Lying and The Left;Better Than Berlitz; Facelift


Jonah Goldberg

What is it with the Left and lying? Sure, sure, individual conservatives bend, fold, and mutilate the truth — but not as a matter of policy. As Emerson said, “There is a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.”

Liberals denounce us as heartless children-haters for not fully funding Headstart. Conservatives meanly and, alas, meekly point out that Headstart hasn’t really been proven to work. Leftists shriek like little girls who find spiders in their Easy Bake Ovens over the horrors of American poverty — like when Jane Fonda compared northern Georgia to a Third World. Conservatives bring up the inconvenient fact that the poverty line keeps getting redefined upward and that America has the richest poor people in the world (there are millions of people in poverty who own cars, washing machines, televisions, and air conditioners. In India if a village has a television, it’s considered wealthy). College campuses across the nation are plagued with racist hate crimes that more often than not turn out to be hoaxes perpetrated by black radicals and fellow travelers. Al Sharpton is a pillar of the New York Democratic party and he abetted the staging of the Tawana Brawley hoax. Mumia Abu Jamal is a thoroughly guilty, convicted, brutal cop murderer and yet the Left champions him as a hero (Vanity Fair recently reported that he has even admitted his guilt to a visitor). Hollywood champagne Che Guevera take out ads for him in the New York Times and moron college rebels litter the Internet with his fraudulent appeals for “justice.”

Environmentalists “lie for justice” almost constantly. Love Canal, which actually has lower cancer rates than the national average, was a useful stunt to raise awareness. Ditto, the “Cancer Alley” between Baton Rouge and New Orleans — exhibit A in arguments about “environmental racism” and other scams. In fact, it doesn’t have a higher cancer rate than the national average, either. Alar doesn’t cause cancer in children — but saying it does hurts the pesticide industry and helps Greens get into heaven. The Endangered Species Act didn’t save the bald eagle — banning DDT did (see, there are real things enviros can do without resorting to fraud). Asthma rates today are not the result of air pollution unless cleaner air causes asthma, since pollution levels have dropped by nearly 80% in the last quarter century. Environmental estrogens don’t reduce sperm counts — despite what The New Yorker and the global green crusaders say. Frogs aren’t dying from the hole in ozone layer, but from a naturally occurring virus (possibly spread by pet fish). But if you make these arguments – hell, they’re not even arguments, they’re merely facts — you are mean, anti-environment, anti-children, anti-puppy, whatever.

Of course, it’s not just politicians and activists. It’s journalists and intellectuals too. The Washington Post reporter Janet Cook thought her career and her effort to expose injustice were more important than the inconvenient fact that the horrors she reported were fictitious. Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel Prize-winning international peace activist beloved by cocktail-party Marxists everywhere, was exposed last December as having fabricated her tales of woe. Hell, William Duranty won a Pulitzer in the 1930s for reporting that there was no famine in the Ukraine. I. F. Stone is one of the Gods of American journalism and he took money from the Soviets to report that America used chemical weapons in the Korean war.

And now, Edward Said, the premier Palestinian, gets to join the ranks of liars for justice. See the headline on the National Review Homepage for more. The current issue of Commentary reveals that the Columbia professor and Palestinian activist has lied about his own personal narrative. He has long contended, in tones redolent with melancholy, nostalgia, and anger, that he was forced from his childhood home in Jerusalem by the Jews. It turns out he was asking the chef to trim the crusts of his toast at Cairo clubs and restaurants. According to the article, Said lived in luxury in Cairo and the central story of his life was simply that — a made-up story. But who cares about the lie if it exposes a greater truth, right?

Well, at some point the lies add up to the greater truth. Lying isn’t an unfortunate symptom of the Left’s social concern — it is an essential ingredient to the Left’s project. Derek Bell, the radical law professor, writes books in parable form because he finds fiction more believable than mere fact. At least he’s honest when he makes things up. Anita Hill argued that whether her “personal narrative” was true or not didn’t matter because the real crime was that her voice was “stifled.” Truth itself is being defined down into mere “truth” and any attempts to put the capital T back on are assailed as racist, sexist, and homophobic.

And it’s not just in the infinitely malleable humanities. When a mischievous scientist named Alan Sokal wrote a parody of a post-modern essay, claiming that the physical laws of the universe were simply “social constructions” used to perpetuate white male prejudices, the influential Leftist magazine Social Text ran it, thinking it was marvelous — and real. When the hoax was exposed, leading academics like Duke University’s Stanley Fish and NYU’s Ellen Willis attacked Sokal for dishonesty. But the notion that Leftists could actually believe that things like gravity or inertia were really just “gravity” and “inertia” was just fine. In short, the Left believes that saying it makes it so and to disagree is just plain mean.

(Will you look at that! Jonah wrote an entire column about the Left and lying and didn’t even mention the Clintons! — The Couch)

Several readers have written in about Sunday night’s episode of So You Want to Be a Millionaire, hosted by Regis Philbin. I caught the show myself. At one point a contestant had to guess what the French word “chapeau” means. There were four choices. Obviously, one of them was “hat.” But also, perhaps even more obviously, another one was “surrender.” Many readers and The Woman suspect that a producer of the show must be a secret G-File reader, since we have championed this literal interpretation of the French language for quite some time. I’m not so sure, since it’s not exactly a secret that if you throw your hands in the air and say almost any French word or phrase it sounds like you’re saying “I surrender!” “Don’t shoot!” or “You can park your tank here, sir.” Try it. Take, for instance, the word “écoutez,” which means “listen.” Now, thrust your hands upwards and yell, “écoutez!” “écoutez!” See?

Note to readers: We are in the process of revamping the NR site. In the meantime, we are getting in the groove of posting new, interesting content on a daily basis (like today’s report on Edward Said or the new feature The Filter. ). These things may be hard to find sometimes, but that’s just because school is starting up and sometimes we have to hide the Burmese child laborers from the prying eyes of the Leviathan state. Still, please visit the homepage as much as you can to see what’s going on — especially you G-File readers who come straight in through Drudge and then run away.