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Nederlog

  March 19, 2013

The human moral and intellectual problems + why there are so few investigative journalists
"If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.'"
   -- Hazlitt








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Sections
Introduction   
1. The moral and the intellectual problems
2. Why there are so few investigative journalists
About ME/CFS

Introduction:

The problems I am concerned with today are with me - at least - since I, who is a son and grandson of communist heroes of the Dutch resistance against Nazism, remigrated in 1977 to study in my native city Amsterdam at its municipal university - and found it had been taken over to a large extent by students, who in majority were what statistically must have been the sons and daughters of Nazi-collaborators [1], who had joined the Dutch Communist Party to make a career in the university, since the Dutch universities had been handed over to the students and the staff in 1971, in order to be "governed democratically" by them - which made them a heaven for dishonest careerists and political frauds.

In fact, those who governed in the Dutch universities were, on the level of the Board of Directors, almost all careerist  prominents from the Dutch Labour Party, who made tens of millions disappear from the accounts of the University of Amsterdam, and were on the level of the University Parliaments [2], mostly students who pretended to be Marxists but who were often out to get soft  lectureships and professorships and tenure for life - for in Holland the universities are institutions that belong to the state or city, are paid for from the taxes, while their employees have the status of civil servants, which means in Holland that you can almost only be fired by a revolution, and that you have the lushest perqs and the best pensions, simply because you are the chosen servants of the powerful.

So it was in this context that I learned that most - not: all - men are liars and posturers; that most - not: all - academics are collaborators who willingly betray civilization, science and truth for what are in fact small payments, also if saying "No!" or protesting is not punished by concentration camps or by tortures; and that things in politics are only very rarely what they seem, and are very often lied about by very many for reasons of personal advance, also (especially?) if the liars pretend to be followers of Che and Marx.

This creates various problems of understanding, of which I here briefly will treat an important moral and an important intellectual or practical problem.

In this text I will sketch the two problems in an easily memorable schematic way, and by way of an introduction to the question in my title: why there are so few investigative journalists.

I will return to the problems outlined in section 1, I hope, in a later Nederlog about human defects - for human beings are a flawed species [3], as argued very well by George Carlin

These two items may serve as an introduction to the two problems and the  question I will now deal with.

1. The moral and the intellectual problems

For those who want to change or conserve - aspects of - the human world and are fairly intelligent, there are two fundamental problems:

The moral problem, that exists in various forms for any known moral system, depending on its assumptions and ends, is that what is good often is not pleasant, and what is pleasant often is not good (regardless how pleasure and goodness are defined) - for indeed that is why there are moral norms, whatever their actual contents: That what is (supposed to be) morally good for human beings and what feels good for human beings does not usually coincide and often is opposed.

The intellectual problem, that also exists in various forms for any known plan to change or conserve the human world, again depending on its assumptions and ends, is that most who are morally good are not  intelligent or learned, and therefore easily deceived or misled, and that many who are intelligent or learned are not really good. Again, what one precisely wishes to mean by "intelligent" is not very relevant here.

Neither of these problems gets treated often, and indeed most seem not to see them, although there are evident and major exceptions, like De la Botie, Rochefoucauld, Chamfort, and some of the major philosophers, and also a few literary writers, of what tend to be presented as writings for children, such as Lafontaine, Swift, and also the less well known T.H. White's "The Book of Merlyn" that deserves quotation:

"What are we, then, at present?"
"We find that at present the human race is divided politically into one wise man, nine knaves and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them, and become 'politicians': the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off behind the banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observed Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep, whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism will become party leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will still be fools, the knaves still leaders, the result still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated. This is an optimistic but on the whole scientific statement (...)" p. 50-51

Incidentally, this outlook seems much like De la Botie and also like Machiavelli.

As it happens, both the moral and the intellectual problem can be treated quasi-numerically, so to speak - and I say "quasi" because it is hard to get definite numbers for definite groups, but it is not so hard, given some knowledge of history and experience of life, to formulate tendencies and proportions e.g. on a scale of percentages that also can be interpreted as probabilities, where (a+b+c+d) and (A+B+C+D) sum to 1, as does (1+9+9+81) if taken as percentages.

Note that "~" means "not", so that what you see are tables that chart all logical possibilities for being Good or not and being Pleasant or not and Intelligent or not:


Good ~Good
Good ~Good Good ~Good
  Pleasant    a    c
  Intelligent    A
   C
   1
   9
~ Pleasant    b
   d
~Intelligent    B
   D
   9
   81

The rightmost table, with the four numerical values, gives numerical estimates that concur with those of T.H. White , and can be summarized in terms of probabilities by assuming that (i) pr(Good|Intelligent) =1/10 while (ii) Goodness and Intelligence are independent [4].

