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Sort 428: Handling the Truth

And other lessons for cable channels

by Dear Jon
May 11, 2010

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Sort 428: Handling the Truth

A Few Good Men has an all-star cast with Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, and Jack Nicholson as the commandant of the Marine base at Guantanomo Bay. During the trial of Marines charged with hazing a new soldier to death, Cruise's character, a Navy trial lawyer, presses the commandant on the stand:

"I want the truth!"

"You can't handle the truth!"

The truth, in the commandant's terms, is that in order to defend the interests of the United States as we now define them, we require a standing military of hard-core professionals.

Americans are having a hard time handling truths of many kinds at many levels. It is a hard truth that a family with a bad credit history should not be offered a home loan. It is a hard truth that not everyone is college material. It is a hard truth that a nation built by immigrants needs to soberly consider what the two most complex legal codes in the nation mean for our liberty: The tax code and the immigration code. It is a hard truth that deficits beyond 10% of GNP are unsustainable. It is a hard truth that dependence on fossil fuels means compromises with overseas allies and ecological catastrophes on our shores. It is a hard truth that the leading cause of poverty in the nation is the failure of families to form on the assumed model of thousands of years.

We innoculate ourselves from the truth by our material possessions and distractions. As a nation we suffer ADHD, another hard truth. We also innoculate ourselves by our choice of party affiliation. We tend to choose that political party which we believe will best serve our private material interests.  As we foster denial with our standard of living, we promote into our public consicousness those who are best equipped to continue mishandling the truth according to our political predilections.

I watched some Glenn Beck on Fox on Monday, May 10. I learned that he is the target of liberal Marxists at NBC, General Electric, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the president's religious adviser Jim Walles. Among the insinuations Glenn Beck stated is that since Jeremy Wright, Obama's former pastor, is part of the United Church of Christ, then everyone in the United Church of Christ is a Marxist radical.

That is an interesting generalization, confirming for me how utterly and embarrassingly uninformed our media moguls have become. Furthermore I have been in worship services with both Jeremy Wright and Jim Walles. It is safe to say that I disagree with them on a whole bunch of issues ranging from the ethical obligations of the people of God to the role of government in society. I have also met other pastors from the UCC, some of whom are fundamentalist in outlook, even from within Chicago's inner city.  

Lest I fall into the trap of making my own sweeping generalizations, I turned over to MSNBC and watched another soft in the middle blond-haired host, Chris Matthews on Hardball. On the subject of the Supreme Court nominee, Matthews insisted that the First Amendment was in place to protect unpopular speech. The Republican with whom he was arguing, stated that the First Amendment was in place to protect all speech. Matthews then demanded of the congressman whether the Supreme Court is supposed to protect the rights of minorities. The Republican stated that the Supreme Court is supposed to protect the rights of everyone.

In 1976 a movie came out with Faye Dunaway called Network. It was about a futuristic trend to bring the news under the management of the television network's entertainment divisions. Catalyzing this sea-change: a commentator who loses his mind on the air, and, terrorism.

Watch the movie, if you want to get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is both eerie and sinking.

Once upon a time Americans seemed to have a different expectation about how to live and think. Work meant toil for the body, worship meant reassurance to the spirit, news was information, and amusement was its own slice of time. Now our jobs, our worship services and our news all have to be amusing. If we are not amused, we pull out our palm-sized all in one computer-telephone-movie theatre and start to text our friends.

In the interest of amusement, we have MSNBC and FOX News each contributing to the Balkanization of our culture. Apparently neo-conservatives, humiliated that their poster child was the worst president and commander-in-chief in the history of the universe, are trying to rally their base with some of the most asinine propoganda heard on this side of the Third Reich. Yah, I said it. But liberals won't take it lying down, no sir. They will put their spokespersons in front of live studio audiences and aim for laughter at the expense of intelligent discourse. Stewart and ColBEAR keep on doing what they do. Especially hilarious is when Stewart goes after Obama on those aspects of the liberal agenda he has not been satisfying. As though liberals are shocked that we keep killing militants in Pakistan, when that had been one of Obama's promises during the campaign. Remember? No, liberals were too busy "hoping" to be "listening."

So one group chooses to be hysterically paranoid and the other group chooses to be insufferably snide.

Glenn Beck ended up with so many news clippings and photographs plastered on his board, he reminded me of the schizophrenic played by Russel Crowe in A Brilliant Mind. Maybe Beck has a brilliant mind too, but what I was watching was sick. Meanwhile Matthews pitched his hardball all right, and the Republican knocked two of them out of the park. Better do your constitutional homework, Chris.

Who am I to advocate throwing ourselves backwards in time to an era when news was information and amusement was a luxury earned for doing one's chores? Let us build on this amusement theme and Balkanization:

I propose a cage match between Chris Matthews and Glenn Beck. Last one to survive must then dodge live grenades tossed from all sides by America's independents. That is a reality show I just might tune in to watch.

Or maybe we can tune them out, turn them off, and demand meaningful discourse as those who can handle the truth.

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