Recently CBS chief foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes host Lara Logan uttered the most profound and significant words heard from a reporter in recent memory. Addressing the Chicago Better Government Association, she reminded wayward professional journalism of its forgotten essence.
Presenting her research on the actual state of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Logan said:
So why did that story matter and why did we chose to do that particular story? If al-Qaeda was truly what drew us to Afghanistan after 9-11, we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asking of American leaders what the state of al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. And you would have heard leaders, you would have heard bandied around the number fifty… only fifty al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The impression we are given is that they’re one drone strike away from obliteration. And that’s just simply not true. They know it is not true. What we had to do was set about investigating what was the truth and we had to be very careful about that because there is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. Those are two very different things and the second is a very dangerous thing. It is the enemy of great journalism. It is a trap that is very easy to fall into.
Giving a breathtaking demonstration of the self-effacement required by journalism as she had just re-defined it, Lara looked straight at the thousand guests present and the millions she knew would see the recording. Without flinching or considering the cost, she answered the eternal question:
Quid est veritas? What is the truth?
She told the truth about Islamic jihad and its unchanged determination to annihilate Western civilization. She presented evidence with no calculation of personal liability or that of the politicians responsible.
Our way of life is under attack. As a reporter doing investigative work, I chose this subject because I can’t stand that there is a major lie being propagated about the real situation. I don’t care who is in power. I don’t care who’s behind it. Take your family to Arlington National Cemetery and look at the fresh graves. Those graves are dug by al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Government, the Taliban, Haqqani, by all those people who want to destroy the United States, the West and our way of life.
Logan may lose the moth-fodder we call success. Once-open doors will close for her. Every person she knows is obliged now to stand with her or “turn back and walk with her no more for this saying is hard and who can hear it?”
How ironic that the pathetic talking-point belched by the media-herd of scribbling minions is:
Logan ignores that true journalists never make themselves the story.
I try to think of a journalist who has had less concern for self. Explaining her professional philosophy, detailing the methodology employed to select the story, and giving free-rein to her emotions, Logan paradoxically shifted the entire focus from herself to the report’s implications. Contextualizing this geo-political conflict within a personal pursuit for meaningful, useful information highlighted the buried truth about jihad and the significance of objective truth itself.
In nineteen minutes, she indicted the culture of self-serving relativism we know as journalism and reminded millions that objective truth matters. Much of reality lies beyond opinion, is independent of our desires, doesn’t care who speaks for it, and refuses to attenuate its own uncomfortable consequences.
In your arrogance, you think you write the script. But you do not dictate the terms.
Logan’s manifesto serves as an examination of conscience for all journalists. After I watched it twice, I peered at the mountain of yellow pads, open files, and notes on my little desk. I scanned the Post-it-decked walls where captured half-thoughts and spurts of creativity document the effects of hypergraphia.
I think about my “beat” here at PJ Media: cults — the process of member indoctrination and re-socialization for survivors. The 60 Minutes host praised “beats” which she defined as a journalist’s area of specialized knowledge developed through long-term, single-issue research concentration. Does reporting about cults meet the standard of true journalism she re-established? I know I have tried to tell the truth about life in cults, but does it matter?
Does anyone really need to know how cults seduce millions of people a year? Is the human debris field that manages to claw his or her way out of a cult worthy of our understanding or attention? Do cults really constitute a true threat?
Americans really are living in daily danger of being murdered by cultic, fanatical Islamists. Last week’s foiled attempt by an al-Qaeda operative to blow up the Federal Reserve proves this. As Logan said in her talk, all we have done since the first 9-11 was:
…kill the slow and stupid ones. The ones who remain have not even begun to fight.
Radical Islam is indeed a cult. The Islamist movement creates and depends upon the same mental and emotional mechanisms that led to the Jim Jones People’s Temple mass-suicide in 1978, the current enslavement of thousands of American women in the cultic polygamous towns in our Southwest, and the family-decimating billion-year contracts of Scientology.
We might doubt the likelihood of our personally adopting Sharia, drinking Liberation Theology’s Kool-Aid, consenting to share a spouse, marrying five or six new wives, or ever abandoning our children as suppressive persons. The thought we might fall for the “big cults” seems ludicrous in spite of the fact that every year millions of perfectly normal, intelligent American do just that.
But cults are not synonymous with these stereotypical, external trappings, their essence is the systematic alteration of normal processes of the mind and will by which truth is replaced with illogical belief systems and personal accountability to natural law with arbitrary group-ethics. Individuation is the core of human essence. We are not designed to function as extensions of a collective mind and heart. Human beings and human societies fail when we sacrifice personal development for lock-step conformity and pursuit of social Utopia.
People in cults no longer live in objective truth. Everybody falls into isolated error at some point in life, but cults systematically suppress the mind and the will’s ability to adhere to or act upon truth. Cults damage the faculties that allow us to process the evidence of reality. We need to start by being aware that thousands whose bodies may not be destroyed by violence are dehumanized by absorption into a collective.
Lara Logan’s conference marks a “watershed” for journalists. She reminds us that truth matters and defending our way of life is a cause worth sacrificing everything. Cultic error seduces millions and though we may not encounter the more “spectacular” cults in our daily lives, the loss of even a single person to a cult matters. It is, in its own way, an attack on our way of life, a way of life rooted in an unshakable belief in the dignity of the individual human person.
Check out the previous installments in Jeanette’s ongoing series: