Friday, February 11, 2005

The Eason Jordan Scandal

By now anyone who gets their news from the new media has heard of the Eason Jordan disgrace. The problem is that if you get your news from the old media you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. To catch up see here. The short version is this:

Last week CNN executive Eason Jordan addressing an audience in Davos, Switzerland, accused American troops of deliberately targeting journalists for death. He offered no evidence, of course, because there is none. In the audience were Massachusetts representative Barney Frank, and Connecticut senator Christopher Dodd, both of whom are liberal Democrats not particularly friendly to the military. Both reported that Jordan did indeed say what he is alleged to have said. Also in attendance serving as moderator was David Gergen who confirmed that Jordan made these outrageous charges. Jordan claims he was misunderstood, but a videotape was made of the event, and Eason does not want it to be released.

The scandal here is not just that a CNN executive has played fast and loose with the truth. This is, after all, the same guy who stifled coverage of Saddam's atrocities in order to retain access to Iraq. Nor is the scandal merely that a lefty would libel American troops. That's a quotidian occurrence. The scandal is that few major news outlets, except the Washington Times and perhaps FOX, has carried the story. It's been spiked everywhere else, evidently to protect the reputation of CNN as a trustworthy news organization and perhaps also to protect the career of yet another dishonest leftist in the MSM.

The MSM gives the impression of being comprised largely of members of a liberal Liars Club with Pulitzers promised to whomever can get away with telling the biggest whopper. Journalistic ethics in this association require members to form a protective ring around any brother who has been wounded, to protect him from scrutiny by the hoi-polloi out here in red state territory who are still naive enough in this post-modern age to believe that truth is something more than whatever you feel most strongly about. A curtain of silence must fall down around the Jordan episode lest he be made to suffer for proclaiming his "truth".

The po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty once wrote that "truth is whatever my peer group will let me get away with saying." By that standard Jordan's asseverations of murderous American soldiers assassinating journalists is true beyond any doubt.

UPDATE: Drudge is reporting that Jordan has resigned today from CNN. Maybe now the story will get reported.

Dust in the Wind

I noticed that Mark Roberts uses the 1978 Kansas song Dust in the Wind as a jumping off point for a post on Ash Wednesday. This was an interesting coincidence since just a few days before I had played that song for my philosophy class, as I do each semester, to illustrate how the death of God manifests itself in the culture in expressions of despair.

For those who may not recall the lyrics they go like this:

I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment's gone; All my dreams pass before my eyes a curiosity; Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea; All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see; Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

Don't hang on, nothing lasts for ever but the earth and sky; It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy; Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

The forlornness of this song reflects an inevitable and melancholy consequence of the denial of a personal, transcendent deity. Modern man lives under an illusion that he can revolt against belief in God, declare Him to be a dead issue, and that the whole experience is bracing and liberating. He has led himself to believe that God is a burdensome, unnecessary, superstitious anachronism that we are much better off to put far behind us.

This is quite a distance, however, from the truth. Everything in life that really matters is ontologically dependent, directly or indirectly, upon the existence of God. To consider just one important example, if atheistic naturalism is correct and there really is no transcendent creator then there is no ultimate meaning to our existence. Our lives are purposeless and we are insignificant. As the biologist Theodosious Dobzhansky put it, the only meaning we can hope for "is to live, be alive, and to leave more life", but if this is what it's all about our life is no more purposeful than that of a bacterium. Famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow saw life as nothing more than "an unpleasant interruption of nothingness." Historian Will Durant claimed that man's only significance lay in the fact that he can "look out upon the universe and it can't look back on him." These men recognized that the modernity they embraced ultimately strips us of the only thing that can put genuine meaning into a person's life, and that realization left them without hope of any but the most superficial meaning.

Jean Paul Sartre writes in Existentialism is a Humanism that man without God is forlorn, abandoned, alone in the cosmos (as Walker Percy puts it). Woody Allen claims in Hannah and Her Sisters that "the only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless." Albert Camus compares life to the crushing futility of Sisyphus condemned by the gods to eternally push a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down each time.

Notwithstanding the cries of existential despair from writers such as these, if there really is a God who made us then we can assume that He had some purpose in so doing, and we can assume that there is some underlying point to our lives. We may not know what that point is, but we can assume there is one. If, however, there is no God, then we in fact just are the product of eons of blind, purposeless forces, which somehow by chance accidentally spit us up out of the darkness. There's no reason why we're here, we just are, and after a relatively brief moment we'll return to the dust from which we sprang. For most of us, whatever we accomplish in that exquisitely brief span we call life will perish with us so that after we're gone we and all our deeds will be just as anonymous to our descendents as most of our great great grandparents are to us. It will be as if we never lived at all. What meaning can there be in this?

Even so, man can't live without purpose. Despite the fact that most people are only dimly aware of their predicament, they still often have a vague sense that something is wrong, that something is missing, something is out of whack, yet they have no idea what it is. They convince themselves that they can alleviate this sense of dis-ease with material things, or a new romance, a new job, drugs or alcohol, but nothing works for very long. Some turn to politics and ideology seeking in these a substitute religion to make their lives significant and to do for them what only trust in God can actually do. Others fill their lives with work, a ploy that occupies the mind so as to keep it from focusing on the futility of it all. None of this fills the emptiness, though, none of it satisfies the hunger, so most people continue to live out lives, as Thoreau puts it, of quiet desperation.

Augustine declares that "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." Nothing else can give our lives meaning and fulfillment except that for which we were made in the first place. Unless life is eternal it ultimately comes to naught, but it can only be eternal if God is truly there, and this is the one solution to his situation that the modern materialist refuses to consider.

The rock group Smashing Pumpkins articulated the bleak darkness of modern man's circumstance with more cynicism and despondency, perhaps, than even the thinkers cited above: "We're nowhere," the lyrics of Jellybelly go, "We're nowhere. Living makes me sick. So sick I want to die." The lives of the characters in the movie American Beauty vividly illustrate this "nowhere-ness" of modern, secular life. Their daily existence is so tawdry, empty, and inane that the viewer can almost feel the ache in their souls himself. The characters in that movie were untypical of men and women without God only, perhaps, in the astonishing and depressing depth of their shallowness.

The modern atheist revels in his Promethean rejection of God. He proclaims himself free. He's thrilled by the audacity of his deed and excited by the prospects and promises his new-found liberation hold out to him. Yet all he has accomplished by spurning the true ground of his being is to condemn himself to a life of utter meaninglessness, and, as he discovers if and when he truly reflects upon it, a life of nihilistic emptiness and existential hopelessness.

So much for the exhilarating joys of being an intellectually consistent atheist.