For the Week of August 8, 2005
Journalism, as a profession, is based on the idea that the truth of a situation exists. Journalists, no matter their politics, are loyal to the truth.
Science is the same way, although truth is a moving target there. If some evidence shows that evolution is wrong, the truth changes. Darwin's original theory has been changed countless times, many of its "truths" have been overturned, but it's still taught, because it's useful, and taken together "evolution" best explains the evidence we find in nature.
For the last several years a war has been underway against truth, against the very idea of truth as knowable. Instead, the people behind this war wish to impose truth, a truth they can control, a truth they can change at will.
There is a place for this. Faith depends on this. And faith can be a wonderful thing, a guide to life, solace at death.
But when politics replaces truth with faith it becomes dangerous. This is what Naziism did. This is what Communism did. The leaders could change tack on a dime and they would be followed, because they believed.
This is why the First Amendment compromise is so vital. Faith has absolute power, on those willing to submit, but none over the those who don't.
Both ideology and faith are now at war with the idea of truth. Maybe they always were. Maybe we just didn't notice it until our own country became a victim of it.
Make no mistake. We are currently a victim of it. This White House can say anything, they can contradict what they say yesterday, and its acolytes will follow right along, parroting the latest talking points, bullying those who dare stand against them. That's ideology, politicial nitroglycerin. Mere principles have a tough time standing against it.
The First Amendment is only a principle. Everything in the Constitution, everything in the law, is based on nothing more than a principle. Even the idea of truth is just a principle. Ideology and faith can trump principle, if the majority (even a thin majority) simply believe.
This is the Achilles Heel our founders knew they were building into the government they were creating. This is why Washington was so set against "factions" (as he called them). Thus our political parties have tended to be non-ideological, mere alliances of causes, sometimes contradictory causes. And groups have tended to shift between the parties when their causes were no longer endorsed, because there was no ideology to hold them from it.
The modern conservative movement, which I joined in the 1960s, offered a powerful elixir of thought. It was a coherent set of principles with answers to all issues.
When did it become an ideology?
I think the change began in the late 1980s, with the Pat Robertson race. Robertson, at the time, appeared as Howard Dean did 16 years later. He brought new energy, and new people, to the GOP.
He also brought a Religious Test for office that still holds sway, over the party, and through the party, the country. Not the idea of faith, which is old as the Republic. But a specific faith, Fundamentalist Christianity, to which all other faiths would be subservient.
The idea of faith is unifying. But specific faiths, all specific faiths, are divisive by their nature. As with school prayer, "if it's strong enough to do good it will do harm. And if it's weak enough not to do harm, it can't possibly do any good."
Robertson introduced the idea of ideology, through faith, into the GOP. The party was ready for it. For over a century the heart of the Republican Party had been socially Darwinist, what later became Ayn Randian. Wall Street embraced the Republican cause even before Appomattox, and so many excused the Robber Barons in the 1890s, excused the KKK in the 1920s, and followed the capitalist cause from Fortune, to Business Week, then to Forbes. The first Forbes was a fierce anti-Roosevelt radical. His son Malcolm was a party boy. His grandson, Steve, became a political ideologue, and made Wall Street's marriage with Robertson work.
It was the neo-conservative movement that gave it ideology as a triumphant force.
The original neo-conservatives were actually Communists. They became disillusioned with Communism and began a long ideological journey, right across the political spectrum, appearing on the right as fervant anti-Communists. And, when Communism perished, they became fervant anti-Muslims.
It's a Manichean philosophy, based on a constant war between absolute good and absolute evil, with nothing in between.
It's easy to see how these folks got together. And they all have their reasons for stamping out the idea of truth.
So the war has come to my own life, and my own profession.
A few months ago I joined a group called the Media Bloggers Association. It was sold to me as a group of bloggers with journalistic pretensions, people who blogged in the media, or about the media. It held within it political bloggers, tech bloggers, and serious journalists.
I first offered myself to the publicity committee, but they wanted a rigid template, not writing. Then I offered myself to the membership committee, but without standards how could I do the job. So I found myself on the ethics committee.
It turned out, in the end, that the ethics committee would not endorse any set of ethical standards. They would only accept suggestions. I was told right-wing bloggers wouldn't accept standards. They wanted "the market" to rule.
By the market, they meant the mob.
That's the kind of rule conservatives have been engaged in ever since the Florida fiasco of 2000. Remember that one? Gore won that state, by a lot. But Bush's brother threw out hundreds of thousands of registrations, led his troops on a campaign of vote-rigging throughout the Republican part of the state, and then sent a mob into Miami to stop the vote counting, before a 7-2 Republican Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states can give their electors to whoever they want and elections don't really count. (Read the decision. That's what it says.)
Ever since then mobs have been shouting down, not truth, but the very idea that truth can be found. Hollywood is "ruining America" (not Washington). Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Academia is filled with evil liberals who are brainwashing children and they must be stopped. Evolution is "just a theory."
Will the contradictions hold? They might. Fear is already making America a religious-fascist state, at an increasing rate. And it can happen here. Germany was the intellectual and scientific heart of Europe when Hitler rose to power.
Does that make Bush Hitler? Does it make Bushism Naziism?
I would like to learn the truth of that question, but if things keep going as they are going, neither you nor I will be allowed to.
I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet.
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
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I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
It's amazing anyone would believe such hollow promises, given the history. Color Democrat Byron Dorgan and Republican Gordon Smith (both represent areas covered by Qwest) as believers.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Marc Canter .
Clueless is Cisco .
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