Ed Driscoll

When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend

“Many of the progressive tales that Americans grew up with in the 20th century have also been proven either noble lies or half-truths,” Victor Davis Hanson writes in a read-the-whole-thing column at NRO:

 The American Left has canonized the narrative that anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were framed, subjected to a show trial, and then executed as a result of widespread American prejudice, xenophobia, and reactionary fear-mongering. Their executions sparked worldwide protests, novels, and plays reacting to the intolerance of a morally suspect America. Yet decades later, most historians, while they concede that the trials of 1921 did not match jurisprudence of a near-century later — nevertheless also quietly accept that the two were indeed anarchist terrorists, and at least one was probably guilty of armed robbery and murder, and the other of being an accessory after the fact. Bigots do not always arrive at bigoted verdicts.

Liberal culture likewise assumed that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on false charges of spying for the Soviet Union and that at least one of them had not really passed on secrets about the American atomic-bomb project. The two accused became causes célèbres as thousands worldwide rallied to save them from dangerous American know-nothings. Their messy electrocutions were supposedly likewise symptomatic of a paranoid America lashing out at easy victims in an era of Red-baiting, anti-Semitism, and rank McCarthyism.

The truth was in comparison banal. While we know that the Soviets would probably have gotten the H-bomb soon anyway, and that they claimed they were still our allies when they received top-secret American information, and while we know too that today the Rosenbergs would probably have received 20-year sentences, we also know from Soviet archives that they both worked as Soviet spies, who passed to our enemies information about nuclear weapons and other valuable classified projects.

There was no greater liberal icon than Alger Hiss, a smooth, debonair diplomat and foundation head, who likewise was supposedly ground up by the right-wing buzz saw with unfounded charges of spying and treason. While we are still not sure of the degree of damage that Hiss actually did, it is clear that he was at some point in his life a Soviet spy — a damning fact for an American diplomat at times entrusted with matters of the nation’s security during the early Cold War. That disturbing truth, however, was minor in comparison to the larger untruth that the Hiss case represented the dangerous excesses of reactionary America. [Just ask former Hillary spokeswoman turned MSNBC analyst Karen Finney, who is still rather “hung up” about the case — Ed.] So Hiss became a sort of progressive Great Gatsby, a fake, self-inventing himself into something grand that he was not.

In recent memory, several popular icons of revolutionary resistance have been revealed as frauds and worse. Che Guevara — locks, beard, and motorcycle — was a psychotic thug who enjoyed executing his political opponents. Bill Ayers by his own admission was “guilty as hell” of being a violent terrorist; until he had the bad luck of hawking on 9/11 his memoir of his terrorist days, he was on the road to canonization. Rigoberta Menchú was not quite a gifted author who revealed the horrors of right-wing repression in a cry-of-the-heart memoir of resistance. More likely, she fabricated stories in service to her perceived higher calling of exposing brutal reactionary class violence against the poor.

VDH brings the leftwing mythmaking up to the current day with the media’s recent blackouts of the actual facts of George Zimmerman’s trial, the recent book alleging that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not an anti-gay hate crime, and all of the distortions initially broadcast concerning “African-American, pro-Obama, Buddhist, Thai-speaking Aaron Alexis, who murdered without an AR-15″ at the DC Navy Yard, as Hanson writes.

Back in 2006, at Tech Central Station, historian and columnist Lee Harris explored the concept of “The Sorelian Myth,” named after leftwing French philosopher Georges Sorel (1847-1922):

Sorel, for whom religion was important, drew a comparison between the Christian and the socialist revolutionary. The Christian’s life is transformed because he accepts the myth that Christ will one day return and usher in the end of time; the revolutionary socialist’s life is transformed because he accepts the myth that one day socialism will triumph, and justice for all will prevail. What mattered for Sorel, in both cases, is not the scientific truth or falsity of the myth believed in, but what believing in the myth does to the lives of those who have accepted it, and who refuse to be daunted by the repeated failure of their apocalyptic expectations. How many times have Christians in the last two thousand years been convinced that the Second Coming was at hand, only to be bitterly disappointed — yet none of these disappointments was ever enough to keep them from holding on to their great myth. So, too, Sorel argued, the myth of socialism will continue to have power, despite the various failures of socialist experiments, so long as there are revolutionaries who are unwilling to relinquish their great myth. That is why he rejected scientific socialism — if it was merely science, it lacked the power of a religion to change individual’s lives. Thus for Sorel there was “an…analogy between religion and the revolutionary Socialism which aims at the apprenticeship, preparation, and even the reconstruction of the individual — a gigantic task.”

Which is another way of saying, as the line goes in the 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

And it also helps to explain why, as Stacy McCain recently wrote, “The Left Suppresses Its Own History.”

The Sorelian myth and leftwing mythmaking in general and its massive use of the Memory Hole, particularly to erase Progressivism’s less-than-savory activities during the first half of the 20th century, were recurring themes in Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

Thanks to social media and the diversity of the Web, it’s much easier today to speak out about being run over by leftwing attempts to create its own myths and/or sloppily write “the first draft of history.” And those who have been the victims of such heavy-handed propaganda efforts are, not surprisingly, none-too-happy about going under the steamroller:

Then shortly after noon, he got a phone call from someone who said they were with ABC News. “They asked me if I knew Rollie Chance,” Rollie Chance said. “Then they said, ‘Did you know Rollie Chance was the perpetrator of the Washington Navy Yard shootings?’”

Chance, 50, thought the call was a joke. He told the caller, “I guarantee you 100 percent Rollie Chance didn’t do it,” and hung up.

Moments later, FBI agents arrived at his home. Soon after, reporters began piling up at the curb. And on Twitter, reporters for both NBC and CBS named Chance as the now-deceased killer. CBS also identified Chance on national radio. ABC, which called Chance, did not report any connection.

The two network news outlets quickly retracted their tweets and CBS corrected its radio report. But Chance is wondering how he will ever erase the accusatory Internet trail that led to his door and is trying to work through days of anxiety for his family, including his 9-year-old daughter, whom he held out of school for a day.

“Verify before you vilify,” Chance implored in an interview Friday with his lawyer Mark Cummings. He joined a list of innocent people wrongly connected to high-profile crimes, to include the brother of the Newtown school shooter, two Boston men wrongly linked to the Boston Marathon bombings, and security guard Richard Jewell at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

Shortly before dying at age 44 in 2007, Richard Jewell gave a haunting interview, in which also discussed what it feels like to be at the center of a media hurricane when the media is hellbent to get the story wrong:

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It’s a very safe bet that George Zimmerman concurs with those sentiments as well. Which helps to explain why he’s suing NBC for what appears — very much appears, particularly based on the network’s recent history — to be deliberate malice on their behalf to create their own Sorelian myth, that of Trayvon Martin, heroic victim of white racism:

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Related: Oh, and speaking of the Memory Hole, not surprisingly, “Networks Censor Disgraced IRS Hack Lerner’s ‘Retirement,'” the Media Research Center reports today. And Brit Hume tweets that the Washington Post “buries Lois Lerner’s ouster (retirement) from IRS on page 15, below an article devoted to political trivia.”

Which may explain why, based on the Post’s loss in financial value over the last decade from two billion dollars to $250 million, the paper, which long ago gave up reportage for leftwing political flacking (and whose journ-o-lists have endorsed the concept of the Sorelian myth themselves), is well on the way to becoming increasingly trivial itself.

Earlier: Robert Reich: The Next Al Gore of Film?