The Corner

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Re: A Country Unhinged


Victor, you write: “When this is all over we are going to see several resignations, even more discredit to what is left of what is now largely a state-run media . . .” Maybe worse is that I doubt we’ll see that. In fact, nothing will change, there will be no calls for honesty and openness, and the insulated elites will just move higher up the hill from the flames consuming the city. It’s the political equivalent of the Heisenberg Principle: what would have shocked the literate, informed public a half century ago (or less) no longer elicits a yawn, because the public has changed. There’s no more discredit to the state-run media or a greater demand for truth, because (generously) a third of the people support the state and its manipulated news, a third have given up, and a third (the most dangerous third) can’t tell the difference.

How else do we explain what you so rightly point out in the beginning of your post: There is no foundation anymore, nothing real on which to base unbiased judgement, no certainties. In ancient Asia, when things got this out of whack, the philosophers would call for a “rectification of names.” In other words, make things once again correspond with the reality that originally gave rise to their labels. Facts had to become facts again, not politically convenient assemblages of massaged information; rulers had to act as rulers were supposed to. And the way to bring that about was usually through a revolution that purified the Asian equivalent of the Augean stables.

We are witnesses to decline and its accompanying decadence, no different from Rome or Versailles. You know that better than anyone else writing here. The more dysfunctional Washington gets, the higher the per-square-foot rent and the more expensive the steaks. I once watched Barney Frank happily devour a $50 steak just weeks after the subprime implosion wiped out trillions in personal wealth. And he was hardly alone. The only job left to us is to chronicle it as faithfully as we can, so as to give the next group the chance to act more smartly than we did.