Physician, Heal Thyself—
That American society is vile, unequal, unjust, and unfair is by now a sort of commonplace, a once-and-for-ever fixed obviousness, as self-evident as the presence of McDonald’s hamburgers and Coca-Cola. The trite naturalness of this characterization has been driven into the popular consciousness by the omnipotent and omnipresent liberal media. And no other power of the American universe has more intensely flailed, flagellated, and badmouthed us for our wicked racism than the editors, columnists, and anchormen of liberal persuasion who rule the media empire. Now, we can read in a UPI release:
During the five years the minority percentage on daily newspapers has gone only from 4 percent to 5.6 percent, or 2,800 reporters….Sixty percent of the dailies have no non white reporter, and growth has been flat in 1983.
That the liberal media are the chief liars and hypocrites of contemporary America is by now an unequivocal banality. Everybody knows it. However, this simple truth cannot be made public. For obvious reasons.
Une Petite Crapule
This is to pay honor to the genius of French language as the most expressible of tools. No other tongue approximates its precision in articulating contempt for human sleaziness and despicability. There are many delicious and delicate French denominations that English lacks but which would help us convey our image of one Alexander Cockburn, a British red snob of quasi-aristocratic lineage, a New York bedroom revolu tionist, and a fellow traveler columnist for both the Village Voice and—Oh, how intriguing!—the Wall Street Journal. Une ordure? Une canaille? Each one of these epithets defines exactly how we feel, but, apparently they clash with what the editor of the VV thinks of Mr. Cockburn. Of late, Mr. Cockburn accepted some peculiarly scented Arab money to write a book about Israel. Judging by what he previously wrote on the subject, as well as about every democratic force engaged in the struggle against any vicious fanaticism on the Soviet payroll, Mr. Cockburn was probably out to make another routine propagandist kill, financed by a slush fund. The VV, an organ that lives off New York radical and mostly Jewish readership, couldn’t go so far in offending subconscious sympathies; besides, Mr. Rupert Murdoch, the Australian money-grabber who owns the paper, knows where his income comes from and would never allow it to go unattended. So Mr. Cockburn was fired under the pretext that he does not live up to the standards of the Village Voice’s journalistic integrity—a singularly exhilarating oxymoron. Yet, in his send-off note, the VV editor-in-chief wrote:
For 10 years, Cockburn has distinguished himself as a brilliant writer, an original thinker, and an independent voice at this newspaper.
Original? What’s original in the worn-out post-Stalinism, and in argumentation that maintains that all moral stench emanates from Pennsylvania Avenue addresses and all moral beauty oozes from the Kremlin? (Inhabitants of the latter may occasionally commit an excusable faux pas—gulag, purge trials, genocides, enslaving entire countries—but never historical crimes like giving Europe the Marshall Plan or trying to save Vietnam from totalitarian slaughter.) Already during the 1930’s, the Moscow-printed instructions for the Popular Front dialectics taught writers how to call anything the Soviets did (and “progressives” in the West might not like) “forgivable mistakes” or “tormenting necessities” or “bothersome over sights” or “immature mishandling,” Mr. Cockburn still uses all those vulgar, agitprop euphemisms withfull abandon. He is one of those who deem all the uprisings in Eastern Europe as fomented by and shaped to the advantage of right wingers, and who always, everywhere finds a hospital bombarded by U.S. planes and a little girl tenderly taken care of by North Vietnamese commandos, Russian butchers in Afghanistan, or Salvadoran guerillas. What’s original in ascribing all ethical evil to the Knesset and all ethical beauty to Arafat and his henchmen, all sweet reasonableness to Nicaraguan Marxist gangsters, and all ape-like instincts to the State Department? In the l 940’s, Zhdanov, Stalin’s chief agitprop foreman, distributed manuals on how to practice this kind of journalism for use in the West, and Mr. Cockburn seems to have treasured a well-earmarked booklet up to these days. If independence means to voice putrid sociopolitical tenets and “ideals” that since 1918 have brought nothing but destruction of basic human rights and freedoms, oppression, and destitution to almost half of the world, he surely is “independent.” Brilliant? it’s certainly more glitzy to write this kind of copy after a dinner at Lutèce, financed by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, than from Sofia or Leningrad, where most of Mr. Cockburn’s British ideological kin was or is forced, by cruel circumstances, to enjoy life as payment for services rendered. But in his rejoinder to the VV editor who fired him, he writes about an America in which: “extremely conservative cultural and political norms [are] prevailing today.” This at a time when Silkwood is considered by all establishment critics a cinematic masterpiece, runs on Broadway, and is distributed by all commercial chains throughout the country. And when New York establishment publishers turn down manuscripts simply because the authors exhibit a conservative bent. If this is “brilliance” only VV editors seem to be blinded by it.