Earlier this year, Gwyneth Paltrow popularized the relatively unknown concept of "conscious uncoupling" when she announced her separation from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.

A simple understanding of the term is that it’s a jargonized version of ‘irreconcilable differences.’ No one person is at fault, the two people in the relationship realized they just don’t work well together anymore.

A more nuanced read of Paltrow’s explanation, however, doesn’t result in a greater understanding of the concept. Natalie Matthews of Elle.com couldn’t figure out this passage, for example: "Life is a spiritual exercise in evolving from an exoskeleton for support and survival into an endoskeleton. Think about it."

"I am," comments Ms. Matthews, "I don’t get it."

Trying to decipher Paltrow’s prose nine months ago – and not being familiar with the actress apart from the few roles I’ve seen her play – I wondered if she hadn’t consciously uncoupled from reality when she left Chris Martin. ABC Newshad a similar thought as it turns out.

As I said on Twitter about another Paltrow kerfuffle, there are almost an infinite number of things I care more about than Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin ( Short answer: "Everything that exists, past, present and future in all discovered and undiscovered dimensions. And Hugh Jackman."). But in looking back on 2014 I now realize that Paltrow may have inadvertently set the political theme for the year, at least where the progressive left is concerned. Many of their policies became, much like Paltrow herself, consciously uncoupled from reality.

For campus feminists, 2014 was to be the year which exposed the "rape culture" rampant at our nation’s colleges and universities. Their efforts dovetailed nicely with the Democratic Party’s overall theme for this year’s mid-term elections: The Republican’s War on Women.

In September California Governor Jerry Brown signed an "affirmative consent law" requiring universities in the state to adopt a new standard when investigating claims of sexual assault on campus – where "rape culture, allegedly, is most prevalent.

The hysteria reached a crescendo in November with the now infamous Sabrina Erdely piece in Rolling Stone.The only problem? The gang-rape Erdely describes is mostly if not entirely fictional – we’ve yet to learn the full truth of "Jackie’s" experience.

As Erdely’s story was unraveling, The Department of Justice released a report on rape – both on campus and off.The report showed that the incidence of rape on campus is not higher – as "rape culture" proponents claim – but actually far lower than the rest of society. As the father of an almost 17 year old daughter, I’m encouraged by those findings.

It’s unclear to me whether or not feminist advocates are aware that their campus policy recommendations are so consciously uncoupled from reality, and I wonder if 2015 will bring with it feminist praise for the steps campuses have taken to reduce the incidents of rape as documented in the DoJ report. Or will they, instead, continue to cling to the narrative? My money is on clinging.

We heard a lot about the narrative of another core tenet of progressive ideology in 2014: climate change. The United Nations held a Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru this month, the twentieth such session since 1992. In advance of the conference, the World Meteorological Organization issued a press release stating that 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record. From the statement:

If November and December maintain the same tendency, then 2014 will likely be the hottest on record, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998. This confirms the underlying long-term warming trend. It is important to note that differences in the rankings of the warmest years are a matter of only a few hundredths of a degree, and that different data sets show slightly different rankings.
Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree…In any case, the year is not over, so why the announcement now? Oh yes, there’s a political climate summit in Lima this week. The scientists of WMO allowed themselves to be used politically. Not that they were reluctant. To squeeze and cajole the data until they just crossed the line, the WMO "reanalysed" a merger of five data sets. Maybe that was legitimate but, given how the institutions that gather temperature data have twice this year been caught red-handed making poorly justified adjustments to "homogenise" and "in-fill" thermometer records in such a way as to cool down old records and warm up new ones, I have my doubts.

