The other day in The Wall Street Journal, my friend Fred Barnes deposited a few thoughts on journalism provoked by the discovery to a mother lode of left-wing bigotry, screeds and semi-literate gibbering. He hastened to tell his readers that there was no conspiracy behind the journalists’ “tilt” to the left, but rather, “The media disproportionately attracts people from a liberal arts background who tend, quite innocently, to be politically liberal.” Then he filed a caveat, noting that “hundreds of journalists have gotten together, on an online listserv called JournoList, to promote liberalism and liberal politicians at the expense of traditional journalism.”
Well, let me address Barnes’ thoughts before jumping on the JournoList controversy. I rather doubt that journalism was ever a conspiracy. In fact, I doubt that journalism was preordained to be dominated by liberalism. There was a day, before the New Deal, when there were plenty of journalists who were not guided by left-wing ideas or any motive at all. The clever journalist, usually, just wanted to get a good story. Yet the New Deal came along and then the war and, finally, television. At first, it was humanitarian to be in sympathy with the New Deal. Then it was patriotic to be in sympathy with what was a growing homogenization of views among news gatherers. Finally, it was good sense to be a liberal newsperson. By the time television came into its own, liberalism was the corporate mentality of the news gathering business. Hence you can take television news gatherers or print news gatherers and plug them in interchangeably.
But by the 1990s, this corporate mentality had begun to change. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes saw a market. They dissented from the media’s corporate mentality and presented the news from a conservative perspective. Talk radio came along and presented a conservative talk venue. Now Fox News alone brings in more revenue than the combined revenue of CNN, MSNBC and the network news shows on ABC, NBC and CBS. The corporate mentality was suddenly in trouble.
Instead of breaking up along reasonable lines, it has tried to remain coherent and viable against the odds. Though Murdoch and Ailes at The Wall Street Journal and Fox have employed ideologues and entertainers, the media’s stalwarts are all “true” journalists who have continued gathering the news, pronouncing on it and covering their glutei maximi when some poor wretch, such as Dan Rather, proves to be an embarrassment.
Recently there proved to be another embarrassment. I have in mind Barnes’ “hundreds” of journalists. They were indeed sedulously advancing “liberalism and liberal politicians at the expense of traditional journalism.” Yet with admirable sang-froid, Howard Kurtz, who watches over the corporate mentality of journalism like a mother hen, tsk-tsked, “(Some of these messages) show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans—including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.”
Did you say “liberal commentators,” Howard? They were all left-wing commentators. One of the reasons the keepers of the news’ corporate mentality no longer can be taken seriously is they cannot identify a “left-winger.” There is no sense of symmetry in their world. The products of Murdoch and Ailes can be called conservative, but no product of ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times or The Washington Post ever can be called liberal, to say nothing of left-wing. Call them the products of the corporate mentality.
Typical of those with the corporate mentality—any corporate mentality—they lack wit, humor, any form of urbanity. Here is a sampler preserved from The Daily Caller by Peter Wehner of the sort that aroused Barnes’ initial thought on journalism:
Laura Rozen: “People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.”
Michael Cohen, New America Foundation: “Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression ‘Real America.’ We should send there (sic) a—to Gitmo!”
Jesse Taylor, Pandagon: “Michael Barone? Please?”
Laura Rozen: “Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?”
Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker: “As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?”
Matt Duss: “LEDEEN.”
Spencer Ackerman: “Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace (sic) Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f—- up, as with most bullies.”
Joe Klein, Time: “Pete Wehner … these sort of things always end badly.”
Then there was a National Public Radio producer who wrote that upon hearing Rush Limbaugh had a heart attack, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out. … I never knew I had this much hate in me.”
Meet America’s elite thinkers.
Athens. As everyone knows, Sigmund Freud was a fraud, and like many frauds he thought the Parthenon might also be one. But he summoned his nerve and visited the sacred sight and was delighted as well as shocked at what he saw. This was 1904. Like other visitors Freud dreaded that the real thing might not live up to his expectations, but it did and continues to do so today. Unlike other cultural icons—the Mona Lisa, the Pyramids—the Parthenon never disappoints, and even a philistine like Bill Clinton has been photographed misty-eyed between the columns.
Mind you, the one that takes the booby prize is the American lassie that years ago yelled, “Look Ma, from here you can see the Hilton.” I suppose it’s the symmetry and the proportions that make the Parthenon the wonder that it is, and if a certain Lord Elgin had never existed, the place would be even more exquisite than it is. I just read a book by Mary Beard on the Parthenon and learned a thing or two that had escaped me. My uncle, who was chief justice of the Supreme Court and president of the Archeological Society of Greece, used to give me monthly tours of the Acropolis when I was a child. Still, uncle never told me that the small temple called Erechteion had been converted into a harem by the Turks, with its line up of columns of Caryatids advertising the delights that lay inside. But Mary Beard did, so I’m now much the wiser. The Big Bang, as Beard calls it, took place in 1687, when the Venetians fired on the Turks who had turned the temple into a gunpowder store. A Swedish general, Count Koenigsmark, gave the order, but the one who always gets the credit for the sacrilege is Count Morosini, the overall commander of the Venetian force, whose descendant, Fabrizio Ferrari, is one of my oldest friends.
The Parthenon and its new museum aside, things are not looking good for the Olive Republic. It is impossible to measure the extent of the damage done to Greece’s image abroad by recent events. The ongoing blockade of ports by disgruntled seamen has seen thousands of tourists canceling their travel plans. Tourism is Greece’s biggest industry, and at times it seems the country’s small economy simply cannot bear anymore blows. A foreign friend of mine lamented about a beautiful country inhabited by unpatriotic vandals, assorted barbarians and uncivilized mobs. There wasn’t much I could say to him in defense of Hellas.
