Students who had imbibed postmodernism left college with the sense that while they had been enlightened, the workaday middle class was drowning in illusions. Worse yet, they found it difficult to credit the average Joe and Jill with a sincere but different point of view, because they had learned, after much study, that alternative opinions were merely masks for racism, sexism, and homophobia. Mocking cultural relativism, philosopher Ernest Gellner quipped that “because all knowledge is dubious, being theory-saturated/ethnocentric/paradigm-dominated/interest-linked (please choose your own preferred variant . . .), the anguish-ridden author . . . can put forward whatever he pleases.” Epistemological hypochondria might have led to an intellectual and political modesty, as illustrated by the aphorism, “when the candles are away, all cats are gray.” But it didn’t.
The result was a double game. Epistemological nihilism, sometimes known as deconstruction, was linked to political certainty. The argument for the impossibility of objective judgments was awkwardly yoked to the unshakable judgment that America was objectively racist, evil, imperialist, sexist (pick your terms of opprobrium). Oppression was held to be an expression of bourgeois power that, like sin, was all-pervasive. But widespread though it was, the demonic realm of oppression somehow didn’t include Eastern Europe under Communism.
Postmodernism was the Indian rope trick of academia—an intellectual slight of hand that can’t withstand scrutiny. When questioned about this unstable ménage, some deconstructionists exempted themselves from the criticism they directed at others. Other people—not them—had been irredeemably infected by racism, sexism, homophobia (and later Islamophobia), as well as numerous other ailments native to American society. In identifying the poison, they immunized themselves and achieved a state of grace. Other deconstructionists acknowledged the tension but carried on unperturbed on the grounds that their opinions were at least aesthetically appealing or, even more important, an expression of good intentions. This unhinged conceptual double bind might have been the subject of mirth and satire in an environment where open debate was the order of the day, but on the campuses conditioned by political correctness, those who objected generally kept their heads down.
Siegel, Fred. The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class . Encounter Books. Kindle Edition. p 178