Dr. Judith Curryexplains why "focusing on the ‘warmest year’ is a pointless exercise." She notes, "The real issue is the growing divergence between climate model projections and the surface temperature observations." The ‘catastrophic" component of CAGW has always been based on projections of how hot the earth’s climate would get in the coming century. A change of 1 or 2 degrees C is not a big deal, but a change of 5 or more degrees C is. Model projections have been diverging with observed temperature since the inception of climate modeling and Curry writes that "one year won’t really make a difference, unless it is extremely warm. And then 2015 would need to be even warmer than 2014." Climate models, you see, continue to project higher and higher temperatures, so if the earth’s temperature regresses to the mean next year and it is cooler than 2014, climate science and alarmism as we currently understand it will be due for a long-awaited overhaul.
As with campus feminists, climate scientists now face a dilemma: figure out what is causing the model/observational temperature discrepancy or stick to the narrative. I suspect they will do both in 2015, the latter in front of television cameras and former behind closed doors. For all their talk of "big oil" funded denialism, climate science has grown exponentially in the last three decades due to an ever increasing stream of government funding which would abruptly dry up should the C ever fall off the front of the CAGW bus.
A corollary of the climate change debate is the push by liberal elites to get us all to "go green." We can save the environment and the climate, so the narrative goes, one SUV at a time by buying an electric car. It turns out, however, that electric cars are worse for the environment and climate change (as defined by the left) than gasoline powered cars. This PNAS paper concludes that "powering vehicles with corn ethanol or coal-based ‘grid average’ electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline." Turns out the ‘green’ thing to do is buy that Dodge Ram you’ve had your eye on for a long time.
On health care policy, the American public became aware this fall of a conscious uncoupling from reality during the passage of Obamacare in 2009-10. The Obama administration is set to argue in front of the Supreme Court this term that the plain language of the Affordable Care Act isn’t to be taken literally. "Exchanges set up by the states" doesn’t really mean exchanges set up by the states, the narrative goes, it really means any exchanges set up by the states or the federal government. There is no rational basis for this argument, which as described by MIT professor Jonathon Gruber served as a political forcing function to compel otherwise ambivalent state Governors to set up exchanges or face the resultant voter backlash.
Of course the President’s signature domestic legislative triumph remains unpopular in the years since its passage, and the political backlash the authors assumed would force the hand of reluctant Republican Governors did not materialize. That result in turn threatened the success of the entire bill, until the IRS found a novel way to get around the plain language of the bill – they consciously uncoupled it from reality.
Mr. Gruber also helpfully explained the rationale behind the drafting and marketing of Obamacare, saying most voters are stupid and will accept any conscious uncoupling if it is sold correctly. Having a compliant media serving as an adjuct to the Democratic Party doesn’t hurt either.
Halfway around the world, 2014 was the year of ISIS. The self-proclaimed Islamic state established hegemony over vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, threatening – if not actually realizing – the disintegration of both countries. Time and again, the foreign policy establishment from President Obama on down told the American people that ISIS was not Islamic, despite their leaders’ devotion to the Koran and their professed adherence to their interpretation of the book. To establish their claims, ISIS quotes from the Koran, the President cites Muslim clerics and scholars. Terrorist attacks around the world from the Middle East to Pakistan to Australia are carried out by Muslims in the name of Allah, often with the words "Allahu Akbar!" (God is the Greatest), yet we are implored to ignore their religious underpinnings. The left consciously uncouples the Muslim religion from the Muslim terrorist so as not to appear racist (even though Islam is not a race).
A political ideology dependent upon uncoupling itself from the truth cannot long survive without resorting to totalitarian measures. And so it was in April this year that Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla following the revelation that he donated money to a group opposed to the legalization of gay marriage in California. There cannot be two sides on this issue, declared the left. The other side must be silenced.
Academia – once the last, best hope for free inquiry in the US – is in on the act as well. At Marquette University a philosophy student was told just this month that there exist no words in the entirely of the English language one could use to oppose gay marriage that would not cause offense. The topic, as a result, was off limits for debate.
Do you think climate change isn’t going to be that big of a deal? You’re a denialist. Think that a gang-rape accusation seems a little fishy? You’re a rape denialist. Want to engage in debate over any of these issues? Progressives don’t debate because to do so would imbue a patina of respectability on their opponent’s arguments, which are of course invalid by default because progressives don’t agree with these arguments.
Progressives searching for a answers following their electoral defeats in the last two election cycles need look no further than this conscious uncoupling of policy and reality. Most Americans don’t understand Gwyneth Paltrow when she says "I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup," because in reality they’ve made that exact lunch for their children many, many times. Reality, and the ability of likeminded people to connect instantly through social media and validate their experiences, is not on the Progressive’s side.
No one expects Paltrow to change (neither does she, in 2009 she told Elle UK "I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year."). I don’t expect Progressives to change either in 2015, even in the face of all of this conscious uncoupling.
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