Yet a couple of hours away from the urban jungle that is Athens, along the Peloponnese coast, I am building a house to see out my days. Seeing the sun set over the mountainside of, say, Epidauros, evokes the deepest feelings of awe. The spell of the ancient world is everywhere. The amphitheatre of Delphi, the theatre of Epidauros with its perfect acoustics, the profound humanity of Sparta’s village people—that’s what Greece means to me, not the sordid mess back in the capital and its crooked politicians. The Peloponnese is royalist to the core, and King Constantine is building a house up above the coast across Spetse. I will be his neighbor, but the first thing I will do now that the contracts have been signed is build a wall around the house. My last properties in Zante were slowly but surely stepped on by neighbors who appreciated my absence to such a degree, they decided to grab my lands for good. I spent my time paying for lawyers to get them back, but absentee landlords do not get much respect in Greek courts of law. I sold the lot fifteen years ago. Now I want to go home again, anchor Bushido below, and, Penelope-like, wait for some lost love to return.
Only kidding, about waiting, that is. Although it is commonplace to talk of the treasures of antiquity, for me the inheritance of a Greek legacy is what the modern world is all about. For example, we understand more about Titian if we know about a horrific episode in Greek mythology, and our mythological legacy begins with Homer. Homer makes Shakespeare and Goethe look like soap opera hacks, although I must admit more soap operas have been inspired by Mr H than the Englishman and the German. Greece has always been a place for the real and the imaginary, “Istoria kai mythologia,” as they say in Greek. The Greeks invented politics as we know them, and are among the most political people in the world. The trouble is no Greek ever suffers from self-doubt, and no Greek will ever admit to be wrong, which makes it very hard to run a country. The only time a Greek city-state ran like clockwork was 400 years before the birth of Christ. Ultimate authority was given to an assembly of Athenian citizens chosen at random, which 2500 years later confirmed Bill Buckley’s conjecture that New York would be better run by taking names out of the telephone book at random, than the frauds that were elected by the know nothing masses. It was an extraordinary experiment which worked perfectly until certain Athenians got too big for their boots—like today’s neo-cons—and took Athens down Swanee for good.
I am off sailing again, this time with American intellectuals on board, so next week prepare yourselves for the new, improved Taki, a man with many redeeming vices.
Strange things are happening.
In the stifled, constipated political discourse of the modern West, there are quite wide categories of facts that are rather obviously true, but which it has for decades been considered gross bad manners to mention aloud. Now, suddenly, we are seeing those facts printed in respectable organs of news and opinion. Early signs of a paradigm shift? Or just a momentary aberration?
The first such instance that registered with me was David Frum’s May 3 piece on CNN.com. Frum tackled the issue of illegal immigration from one of the verboten angles: human capital. He cited some references to the fact that Mexicans don’t do very well in U.S. society, even after three or four generations.
Many Americans carry in their minds a family memory of upward mobility, from great-grandpa stepping off the boat at Ellis Island to a present generation of professionals and technology workers. This story no longer holds true for the largest single U.S. immigrant group, Mexican-Americans.
Frum quotes a 2002 paper on the subject by Stephen Trejo and Jeffrey Groger which replicates the findings of some different researchers ten years earlier, quoted in the late Samuel Huntington’s 2004 book Who Are We?. Compare Table 2.3 in Trejo and Groger’s paper with this one, Huntington’s Table 9.1.
The lackluster average quality of the human capital we have been importing in the tens of millions from Mexico should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Mexico is a lackluster kind of country. Quite inconsequential nations—Hungary, for example, which has one-tenth Mexico’s population and one-twentieth its area—have contributed more to the sum of human civilization in a few decades than Mexico has managed in 500 years. (Questioned recently on this very point, former Mexican President Vicente Fox came up with… the taco.)
The reasons for Mexico’s very low level of civilizational achievement presumably lie buried in the tangled feedback loops of history, geography, and population genetics, one key misfortune having been colonization by Europe’s own civilizational backwater.
(It is worth noting, before leaving the topic, that books about Mexican-American under-achievement have been written from the left as well as from the right. The leftist analysis naturally puts it all down to “racism.”)
Then came Jared Taylor’s July 20 interview in the Washington Examiner. Remarkably, Jared was allowed to put forward his common-sense “race realist” position at length (over 1,250 words). It doesn’t look as though there was much editing. I’ve known Jared as a friend for some years, and can testify that that’s his voice you’re hearing. The news-twisters of Journolist could learn a thing or two from the interviewer, Jamie Hines, and her editors at the Examiner.
JH: Describe the current state of race relations in America.
JT: Race is, and always will be, a serious social fault line in this country. Relative peace is maintained because whites tolerate “affirmative action” and massive non-white immigration. They do this because they are browbeaten and bamboozled into thinking it is wrong for whites to act in their own interests. This will not always be the case, and race relations will get worse as more and more whites begin to resist dispossession.
The third storm petrel to come fluttering by (if that is what storm petrels do “ I am not very clear) was Democratic Senator Jim Webb’s July 22 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, pointing out that affirmative action and nondiscrimination laws have highly negative and discriminatory effects on poor whites.
A recent [National Opinion Research Center] Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8 percent of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1 percent, a Jewish average of 73.3 percent, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9 percent.
The thing Senator Webb pointed out is even more obvious than the low human capital of Mexican immigrants, or Jared Taylor’s assertion that “racial diversity is a source of constant conflict” (which Jared says is “blindingly obvious,” a turn of phrase worth dwelling on for a moment or two in this context). Like those other “hate facts,” though, it belongs in the category of things respectable people have to pretend not to notice.
What’s going on here? Is the worm turning? Are bright shafts of self-awareness striking through the inspissated gloom of white ethnomasochism? Is it the case, as Jared Taylor says, that “more and more whites” are beginning “to resist dispossession”? Has the patient, whose coma should by now be moving peacefully towards death, suddenly awoken, ripped the IV from his arm, and leapt from his bed roaring for a steak dinner?
My hopes are not high.
There is much to disagree with in Senator Webb’s editorial. Race is not an “artificial distinction,” but a natural one; nondiscrimination laws do not need extending, they need abolishing; and so on. The Senator has, however, mentioned a key fact that neither Frum nor Taylor remark on: the fact of white diversity.
Race is indeed, as Jared says, “a serious social fault line.” It is not the only one that matters in this context, though, and may even not be the most important one. Divisions among whites matter, too. There is even an extreme position—I don’t hold it myself, but you sometimes see it expressed on race-realist websites—that black Americans are too few in numbers and too helplessly dependent to matter at all, and that the race issue in the U.S.A. is entirely a status contest between different groups of whites, with blacks and Hispanics as passive tokens.
