MSM — Main—Stream Media — in the guise of CBS has received some heavy body blows over the past few days. However, the incessant, gleeful handclapping by conservatives at the well—publicized faux pas of Mr. Rather & Co. is, in my humble opinion, a bit overdone and premature. I would venture a guess that CBS News and 'Sixty Minutes', with or without their doubtable Senior Blatherer, will be around for some time to come. So will the New York Times and like publications along with the broadcast and cable Marxist news outlets of assorted stripes and colors. For they are but the messengers. No more responsible for their output than a megaphone is for its.
Ridding ourselves of the nonsense that is promoted as political discourse, non—fiction publishing and higher education is a task most Herculean. At the beginning of our republic politics was already hard—hitting contact sport. After all, weren't duels even fought over public issues? But the arguments presented and debated during the formulation and ratification of the Constitution put today's discourse to shame. Issues were paramount. Reasons for and against each position were well—reasoned and coherently presented. One only need peruse some of the many documents and speeches found at the Founders' Constitution, published on—line by the University of Chicago Press, to gain an enduring appreciation of the integrity, honesty and intelligence of those who set us upon this course.
What happened on the way to today where honesty and integrity are often the first casualties in Vote Wars? Was it 'media bias?' Is the Devil making them do it, as Flip Wilson once explained away any instance of dubious behavior? Moral decay? Why do we seem to coexist in two parallel political universes? Where even on those rare occasions where there is agreement on fact, the interpretations made, meanings ascribed and conclusions drawn are blithely presented by the MSM as equally plausible when one of the positions — by the logical principle that two mutually—exclusive assertions cannot both be simultaneously true — must be utter nonsense?
For many years the answer to such questions eluded me — not that I am now claiming divine insight. But a couple of essays from the archives of the New Criterion helped me to see the light. The first is 'The treason of the intellectuals and 'the undoing of thought'' by Roger Kimball. The second is 'Lying for the truth: M�nzenberg & the Comintern' by Stephen Koch. Reading these offers one a path to a clear explanation for much of the bewildering and numbing contradictions dished—out daily by the twenty—four hour news cycle.
Kimball explains why modern discourse, be it political or academic, is seemingly without logical foundation and nothing but a hodgepodge, a gallimaufry of assertions, lies and ill—founded conclusions. For the Western notion of 'Truth', and that is with a capital 'T', has been abandoned. Dismissed as archaic and provincial. Not even worthy of our contempt. Searching for truth is futile. Finding it impossible. All truth is reduced to politics. This is what in 1927 the French essayist Julien Benda published in his essay on the intellectual corruption of the age, La Trahison des clercs. As Mr. Kimball writes:
The 'treason' in question was the betrayal by the 'clerks' of their vocation as intellectuals. From the time of the pre—Socratics, intellectuals, considered in their role as intellectuals, had been a breed apart. In Benda's terms, they were understood to be 'all those whose activity essentially is not the pursuit of practical aims, all those who seek their joy in the practice of an art or a science or a metaphysical speculation, in short in the possession of non—material advantages.' Thanks to such men, Benda wrote, 'humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world.'
According to Benda, however, this situation was changing. More and more, intellectuals were abandoning their attachment to the traditional panoply of philosophical and scholarly ideals. One clear sign of the change was the attack on the Enlightenment ideal of universal humanity and the concomitant glorification of various particularisms. The attack on the universal went forward in social and political life as well as in the refined precincts of epistemology and metaphysics: 'Those who for centuries had exhorted men, at least theoretically, to deaden the feeling of their differences ... have now come to praise them, according to where the sermon is given, for their 'fidelity to the French soul,' 'the immutability of their German consciousness,' for the 'fervor of their Italian hearts.'' In short, intellectuals began to immerse themselves in the unsettlingly practical and material world of political passions: precisely those passions, Benda observed, 'owing to which men rise up against other men, the chief of which are racial passions, class passions and national passions.' The 'rift' into which civilization had been wont to slip narrowed and threatened to close altogether.
Writing at a moment when ethnic and nationalistic hatreds were again threatening to tear Europe asunder, Benda's diagnosis assumed the lineaments of a prophecy—one that continues to have deep resonance today. 'Our age is indeed the age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds,' he wrote. 'It will be one of its chief claims to notice in the moral history of humanity.' There was no need to add that its place in moral history would be as a cautionary tale. In little more than a decade, Benda's prediction that, because of the 'great betrayal' of the intellectuals, humanity was 'heading for the greatest and most perfect war ever seen in the world,' would achieve a terrifying corroboration.
Willi M�nzenberg was not an intellectual but a practitioner of 'Lying for the Truth.' This is, of course, Marxist code for the 'end justifies the means' thinking. He was the spark, the moving force running the Communist International's propaganda machinery in the West. Koch tell us that:
He was a major German Communist, but he was more. Since around 1921, Lenin had empowered M�nzenberg in a series of tasks, some very public, some very secret, that left this dynamic man the de facto director of the Soviet Union's covertly directed propaganda operations in the West.
The field of covertly directed propaganda operations is an area in the world of secret services which until now has rarely been mapped. As a result, the role of such operations in both the cultural politics of this century and its power politics has rarely been understood. Yet if one follows M�nzenberg from Lenin's side to the forest where he died, his path serves as an Ariadne's thread through much in twentieth—century politics. The byways of his career link the most secret operations of revolutionary politics to central cultural events of the century. Through M�nzenberg, the Kremlin is tied to Bloomsbury; the effects of his operations move from the Elys�e to Hollywood and back to the Left Bank, from the life of Ernest Hemingway in Spain to Andr� Gide speaking at the state funeral of Maxim Gorky. It is a thread that snakes through many mysteries, and across many encounters with betrayal, terror, and murder, not least of which is the possible murder of M�nzenberg himself. It leads to the Second World War.
And thus, through these readings one begins to understand the true nature of the beast. This monster. This dragon wrapped about the planet that will neither easily nor soon be slain. The lies and methods of the Marxist left and its socialist offshoots have been honed over the course of a century. Seeds were planted and have borne fruit aided and abetted by the subversion of the media and academia. Disciples abound in our institutions — political and otherwise. To regain a sense of proportion and decency in our political dialogue, to recover the truth, will require a struggle both long and hard. This struggle is, undoubtedly, well worth our efforts and sacrifices.
In the meantime, one might do well to remember Grace Slick's assertion that '. . logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead' as CBS, the Ratherites and their fellow—travelers are apt to illustrate.