A decade after Dan Rather’s career ended over an attempt to pass off forged documents about President Bush’s military service, Robert Redford is working on a movie about the case. The movie is based on CBS producer Mary Mapes’ book “Truth”, which denies the truth that the documents were not written on a 70s typewriter, but in Microsoft Word.
That scandal led to the coining of the phrase, “Fake, but Accurate”. Ten years later, they’re still fake but accurate.
Rathergate has many similarities to the Rolling Stone rape hoax. Both ignored the basic rules of journalism to pursue a narrative. The narrative was so full of holes that bloggers and even casual readers realized that something was wrong and stepped in where the professional journalists had failed.
The difference is that Rolling Stone has even less investment in its journalistic credibility than CBS did. The principals will not be forced out. Their work may have been fake, but it was still accurate.
Modern lefty media journalism is more interested in narratives than in facts. The specific facts of a case may be fake, but that doesn’t matter as long as the narrative is accurate.
It had always felt compellingly true to them that President Bush dodged military service or otherwise benefited from undue influence. It was the perfect finishing touch for their arguments against the Iraq War. It made their position the righteous and patriotic one. It was the perfect note on which to begin the rise of President Kerry. It was so emotionally and ideologically compelling that it had to be true.
It might not have been factually true, but it was emotionally true, and narratives are not about factual truths. They are about emotional truths.
Fraternities are filled with rapists. Even if this particular fraternity did not rape Jackie, it doubtlessly raped some other girl. And if not, then some other fraternity somewhere raped somebody.
The story remains fake, but accurate. Rolling Stone’s only mistake was getting the details of who raped whom wrong. Or as the New Republic argued, the publication’s mistake was focusing on an individual’s disprovable story, instead of a traditionally lefty “systematic analysis” that would set the narrative.
If only Rolling Stone had stuck to lots of arm waving and some manipulated statistics, its true narrative would never have been undermined by its fake facts.
Facts don’t disprove narratives. JFK was shot by a radical Socialist. Rather than deal with this fact, we have been burdened with generations of conspiracy theories indicting everyone from the CIA to space aliens to Dallas. Like Rathergate, the conspiracy theories are factually fake, but narratively accurate.
As recently as last year, the New York Times’ Frank Rich was still indicting the “climate of hate in Dallas” for the Kennedy assassination. Rich knows it’s untrue, but it’s an accusation that feels emotionally right. Kennedy should have been killed by the right. It feels more fitting and true. The rest is just word games.
Or as Rich put it, “Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald’s addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union.”
How dare the right deflect its non-existent connection to the assassination by pointing out that the assassin was a Communist? How dare it muddle Rich’s lovely narrative that Texas’ wheelchair-bound Governor Greg Abbott is in a direct line of ideological descent from the murderer of President Kennedy?
And who is to say that Abbott, who was six years old at the time, didn’t have a hand in it? Sure it’s a little hard to argue rationally, but to the left it feels emotionally right.
Lefty narratives that are false, but ideologically and emotionally fulfilling, never go away. (The real victims of the Cold War were a handful of Hollywood scribblers. The USSR took the lead in the war against fascism. Terrorism is caused by unemployment. Tax cuts cause poverty. Revolving door prisons reduce crime.) Facts that are true, but upset the narrative quickly vanish.
Which lefty really wants to remember that the co-founder of Earth Day was Ira Einhorn, who brutally murdered his girlfriend and then went on the run, or that Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, brutally tortured a woman and was sent to jail for it where he wrote essays about feminism? Einhorn and Karenga both claimed to be political prisoners. Einhorn blamed the CIA for killing his girlfriend.
It wasn’t true, but it no doubt felt emotionally true to the wealthy lefties financing his lifestyle abroad. At least neither Einhorn nor Karenga chose to blame the “climate of hate” in Dallas for their crimes.
Progressives aren’t supposed to be rapists. Fraternity brothers are. When it comes to the narrative glue that makes certain stories stick and not others, the imaginary “Drew” of Rolling Stone’s rape hoax will always outshine politically inconvenient rapists like Obama’s mentor Bill Ayers.
The left isn’t interested in rape victims. It’s interested in narratives. That was why Bill Clinton’s accusers were “trash” while Anita Hill was a martyred saint.
The most expendable component in Rolling Stone’s narrative was Jackie who takes the fall for the hoax that a major publication perpetrated on the country. The victims that the left claims to fight for are ultimately the first to go under the bus, ahead of the writers and editors who exploit them.
A little chum is tossed out and then a decade from now Robert Redford or Oliver Stone will be filming a flick explaining how the Rolling Stone hoax was fake and accurate. With a little time all the dirty details, the analysis and the refutations of the mangled facts will be swept under the rug. What will remain is the central compelling story that the left will be tempted to revisit without interference from reality.
The story will still be emotionally compelling. The facts will be forgotten. If you think that’s unlikely, consider that few of the stories on Robert Redford’s Rathergate flick trouble to mention that the central issue of contention involves a time traveling copy of Microsoft Word that wound up in the 1970s.
If a central fact like that can be nudged out of the way, don’t think that the Rolling Stone hoax can’t be rehabilitated. If it isn’t, it will only be because newer hoaxes will have risen to take its sordid place.
The left does not inhabit the realm of facts. It is an ideology. Its followers live in a world of convictions. They believe in what feels true, not in what is. They express their convictions through stories. These stories are more real to them than the real world. By trying to make the stories real, they attempt to impose their reality on the world. Occasionally facts poke holes in their fantasy, but not for very long.
Rather ranted that, “Powerful and extremely well- financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can’t deny the fundamental truth of the story.”
To the left, fundamental truths exist in a realm above that of the provable. It’s not the documents that matter. It’s the fundamental truth of the story. And the fundamental truth is that they are unable to tell a lie from the truth because their entire worldview is a lie that exists in a truthless world.
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