It seems similar numbers and assumptions as seem adequate for Goodness and Intelligence - the intellectual problem being that only a small number of men is really intelligent, and only a minority of the really intelligent is morally good, though indeed almost all men will pretend to being good and having noble intentions - are also adequate for Goodness and Pleasure, and in both cases one may say it comes to something like the following:

a < b <= c < d     &         A < B <= C < D and roughly speaking
a : b : c : d         =         A : B : C : D      =    1 : 9 : 9 : 81

If this seems perhaps a bit cynical [5], one could reflect that the "~" which stands for "not" is weak: What is not pleasant and what is not intelligent comprehend more than the unpleasant and the unintelligent, and indeed for all three terms, Good, Pleasant and Intelligent there are considerable middle sections: Many actions and persons are neither good nor bad, neither pleasant nor painful and neither intelligent nor stupid, and such things are somewhere in between, and in the above table fall in the rows and columns headed by a "~".

And again, if this seems perhaps a trifle cynical [5]: Most people who are in the middle, and all people who are bad, unpleasant or stupid, will tend to obfuscate, doubt, deny or oppose such judgements - even if they are clearly aware that such judgments do accord very well indeed with the teachings of the great religions, that are not optimistic about humans on average, and also accord very well indeed with the lessons of history, summed up as follows by Gibbon and Chamfort:

"History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind."

"Presque toute l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."

If this seems a reason to despair: It is not, and two important reasons are that it seems to be for the greatest part genetical rather than consciously willed, while no one chose to put himself or herself into the world, and no one had any say in his or her inherited shortcomings, failings and lacks. And, as Burke said

Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.

Two final points.

First, it was my end to provide some reasons why so much of human history is so horrible: It is because in large majority men and women are not especially moral or intelligent, and as easily abuse the defenseless as they are deceived by propaganda to believe or do what is against their own or others interests or rights. The bad leading and abusing the dumb sums up large parts of human history quite well.

Second, while this is quite impopular to say, in a public that has been educated - as the Dutch have been for decades - in the delusion or pretension that (i) "everybody is of equal value" (you, me, Hitler, Einstein: In Holland, "we are all of the same value", except that the more ordinary you are the more excellent you are made out to be - at least if you are a Caucasian with a Dutch family name) and the public pretension that (ii) the mafia virtue of "respect" for everyone is a moral norm that should guide every Dutchman's behavior and moral thoughts - while in actual fact, Holland is still a nation of Calvinist hypocrites, where most proper Dutchmen hate, despise or envy most others, and whence the majority of the population will end up in hell if their religion - Calvinist or Catholic: it does not matter - is half way correct. (But then their religion usually also is merely hypocrisy and conformism serving egoistic greed - as their own founders claimed.)

2. Why there are so few investigative journalists

I have said several times in Nederlog that there seem to be very few genuine - capable, honest, funded - investigative journalists the last decades, and did so the last time when mentioning one of the last of the species, Robert Parry, who has a fine website:

As it happens, Robert Parry wrote about the subject since then, namely yesterday, in

The brief answer is: Since the Reagan years, most sold out, shut up and made a career singing the praises of their governors.

I believe it and I am not amazed, but it is nice to read it from somebody who has a lot of experience in trying to tell the truth in a climate of conformism or corruption - which, incidentally, is a mixed climate that there is very much of in very many institutions, simply because a combination of the one and the other give the best chances for careers and incomes in nearly all institutions. [6]

So let me select a few bits from Parry's essay, and comment some. I quote in the order the quotes appear in the original, but I recommend the original if you want to get Parry's point of view.

To start not far from Parry's beginning - and I quote by indentation:

Though some people cling to the myth that American reporters are warriors for the truth and that tough editors stand behind you, the reality is very different. It is a corporate world where pleasing the boss and staying safely inside the herd are the best ways to keep your job and gain “respect” from your colleagues.

In brief, and not at all amazingly, the journalistic world is much like the rest of the institutional world, where conformism, subservience to the boss, and the public often repeated mouthing of fashionable "values" and "facts", are the best ways to get promotion and to have an easy life.

According to Parry, the climate that favored investigative journalism, of which there was a lot in the 1960ies and 1970ies, got poisoned under the Reagan administration, and I have no reason to disbelieve him:

That lesson was driven home during the early 1980s. Some of us actually tried to do our jobs honestly, exposing crimes of state in Central America and elsewhere. Almost universally, we were punished by our editors and marginalized by our colleagues.
(...)
That lesson was driven home during the early 1980s. Some of us actually tried to do our jobs honestly, exposing crimes of state in Central America and elsewhere. Almost universally, we were punished by our editors and marginalized by our colleagues.
(...)