I don’t myself, as I said, believe this is the whole truth; but it is some of the truth. I am speaking here of “the narcissism of small differences.” It is my experience that among white Americans of all regions and classes, feelings about black people—much less Hispanic people—in the generality are never as strong as feelings about other white groups. The passion you can hear from a liberal college professor in Massachusetts when he is talking about, say, NASCAR fans, far exceeds anything he will exhibit in regards to black people, if he ever thinks about black people at all. And vice, to some degree, versa. This is the dark lie at the heart of all the babble about “racism.”
(Jared once told me that when he speaks to mixed audiences most of the angry vituperation comes from whites. Blacks more often listen to him with interested curiosity, and come up afterwards to ask thoughtful questions. I note that Ms. Hines, his Washington Examiner interviewer, is black.)
That is why I look skeptically on some of the enthusiasm generated among race realists by the recent appearance of taboo-broaching articles like those I have quoted. To Jared’s hope that “more and more” white Americans might “begin to resist dispossession,” I would ask: More and more of which whites?
Perhaps, to return to my previous metaphor, the patient is indeed stirring restlessly from his coma. Wait a short while. Along will come the nurse to twiddle the feed control on the IV for a stronger dose of sedative. Now the patient sinks back motionless again… before he can notice that the nurse is just as white as himself.
Tories perturbed by the party’s lackluster election and shacking up with the Ludicrous Democrats were mollified by the inclusion in the Cabinet of William Hague as Foreign Secretary. Since those delicious Brown-defenestrating days, the straight-talking Yorkshire darling of the grassroots has been given an opportunity of setting his own rightwing stamp on the Coalition’s coition.
Hague the Younger was admittedly objectionable, starting with a cringe-making speech to conference aetatis 16, all floppy hair and free trade. Later, there were artfully sideways baseball caps, his max respec” for Dubya-, Serb-, and Saddam-bashing and, in between all this, utterly unconvincing rhetoric about Britons “living in a foreign land” or us having “three weeks to save the pound.” Such sallies caused 66% of voters in a famous 2001 poll to conclude that the then Leader of HM Loyal Opposition was “a bit of a wally,” and 70% of them to agree that he “would say almost anything to win votes.”
Except, of course, that many party rank-and-filers found his rhetoric utterly convincing. Because he said things they wanted desperately to hear in nice North Country tones, because he performed well at the dispatch box, and because “She” was said to like him, many Tories looked upon “Our William” as Younger Pretender to The Lady. He may have been follically challenged, they murmured, but he was “one of us.”
“His policy is, we are informed, a radical departure from the policies pursued by Messers Blair and Brown. It’s just as well we are told this, as otherwise we might never have known.”
He was acclaimed as leader after the “97 only to lead them to disastrous defeat in the “01, after which he went into exile, a Baldie Prince Charlie, from where ensued workmanlike studies of Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. Our William slowly reinvented himself by touring the TV studios and showing us his sores. The Older Younger was soon welcomed aboard the Good Ship Cameron as it set sail towards The Big Society, calling at the islands of Decontamination and Coalition. Finally, after his long and eventful voyage, he is showing us the fruits of his wilderness-garnered wisdom.
His policy is, we are informed, a radical departure from the policies pursued by Messers Blair and Brown. It’s just as well we are told this, as otherwise we might never have known.
It starts off promisingly. The Coalition wants a policy which “unashamedly pursues our enlightened national interest.” “Enlightened” sounds ominous to those able to decipher political code, but he goes on innocuously enough. New diplomatic efforts in the Far East and Southern Hemisphere: combining security and economic interests, preventing nuclear proliferation, a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, more bilateralism, protecting the “unbreakable alliance” with the US. We know he favors renewing Trident, admires the army and always opposed the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber. So far, he’s a sort of Conservative Cavour.
But then, the Eurosceptic of legend (it was always legend) metamorphoses into a Euroseptic, seeking to expand not just Britain’s role within the EU, but the EU itself. And not just to take in those few renegade European countries that have so far resisted the EU’s proffered possets, but also Turkey—which, he appears not to have noticed, tends to be in Asia. This is no whim, as he is an avid supporter of Conservative Friends of Turkey—a dubious distinction he shares with Defence Secretary Liam Fox, another “rightwinger” manipulated to persuade the grassroots that behind the chinless Cleggerons there are still “some of us” who just might, if we all keep voting Conservative nicely, some day, when the time is right, do something about something.
We are dismayed to discover that “human rights and poverty reduction” are “at the irreducible core” of the new policy. As neither of these irreducible items are ever defined, we are unsure exactly what this means. But it is not reassuring to learn that we are all “beneficiaries” of globalization, and that a Hagueian priority will be to “further that process.”
Using our ideological Enigma machines to crack all these complex ciphers, it soon becomes obvious that the Tory Talleyrand is actually a sort of Toynbee—and that the net effect of his new foreign policy for Britain will be to make Britain even more foreign.
After 39 years of not being 40, I decided to give it a try. Being two score is unlike anything before it so I feel it would be prudent to warn you about a few things…
1) YOU DON”T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK
In my late 20s, I asked a cab driver what it was like to be 40 because that’s what he was. “It’s real mellow, buddy” he responded in his funny accent, “You don”t vorry so much.” As an angry young man, I had a lot of trouble understanding how you could not care what people think. “What if someone came up to your window right now and called you an ass?” I asked. “I vould say, “Oh my”” he said, “then vind up the vindow and drive off.” Before I could question his manhood, he added, “Now, if it vas ten or twenty years ago I vould get out of this cab and say, “vat did you say moderfocker?” and stuff like these—but now. Nothing. It’s not vorth it.” I finally get what he was talking about. I’m precious cargo. I can’t be jeopardizing my kid’s father just because some irrelevant psycho is in a bad mood. Sticks and stones still break your bones when you”re 40 but unless it’s a peer giving constructive criticism, you honestly don”t give a tenth of a pube what people think.
Moshing to Cerebral Ballzy at my 40th Birthday Party
Which brings me to another point. You become a lot less critical of other people’s work when you’ve actually done some of your own. Hey, Friends was on for 10 years. I never got a show on the air. Courtney Cox did all right. O.A.R. sound queer to me but they sell 80,000 tickets a night and I can’t even play the guitar. Good for them. Not to get all Baz Luhram on you, but: The more you accomplish, the less you trivialize other’s accomplishments.
