Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tribal Chieftains?

Karen De Coster has spotted an unintentionally revealing column by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. She draws particular attention to these passages, which express Noonan's vision of journalists' proper role in society:

Who are the Elders? They set the standards. They hand down the lore. They’re the oldest and wisest. By proceeding through the world each day with dignity and humanity, they show the young what it is that should be emulated. They’re the tribal chieftains. This role has probably existed since caveman days, because people need guidance and encouragement, they need to be heartened by examples of endurance. They need to be inspired.

…The new Elders will have to rescue America from the precipice. They’ll have to be mature, think of the collective, of the country as a whole.

After reading the entire editorial, I posted the following comment on Karen's blog:

That’s an ironic title ["Keeping America Safe From the Ranters"] for the WSJ editorial. Noonan’s demand for intellectual submission to the MSM is as a fine piece of pro-establishment ranting as you could ask for, once you get past the initial, maudlin blubbering about dead geezer journalists.

In some ways, she is more accurate than she knows in likening dead and doddering media gatekeepers to tribal chieftains. These would be chiefs who take their pay, and their orders, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and who instruct the tribe to stay on Big White Father’s desolate reservation…and joyfully accept the wonderful smallpox blankets from GlaxoSmithKline. Tribal metaphors also bring to mind the MSM’s antiquated technology, and its proud cultural isolation from the wider world.

In other ways, Noonan’s analogy reveals her ignorance of how tribes actually worked. The chief was respected not because he was old, or because he affected a dignified posture, but because he spent a lifetime at productive tasks: hunting, gathering, building, herding, and/or engaging other tribes in trade, diplomacy, and war. He became an expert by virtue of experience and achievement, and he led by example until the tribe relegated him to advisory status in support of a succeeding, younger chief.

The more appropriate primitivist metaphor for the American MSM shill would be the lowest sort of Hollywood tribal witch doctor, the bug-eyed shaman who insists that his followers maintain an abject superstition, and who brands all useful innovations as sacrilege.

Noonan's real grievance is that the "ranters" (and by implication, all dissenters from the Establishment media) draw attention to the increasing poverty, instability, and lawlessness of modern America. None of these things were supposed to occur, according to the predictions of the government and its media propagandists. For decades, they've promised safety and stability at the expense of our liberty. Events are laying bare not only their dishonesty, but the ridiculous premises on which their lies were founded.

It's appropriate for elite mouthpieces to whine and beg for the respect which they've justly forfeited - a respect, we should note, they imperiously denied to their critics when they held a virtual monopoly on the flow of information. They show no signs of wanting to earn it back by demonstrating intellectual independence from the politicians. Even on a pure business level, they insanely persist in telling customers what they should want instead of adapting to meet actual market demand.


  1. My brother, I am proud to be associated with such a fine mind as revealed by your response. You said it better than I would have.

  2. Thanks, Ed. My response owes more than a little to your own writings on tribal living.