Defenders of the Faith
July 17, 2001
Newsweek recently ran a cover
story on the controversy over stem-cell research. Did I say story? It was really a
propaganda screed, one of its authors being Eleanor Clift, whom you may remember
as Bill Clintons adoring Olive Oyl. Its theme was that scientific research
shouldnt be inhibited by religious fanatics (namely, Christians).
The cover featured a color photo of a cluster
of human stem cells, hugely magnified. The point was obviously that these things
dont look like what we think of as a human being, so whats the harm
of killing them?
Mind you, Newsweek
doesnt always make use of audio-visual aids in discussing embryonic and
fetal human life. In its coverage of late-term abortion, it has never used a color
picture of a dismembered human fetus in the ninth month to shape public opinion.
By the ninth month, those little things do look
pretty human, after all, and such a picture might, from
Newsweeks point of view, backfire. You dont have to
be a religious fanatic to recoil from seeing a baby torn to pieces.
Scientists in Virginia are already creating
human embryos for the sake of harvesting their stem cells. The
embryos themselves, having served their purpose, are destroyed.
Its all very mundane, routine lab work.
There are no demented men with hunchbacked assistants and lightning flashing
overhead. Nobody involved seems to have any qualms about toying with human life.
Who says its human, anyway? Only religious fanatics.
Should all this proceed with the blessing
and subsidies of the government? Why not? Having redefined
human life some time ago, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently been emboldened to
take the sacrilegious step of redefining golf itself.
What puzzles me is why journalism should be
so reflexively on the side of the government. During the Watergate era, we heard
about the watchdog press, the adversary press, the
press as the fourth branch of government. That old skepticism about
government, largely illusory then, hardly survives today even as a pose. Today the
press seems to see itself as governments partner, assisting and promoting
the expansion of the state. The only politicians it treats with skepticism, verging
at times on open hostility, are those who try to put the brakes on government.
You might think that after a century of
tyranny, total war, genocide, and mass murder, not to mention organized robbery
through taxation, inflation, debauched currencies, and redistribution, all of which
have generated moral corruption and social decay well, a little skepticism
toward the modern state itself is long overdue. But the news media still persist in
the faith that government is the natural instrument for the betterment of the
human condition. If you believe that, you can believe that a tiger can be taught to
pull a plow.
In the good old days, the
state was limited in its ambitions, if only because its techniques were still
primitive. But todays sophisticated, organized, computerized,
atom-splitting state knows a few tricks its crude ancestors had no inkling of. It also
enjoys the propaganda services of nominally independent journalists.
Producing no wealth itself, the state punishes
productive people and encourages dependency on itself. The parasite state wants
parasite citizens. It increases the tax burden of producers and the benefits of its
In order to do this, it has to invert common
morality. It legalizes what were formerly crimes and criminalizes what were
formerly freedoms. It has to convince its subjects that when the state commits a
wrong killing or robbing, say its not really wrong.
Its somehow authorized. We are shocked by a terrorist
bombing that kills dozens. We accept it as legitimate when our government bombs
All this requires, as I say, the constant
propaganda support of the free press. The press doesnt have
to lie very often; it merely has to ignore the obvious, and pretend that the
abnormal is normal. It keeps us informed by reporting on Washington
sex scandals instead of the steady erosion of constitutional government. It alarms
us about trifles, while soothing us about enormities.
Faith in the state couldnt survive
without the partnership of state and press. Youd think a free press would
favor a free society and the morality that supports it. For some reason, the
opposite is true.