More moshing dads. We had forgotten how exhausting it is and collapsed soon after.
2) URINATING IS WEIRD
Dostoevsky once said, “No matter how you shake your peg, the last wee drop runs down your leg.” You could helicopter-shake that thing with the centrifugal force of an astronaut initiation and—bloop—a yellow drop comes out the second you place it in your underwear. I”ve even tried faking it out and pretending I”m done shaking to see what happens but he waits until he’s positive there’s cotton there and then barfs out a drop. There’s a generation gap between you and your dink at this age and he will do everything in his power to thwart you.
For the most part, women and men separate at grown-up parties.
3) YOU NO LONGER HAVE GAME
I have ran into women that I used to defile (and I mean d-e-f-i-l-e) in my single days but when I talk to them now, I sound like the dude from The Wonder Years resisting the urge to flatulate. After you”re married, women become human beings for the first time ever and it’s like meeting another species. “Um, hello, do you like music?” You can try flirting but with nothing to back it up, you come across as a pugilist in a wheelchair.
This is the nature of marriage. In 1978, Lee Gratton told me, “When you get married you get to see your wife’s knockers whenever you want.” He was right. Only, they’re your best friend’s knockers. You don’t have any game when you’re married because you’re in a new universe of love and talking to your sexual alma mater feels like going to a preschool reunion.
4) NEWSPAPERS MAKE YOU FURIOUS
In your 20s, you have to force yourself to read the paper. In your 30s, it finally gets interesting and each article reads like your favorite book. By your 40s, you”re actually smarter and more experienced than most of the authors and you catch yourself crumpling the sides going, “Why are all these liars saying Mark Ruffalo’s terrible new show is so great? Just because there’s gays in it? What a bunch of ridiculous phonies.”
5) YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR LAWN
Bill Hicks has a bit where he says, “What is it about men where they wake up one day caring about their lawn?” Then he talks about dads walking around in a bathrobe yelling, “Who wants sausages? I”m makin” sausages for breakfast?” These quotes have gone from comedic banter to a documentary about my life. I care so much about my lawn, I wish it had a birthday so I could buy it presents. I even have dreams about the bald spots. Scotts EZ Seed is way better for patches than that stupid pulp they sell but if you”re in an area with a lot of pines, you”re going to have to lime the hell out of it before any seeding solutions—and do it in the fall so it gets soaked in as the snow melts. Hey, where’d everybody go?
6) CONSTRUCTION IS FASCINATING
What young men consider a noisy nuisance is a giant bowl of eye candy to a 40-year-old. “Oh they”re using those planks made out of recycled bags,” you think as you peer through the fence, “those are way too slippery for a deck.” You”ll also catch yourself worried about foundations and insulation and even asking carpenters what particular brand of thread lock they use.
Before and after
7) COUNTRY MUSIC SOUNDS COOL
25 years ago, if you told me I”d get chills from hearing Willie Nelson and Toby Keith sing about feeding alcoholic beverages to their horses, I”d ask you what a time traveler is doing going to punk shows and talking to little kids. What used to sound like hillbillies yawning over unplugged guitars now sounds like a soothing pile of heartfelt stories I could listen to all night. I still like Southern rap and anarcho-punk but it’s now tempered with heaping portions of Merle Haggard.
8) HANGOVERS BECOME INTENSE
Forget foxholes. Try finding an atheist in an old man’s hangover. I have sat there with my head in the toilet for hours explaining to Jesus why I”ve never been to church and swearing to his dad I will start this Sunday. Cross my heart and literally hope to die because that would be an improvement over this parade of gut-wrenching, head-pounding, dry heaves. Here’s how 40-year-old hangovers usually go: When you wake up, it feels like a Transformer took a dump in your head. Then nausea grips your whole body like a barf snowsuit and your skin feels like a doctor accidentally gave an AIDS patient chemotherapy. This lasts, without respite, until you go to bed and is even kind of there the following morning. I would love to party as hard as I used to but Pavlov won”t allow it, so, that’s it. I didn”t quit drugs. Drugs quit me.
9) YOUR PERVERSIONS ADVANCE
As a fellow old person recently put it, “I went out with a girl who had droopy tits when I was 20 and I wasn”t into it but I sure wouldn”t mind messing with them right now!” For young men, it can be shocking to see how gigantic a woman’s ass gets in her 40s but when you get here you think, “More dessert please.” Queefs, butt hairs, blemishes and even those strange lady smells are all more grist for the mill and you finally understand why Napoleon forbade Josephine from showering the week before he got home. While this is happening, scantily-clad girls go from sluts you catcall to young ladies who had better get a coat on or they are going to catch the death of a cold.
10) THE PARTY’s OVER
Well, it’s not “over” per se. It’s just drastically different. With all due respect to doing coke in the basement of Lit with Paul Sevigny all night, that’s no longer my idea of a good time. I mean, it was real, it was fun, but it wasn”t real fun and although I wouldn”t trade those days for the world, I just traded them in for a whole new world. Honestly, if two decades of decadence doesn”t get your Ya Yas out, you have some serious emotional baggage.
Today, two-thirds of my roommates came out of my soulmate’s genitals and that means I feel a much stronger bond with them than someone with similar tattoos and the same taste in music. I still get high but it goes like this: Getting a drawing from my daughter feels like doing a bump. Hearing my son say “Take dat Beezo” after punching his Bozo Bop Bag makes me laugh like I just smoked a bowl. Having a toddler fall asleep on your chest feels like heroin. Seeing a little kid fly his first kite is as exciting as amphetamines, and building a Lego robot that takes all evening feels better than a Maker’s on the rocks next to a perfectly poured Guinness.
I”m not saying anyone should skip the party stage. It’s just that I”ve seen 15 friends live fast and die young because they took “I hope I die before I get old” more seriously than The Who. Hey dead guys, there’s a whole other universe out there after the party phase and it makes all the other phases look like they were just a phase. I’m pouring out some of my beer for you—but not too much.
A toast: To the bliss of matrimony and the joys of Fatherhood. Salut!
