Can Truth Retain Its Independence?
by Paul Craig Roberts
May 30, 2008
Justin Raimondo has a good column this
morning on Antiwar.com. It is written as a fundraiser. But what
it shows is that journalists (and whistle-blowers) who tell the
truth in America are more likely to be pummeled than rewarded,
whereas those who lie for powerful interest groups live high on
It wasn't just Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives
who deceived us into an illegal war in behalf of a hidden agenda.
It was the American media. Raimondo names some of the culprits
who are complicit in the deaths of some one million Iraqis, an
unknown number of Afghans, and thousands of American soldiers.
It was all for a lie. A lie told by the
President of the United States and his handmaidens in the media.
Two of the worst handmaidens, Billy Kristol
and Thomas Friedman, have been rewarded for their treachery to
America by the New York Times, which pays these men, who have
never been right about anything, to pontificate from columns on
its pages. Others, such as Peter Beinart, are installed at the
Washington Post and other publications.
The benefit of being a name columnist
at a name newspaper is that it puts you on the lucrative speaking
circuit. Raimondo reports, for example, that Friedman is paid
$65,000 for a speech.
Such extravagant fees are not paid for
words of wisdom. They are paid by interest groups for service.
Even if Friedman had anything intelligent to say, it is unnecessary
to pay him $65,000 to repeat what he writes in the New York Times.
The same interest groups that control
the government offer the most extravagant fees on the speaking
circuit. Global corporations that are driving up their stock prices
and management bonuses by moving American jobs offshore reward
journalists who write propaganda about the benefits of globalism.
The military-security complex rewards journalists that feed hysteria
about terrorism and foreign threats.
There are far better columnists available
than Friedman and Kristol. There's Raimondo himself. There's Alexander
Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, Pat Buchanan, Lew Rockwell, to name
just a few. If the print media had columnists of intelligence
and integrity explaining events, instead of propagandists for
government and interest groups, the United States would not have
wasted eight years (so far) in pointless, illegal, and immoral
wars of aggression that have been financed by foreign loans, thus
sapping the strength of the dollar and American power.
In America, money, not truth, has the
power. If the New York Times had Cockburn instead of Friedman
and the Washington Post had Raimondo instead of Beinart, the newspapers
would lose advertising revenues and connections with the power
The same problem exists outside the media.
Studies produced by think tanks and university professors serve
the causes of those who finance them. Does anyone think we will
ever see a study from the American Enterprise Institute, for example,
that is critical of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians, the
military-industrial complex, or the offshoring of American jobs?
With rare exceptions, think tanks serve the interests of donors.
Even in universities there is not much
of the academic freedom that we hear so much about. The Israel
Lobby was able to reach into an American Catholic university and
deny tenure to a fine scholar, Norman Finkelstein, who refused
to obey the rule against truthfully examining Israeli policy and
Try to find an academic economist who
will describe the devastation that offshoring has brought to the
American economy and the economic prospects of US labor.
Try to find an academic physicist who
will express in public his doubts about the official explanation
for the collapse of the three World Trade buildings. An academic
career in physics is almost totally dependent on government research
grants. By bringing federal funding to education, liberals handed
government the power to control. One physicist who expressed his
doubts about the collapse of the twin towers, Steven Jones, was
terminated by BYU at the insistence of the federal government,
which held the power of the purse over the university's head.
The same constraint on truth exists everywhere.
I once asked the proprietor of a distinguished engineering firm
why he didn't publicly express his doubts about the World Trade
Center buildings. He said it would be the end of his business,
that he would be denounced as an anti-American and demonized as
a terrorist sympathizer. The fact that he would be an expert giving
an expert opinion would carry no weight.
The same resistance to truth is found
in scholarship where enormous vested interests are entrenched.
Taking on these vested interests is most often a career-ending
Even when the US had an independent press
with independent points of view, hysteria could sweep the country
in wrong-headed directions. Today it is easier than ever.
Even when research and scholarship were
dependent on philanthropic foundations that supported independent
views, academic fraud was not uncommon. Today many academics are
bought and paid for.
When government and special interests
finance education and research, and the media is concentrated
in a few large corporations dependent on government broadcast
licenses, there is not much room left for truth.
Consequently, today we have the Internet
and a new generation of documentary film makers who, together,
provide the information, opinions and research that the media,
the universities, and the think tanks cannot provide. These sources
are our last best hope.
Scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi
said that truth required people to believe in it as a force independent
of material interests and intellectual dogmas and to relentlessly
seek it. Truth is a belief system, he said, and if we cease to
believe in it, it will disappear.
Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant
secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was
associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and
contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author
of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard
Media Reform page