We used to question everything, all the time. We were practical, mature, independent in our thinking. We understood you never get something for nothing and that whatever sounds too good to be true usually is.
Manufacturers hoping to sell us a better mousetrap had to demonstrate its advantages over the old one and prove that those benefits justified the higher price. Quacks claiming fantastic cures from lemon juice or deep breathing must produce before-and-after pictures as well as witnesses — and even so, we’d probably still heckle them. No politician would have dared pontificate that anyone had a “right” to housing or healthcare: We’d have seen through his communist cant in a moment.
Not anymore. Why should the buyer of a new mousetrap beware when he can sue the manufacturer? And so long as an “expert” in snagging governmental grants claims mustard will prevent cancer, French’s flies off supermarkets’ shelves. As for gainsaying a single syllable politicians utter, forget it. Americans happily accept rulers’ allegations that Obamacare will heal everyone for free, just as public schools educate kids into illiteracy for free.
This gullibility increases exponentially in corporate newsrooms. Employees who toil for the mainstream media faithfully retail any whopper the government invents: sexually assaulting passengers in airports protects them; American forces liberate foreigners when they shoot them, incinerate their villages, and teach them to search one another at checkpoints; patriots pay taxes, and cheerfully, because the NSA should spy on traitors.
Then along comes Hal with his prediction of worldwide judgment last Saturday. Bam! — skepticism not only revives, it jumps up and turns cartwheels! Suddenly, it’s as fashionable as statism, with the media and the sheeple vying to see who can out-doubt the other.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if either brought even a fraction of that wariness to politics? But no. On the same webpage that proclaims “Apocalypse Now: Preacher Changes Doomsday Date,” we find such astoundingly naive headlines as “Dem Senator To Push For An 'Aggressive Drawdown Of Combat Troops' From Afghanistan” and “Defense Secretary to Outline Pentagon Budget Cuts.”
Cynicism and outright mockery drip from the story about Hal, which largely consists of a transcript paraphrasing a press conference he held Monday. Reporters who deferentially throw politicians softballs grilled our poor fool: One “asks Camping: Will He Apologize for Being Wrong?” What wouldn’t you give to hear a reporter similarly quiz Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, or Barack Obama? Another inquires, “How much money has Family Radio raised as a result of this campaign and do you intend to return it?” When was the last time anyone in journalism — reporter, editor, publisher: heck, I’m not picky — interrogated a politician about his latest boondoggle, let alone suggested the thief restore the loot to us?
Still, I’m encouraged that reporters can summon skepticism when they want to. Especially given their credulity in the other two stories, which presuppose that politicians are honest, competent, and sincere.
The “Dem Senator” turns out to be Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “In a speech to be delivered Tuesday afternoon …,” the article announces, she “will make clear that pushing for a drawdown in Afghanistan will increasingly be a priority of hers in the coming months.” And when she betrays this promise, will the website run a retraction? Will its editor urge her to refund donations from pacifists who believed her? Alas, I sadly suspect he won't extend the same solicitude to her contributors that his colleague did to Hal’s.
The second story explores Robert Gates’ trimming the Pentagon’s budget. If you’re expecting the tough approach the media adopted with Hal — “what’re you doing with the obscene amount of money in your organization’s coffers?” — you’re gonna be disappointed. No, the sympathy flows fast and thick at Bob’s “tough task” now that the White House has “bushwhacked” him with a “$400 billion reduction target” over a “12-year period.” Nowhere does the article mention that this works out to a cut of less than five percent annually, based on the Pentagon’s $691 billion for FY2010.
Intriguingly, reporters skewer Hal for flouting the Scripture that warns us “no man knows the day or the hour.” Yet none of them criticize Kirsten’s disregard of the Constitution she swore to uphold ("Ensuring that every American has access to quality, affordable health care coverage is a national priority,” she prattles on her website. As if that weren’t unconstitutional enough, she adds, “I will always protect a woman's right to choose [sic for ‘right to murder a fellow though unborn citizen’] — no matter what.” So much for that pesky Fifth Amendment). Nor would they ever castigate Bob for superintending an unconstitutional department waging unconstitutional, illegal wars. And though many stories sneer that Hal is just a “civil engineer” and “self-taught Biblical sage," they never dismiss Kirsten as “a lawyer and former bureaucrat.” Nor would the media imply that such a background hardly qualifies her to dictate to the rest of us.
Tragically, Hal meets the biblical definition of “false prophet.” He’s played seer before and bombed just as badly, which we might consider sufficient warning to the wise. Those who donated to Hal’s “ministry,” who quit their jobs or sold their homes, are imbeciles — but voluntarily so. Hal didn’t hold a gun to their heads; rather, he pulled off a feat far more difficult: He convinced them to support his apostasy.
Contrast that with Our Rulers. They rob us shamelessly, without hesitation, 24/7. They compel all of us, not just those stupid enough to support them, to finance their wars, welfare, and wackiness.
Hal’s a nut, absolutely. But I prefer him any day to the sociopaths in office.