We won the Cold War two decades ago. Do we yet know why?
As T.S. Eliot noted in Gerontion, “History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors…” In 1945, Winston Churchill banned all mention of the immense Ultra project that had broken the Nazi Enigma code. Ultra’s 1974 declassification rewrote the history of WWII. Hence, there’s time for new insights into the conflict with Communism to emerge.
The Cold War offers a trove of gripping and unfamiliar stories. Slowly, European filmmakers have begun turning their attention to the biggest story that happened on their continent from 1946-1991. For example, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film about Stasi surveillance in East Germany, The Lives of Others, was, to my mind, the best movie of 2006.
Farewell, an engrossing French spy movie in which Ronald Reagan is one of the heroes, is perhaps the finest film of this year. Veteran character actor Fred Ward (astronaut Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff) plays Reagan in a supporting role, while Willem Dafoe (the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man film) portrays his CIA director William Casey.
Farewell makes the audacious claim that our Cold War victory was substantially hastened by a lone KGB colonel codenamed “Farewell.” In 1981, Vladimir Vetrov, a fed-up Russian engineer, began copying KGB technology documents and delivering them to the French equivalent of the FBI. Socialist FranÃ§ois Mitterrand, who had been elected president that year with the help of the Moscow-controlled French Communist Party, demonstrated his anti-Communist bona fides by personally passing along the “Farewell Dossier” to Reagan on July 19, 1981.
In French director Christian Carion’s Farewell, Vetrov (somewhat fictionalized as “Sergei Gregoriev”) is played with perpetual bemusement at his world-historical role by the charismatic Serbian director Emir Kusturica.
The Francophile KGB man didn”t ask his French contact for money, just for a few Parisian luxuries to remind himself of the halcyon years he”d spent spying in France. And some Queen albums for his beloved teenaged son, an engineering prodigy for whom Vetrov wanted a country of “careers open to talent” rather than Brezhnev’s regime of hereditary privilege and incompetence.
Vetrov did not betray hard-earned Soviet technological advances. By the 1980s, there weren”t many. Instead, he revealed that”to an extent that surprised even Reagan”the Soviets were remaining competitive in the Cold War only by purloining Western breakthroughs.
This had been subject to debate within American intelligence circles for years. The mainstream CIA view was that the Soviet planned economy was a formidable rival, a model of rational centralization. Heretics such as Stefan Possony and Jerry Pournelle countered that from what they could see in satellite photos, the Soviet Union was actually “Bulgaria with missiles.”
Farewell was mostly filmed in the grand heart of Czarist Moscow, so what the movie shows us of Russia looks pretty good. Moscow’s endless suburbs of shoddy worker’s housing projects are omitted, making the cinematography easier on the eyes, but obscuring what seems to have been a key point of Vetrov’s motivation.
In reality, as P.J. O”Rourke reported after taking a 1982 Nation magazine cruise down the Volga with nostalgic old American lefties, “The place just wears you out after a while. There is not a square angle or a plumb line in all the country. Every bit of concrete is crumbling from too much aggregate in the mix, and everything is made of concrete.” Vetrov is depicted as a Russian patriot motivated less by ideology than by a proud nerd’s disgust that the Party, which had put the first man in space when he was young, could now only come up with new ideas through theft.
In 1982, Vetrov handed over the names of hundreds of Soviet industrial espionage agents operating in the West. They were rolled up, leaving the Soviets flying blind.
In the film, the Americans gain confidence from Farewell that they can win the Cold War through technology competition. We see a young Mikhail Gorbachev watching Reagan’s 1983 Star Wars speech. In reaction, Gorbachev conspires with an alarmed Air Force general to shake up the Soviet system.
Perhaps to simplify an already complex plot, Farewell omits the amusing sabotage campaign organized by Gus Weiss of the National Security Administration. He explained in 1996: “Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline… The Soviet Space Shuttle was a rejected NASA design.” There’s a rumor that American disinformation caused an immense explosion in a Soviet natural gas pipeline in 1982.
How much of this is true? It’s well documented. But are the documents disinterested? (Mitterrand came to believe it was a CIA plot to test his loyalty.) As of 2010, all I can be sure of is CIA counterintelligence czar James Jesus Angleton’s observation that spycraft is, in Eliot’s metaphor, a “wilderness of mirrors.”
Public confidence in Congress has plummeted to the lowest level of any institution since Gallup began asking the question in 1973. One-half of all Americans have little or no confidence in the Congress.
Only 11 percent have a “great deal” or “a lot of” confidence in what is, given its place of primacy in the Constitution, the first branch of government and the branch most representative of the people.
The house of such giants as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Henry Cabot Lodge, the greatest legislative body in the world that was home to John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” who decided the questions of war and peace, Reconstruction and civil rights is now looked upon with pervasive mistrust.
Of the 16 major institutions of which the question was asked, Congress’ closest competitor for the least trusted was HMOs.
And this poll was taken after President Obama achieved what is being hailed by his party as the greatest legislative accomplishment since Medicare and Social Security.
Not only is this bad news for the Democratic Party this fall, it is reflective of the disdain if not contempt in which the nation’s political class is held by those they govern. Three times as many Americans have confidence in the Supreme Court as have in Congress.
And though Obama has been through a rough patch, three times as many Americans retain confidence in his office as have confidence in the Congress. Even when Bush was at his nadir, in 2008, 26 percent professed a high level of confidence in the presidency, more than twice those who today have confidence in the institution led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
This would also seem to be bad news for democracy, as the closest competitor to Congress in public disregard was the 2008 Congress that enjoyed the trust of only one in eight Americans.
But the poll reveals even more about us as a people.
Only three institutions of the 16 have the solid confidence of the nation with more than 50 percent saying they have high confidence or a lot of confidence in them: the military at 76 percent, down from 82 percent a year ago, small business at 66 percent and the police at 58 percent.
All three institutions tend to be male-dominated, conservative and hierarchical. Two of the three feature men with guns—the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who defend us from foreign enemies, and the thin blue line that defends us from the predators at home. Americans have a far greater appreciation of those who risk their lives to defend our country than for those who write its laws.
