The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

In Defense of Cynicism

Posted on | July 1, 2024 | 3 Comments


“The cynics aren’t always right. But that’s the way to bet,” Professor Glenn Reynolds says, in regard to a young journalist’s belated discovery that an infamous “hate crime” was not what he’d been told.

There is an unfortunate shortage of Cynicism among the young nowadays. Their idealistic conceptions of “social justice” make them automatic suckers for every “cause” that comes along, e.g.:

Further proof of the BLM movement’s essential bogusness was the fact that, once Joe Biden was installed as president, the protests ended. Black suspects are still getting shot by cops, but the national news media has ceased covering these incidents, because that was never really what it was about. It was about electing Democrats, period, and having succeeded at that goal, the media has moved on from BLM.
“Demand Justice for [Fill-in-the-Blank]” memes are now gathering dust back in the Instagram archives of liberals too stupid to wonder what the 2020 season of “activism” was really about. Never once has a liberal asked the cynical question, “Cui bono?” Who benefited from all that “activism”? Whose interests were served? Who got rich from those months of media-fueled outrage?

Have you heard of Linzell Parhm? He got shot to death by cops in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. Linzell’s family has retained the services of Ben Crump, whose legal practice seems to consist primarily of shaking down municipalities for “wrongful death” settlements. It isn’t clear that Linzell’s death was “wrongful,” considering that he had an AK-47-style Draco next to him in the car and the cop ordered him at gunpoint, “Keep your hands on the f—ing dash. If you reach down there again I will shoot you, motherf—er.” I don’t know about you, but if a cop drew his pistol and told me to keep my hands “on the f—ing dash,” my hands would be on the f—ing dash. Apparently this wasn’t how Linzell Parhm was taught to react to such situations, but he’s not here to argue in defense of his own approach to the situation, is he? But I digress . . .

My point is that Fort Wayne hasn’t been burnt to the ground, and nobody’s rioting over the death of Linzell Parhm, despite the fact that he’s just as dead as St. George of the Blessed Fentanyl. All that “social justice” uproar in 2020 was about one thing and one thing only, electing Joe Biden, and his campaign strategists apparently don’t think having nationwide race riots this summer would advance their chances of getting Biden reelected, so major national news organizations don’t give a damn about some idiot getting himself shot by the Fort Wayne PD.

In fact, to get back to Professor Reynold’s point about cynicism, I rather doubt that anybody in the media ever gave a damn about George Floyd. All they cared about was helping Democrats win an election, which is why they incited those “fiery but mostly peaceful” riots.

Merriam-Webster defines cynic as “one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest,” which strikes me as rather too narrow a definition. More generally, cynicism is about doubting those who claim to act from purely altruistic motives. Cynicism is about not being a chump. If you think the “journalists” at CNN are motivated by a noble desire to “speak truth to power,” blah blah blah, then you are the kind of sucker who never deserves an even break.

Do you believe Jake Tapper and Jim Acosta are better people — more virtuous, more honest, more intelligent — than you are? Are you morally and intellectually inferior to them? Then why would you content yourself to be tutored by them, to have them lecture you about “democracy,” as if you were an ignorant fifth-grader? It’s not just that they are  “Democratic operatives with bylines” (although they definitely are that), but rather that they think the rest of us are too stupid to see through their scam, and I don’t know about you, but I take kindly to such insults.

By the way, do you know Antithenes is? Did seeing him at the top of this post arouse your curiosity to such an extent that you Googled his name to discover that this disciple of Socrates is regarded as the founder of Cynicism as a philosophy? In just a few minutes of reading, I learned more about Antithenes and Cynicism than 99% of people know, because fewer than 1% of people give a damn about ancient philosophers and their arguments. The reason I acquired this half-hour’s worth of expertise on the subject is because if I’m going to write about something, I certainly don’t want to write something wrong about it. Wikipedia says that the original Cynics “rejected all conventional desires for wealth, power, glory, social recognition, conformity, and worldly possessions and even flouted such conventions openly and derisively in public.” So, in its original meaning, a Cynic was a sort of ascetic non-conformist who rejected common social values. Elsewhere, Wikipedia tells us, the contemporary meaning of cynicism — “an attitude characterized by a general distrust of the motives of others” — arose in the 1800s from an “emphasis on the ascetic ideals” that led to a critique of contemporary society as falling short of such ideals. So now you know as much as I know on the subject which, as previously mentioned, makes you more knowledgeable than 99% of people, probably including Jake Tapper and Jim Acosta.

Am I a philanthropist, with a mission to enlighten humanity? No, I’m just a guy who doesn’t want to look stupid by writing something wrong, because that would damage my credibility, which is my stock in trade. Having disavowed any unselfish motive for my own actions, why should I imagine that other people are more altruistic than me?

Thou shalt not be a chump” is not listed among the Ten Commandments, but I consider it a basic duty of any journalist. So, when I followed the link from Insty’s blog, I found this article by Ben Kawaller about the Matthew Shepard murder, with an introduction from Free Press editor Bari Weiss:

Ben — like me and so many others — grew up believing in the story of Matthew Shepard and what his murder meant about America. Or at least certain parts of the country.
But then, a few years ago, Ben heard another narrative. It caused him to wonder: Was the story we heard true?

My first reaction to this confession that Weiss and Kawaller “grew up believing” in the media-manufactured myth of Matthew Shepard as a martyr for gay rights was, “Wow, I’m old.” Because I was an adult — a 39-year-old assistant nation editor at The Washington Times — at the time of Shepard’s murder and, to be honest, 1998 doesn’t seem like ancient history to me. So the idea that there are now adult journalists who “grew up” during that time I so well remember — well, it makes me feel like an antique. But I never bought the martyr-myth of Matthew Shepard.

Amid the media hysteria over the case, I was reading everything that came across the wires and it seemed to me that what had happened was something akin to the central story of In Cold Blood, namely that two small-time criminals had upped their game to murder and thereby managed to commit a murder that became a nationally known atrocity. It wasn’t the police saying that Shepard’s killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, were motivated by homophobia; that interpretation was being imposed on the story by activists, media and politicians. McKinney and Henderson had prior arrests for drugs and burglary; this college kid from back East made the mistake of getting mixed up with these local hoodlums, and that was basically the story.

About a year after the murder, a liberal writer named JoAnn Wypijewski wrote an article about the case that included details which, if you were reading carefully, seemed to undercut the “hate crime” motif. Wypijewski reported, for example, that McKinney and Henderson were on a five-day meth binge at the time of the murder. Try hanging around meth-heads in the midst of a binge, and you could get murdered, too. Unfortunately, that article seemed not to make a dent in the martyr-myth of Matthew Shepard, which had sprung up more or less instantaneously in October 1998. It was not until 2013 that Stephen Jimenez published a book debunking the “hate crime” angle (see, “The Sorelian Myth of Matthew Shepard: Petty Criminals and Liberal Media Bias,” Sept. 25, 2013):

By making people believe in politically crafted falsehoods, media propagandists seek to inspire action — “to make a difference” — and so the record of the media’s past failures (Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, et al.) is carefully suppressed.
The one thing the news media will never do is to confess their own lack of credibility, to expose their own errors and biases. So when it turns out that what the media promoted as an anti-gay “hate crime” was, in fact, the act of two petty criminals in the throes of a five-day meth binge, this is a truth that the media will ignore, because it is a truth that exposes the media itself as untrustworthy.

We need more cynicism in America, not less. And however much you hate the media, you don’t hate them as much they deserve to be hated.


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