September 22, 2004
Dan Rather, philosopher-theologianBy Geoffrey P. Hunt
It will come as a complete shock to most readers that Credo quia absurdum est ['because it is absurd, it is to be believed"] did not originate with Dan Rather and the sophists at CBS News. Aristotle and Tertullian beat them to it.
According to Rather's breathtaking philosophical theology, now the envy of traditional epistemologists who insist on asking 'How do we know?' and 'How do we know that we know?', the CBS documents aren't real but what's stated in them still is to be believed. And, 'the longer you go without a denial (from the Bush—Cheney campaign about the alleged activities that cannot be proven), the more likely that the story is true.'
Even Rather's non—apology apology hasn't shaken his faith. He told the Chicago Tribune:
"Do I think they're forged? No," Rather said. "But it's not good enough to use the documents on the air if we can't vouch for them, and we can't vouch for them.... I believed in it," he said. "I wouldn't have put it on the air if I hadn't of believed in it. And what kind of reporter would I be if I put something on the air in which I believed, and as soon as it's attacked and under pressure, you run, you fold, you fade, you side—wind? That's not the kind of person I am, and it's not the kind of reporter I am."
Before embarking on an adventure into the CBS mind we need to make a stop at a 1964 printing of New Essays in Philosophical Theology, a collection of papers edited by Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre. The labyrinths of language and belief applied to Christian theology are no better displayed than in some sample titles: 'Can Religion Be Discussed', 'A Religious Way of Knowing', 'Theology and Falsification', 'Religion as the Inexpressible' and 'Demythologizing and the Problem of Validity.'
'there is the something else that cannot be put into words; there is the non—rational element in religion—the experience of the numinous.'
Indeed, religious belief transcends human experience. Religious people, reinforced by shared values and faith that cannot be reduced to scientific analysis and analytic propositions, try but usually fail to co—opt language in expressing the inexpressible. The religious notions of the supernatural, for example, have no analog in a mathematical proof. Either you believe or you don't.
Which brings us back to Dan Rather. The Democrats and their institutions, such as CBS News, have cultivated a theology of a secularized social order that has become their own 'wholly other' religious order. Its canons derive from Marxist economics, amoral codes of behavior, denial of the duality of right and wrong/ good and evil, expansion of civil rights without corresponding duties and repudiation of personal accountability and integrity.
This new theology of the left is more than a political ideology, more than policy differences about the role of government and the definition of the public good. It is a fundamentalist belief system that has now hijacked language from Christian theologians to describe their own set of revealed truths. And this theology views George Bush, neo—conservatism, US Constitution strict constructionism, free enterprise, private property and capitalism and traditional Judeo—Christian moral values as anathema, to be resisted and eventually overturned by any means possible. Dan Rather and CBS News are the apostles along the phalanx of the new left theology.
'People who express themselves in paradoxes are in a strong position; and the more outrageous the paradox, the stronger the position. For an objector who insists on pointing out the absurdity of what has been said is uneasily conscious that he is making a fool of himself, for all he is doing is pointing out that the paradox is paradoxical, and this was perfectly obvious already.'
Tertullian used paradox in a special purpose argument for Christian salvation theology, but James Moffat in the Journal of Theological Studies says that Aristotle used the form in an early general theory of cognition. In 'Aristotle and Tertullian', Moffat points out, while referring to Aristotle's 'Rhetoric',
'with regard to incredible events which are supposed and asserted to have taken place, you may argue that they would never have been believed at all, unless they had actually occurred...But Aristotle ignores the fact that the sheer incredibility of a thing is not the best proof of its reality (!), and the result is a disconcerting piece of dialectical audacity.'
Well, that inherent contradiction from Aristotle didn't deter Tertullian from deftly applying it to assert the central tenet of Christianity . Likewise, Dan Rather has no trouble cutting and pasting Tertullian's paradox in advancing his own theology. Dialectical audacity be damned! Full speed ahead!
Dan Rather's 'fake but real' argument is really 'the document is fake, but its very existence proves the underlying truth that inspired its creation.' This would be a powerful argument for a salvation theology, not the underpinnings of an inept journalistic screw—up by partisan hacks and laziness in cleaning it up.
The storylines that accompany the unraveling of these now—obvious forgeries have speculated on 1) serious lapses in journalistic ethics; 2) failure of journalistic integrity; 3) fabrications to create news; 4) lies, conspiracies and cover—ups among the Democrats, pathological Bush—haters and CBS; 5) clumsy efforts to influence a presidential election through fraud; and 6) misdirection and dirty tricks foisted by the Republicans; or (7) that Dan Rather is simply a senile, partisan fool.
Yet none of these are plausible answers when considering Mark Steyn's questions posed in Saturday's (Sept 19) Chicago Sun—Times:
'Why has CBS News decided it would rather debauch its brand and treat its audience like morons than simply admit their hoax? 'No one would destroy three—quarters of a century of audience trust and goodwill for one shattered anachronism of an anchorman, would they?'
Of course they would when it's all about theology. Stanley Kurtz referred to the CBS audience in his National Review On—Line piece 'From Biased to Partisan,' on Sept 13. These are the born—again true believers of the new left theology. They have constructed elaborate but transparent mythologies to underscore their beliefs and find no contradiction in corrupting language and logic to advance their world—view. Their slogans are the gospels:
A million black voters were disenfranchised by the Republicans.
Bush is illegitimate—selected, not elected.
No blood for oil.
The National Guard flap affecting George Bush as well as the embellishment of John Kerry's Vietnam military service are but small chapters in deconstructing a world obvious to the rest of us while inventing a fictional alternative version of events and facts not as they are but ought to have been.
There will be no shame for Dan Rather —— the televangelist —— and the CBS News president Andrew Heywood—— the high priest —— when they are thoroughly humiliated and exiled from the community of responsible journalists. They are on a noble mission, fortified by the fire—eating adoration of their congregation. Behold! Dan Rather the philosopher—theologian is merely expressing the inexpressible in defending the new theology while preparing for martydom.
By the way, Bernard Williams tells us that eventually Tertullian became a heretic.