46 / CHRONICLESnand lose a war.nThe film makes viewers concentratenon what actually happened in order toncontrast it with contemporary accounts.nThis is real history. Over andnover again you ask yourself, Whyndidn’t anybody say this at the hme?nThe authors of this film do not thinknthat now, 17 years later, it is too late tongo back to see what actually happened.nThey understand that until we confrontnthe facts we will not be able to seenwhat is going on now all around us: innAngola, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia,nNicaragua, El Salvador, Pakistan,nAfghanistan, the Phillipines—nand that is not the end of the list. Onlynthis sort of concentration on facts cannovercome the polarization of ideologicalnrecrimination. Such facts couldnprecipitate a crisis in the nontotalitariannleft among those who allowednthemselves to be misled in those yearsn—but such facts could also pave thenway for a future consensus. The longnsilence among the nontotalitarian leftnshows that many there are groping forna way out.nRollin’s film does depart from thenknown into the speculative when itndepicts the media’s distorted representationnof the Tet Offensive as the reasonnfor Johnson’s decision on Marchn31, 1968, not to run for reelection.nWe cannot know the effect of medianon Johnson. But we do know somethingnmuch more important: Johnsonnnever challenged the media’s interpretationnof Tet. (See Peter Braestrup’s BignStory [Yale University Press, 1977].)nJohnson never used his facts, the battlenreports of American officers and Americannintelligence, to refute the media’snaccount. He never tried. It would havenbeen much better to try and lose thannnot to try at all. In this defeat, thengovernment’s silence is perhaps morenimportant than the media’s distortions.nAnd the government’s silence onlyndeepens: without any American livesndirectly at stake. President Reagan didnnot face the media with a word ofnsupport for Israel’s attempt to deal withnthe situation in Lebanon in 1982.nHow can any government deal with anworld that has always been dangerousnbut is now even more dangerous becausenso many people who wish it safenlack a voice? And this silence persistsnat the same time that four out of fivenmedia stories come “from above,”nfrom the government—as one of thenparticipants at the conference pointednout. No wonder the media are sonsuspicious of governments: dependencyndoes not make for self-respect.nThe United States, as Arnaud denBorchgrave, editor of the WashingtonnTimes, pointed out in a speech atnlunch, is the only free country withoutna two-party press—with all its majornmedia more or less in agreement.nWith some newspapers critically loyalnto it, the government might find itsnvoice. Can you have a two-party governmentnwithout a two-party press? ccnLeo Raditsa is professor of classics atnSt. John’s College and a former editornof St. John’s Review.nLetter From thenLower Rightnby John Sbelton ReednBirthday ThoughtsnSome folks in these parts—maybe innyours, too—were dismayed when thenCongress awhile back whoopednthrough a national holiday on MartinnLuther King’s birthday. That one ofnDr. King’s close associates was in allnlikelihood a card-carrying Commienhad just been documented in a booknby David Garrow (who somehow contrivednto view that fact as a criticism ofnthe FBI). My senior senator, Mr.nHelms, didn’t like that one damn bitnand argued that the reverend doctornwas not the sort of American whonought to be honored with a holiday.nThis kind of thing is why some of usnfind our senator endearing: he alwaysnstands up for his principles withoutnconsidering political advantage, goodntaste, or even common sense.n”There is a higher truth, beyond thenmerely empirical.” I wrote that in thisnmagazine once, and nobody wanted tonargue about it then. For SenatornHelms to put the historical facts on thenrecord did no harm, of course: laterngenerations may wish to considernthem. At least in the short run,nthough, those facts were rather besidenthe point, which was to welcomenBlack Americans into full citizenshipnby giving them what Columbus Daynhas become for Italian-Americans, ornnnSt. Patrick’s Day for Hibernians.nNobody likes a party pooper. Fromnhis experience as a critic of AbrahamnLincoln, our mutual friend Mel Bradfordncould have told Jesse that. Whatevernthe amalgam of good and bad,nwise and foolish, in Martin King’snactual, empirical character, he was angreat leader of his people. Like Lincoln,nhe has become a symbol of thencause he led; criticism of him is nowntaken to mean opposition to his causen—and often rightiy.nIn any case, those who disapprove ofnhis holiday will have their revengensoon enough. It can’t be long nownuntil the same people who have trivializednGeorge Washington’s birthdaynget to work on Dr. King’s:n”Stock up on sheets during thenMLK Birthday White Sale …”n”Free at last? Not quite, but greatlynreduced …”n”I have a dream: Twenty percent offnall items in the store …”nThat sort of thing. When it happens,nit should surprise no one. It willnbe entirely in keeping with ads thatnshow little George with his hatchetngoing around cutting prices.nAnyone who feels there is a falsenanalogy here—that some intrinsic differencenbetween George Washingtonnand Martin Luther King will protectnthe latter’s memory—should considernwhat our culture has done to yet anothernwinter birthday, the one we celebratenon December 25. The festival ofnconspicuous consumption that Christmasnhas become is enough to bring outnthe Puritan in even a lackadaisicalnAnglican like me.nThere’s no point in whining aboutn”greed.” Although the sheer effronterynof our commercial civilization hasndriven many sensitive but weakmindednsouls into the arms of antidemocraticnmovements of both leftnand right, the alternatives, withoutnexception, have proven to be worse.nWe simply have to accept the fact thatnthe manifold blessings of freedomncome at a price. Fish got to swim,nbirds got to fly—and merchants got tonsell things.nAnd don’t get me wrong: when Inwant to buy something, I’m gladnthey’re there. If sometimes they getncarried away—well, they wouldn’t donthat if it didn’t pay. The appropriatenresponse to commercial excess is not ton