The media is corrupt, but so are we

Mark Judge Journalist and filmmaker
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It’s time for conservatives to just admit it.

We’re here.

America has become a decadent, apathetic, left-wing, and just plain stupid country. It’s become what Martin Amis once described it as: a “moronic inferno.”

Seriously, right-wingers: let’s save a lot of time and energy and just face it. We need to stop trying to shame the media, or coming up with 10-point Gingrichite plans to restore America, or feeling surprise when liberals say they will bury us.

We. Are. Here. The left won.

The final epiphany for me came in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s sad and hammy “testimony” about the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya — an attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including an ambassador. For a republic to survive and flourish, its people must have some measure of respect for the truth. Of course, people are partisan and fall into ideological camps. What saved America in the past was the existence of a group of people who would call the country to the truth, and the willingness of people to follow that truth even if it meant challenging their own assumptions.

On many occasions in The Daily Caller and elsewhere, I have referred to a pivotal moment in my life as a journalist — Rolling Stone magazine’s 1970 coverage of Altamont, the Rolling Stones’ rock concert that ended in madness and death. Security at the concert, held in California, was provided by the Hells Angels, and the concert collapsed into a riot of drugs, fighting, and a stabbing death.

I was just a kid when that happened, but in 1980, while poking around my oldest brother’s room, I found a copy of the Rolling Stone issue investigating Altamont (“Let it Bleed,” the cover said). Rolling Stone was a counterculture rock and roll magazine, but its investigation into the sloppiness and stupidity that led to Altamont was fearless. Reading the issue, I learned something that has always led me as a journalist: when you are faced with telling a difficult truth, or answering you conscience, or doing both, you must do so, even if it hurts whatever side you’re on. This is why Rolling Stone magazine won a National Magazine Award for its Altamont coverage. The judges cited the magazine’s ability to “challenge the shared assumptions of its readers.”

In a country of literate, virtuous people, these moments of truth-telling serve to restore the soul of the nation. The civil rights movement produced one of those moments: an apartheid system was dismantled because one person after another, starting with Rosa Parks, decided to tell the truth. And by telling the truth, Whittaker Chambers — a journalist at the time, remember — woke America up to the genuine threat of communist infiltration into the government. It also happened during Watergate: when the extent of Richard Nixon’s crimes became evident, Republican congressmen began dropping their support for the president.

And here I will give an example that will enrage the right. But so be it. When Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin what newspapers and magazine she read, and Palin could not come up with an answer, it was a service to the country. We need to know the weaknesses of someone who is running for vice president. We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact is, Palin was not up to the job intellectually.

These moments are like inoculations that keep the body politic healthy. And they are particularly potent when it comes from someone who, albeit reluctantly, goes against his own side.

But these days, we are faced with something unprecedented: an American media that has become corrupt, serving a populace that is equally corrupt. In my lifetime, I have never witnessed anything close to the media’s “coverage” of Obama — or the fact that Americans, fat with junk food and reality TV and resentment, voted for someone they knew nothing about. Then when I saw the media reaction to Hillary Clinton’s comedic and dishonest testimony about Benghazi, I realized that we can no longer look at banana republics, or our country’s own sometimes shameful past, with smugness and condescension. Because we have become as bad, if not worse. It’s hard to get your mind around: in order to win an election, a presidential campaign lied about the murder of four Americans at the hands of terrorists. They blamed it on a video, and then jailed the film’s director. And the media’s reaction was to praise our secretary of state for the skill of her lying, the piss and vinegar she put into the lies. “Hillary Storms Capitol Hill,” cried The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. One can only imagine if Milbank had been reporting from Altamont: “Rolling Stones Rock Out Despite Minor Disturbance.” And judging from the reactions on Facebook and people I talk to, liberals — the majority of the country now — are absolutely fine with this.

We can no longer point at Bagdad Bob or the old Pravda and laugh.

We are here. We are them.

It’s difficult for conservatives to blame America’s descent into narcissism and stupidity on the American people. We usually are the defenders of the people. But we are also supposed to be realists, and we need to be realists here. Republics become decadent. People get sucked in by false prophets. They stop caring about the truth. They lose the capability to confront not their adversaries, but themselves.

And when that happens, it’s over.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.