May 21, 2004

New Wine, Old Bottles

It is a foundational precept of liberalism that truth ultimately triumphs over blind belief, and one would think that this value were upheld and honored by liberal media. However, if one goes by the slow establishment of the four pillars of anti-war wisdom, the liberal media has now adopted as it's own, the principle of the hermeneutic circle and the notion that reality can be socially constructed. There is currently no appreciable doubt that Saddam was caching Weapons of Mass Destruction, in direct contravention of almost 20 UN resolutions. We can also infer, to a virtual certainty, that Zarqawi was a rather substancial lackey shuffling between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Either that, or the honorific with which he addresses his colleagues in Al Qaeda is just a habit of speech, and his obvious deference to them, likewise, an exotic rut. That's two down.

And one would expect the collapse of these pillars to change the whole complexion of the debate over the Iraq War. The problem is that the "powers that be" haven't acknowledged that the point upon which their "angels" have been dancing vanished, and they're currently doing a nervous impression of Wiley Coyote before he takes the inevitable glance earthward.

We are having trouble confronting Totalitarianism 3.x because we're stuck operating within the limitations of Liberalism 2.x "software," and it places us at a disadvantage. Ralph Peters observes that this has cost us a victory in Fallujah, and will likely cost us more victories in the War on Terror. Not surprisingly, the pattern resembles the bombing halts in Vietnam, but the difference is that we can't afford to lose a war against this current enemy and still win the larger war without an untold cost in lives.

I'm reluctant to sign on to the bandwagon calling for censorship of the media, although I recognize that it has nearly become an enemy weapon. The thing is that I'm still convinced that an accurate and unbiased media, or as Wretchard calls it, "public intelligence," is an essential ingredient in Liberalism 3.x, and therefore an essential component of a successful "War on Terror." What we have as we observe the legs of our Hermetic messengers spinning desperately just beyond the edge of the precipice, is a direct confrontation between the Enlightenment, which understands the law of gravity, and the Counter-enlightenment, which believes that gravity can be deferred.

I just finished watching a segment of Aaron Brown in which he interviewed some white-haired pundit (Richard Stokley?), asking him whether he thought the public had seen "too much" of the Abu Ghraib pictures. Has the public been overloaded? Well I have. How about you? And, even if it weren't obvious to an eight-year-old you could always check out Glenn's recap of the public's unerring sense of gravity. But this old fellow has the benefit of no such counsel or intuition, allowing from within his monstrously paternalistic fantasy world, that if the public is a little fed up that ought to just stiffen the resolve of the media to push those images even harder, because we're too used to seeing our military portrayed as heroes. I don't know what he said after that because I blacked out, swallowed by a shock-and-anger-induced stupor. Never mind that the press corps is pushing the pictures because they're too busy cowering within the green zone out of the not unreasonable fear that they might be the next Daniel Pearle or Nicholas Berg, to actually cover the war. And Lord knows there's no reason we need to see that!

"Are these people really that crazy and out of touch," I ask m'self fearfully? "Well yeah," I answer m'self tenderly. "I'm afraid there's just no doubt about it. Nuttier than fruitcakes, they are." They live in a world where all one needs to do to put things right is manipulate a few pictures, no matter how distorted a "truth" that tells us. And about the last thing they want to hear is a word of dismay from the peanut gallery.

But I don't recall electing Aaron Brown to the fourth estate. In fact, I'm not awful sure I want Aaron or his editors deciding what we ought to see, as though the public were some sort of jizzed-up adolescent that needs to be grounded once in awhile for its own good. I'm sorry but that's not the country that George, and Thomas, and John built. I know that much at least. And it's also not the country that my father's brother died in a bomber over Germany to defend in 1944, or that two other uncles gave up their youth and innocence, risking their lives in fighters over Italy, Germany and Korea to defend, either. Is there some way of subjecting this too-full-of-himself fool to a little public humiliation? How come Aaron didn't have the presence of mind to punch his lights out?

And now it appears that CNN couldn't let well enough alone, but broke a story about a "secret interrogation center." Secret, you say? I wonder why the heck they'd be keeping secrets? I wonder if it's such a great idea that the enemy knows we have a secret interrogation center near the airport? Well, fair's fair guys. We told you where ours is, so where's yours? Where do you plan to saw off the head of the next American you plan to kidnap? Surely they're playing by the same sophomoric rules of that our press corps thinks we ought to be playing by, bless their hearts?

This is just spinning out of control, and I don't think there's a way to finesse it. Our own press now has a knife at our throats acting as a kind of "smart weapon" of the enemy. As Mort Kondrake put it in a recent article:

The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic.... The decapitation of Nicholas Berg - which, it merits reminding, required several cuts of the knife to stop his screaming - was a front-page story for just one day. Only one newspaper that I know of, the Dallas Morning News, plus the Weekly Standard magazine, made the point that Berg's murder is "why we fight."

You mean we're fighting for something? How'd that happen? Really? Actually fighting?

It occurs to me that what has happened while we were looking at the parade of pictures is a major heist of the public's bandwidth, and it has simply slipped the mind of these media moguls that they exist by feeding from a public resource. It might be a good idea to remind them of that dependency relationship once in awhile. Just a thought.

Stephen Den Beste made the point recently that protestors who don't pay the price for their actions aren't very mindful of the public good. And following up on that point, Drumwaster observes that all manner of harm and injury comes to those who lose the ability to sense negative feedback. Somehow we have created a media "establishment" that can't be sanctioned effectively by the market. It has managed no insulate itself, I don't know how, and now regards itself admiringly as a fair representation of a saintly father figure. Surely more noble than an image of leeches with delusions of grandeur, which is a lot closer to the truth.

The function they see themselves as uniquely qualified to perform can, in fact, be performed by others. It isn't magic. Editorializing creatively and insightfully is, in fact, a fairly common gift. What isn't so easy to come by, or hasn't been until now, is the platform to test and train a broad swath of the population who have such aspirations, so they've been bottlenecked in professional broadcasting schools. It's not so much a training requirement as a racket. The "medium" that the "media" must utilize to run their Hermetic errands doesn't actually belong to them. Furthermore, the task could be bid out to those with the skill rather than the "contacts" any time we so choose. Indeed, it was precisely this insight that created the land rush that installed my homesteading ancestors as propertied citizens with a legacy and stake in the nation. And it surely isn't appropriate that the legacy of the "public airwaves" (although it's more than that nowadays) be held in fief by those whose allegiances are so weak that they all but race to do the enemy's bidding? It's worse than unseemly. As Kondracke puts it, it's calumny.

Can we not establish some sort of negative feedback system to reign in this monster, before it saws through our neck while imagining itself fulfilling some faux paternalistic mission? I'm disgusted. Does it show?

Posted by Demosophist at May 21, 2004 04:29 PM | TrackBack

Someone should ask John Kerry whether the media has gone overboard on coverage of Abu Ghraib. His answer should be most revealing.

Posted by: RB at May 23, 2004 10:29 PM

Good post, but I still maintain (maybe I'm wrong) that the time has come for real censorship. *sigh* I can't believe I'm actually taking that position!

Posted by: Rusty Shackleford at May 24, 2004 06:14 PM