Aristotle, Curiosity, and the Mainstream Media
This week, I went to the 2012 “Mightier Pen Award” at a semi-secure widely publicized location in New York. Sponsored by the indispensable Center For Security Policy, the award “recognizes journalists who promote the need for robust US national security policies.” This year’s recipient was the great Monica Crowley, author (most recently) of What the (Bleep) Just Happened?: The Happy Warrior's Guide to the Great American Comeback.
Before Ms. Crowley’s luncheon talk, the Center had organized two panels on the media and the 2012 election. The first panel, “Beyond Bias: The Mainstream Media,” dilated on the role the mainstream media played in securing the election for Barack Obama. Speakers were my fellow PJM columnist Andrew McCarthy, Washington Times columnist Bill Gertz, and Forbes columnist (and PJM alumnus) Richard Miniter. The second panel, encouragingly titled “To the Rescue: The New Media,” featured Tiffany Gabbay from The Blaze, Peter Schweizer from the Hoover Institution, and John Nolte from Breitbart’s Big Hollywood.
It was a memorable event, a cathartic post-election moment at which little jewels of clarity and resolution were proffered and gratefully accepted by an audience most of whom were still suffering from PESS, post-election stress syndrome.
I’d like to share two points from the event. One concerns my title. Cardinal Newman once observed that, about most matters, to think like Aristotle was to think correctly. I believe that is true. Aristotle went wrong in a few areas—biology is a conspicuous example—but by and large his anthropology is spot on. It was with some chagrin, then, that I found myself disagreeing with a central Aristotelian observation in the light of Andrew McCarthy’s presentation. At the beginning of the Metaphysics, Aristotle says that “All men by nature desire to know.” Curiosity, he suggests, is native to the human animal. That is why were are so clever (that and the opposable thumb). But consider these questions Andy articulated about Obama and Benghazi:
- Who told the president about the siege on our consulate in that Libyan hell hole?
- When did Obama learn about the siege that left four Americans, including his official representative to Libya, dead?
- What were his orders about dealing with the siege?
Who, when, what. In the normal course of events, you would think that the men and women whose whole professional life is, or is supposed to be, driven by the desire to answer such questions would be busy as terriers digging for the truth about this extraordinary event. Four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, murdered on the anniversary of 9/11 by offshoots of al-Qaeda. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that every Pulitzer Prize-craving journalist in the country would be all over this one.
Sniff the air. What do you smell? I smell scandal, a bug juicy scandal emanating from an administration that watched the seven and a half hour siege unfold in real time while U.S. military assets stood by nary an hour away and did . . . nothing. What happened in Benghazi contravened the official narrative about the beneficent “Arab Spring” that was breaking out all over, therefore it didn’t happen. Or rather, it happened because some dodgy character in California disseminated a cartoon-like melodrama about Mohammed. Did anyone—anyone—believe that? Where are the watch dogs of the fourth estate? Why is it that The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN have stood by in mute, simian idiocy, seeing, hearing, speaking no evil? Why? What happened to the desire to know? Who first told the president, the commander in chief, the man whose first responsibility is to provide for the national security of the United States, who first told him about the siege on our sovereign property in Libya? When did they tell him? It had to have been within minutes of that day-long siege beginning. And what was his response? What orders did he issue—or fail to issue—to safeguard those American citizens?