Of Bryant Gumbel, Jeff Jacoby and Liberal Double-Standards

Someone tell me what’s wrong with this picture. On the one hand, a Jeff Jacoby, conservative columnist for the doctrinaire liberal Boston Globe, publishes a column on the Declaration of Independence, and is rewarded with four months of involuntary vacation time without pay for "serious journalistic misconduct." On the other, a Bryant Gumbel, host of CBS’ The Early Show, is caught on camera referring to a Christian guest on his program as "a f****** idiot." And nothing whatsoever happens.

Jacoby’s column was published on July 3. By the time the week was out, he was gone from his position as editorial writer at the Boston Globe after a six-year tenure as that paper’s sole conservative writer. The Gumbel incident happened the preceding Friday, June 30. Gumbel had been interviewing Robert Knight of the Family Research Council and apparently thought the equipment was turned off. It wasn’t. So where is the outcry over Gumbel’s casual obscenity directed toward a representative of the leading faith in the United States? Aside from the complaint being lodged by the Family Research Council itself against Gumbel with the Federal Communications Commission, there hasn’t been one. Not a peep. There have been no calls for Gumbel’s ouster, no calls for his suspension.

This differential treatment illustrates the double-standard by which doctrinaire liberals operate. Gumbel exemplifies secularist doctrinaire liberalism. As one of the darlings of the media elite, he plays by those rules. One of these is: have no fear of bashing Christians. What of tolerance? Great idea, but let’s not take it to extremes. These are only Christians, after all.

Jacoby’s topic was the fate of many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence…

Whoa! Hold the bus right there. Today, the Declaration of Independence itself is on the verge of being blacked out by the cultural left. It is easy to see why. After all, the Declaration of Independence is immersed in a definite political philosophy. The core of this philosophy is that individuals have natural, inalienable rights that come from God. Among these are rights to life, liberty, and property (the term that preceded pursuit of happiness). The roles of a strictly limited government – its only roles – are to protect these rights, punish those who infringe on them according to a specific code of laws, and protect our borders. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, not because hunters have a right to shoot birds but because an armed citizenry is the best preventive measure against the tyrannical mentality in government. If this mentality rises anyway, the people have the right to alter or abolish it – or to secede from it – and form a new government that is obedient to their ideals. Not all of these are in the Declaration of Independence word for word, of course; but once one accepts the central premise of the document, that individuals have natural rights, the rest follows logically.

I hardly need point out that doctrinaire liberal ideology is almost 180 degrees different on every point. Liberals see rights as coming not from God but from the state. They don’t believe in property rights. They don’t trust the marketplace, and will target a company whose products and wealth stand out from the herd (witness the treatment of Microsoft). Their trust in the machinations of the state is evident in everything they say about "gun control." As for a right of secession… what liberals have to say about this last – when they address the subject at all – is as unprintable as Bryant Gumbel’s comment about Robert Knight. Suffice it to say, today’s apologists for central-statism see the secession question as having been resolved in 1865. This amounts to saying that the question was settled by force, not by reason or negotiation or compromise. To the extent they would call their position the right one, what they are really committing themselves to is nothing less than might makes right.

The Declaration of Independence, however, was a declaration of the secession of 13 colonies from the British Empire and the beginning of a new type of government: "a republic," in Benjamin Franklin’s words, "if you can keep it." The Framers realized that freedom isn’t free. It must be won from tyrants, frequently on battlefields, and often requires tremendous sacrifices. And then it must be maintained from those in our midst who hunger after power. Many of those who signed the Declaration of Independence suffered terribly, sometimes going from extremely well-off to dying as paupers.

For writing about this last in detail, Jeff Jacoby was all but fired on a ludicrous, trumped up charge of "serious journalistic misconduct."

Journalistic misconduct? I wonder what one is supposed to call Bryant Gumbel’s gaffe.

Jacoby had not spelled out what is obvious to anyone with functioning brain cells, that he was hardly the first to write about the fates of those who signed the Declaration of Independence. He was invited to resign, and told that if he chooses to return after his four-month "vacation" it means a "serious rethink" of his column.

Serious rethink?

Sounds to me (and others who have written about this incident on the Web – better slip that in somewhere!) like the liberals who run the Globe saw a golden opportunity to rid themselves of someone who has been a thorn in their sides for over six years. Doctrinaire liberals make token gestures by allowing a "token conservative" into one of their olympian estates, but sooner or later the person is called onto the carpet and punished severely for actually expressing a consistent conservative position.

I submit that Jacoby was sent packing because he thinks for himself, and in so doing, became a threat to those in power at the Globe. Thought, you see, does not bow to power, and it certainly doesn’t kowtow to political correctness. It can’t accept an ideology of might makes right. This is why doctrinaire liberals and the politically correct can’t stand it.

And this indicates what is ahead for us. There are two mindsets in this country on collision course. One is the residual belief in the political philosophy of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: individual freedoms, property rights including the right to own guns, freedom of transaction, freedom of association, freedom of expression including the right to profess one’s faith in a Higher Power openly and publicly. It finds expression in gunowners’ rights movements, in the fast-growing homeschooling movement and in independent colleges which refuse all Federal Government dollars (e.g., Hillsdale College). That this philosophy has survived successive assaults by Progressives, New Dealers, Marxists, Maoists, New Leftists, all the way up through the years of the Clinton-Gore-Reno Regime, is a testimony to its enormous strength. Given today’s situation, it is now finding expression in neosecessionist stirrings such as those to be found in the Southern Party and the League of the South. Independence movements also exist in Hawaii, Alaska, and in other parts of the continental U.S.

The other: what we call doctrinaire liberalism and political correctness, the ideology of might makes right. Consider the political philosophy of Thrasymachus, the cynical Sophist of Plato’s Republic. For Thrasymachus, justice is merely the advantage of the stronger. There’s the philosophical root of the liberal double-standard: one set of rules for those in power, another for dissidents. This last is what doctrinaire liberalism, for all its talk of "tolerance" and of "social justice," comes down to. We see the double-standard manifested every time a campaign of professional and personal destruction is visited upon a John Rocker who steps on politically correct shibboleths while a Bryant Gumbel is allowed to direct casual obscenities toward Christians. We see it when a Jeff Jacoby writes about the signers of the Declaration of Independence and is told to clean out his office.

The two philosophies cannot co-exist indefinitely. Sooner or later we will have to decide: freedom or serfdom? Free speech or political correctness? The philosophy of the Declaration of Independence, or the authoritarianism of the Clinton-Gore-Reno Regime and the thought police? Eventually, we may see open clashes between these two, as leftists grow increasingly brazen and militant. Before the dirt settles, we may find ourselves having to make the same kinds of sacrifices the signers of the Declaration of Independence had to make. Those Jeff Jacoby wrote about lost much more than a job. But most would quickly add that their sacrifices for the cause of liberty were worth it.

Of course, doctrinaire liberals in power in places like CBS and the Boston Globe could prove me wrong. All the former would have to do is suspend Bryant Gumbel without pay for four months, followed by a "serious rethink" of his attitude toward guests on his show. All the latter would have to do is unconditionally reinstate Jeff Jacoby. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.

July 15, 2000

Steven Yates is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994) and numerous articles and reviews. He lives and freelance writes in Columbia, South Carolina.

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