The Passions of the Left

CIA’s new revelations fans the flames of “progressive” myths of our past

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

The publication of the CIA’s “family jewels” — the record of its domestic spying, hare-brained plots against Castro, and mind-control experiments, among other oddities — is sure to add fuel to that roaring bonfire of a myth that so-called “progressives” have been warming their egos at for forty years.

You know the story, since it continues to be told non-stop by the media, television, movies, and half the curricula in schools and universities: evil American corporations and their lackeys in the government were (and still are) brutalizing the Third World in order to maximize profits and strengthen their hold on power. This nefarious capitalist plot was sold to the oafish American people under the camouflage of Cold War rhetoric about resisting Communism (now “terrorism”) and protecting American “freedom,” which was in fact an illusion masquerading the uptight, repressed American’s servitude to consumerism and mindless entertainment. A handful of doughty college professors, “activists,” and journalists, however, bravely unmasked this wicked conspiracy, and despite the counter-attack unleashed by corporate government henchmen in the FBI and CIA, eventually exposed the capitalist conspiracy. A neo-imperialist war in Southeast Asia was ended, the crypto-fascist Nixon regime brought down, and limits placed on the CIA, the FBI, and the Pentagon. Pulitzer prizes, tenure, flattering movies, and six-figure book deals followed, not to mention what South Park calls the “huge cloud of smug” polluting the bicoastal liberal enclaves and every university campus.

Indeed, this melodrama continues to provide the template for the way popular culture and the mainstream media interpret the current war against Islamic jihad. From Vietnam and Watergate derive the plot and formulas into which current events are shoe-horned. The harping on pre-war intelligence mistakes and the missing WMD’s, for example, can be traced back to the alleged lies that justified the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The hysteria over Scooter Libby and the attention lavished on the duplicitous Joe Wilson are incomprehensible without Watergate and its beatified “whistle-blowers.” The sophomoric anti-war movement and its shrill saints like Cindy Sheehan are taken seriously only because of the inflated mythic paradigm of the protests against the Vietnam War.

The problem is, subsequent history has uncovered the facts that expose the hollowness of these myths. The war in Vietnam was started by a communist regime attempting to extend the revolution throughout Southeast Asia. The war was not “lost,” but won and then lost when the U.S. Congress lost its nerve and abandoned South Vietnam to the tender mercies of the communists. Journalists like the recently deceased and lionized David Halberstam were notintrepid truth-seekers exposing the lies of a corrupt government, but opportunists and ideologues driven by their vision of “social justice,” which in the event turned out to be suspiciously similar to the communist version. Watergate was not a triumph of justice but a disastrous inflation of a political misdemeanor, crippling the Nixon administration at a critical moment and emboldening America’s enemies, as subsequent Soviet adventurism throughout the seventies proved. And the anti-war movement was riddled with communist ideologues beholden to Moscow and manipulating the herd of sappy idealists, sophomoric utopians, and other useful idiots.

The net result has been a four-decades-long projection of American weakness and self-loathing that has convinced the jihadists that we believe in nothing other than our own physical pleasure and psychic comfort. Having heard our own elites tell the world for decades that we are corrupt and our freedoms an illusion, why shouldn’t they despise us and find us worthy of contempt? And when our major media, our icons of popular culture, and the Democratic leadership all are competing to declare the war against jihad a corrupt failure, why shouldn’t the jihadists continue to fight on, since they are winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the blue half of the United States? The jihadists are excellent students of history, which has taught them that the road to September 2001 in New York passed through Saigon in 1975, Tehran in 1979, and Beirut in 1983.

But don’t confuse “progressives” with the facts. Their melodrama of moustache-twirling capitalists and their Republican minions controlling the oafish masses with God, patriotism, and Wal-Mart is too flattering to the typical liberal’s elitist pretensions. In fact, this leftist narrative performs a debased religious function for the otherwise Godless. It identifies the wicked and the good and puts both into a justifying narrative replete with the promise of salvation (vote Democratic), holy writ (Michael Moore and the New York Times), thundering prophets (Al Gore), messiahs (Hillary, John, or Barack), the blessed saved (liberal Democrats), the evil damned (Republicans) and even apocalypse (global warming or another Republican president). And let’s not forget, it bestows status value as well, giving the liberal-progressive an exalted moral perch from which to look down on the masses stupefied by the machinations of their corporate overlords.

The proliferation of such pseudo-religions — faith-based narratives of meaning and value disguised as rationally derived political systems — is the tragic story of modernity, polluted as it is with the mountains of corpses sacrificed to failed gods. The 21st-century progressive church may appear less lethal than fascism or communism, but its eagerness to don the hair shirt of Western guilt and self-loathing is in the end as suicidal as the rants of Jim Jones in Guyana.

©2007 Bruce Thornton

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