It was bad enough that Dan Rather and his CBS News crew lied through their teeth about the evidence they had to back up their claims on the Sept. 8 60 Minutes II program. Much, much worse was the spirit of Mr. Rather's self-defense when he grudgingly began to come a little bit clean about the news organization's bold efforts to deceive.
"Our evidence may have been flawed," admitted Mr. Rather (in effect) as his account began to unravel, "but we stand by our story."
There you have it in all its glorious ignominy-the postmodernist disconnect between a hypothesis someone might hold and the hard data available to back up that hypothesis.
It doesn't matter anymore, says Mr. Rather, if our evidence is fabricated. Just believe us.
For a generation or two, the "us" in that "just-believe-us" line has been so big, so powerful, so monolithic that we little folk just had to stand by and watch the steamroller pass. But at least through all those years, logic seemed to stick around as a valid tool for analysis. Evidence still counted for something. You still had to back up your story, no matter how big you were.
But now, Mr. Rather gamely tried to announce, those rules no longer apply. We don't need to prove our point, he seemed to be saying. We don't need to document our story. Reason and logic don't matter anymore. Just believe us.
Yet, for all its bravado, may I predict that Mr. Rather's dramatic jump is even now proving to be a giant leap too far? Every now and then, in God's great providence, the improbable and unexpected happen-and in the process, the high and mighty sometimes take some terrible falls. For all the folly of Mr. Rather's bad judgment in this situation, something very good may right now be coming from it.
Specifically, big cracks have begun to appear in that cabal we have so regularly referred to as the "Major Media." Precisely because Dan Rather this time went too far even for some of his colleagues, they began to distance themselves from him. Not that I now expect ABC and CNN to reform their own perverse ways. But the whole kit 'n' caboodle of them now face a terrible problem: The public is turning them off. Across the board, major media outlets are losing the right to call themselves "major" anymore. By the tens of thousands, Americans are finding other ways to learn what's going on.
All of which is exactly why right-thinking folks across this great country should take new courage. And it is exactly why we should be optimistic that still other such fortresses might similarly collapse.
For example, if Dan Rather and CBS News can take such a terrible tumble, isn't there hope that state-sponsored schools-their postmodernist cousins in truth evasion-might also be brought down sometime soon? Who are any of us to say, Can't happen in my lifetime?
Indeed, the monopoly the big media have recently watched dissolve before their very eyes is much the same in kind that America's public schools still enjoy. Less than a generation ago, the three big commercial networks delivered the news to something like 90 percent of everyone who watched the news. That's almost exactly the kind of domination the nation's public schools still enjoy in telling young people that they can be trusted even when they no longer believe in the rules of logic, evidence, and reason.
This too will change. If it's wrong-and it is-for the government to intrude into the churches of our nation, to reshape and affect their basic doctrine and teaching, then it is just as wrong for that same government to be the sponsor of the worldview and values of 90 percent of all our nation's children. I know that's a radical thought; most people can't imagine the United States without a public-school system. But it's time for such people to take a careful look at other "impossible" events that have actually happened.
And maybe such people should sign up for the upcoming conference in Washington, D.C., of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State (sepcon.org). It's the only "cause" conference I know where the sponsors are so excited about their mission that they invite folks who disagree with them to appear on the platform. They're that sure that their cause will prevail.
In 1989, it was the Berlin Wall. In 2004, history will say it was Dan Rather and the Big Media. Sooner or later, it will be state-sponsored schools.
A bankrupt Social Security? Abortion on demand? Militant Islam? In the plans of a righteous God, all those walls too are scheduled for demolition.