When one recalls how the military and police were regarded in the 1960s, the former being trashed for “the dirty and immoral war” in Vietnam, and the latter being called “racists” and “pigs” for battling campus radicals and urban rioters, what a difference a few decades can make.
What these surveys suggest is that the New Left of the 1960s was and is over-represented in the media depictions of that era. Some baby boomers were indeed in the mud at Woodstock. But others were in the mud at Khe Sanh. And large majorities of baby boomers helped deliver to Ronald Reagan his historic landslides in 1980 and 1984.
Half of all Americans yet retain confidence in organized religion, an institution not wildly popular with our cultural and media elites. Yet, the churches retain twice the level of confidence of the newspapers, and more than twice the level of confidence of television news, which ranks just below “the banks” at 22 percent.
This explains why the public is less enthusiastic than the press about enacting “shield laws” to protect journalists’ sources.
While the number of those having a high measure of confidence in the medical system has risen from 36 percent to 40 percent during this year of debate on health care, confidence in the public schools fell from 38 percent to 34 percent. Despite immense infusions of federal cash, the public schools are still bleeding public esteem.
As for Big Business, confidence there is not one-third that of small business. Washington, Wall Street, New York—our media and financial capital—and the Business Roundtable are not beloved.
If one takes only those institutions generally regarded as liberal and Democratic—newspapers, TV news, unions and Congress, not one enjoys the high confidence of even half of those Americans who have confidence in the church and religion. Even the honored office Obama occupies has lost one-fourth of the confidence it inspired a year ago.
In short, the Gallup Poll showing soldiers, small businesses, cops, preachers and pastors to be trusted, while journalists, bankers, big business, unions and congressmen are not mirrors the message of polls showing that conservatives now outnumber liberals two-to-one.
Those institutions in society perceived as dominated by liberals are also, perhaps not coincidentally, the least trusted in the land.
The pendulum is swinging back.
It goes without saying that Prince William is considered by many to be the most eligible bachelor in the world. He’s handsome; he”ll inherit the Crown Jewels; the Queen is his granny; Prime Ministers and Presidents will bow before him. Clearly, he’s a catch.
And yet, he’s stuck with Kate Middleton.
There are still some who relish the prospect of Catherine (as she has requested friends now call her) becoming a member of the Firm”but as time passes, the less goodwill she seems to enjoy and the more ambivalent the general public becomes. Hardly an ideal position for a future Queen.
You”d be forgiven for mistakenly considering the job of HRH to be the best in the world, but let’s be clear: it is a job. Those in Prince William’s circle know this. His mother Princess Diana didn”t. (Glamorous? That’s what Lady Di thought in 1981, too, after only a handful of dates with Prince Charles followed by a whirlwind engagement.)
Diana Spencer wasn”t the first woman Prince Charles proposed marriage, to, however. According to Tina Brown’s unputdownable The Diana Chronicles, that dubious first honor went to second cousin Amanda Knatchbull. She turned him down.
A precedent had already been set by previous girlfriend Lady Jane Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s daughter, who quipped to reporters while dating Charles, “I don”t want another title”I”ve already got one.”
Jane and Amanda understood what Diana didn”t. To be a senior royal is not a VIP pass to an endless succession of glittering parties (although there are, of course, glittering parties aplenty). To the contrary: it means daily duty, a regimented schedule, no room for spontaneity, hundreds of charity appearances a year, mind-numbing small talk, a perma-paste smile, crushing responsibilities, 24/7 surveillance, zero privacy”and dwindling respect and appreciation from a public who doesn”t understand your immense contributions and increasingly views you as a tax burden.
During his infamous break from Kate in 2007, Prince William saw a succession of other women, but quickly found that those outside his social circle (the good-time gals he met at bars and clubs) would not only never fit in, but were often all too eager to sell their stories to tabloids (“Royal Picture Sensation: Come Back to My Palace!” trumpeted one). Those within his circle, meanwhile”well-bred, moneyed English beauties like Arabella Musgrave, Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe and Olivia Hunt”have learned from Princess Diana’s legacy, reportedly feeling like Jane Wellesley before them: give up an already-abundant life for stifling duty, no privacy and the chance to briefly wear a heavy crown in Westminster Abbey? No, thanks. (Leave that to somebody who actually has something to gain”like an upper-middle class girl from Berkshire, perhaps.)
There are only a couple of European Princesses around Prince William’s age who would be attractive prospects to his discerning eye: women like Sweden’s gorgeous Princess Madeleine, brainy, Brown-educated Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, and the sublime Charlotte Casiraghi, daughter of Princess Caroline of Hanover and Grace Kelly’s granddaughter. Considering his lifelong tendency to insulate himself with fellow next-gen Sloanes and Hooray Henrys, however, it’s unlikely that somebody not born in the UK”somebody who didn”t understand the complex social rules of his set”would make the cut, title or no title. After all, the days of intermarriage between European royals to benefit foreign-policy are long-gone, so at this point it’s all about”gasp!”love and friendship, not dynasty-building. Even were William and Charlotte to bond over a shared love of horses, her Catholic faith takes her out of the running. (Oh, you pesky Act of Settlement 1701!)
The name that repeatedly pops up is that of Kenyan adventuress Jecca Craig, who reportedly enjoyed a “pretend engagement” with Wills in their youth, was the Guest of Honor at his 21st birthday party, has remained close with him through the Kate Years, and who unexpectedly called off her own wedding last year. She represents a rare chance for William to replace Kate with somebody long-known (and approved of by his friends) who is neither blinded by the Crown’s gleam, nor horrified by its restrictive weight. The fact that St. James Palace once denied their relationship, however”the only would-be girlfriend ever to benefit from such a statement”implies that theirs has only ever been a deep friendship. And just in case, clever Kate has made sure to befriend Jecca. Keep your friends close, after all…
So, Waity Katie”with so many secrets locked up behind that glossy mane”has steadfastly watched and learned, thwarting the notoriously stubborn English class system to brilliantly rise above her station. She’s proven to be the rarest of companions: somebody loyal who is also willing to play the same game that unhinged (or disinterested) so many before her. And unlike Diana, she’s been granted nearly a decade to fully understand what she will be marrying into.
There is nobody else. Catherine Middleton it will be.
