My friend Tom Fleming, editor-in-chief of Chronicles, and a polymath who doesn’t tolerate fools or knaves, recently wrote that when he’s described as a journalist, he takes it as an insult. ‘Journalists are to writers what kept women are to wives …’ The American version of Paul Johnson went on to say that even the old standards of mercenary journalism have collapsed. ‘Most journalists no longer even pretend to follow the news. All that matters to them is their celebrity status on TV.’ Egotism, rudeness, ignorance and total dishonesty make for a depressing spectacle, and nothing depresses more than today’s television, on both sides of the ocean. Then there’s politics, as practiced by today’s politicians. ‘He never told the truth when a lie would serve,’ was the great Douglas MacArthur’s judgment on FDR, and the same can now be applied to virtually the entire world of politics and journalism. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are, of course, the masters of the direct lie, able to look straight into the camera and tell incredible whoppers with a sincerity that would make Mother Teresa blush.
What a depressing thought at Christmas-time. I don’t watch television except for sport and the golden oldies, but at times I happen to channel-surf and run across a comb-over clown like William Kristol -always extolling the fairness of shooting Palestinian stone-throwing teenagers with armour-piercing missiles – or a loud-mouth like Chris Matthews beating the war drum. Kristol wears make-up