By Paul Craig Roberts
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 university and deny tenure to a fine scholar, Norman Finkelstein, who refused to obey the rule against truthfully examining Israeli policy and behavior.
Try to find an academic economist who will describe the devastation that offshoring has brought to the American economy and the economic prospects of US labor.
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 Jones, was terminated by BYU at the insistence of the federal government, which held the power of the purse over the university’s head.
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 event.
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 than ever.
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 truth.
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 wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury’s Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.