Why this history is relevant today, as the United States commemorates the tenth anniversary of the disastrous Iraq War, is that it was the Reagan administration’s success in housebreaking the Washington press corps that guaranteed that only a handful of mainstream journalists would ask tough questions about President George W. Bush’s case for invading Iraq.

As I said, I have no reason to disbelieve Parry and indeed believe him - but it is also true that lots of things, also outside journalism, got changed under or during the Reagan administration, that incidentally also were the Thatcher years (and being European I know more about the latter than the former).

Here is the situation under Bush Jr. as it appeared to Parry:

Put yourself in the shoes of an aspiring Washington correspondent in 2002-2003. Your immediate editors and bureau chiefs were people who succeeded professionally during the 1980s and 1990s. They climbed the ladder by not reaching out for the difficult stories that challenged Republican presidents and earned the wrath of right-wing attack groups. They kept their eyes firmly on the backsides of those above them.

The journalists who did the hard work during that era suffered devastating career damage, again and again. Indeed, they had been made into object lessons for others. Even progressive publications, which wanted some “credibility” with the mainstream, turned away.

It sounds just like what I saw happen in Holland, in journalism and elsewhere, notably in the universities: It got respectable to seem to be respectable - and to seem to be respectable one had to sing from the hymnsheets of those who had power. Most did - while in Holland most who did and had made a career by pretending to be radicals during the years that was fashionable still pretended to be radicals while really being conformists, as indeed nearly all of them had always been. [7]

In US journalism it worked out as follows:

Even the most careful reporting can contain imprecision or errors. But that imperfection becomes a major problem when the rewards and punishments are skewed too widely, when the slightest problem on one side leads to loss of your livelihood while gross mistakes on the other carry no punishment at all.

In fact, that is as it is these days with bankmanagers and with poor or middle class people in the US: The powerful can do and say as they please; the powerless have to pay the bills and risk harsh punishments or long imprisonments if they protest.

As Parry phrases it for US journalists, continuing the last quotation:

That was the core failure of the U.S. news media on the Iraq War. By 2002-2003, a generation or more of American journalists had absorbed this career reality. There was grave danger to question Bush’s claims while there was little risk in going with the flow.

Again I think he is probably quite right, but there also was and is a lot more of the same outside journalism:

Everywhere people try to pretend they are middle-of-the-road folks who do not doubt their leaders or disbelieve their leaders' PR. In fact, most are sincere, for a large part because of the moral and the intellectual problems I considered in section 1:

Most men are moral only if this serves their interests, and are pretending - faking, hypocritical - conformists most of the time, who lack the courage of their own opinions if these are not popular to start with; and in partial excuse and explanation of this, most men are not really capable to think rationally and sensibly about most (complicated) subjects - they simply lack the innate capacities. [8]

Parry concludes as follows:

But most likely, no one who mattered would even ask the question [what one did wrong - MM] because those folks had been traveling in the same pack, spouting the same groupthink. So, if it seems odd to some Americans that today they are reading and watching the same pundits who misled them into a catastrophic war a decade ago, it shouldn’t.

I am not amazed, and it seems, from what Parry wrote and from what human beings are on average, that the brief answer to the question "Why there are so few investigative journalists" must be on the lines that (1) there are not very  persons with individual morality, personal courage and clear brains anyway, and (2) in journalism they have had it harder than elsewhere, because since the Reagan years there has been a climate in the press and among journalists that favored cosy conformism and the not asking nor investigating sensitive isssues, (3) which tendencies were strengthened by the pressures to conform and serve the authorities in the - fake - "war on terrorism". [9]

In any case: I think Robert Parry's account of why there are fewer investigative journalists makes sense, and it is a pity it is so, for there is a strong need for people who are willing to write the truth about the corruptions of the powerful.

----------------------------------
Notes

[1] The reason being that most Dutchmen collaborated with the Nazis, including the Dutch Supreme Court, nearly all Dutch judges, and the leaders of the Jewish Council, Cohen and Asscher. The reason many Dutchmen deny this is that they don't know anybody who was there when it happened who was honest, and that the Dutch history in WW II has been the subject of many tales presented as "history". And it should also be remarked that many Dutchmen who were not judges or leaders of political/religious movements had little choice to collaborate in fact, if not with consent or enthusiasm. What is shameful is that so many who were leaders collaborated - and what is more shameful is that after the war all of them managed to evade all responsibility, and never had to even appear in court. One reason for me to insist on these facts is that while the Dutch judges who had collaborated with the Nazis, and who had betrayed the principles and civilization they were supposed to protect, and who had convicted my father and grandfather to concentration camp imprisonment as "political terrorists", all escaped any and all punishment after the war, my parents, who had behaved heroically in the war, were discriminated for decades by ordinary Dutchmen as "traitors" because they were communists.