When I encounter facts that run contrary to my beliefs, I embrace the facts and abandon my beliefs. I wish the rest of the world was like me.
I was around eight years old when the evidence against Santa Claus became too overwhelming for me to continue believing in him. My arrogant and dickheadedly precocious mind had figured out that it would be physically impossible for Santa to fit enough toys for all the world’s children on a single sleigh and then deliver them over the course of one night. After hammering at this line of questioning with my mother, she finally relented and admitted she”d been lying to me for eight years about Santa Claus.
I didn”t enjoy learning she”d lied to me. And I stopped believing in Santa Claus.
I was around sixteen when I stopped believing in Jesus Christ as my savior. I reached the point where I”d read enough of the Bible to realize it contained several items that couldn”t possibly be true simultaneously. For instance, no infallible God would establish an “eternal” covenant, only to change His mind, revoke it later, and then suddenly pull a New Covenant out of his ass. A perfect God simply wouldn”t roll like that.
I was angry learning I”d been lied to about Jesus. And so I ceased being a Christian.
I was in my late twenties when I stopped identifying myself as a liberal. When evidence started mounting that shot machine-gun holes through the block of liberal cheese I”d purchased at the local liberal co-op, I concluded that liberalism was not a logically consistent belief system.
But it wasn”t only liberal illogic that caused me to dump the whole program”much of it had to do with gradual changes in liberal attitudes and behavior. I”m old enough to remember when liberals were free-speech absolutists and conservatives tended to be the book-burners. But historical forces can blur, erase, and often invert party lines.
Over the years, I watched as liberals slowly became the group most likely to flat-out refuse discussing certain topics and answering certain questions, their purportedly “open” minds snapping shut like a giant clam. They became the group most likely to try and silence their opponents by shouting them down, defaming them, assaulting them, and even urging legislation to ban the use and expression of certain terms and sentiments. They became the group most disposed toward emotional appeals, double standards, wishful thinking, and wretchedly malodorous sanctimony.
Up through my teens and twenties, I had considered liberals to be the most open-minded and free-thinking group in America, only to watch them morph into the most ideologically rigid pack of true believers I”d ever seen. With modern American liberalism, it’s as if their cute, multicolored, and sincerely curious little 1960s caterpillar had blossomed into a hardened grey butterfly fossil. Liberalism had become an emotion-driven folk religion that somehow had convinced itself science and logic were on its side.
These days, I suppose I”d rather hang out with conservatives than liberals, if only for the fact that I offend conservatives less, and it’s a drag to hang out with people who are always getting offended.
And unless I suffer from blind, chronic denial, I like to believe that my political journey has been free of the cognitive dissonance that afflicts ideologues of every stripe.
A study recently published in Political Behavior addresses the topic of cognitive dissonance as it regards political beliefs. Titled “When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions,” it is an amended version of a paper originally presented at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.
The study, written by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, focused on four separate experiments in which college students were presented with mock news articles containing items of misinformation that were subsequently “corrected” by the researchers, who presented the students with hard evidence that contradicted the initially bungled facts. The researchers found that being fed corrective information failed to budge their subjects” opinions and that, disturbingly, it often caused them to strengthen their erroneous beliefs. The researchers refer to this defensive tendency to double-up on disproved beliefs as the “backfire effect.”
This troubling phenomenon”of people stubbornly believing what has been certified as unbelievable”is as old as humanity. A farmer named William Miller gained religious followers by predicting the world’s end in 1843. When it didn”t end and he didn”t lose any followers, he predicted it would end in 1844. When that didn”t happen, his cult only gained believers instead of withering away. It still exists today and is known as Seventh Day Adventism.
In his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, author Leon Festinger infiltrated another cult that claimed to have nailed down Doomsday’s exact date. When Doomsday came and went without doom, the cultists were duped into believing space aliens had granted a reprieve in order to allow the cult to spread their mission. Naturally, the cult only gained strength. Twenty years later, a book called The Psychic Mafia detailed the imbecility of a group who refused to believe that a psychic named Raoul was a fraud even though Raoul himself admitted as much to them. The book’s author, M. Lamar Keene, wrote, “I knew how easy it was to make people believe a lie, but I didn’t expect the same people, confronted with the lie, would choose it over the truth….No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie.”
Although Nyhan and Reifler’s recent study takes a few token stabs at objectivity, it stinks a bit of what is known as Expectation Bias, seeing as the authors repeatedly make a distinction between “conservatives” and “more knowledgable subjects” and suggest that their study “may provide support for the hypothesis that conservatives are especially dogmatic.”
However, I like to cut slack where slack deserves to be cut, so I should mention that the authors tossed in the following: “It would also be helpful to test additional corrections of liberal misperceptions.”
I agree that it would be helpful. I propose an additional study where subjects are read the following factual statements, most of which directly contradict prominent liberal misinformation:
“¢ Communist governments killed perhaps a hundred million more people than the Nazis did.
“¢ Women commit acts of domestic violence at a higher rate than men do.
“¢ Blacks commit interracial violence at a rate far in excess of their representation in the general population.
“¢ Sex has a lot to do with rape.
“¢ Race is a biologically quantifiable reality in addition to something that can be manipulated as a social construct.
“¢ Black-on-black murders in the USA every year are roughly double the total number of blacks lynched in America throughout history.
“¢ Islam is far more misogynistic and anti-Semitic than most white male Christians are.
“¢ There is not a shred of evidence to support the idea of innate cognitive and physical equality between human ethnic groups.
“¢ Many of the nations that wound up being colonized were not innately peaceful and were only subjugated due to their inferior defensive technology.
“¢ Collective, intergenerational guilt is a fantasy that doesn”t exist.
“¢ The ends do not justify the means.
How would most self-identified leftists react to such “corrective information”? Would they immediately alter their beliefs? If my suspicions are correct, they”d be displaying the “backfire effect” like it was fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Conservative or liberal, the documented reality of human cognitive dissonance does not bode well for the idea of democracy, because a well-informed public doesn”t stick to the facts when it doesn”t quite care for them or doesn”t have the brain power to process them rationally.
