believe, and other things that other people say or believe.
2. Act as if there is no causation. There are simply things that people do and other things that happen. There is no connection.
Paperweight notes that this view of our age is consistent with the political writings of George Lakoff, in which he describes the use of "framing," and argues that all political discourse is built around a system of metaphors, or frames1. Paperweight believes that while many in the general public will be swayed by truth, many others won't. Of the latter, he writes:
[They] will continue to rely on heuristics, on shortcuts, on faith... [They] are easily manipulated by people, like Rove, Atwater, and their colleagues in the right-wing noise machine. The irony, of course, is that the manipulators are not themselves imprisoned by heuristics or their own manipulations. They understand exactly what they're doing, how to use all of the levers of power that they're wrenching out of the hands of the people, and exactly how they'll benefit.
In the second post, Paperweight offers an explanation for this new age of politics. He writes:
So, why is this possible, this wholesale contemporary rejection of the fundamental lessons about facts and causation, so hard-won over the last few centuries? I think it's because as a species, we've outstripped our ability to comprehend our world. Humans evolved to survive in small communities where the primary threats were physical, and almost everything that happened could be divided into two categories: simple physical problems that could be solved by heuristics (e.g. the intuitive Newtonian physics of throwing a spear) or complicated happenings that were relegated to the category of the supernatural (e.g., illness or pretty much any non-obvious causal connection). Social interactions were likewise based on heuristics, at least in part. That was modified by living in small communities, where you saw everyone over and over again, so that you could correct your misimpressions. It's hard, if you live in a small community, to outlive a reputation as a liar or a cheat, or a witch, if so accused.
He goes on to expand on this in some detail. I think it's safe to say that this explanation is less than parsimonious, and may be empirically questionable as well. For one, it's a good bet that humans outstripped our ability to comprehend the world as soon as we started forming large communities, cultures, and societies. Even ancient physics, to say nothing of Newtonian physics, aren't really very intuitive. Our "folk physics" is actually quite inconsistent with both. Throughout the history of human culture, it's reasonable to assume that the vast majority of people in any given society continued to rely on heuristics, faith, etc., to make decisions. It's simply the way our mind works, as people like Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman have shown over and over again. This is Lakoff's point as well. Even though a select few have been able to overcome superstitions, and to reason effectively inspite of their innate tendency to use suboptimal/irrational heuristics, most of us go through life clinging to these. Furthermore, even the most enlightened among us are bound by our world-view, and subject to the limiting effects of the confirmation bias, as the history of even post-Enlightenment science has shown over and over again.
The irony, then, is not that the Enlightenment has produced a world so complex that people have to fall back on heuristics, faith, and irrational beliefs to make decisions. They have always done this, even in the height of the Enlightenment. Instead, the irony is that scientific techniques born of the Enlightenment have taught us enough about the ways in which humans make decisions that there are now more and more among the select few who have learned to take advantage of these facts about the human mind. Furthermore, the Enlightenment has done an excellent job of allowing larger and larger segments of the population to participate in the political process. Instead of politics being the domain of educated, land-owning white males, anyone over 18 who hasn't been convicted of a felony can vote. This means that the largest segment of the population, the individuals who have not been as radically transformed by Enlightenment knowledge as the select few, now have a powerful political voice. Thus, the select few have a vested interest in learning how to manipulate this voice.
Unfortunately, it is conservatives who have learned to manipulate this voice the most effectively. As Paperweight and George Lakoff both note, it is the Karl Roves and Lee Atwaters of the world (to say nothing of the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaugh's of the world, who are both products of manipulation, and excellent practitioners of it) who are now excelling at using lies and clever misrepresentations of the facts to manipulate large segments of the population to vote against their own interests. Liberals, for better or worse, still demonstrate the Enlightenment commitment to truth, at least in practice. This may be because they haven't learned the lessons about human decision making that conservatives have, or it may be because liberals really are more committed to Enlightenment principles. The cynic in me suspects the former is the case. Regardless, the question for liberals today is, how do we overcome the more developed conservative ability to deceptively frame political discussions in ways that are beneficial to their own interests? Clearly, liberals must develop a better understanding of how people make decisions. How they use that understanding is likely to generate a great deal of debate among those involved in liberal politics. Do we manipulate people with lies and deceit, as conservatives are doing so successfully today, or do we learn to use this understanding in combination with the facts to frame the political discussion in ways that are both consistent with our ideology and politically expedient2?
CORRECTION: Paperweight is in fact Paperwight! I had read it "Paperweight" every time. You've gotta love the role of top-down processes and expectations on language perception.
1 Contrary to Paperweight's assertion, Lakoff's view of frames still involves the existence of empirical facts (Lakoff even uses such to justify his liberalism). However, the way these facts are used to form a coherent world-view, and interpreted within that world view, is dependent on the use of a system of frames.
2 This latter route is the one that Lakoff wants us to take. He and the other researchers at the Rockridge Institute are committed to findingg ways to do this within the perspective of contemporary liberalism, and to teaching liberal politicians how to use this knowledge effectively.