[2] From 1971 - 1995 all universities and all faculties in Holland were governed, in formal principle, by University Councils and Faculty Councils, that were yearly elected by the staff and students of the universities, on the principle of one man / one vote. In practice this meant giving the power to a sick combination of careerists from the Dutch Labour Party and "student leaders" who were, at least in the 1970ies and early 1980ies, mostly members of the Dutch Communist Party. Nobody - except a few, mostly in the more mathematical disciplines that require some real talent to excel in - protested or cared, as long as they kept their jobs and privileges. Many staff members pretended that they had discovered that "Marx was a great philosopher". Since 1995 at least the University of Amsterdam pretends that the period 1971-1995 does not exist, does not deserve mentioning, and hardly has happened at all, and because the careerists who got into the staff were not dismissed, it is not unlikely that most of the documents of these years, that could have allowed an objective study of this massive betrayal of science and civilization, have been destroyed.

[3] Although Holland is a Calvinist country, where the majority still pretends to be religious believers, and where there is also a rather large amount of Dutch Catholics, the flaws in the human species - "man's sinful nature", for Christians - are hardly ever mentioned, and indeed I fear that doing so would be showing no "respect", which is in postmodern Holland a major sin, for every Dutchman is supposed to show "respect" to every Dutchman, it seems because few Dutchmen have any self-respect.

[4] In terms of probability theory, the two given assumptions suffice to derive the four values in the table.

For those who argue that it would seem as if intelligence predisposes some to goodness, I only observe that anyone familiar with modern academia and modern academics will find this hard to believe in general. I agree there are exceptions.

[5] Ordinary people, who often don't know any better, and their leaders, who usually do, love to pretend most or all men are good. It's a nice thought, but it is totally incompatible with any real knowledge of human history.

As to being cynical:
"A friend of mine heard the following (part) dialogue between two strong Scotch Calvinists:
- 'Noo! hoo manny dye thank there are of the alact on the arth at this moment?'
- 'Eh! mabbee a doozen'
- 'Hoot! mon! nae so mony as thot!

-- Augustus De Morgan  (Budget of Paradoxes)

Given my experiences of life - a career repeatedly wrecked on purpose because I spoke and wrote the truth about the drugsmafia of Amsterdam, that is or participated in, defended and designed by the mafiosi of the Dutch Labour Party who have been mayors and aldermen in Amsterdam - at nearly 63, I believe I am fairly optimistic.

What is true is that, in case you want to know what are the human foundations of Nazism and Stalinism, of concentration camps and the Shoah: Characters such as made it in Amsterdam and in the Dutch Labour Party and the University of Amsterdam, who probably on purpose created the myths that "everyone knows that everyone is of equal value" (presumably knowing themselves to be of equal value as Himmler and Beria, if lacking their opportunities) and that "everyone knows that truth does not exist" (for then liars and deceivers can't be refuted, and there is no truth about German or Russian concentration camps either).

That these myths were believed, to the extent that I, who did not, was removed from the faculty of philosophy as a student for publicly insisting that I did not, is one reason I believe in the principles of section 1: Most men are too stupid or too malevolent to behave as if they are humane, except perhaps to their own family, friends and bosses. (This shortcoming can often be controlled by social, moral and legal sanctions, but this becomes difficult to do in a society where "everybody is of equal value" and "everyone knows truth does not exist": What to appeal to?!)

[6] The main reason is that most institutions, whatever their public pretensions, are driven by the principles of groupthinking. There are exceptions, but these are rare, and generally concern small institutions with special ends.

This is just a fact of life, at least in postmodern Western societies: Those who make it to the top or close to the top generally made it thence because they are real rotters. You do not get into the top of modern institutions, corporations, parties, or big businesses because you are intelligent, moral, honest, or public minded: You get there because you have contacts who preceded you, and who have verified that you can be relied upon to be amoral, dishonest, and a careerist willing to do almost anything for pay or promotion.

[7] I have met many a would-be marxists in the University of Amsterdam, and all were posturing - as one could find out very soon, if one knew something of Marx, as I with my genuinely marxist parents did: All those would-be Marxists had read very little of Marx, who indeed is not an easy writer.

[8]
For those who might consider me cynical, "arrogant" or "disrespectful": First, very few people have truly original important thoughts, and generally those who have them are not admired for being capable of having them or for having them; second, even the most levelling members of the hoi polloi insist that their sports' heroes are "supermen" and/or "geniuses" (while generally not knowing who Euler, Gauss and Archimedes were); and third, I am firmly convinced that (i) one's talents are innate rather than acquired; that (ii) only a small minority has great talents for anything; that (iii) no one has more than a few of many hundreds of talents human beings may have; and that (iv) there is no personal merit in having an innate talent: One did not do anything for it.

[9] I argued it is fake in 2005, in Dutch: Over terrorisme.



About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)


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