Can Truth Retain Its Independence?
Justin Raimondo has a
good column this morning on
Antiwar.com. It is written as a fundraiser. But
what it shows is that journalists (and whistle-blowers)
who tell the truth in America are more likely to be
pummeled than rewarded, whereas those who lie for
powerful interest groups live high on the hog.
It wasn`t just Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives
who deceived us into an illegal war in behalf of a
hidden agenda. It was the American media. Raimondo
names some of the culprits who are complicit in the
deaths of some one million Iraqis, an unknown number of
Afghans, and thousands of American soldiers.
It was all for a lie. A lie told by the President of
the United States and his handmaidens in the media.
Two of the worst handmaidens, Billy Kristol and
Thomas Friedman, have been rewarded for their treachery
to America by the New York Times, which pays
these men, who have never been
right about anything, to pontificate from columns on
its pages. Others, such as Peter Beinart, are installed
at the Washington Post and other publications.
The benefit of being a name columnist at a name
newspaper is that it puts you on the lucrative speaking
circuit. Raimondo reports, for example, that Friedman
is paid $65,000 for a speech.
Such extravagant fees are not paid for words of
wisdom. They are paid by interest groups for service.
Even if Friedman had anything intelligent to say, it is
unnecessary to pay him $65,000 to repeat what he writes
in the New York Times.
The same interest groups that control the government
offer the most extravagant fees on the speaking
circuit. Global corporations that are driving up their
stock prices and management bonuses by moving American
jobs offshore reward journalists who write propaganda
about the benefits of globalism. The military-security
complex rewards journalists that feed hysteria about
terrorism and foreign threats.
There are far better columnists available than
Friedman and Kristol. There`s Raimondo himself.
There`s Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, Pat
Buchanan, Lew Rockwell, to name just a few. If the print
media had columnists of intelligence and integrity
explaining events, instead of propagandists for
government and interest groups, the United States would
not have wasted eight years (so far) in pointless,
illegal, and immoral wars of aggression that have been
financed by foreign loans, thus sapping the strength of
the dollar and American power.
In America, money, not truth, has the power. If the
New York Times had Cockburn instead of Friedman
and the Washington Post had Raimondo instead of
Beinart, the newspapers would lose advertising revenues
and connections with the power brokers.
The same problem exists outside the media. Studies
produced by think tanks and university professors serve
the causes of those who finance them. Does anyone think
we will ever see a study from the American Enterprise
Institute, for example, that is critical of Israel`s
policy toward the Palestinians, the military-industrial
complex, or the offshoring of American jobs? With rare
exceptions, think tanks serve the interests of donors.
Even in universities there is not much of the
academic freedom that we hear so much about. The Israel
Lobby was able to reach into an American Catholic
deny tenure to a fine scholar,
Norman Finkelstein, who refused to obey the rule
against truthfully examining Israeli policy and
Try to find an academic physicist who will express in
public his doubts about the official explanation for the
collapse of the three World Trade buildings. An
academic career in physics is almost totally dependent
on government research grants. By bringing federal
funding to education, liberals handed government the
power to control. One physicist who expressed his
doubts about the collapse of the twin towers, Steven
terminated by BYU at the insistence of the federal
government, which held the power of the purse over the
The same constraint on truth exists everywhere. I
once asked the proprietor of a distinguished engineering
firm why he didn`t publicly express his doubts about the
World Trade Center buildings. He said it would be the
end of his business, that he would be denounced as an
anti-American and demonized as a terrorist sympathizer.
The fact that he would be an expert giving an expert
opinion would carry no weight.
The same resistance to truth is found in scholarship
where enormous vested interests are entrenched. Taking
on these vested interests is most often a career-ending
Even when the US had an independent press with
independent points of view, hysteria could sweep the
country in wrong-headed directions. Today it is easier
Even when research and scholarship were dependent on
philanthropic foundations that supported independent
views, academic fraud was not uncommon. Today many
academics are bought and paid for.
When government and special interests finance
education and research, and the media is concentrated in
a few large corporations dependent on government
broadcast licenses, there is not much room left for
Consequently, today we have the Internet and a new
generation of documentary film makers who, together,
provide the information, opinions and research that the
media, the universities, and the think tanks cannot
provide. These sources are our last best hope.
Scientist and philosopher
Michael Polanyi said that truth required people to
believe in it as a force independent of material
interests and intellectual dogmas and to relentlessly
seek it. Truth is a belief system, he said, and if we
cease to believe in it, it will disappear.
Paul Craig Roberts [email
him] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal. He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of
Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington;
and the Soviet Economy and
Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy,
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice. Click
here for Peter
Brimelow`s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.