That’s why I don”t look right or left”only up and down. When I look down, I see hard-line ideologues and weak-willed compromisers. When I look up, I see skeptics, who are our only hope. Skepticism and curiosity, not Jesus and Mary, are what made the West great. We need to elevate our skeptics and demote our ideologues. Our national motto should be “Don”t stop disbelievin”.”
I feel this way because refusing to allow emotion to rule over logic is of tremendous emotional importance to me. One should never have the courage of their convictions”they should have the courage to abandon their convictions to find some newer, better convictions once their convictions have been proved wrong.
And that’s why I”m no longer a liberal.
The Catholic Church raised me. The Immaculate Heart nuns who supervised my education from the age of six through thirteen were, for the most part, conscientious educators. They loved us, possibly as surrogates for the children they did not bear. Theirs cannot have been easy lives, cloistered after hours in a small house among other women and forbidden the company of men. They wore their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with dignity. If they were occasionally cruel or deranged, it was within the accepted limits of the time: whacking us on the backside with ping-pong paddles when we became insufferable (which we certainly did) and purveying the anti-communist phobias of the time. (“What would you do,” our principal, Sister Mary Immaculata, would ask, “if the communists burst into the school right now, put a gun to your head and ordered you to deny Christ?”) I realize now that these women, whom we regarded as holy sanctuaries of chaste love for Christ, lived in fear: fear of eternal damnation, fear of the priests who oversaw the parish school and fear of censure by the community. No one ever told me of a single case of one of them harming a child, touching a child inappropriately or neglecting a child who needed help.
The parish priests, under Monsignor James Dolan, were stern men and fair. If Dolan had a fault, it was the good man’s fault of drink. He, Father Machler and Father Mayer drilled us as altar boys in the Latin responses of the Tridentine Mass. Most of us who served at the altar also spent time singing in the choir loft, our contralto voices somehow regarded as approaching the divine in our worship. We served and sang at weddings, funerals, High Mass and Low Mass, on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, as well as novenas and saints” days. (The Khmer Rouge had nothing on Catholic indoctrination of the 1950s.) In all that time, no priest, as far as I knew, attempted to touch any of us. That is not to say it never happened or that, if it did happen, the boys involved would not have been so traumatized that they would be unable to denounce their tormentors. It was a possibility of which we were unaware.
When I went off to a boarding school run by the Society of Jesus in San Jose, California, in the autumn of 1964, I again found clergy devoted to my wellbeing and education. At the airport in what was then a farm town, a Jesuit scholastic named Jack Flynn picked me up and drove me through elm-dappled avenues to a run-down dormitory. Jack was the brother of Harry Flynn, my father’s old schoolmate and colleague at the bar (both types, I fear), whom I had known all my life. Jack, who found his vocation in his mid-thirties, had been a senior radiologist at UCLA Medical Center. Becoming a Jesuit late, he had to teach for a few years as a scholastic, among other duties, before taking holy orders. While avoiding any favoritism to me, he took an avuncular interest in my progress at the school. The other scholastics and the priests were good teachers, especially of Latin and mathematics, although they failed to give us anything approaching an education in art and music.
Like the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, the Jesuits were creatures of their time “ but of a more modern time than the nuns”. They tended to the liberal end of the spectrum, and I argued with them freely and frequently on behalf of a dying, pre-Vatican II Catholicism and an idea of America that should have vanished long before then. Although the visiting retreat master, Father Newport, had us all believing there was no destiny for any of us outside hell, the young Jesuits supported Cesar Chavez and the farm laborers who were denounced elsewhere as communists. The school had no Negroes, as ten per cent of the American population were called then. The younger (and a few older) Jesuits mobilized to establish scholarships for black young men to integrate our all-white environs. This was opposed by many of the students, including (I am ashamed to say) me, on the spurious grounds that scholarships should be awarded on merit rather than race. (None of us had any idea how much our black contemporaries were deprived of basic education and thus of any opportunity to prove their merit. In Los Banos, where I used to go duck shooting on schoolmates” farms, the black part of town was universally called “Niggertown.” That was our world before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) The clergy at our prep school were well in advance of the reactionary young men they were attempting to educate. If any of them behaved immorally towards a boy, no one ever mentioned it.
I later transferred to another Jesuit high school in Los Angeles, where I did not have to board. There was a collection of characters among the faculty, only one of whom was ever accused of impropriety with a boy. He was not a priest, but one of the lay teachers “ actually, one of the best teachers in the school. The accusation against him, made years after I left, was that he had made a suggestion to a student that they might pursue an extramural relationship. No one charged him with actually touching the lad, but he was dismissed anyway.
I remember two of my teachers with much affection, Sister Mary Veronica, who taught me in the seventh and eighth grades, and Fr. Eugene Colosimo, S.J., who taught algebra and was my confessor. I occasionally visited them and maintained a correspondence with them both until they died. It is with them in mind that I write now to condemn the Catholic Church, its hierarchy up to the pope, as well as many school and parish authorities, for deliberately ignoring and denying the harm done to children whom the clergy betrayed. It is no good to say that laypeople also raped and otherwise abused children. The laity did not have the protection of an institution that a large part of the community trusted to care for, rather than harm, their children. Child abusers from outside the Church were not hidden away by a global organization that routinely sent corrupt priests away from schools to parishes where they were not known. Child molesters who were not part of the Church could not rely on priestly omertÃ to conceal their crimes. (The Church needs a new Reformation, but that is another story.)
I detest those clergymen who abused the trust of children, because of the harm they did to the children and because of the ill repute they brought on the vocations of decent clergy like Sister Veronica and Fr. Colosimo. Priests like Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., who has devoted his life to the suffering Latinos of East Los Angeles, and the Jesuits who were murdered for their commitment to the poor of El Salvador do not deserve to be classed alongside the perverts and tormentors of children within the Church’s ranks. The Church did not deal with the criminals in its midst harshly, and it did not treat the victims fairly. It took the courts in America, Ireland and elsewhere to redress in financial terms injustices that cry out for more severe punishment.
The least any confessor could and should have done was to demand, as penance for any priest demanding absolution for that particular sin, that the offender turn himself into the police and take his punishment. If he rejected that penance, he should have been drummed out of the priesthood. Mark’s Gospel attributes to Jesus the words, “For whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea.” As Cool Hand Luke did not say, what we have here is a failure to excommunicate.