The reality-based community

I’ve heard this phrase on every episode of the Point of Inquiry podcast, yet I’d never taken the trouble to see where it came from. Today in a email conversation with an engineer who isn’t too reality based I thought I could use the reference so I decided to look it up. A post on the Center for Inquiry forums led me straight to the original source.

It is from a New York Times Magazine article from 2004, Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush written by Ron Suskind, here’s the relevant section.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

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.”

Now I’ll be able to find the source when I need it in the future. It also makes it easier to understand why the Bush administration makes so many really bad decisions, they intentionally ignore reality and try to make their own.

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