Friday, April 27, 2007
I spoke to Jessica Lynch this week - it was for a subsequently aborted Sunday Times column - following her testimony to congress. She was straightforward enough; in fact, she was rather touching when I asked if being pretty and blonde had anything to do with the Pentagon's enthusiasm for making up stories about her. 'I'm sure out there there is a pretty blonde female in the military that is a hero, but it just wasn't me...' Of course, the story demonstrates the fantastic ineptitude and cynicism of Rumsfeld's Defense Department combined with the supine malleability of the media. Both are well covered here. But there's another, very different point. The newspaperman Maxwell Scott says in John Ford's great film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 'This is the west, sir. When the Legend becomes fact, print the legend.' It's the same attitude taken by Lisa Simpson when she discovers the story of Jebediah Springfield is not all that it appears to be. The message is: persist with the noble lie, it will be better for the people. The Pentagon story about Lynch unravelled absurdly quickly either because it was an incompetently constructed noble lie or because noble lies are no longer possible in a media-saturated world. Obviously one could also add that this lie was not noble at all because it was dispensed by cynical people devoid of wisdom. But I may be saying that because media-saturation favours that kind of insight. In Plato's Republic would I have simply accepted the words of the elders, cynical or not, and been happier as a result? Remember, before you answer, the modern, media-saturated world promotes its own lies and illusions with its own claims to nobility.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:15 am