The Legends of Our Fall

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. "
— Carleton Young in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"

Many politicians at one point or another live by lies—if they can get away with them. 

Our supposed sentinels, the media—self-defined as independent, cynical, and skeptical journalists—are supposed to separate political fictions from truth.  

Legends As Facts 

Of course, sometimes they used to do that—if only selectively. There were Communist sympathizers in the Roosevelt Administration and holdovers in the 1950s deep state. But the Red Peril was not always what the demagogic Joe McCarthy claimed when shaking his lengthy, indiscriminate “lists” of “commie” names and crimes.  

Once U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch, Edward R. Murrow, and assorted journalists began to demand proof of all of McCarthy’s charges, his public following dissipated.  

The George W. Bush Administration in its case to remove Saddam Hussein unwisely ignored all the 23 bipartisan writs authorizing the use of the force by the Congress. Instead, it rhetorically bundled all congressional authorizations into one case against Saddam Hussein: the existential threat of huge Iraqi stockpiles of deliverable “weapons of mass destruction.”  

After Saddam’s removal, U.S. forces did not find depots of poisonous and nerve gases. Whether they were nonexistent, or moved stealthily to border dictatorships like Syria or even Iran, or were destroyed no one knew. The public only remembered the government assurance that WMDs, the popular justification for the preemptive invasion, would be there upon U.S. arrival—a narrative that the media originally did not question and then later swore that it always had been skeptical as it led the cheer: “Bush lied, people died.”

 Noble Lies

So there are lots of legends common across the political spectrum. Yet those of the Left are quicker to become fact. They become “truthful” because of the current appeasing progressive octopus of traditional media and Silicon Valley. In other words, some untruths become either “noble lies” that serve communitarian purposes or canonized lies that would cause too much collateral damage if exposed.

The lie, or at least an unproven “truth,” soon becomes so institutionalized that the effort to challenge, or even modify it, is seen as corrective medicine far worse than the disease of the lie. 

From the health of FDR late in his third term, to “family man” JFK, to the moral “lion of the Senate” Teddy Kennedy, our media printed legends when facts were considered too heretical or injurious to themselves and their icons.

Yet when an ideological media decides to print legends, then we all descend into a nation buttressed by lies. 

Russian Collusion

Take the “Russian collusion” lie. For three years, everyone from Hillary Clinton and the New York Times to John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, and the newsrooms of CNN and MSNBC, assured the nation that Donald Trump stole the 2016 election through “collusion.” Indeed, Trump was declared an active Russian “asset.” That was pure legend from its beginning with no proof, and none of its purveyors have yet apologized.

Carter Page was a fall guy, not an agent. The FBI lied about him, and eventually forged an email to entrap him. Christopher Steele was a Trump-hating, washed-up British spy, who was a pathological prevaricator. His “dossier” remains unproven and, in places, on even a first reading is demonstrably absurd. Any “collusion” likely was Steele’s own gullibility in believing Russian sourced fantasies.

It was Hillary Clinton who hired Steele to do opposition research on her opponent Donald Trump. She disguised her payments through the three firewalls of the DNC, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Fusion GPS.

When pressed to put up or shut up, Steele claimed he no longer had his notes and documentation. The FBI had fired him and considered him unreliable—but not without utility, given his anti-Trump venom and his vestigial high-level contacts. 

The “dream team” of the doddering Robert Mueller never proved Russian collusion. The special counsel’s $35 million project ended up disgracing itself with resignations from soon to be admitted felon Kevin Clinesmith and the Peter Strozk-Lisa Page partisan paramours. 

The special counsel Mueller, while under oath no less, could not recall any real knowledge of the Steele dossier, or indeed Fusion GPS, its progenitor—the two foundational catalysts for his entire investigation. James Comey on 245 occasions swore to the House Intelligence Committee that “he could not remember” when asked about the basic details of his own FBI investigations.

CNN serially was forced to retract its “bombshell” and “walls are closing in” psychodramas. No matter. Collusion is still a legend seared into the mind of the Left as fact, given the media’s three- year saturation of the airwaves and its value in harming the hated Trump. 

The Plague

No modern era has changed American life more than three events in the 12 months between February 2020 and February 2021—the COVID-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and the January 6 Capitol assault and riot. Yet in all three cases, legends, not facts still dominate. 

The legend is that a mysterious virus, birthed in a wet market, escaped from Wuhan to the world at large. Then, the Chinese government, with the timely help of the World Health Organization, marshalled the world’s health experts. They immediately did all they could to appraise the endangered global public of the looming dangers. 

After normal hits and misses, and despite the buffoonery of Donald Trump, the legend has it that finally experts and courageous state governors implemented life-saving national quarantines that mitigated the disaster of an inept administration. Meanwhile, China and the EU far more effectively dealt with the pandemic than the hapless United States.

In truth, we still have no proof of when or how exactly the virus from Wuhan first originated. It is just as likely that a level four viral lab was the incubator, and the virus was released through a mysterious accident. The origins and nature of the virus were hushed up by the Chinese Communist Party from the beginning. A sycophantic and compromised WHO issued lies about the imminent danger, consistent with its patron China’s instructions. 

On the accessibility and reliability of initial testing, the utility of masks, travel bans, transmissibility, and the dangers of a pandemic, our medical experts at the CDC, the NIH, NIAID and our own Dr. Anthony Fauci were, as humans and like our politicians, contradictory and sometimes dead wrong. 

They presented arguments from authority rather than from fact—and then constantly changed narratives without admissions that prior assertions were flat-out wrong. Often their narratives were shaped by media flattery, political polls, and the election year 2020.

Year-long quarantines and lockdowns finally lost credibility not because of clueless red-state governors or the ignorance of the deplorables. The edicts were implicitly mocked by our own officials who sometimes violated them even as they loudly insisted on them, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to California Governor Gavin Newsom to San Francisco Mayor London Breed. 

Medical professionals went on record that mass protests in May, June, and July were not medically unsound given their ideological urgency. No one told the people that the careerist, Emmy winner, and now alleged sexual predator, Andrew Cuomo—who up until now has been deified by the media—for political reasons had sent thousands to their death by releasing COVID patients into pristine populations of the vulnerable in nursing homes. In other words, ideology constantly adjudicated medical narratives.

The media in 2020 further assured us that the Trump Administration’s promised 2020 COVID-19 vaccination was a myth, another Trump-brand brag. Politicians like Kamala Harris virtue signaled to the nation that she would not take a Trump endorsed vaccination. 

When the drug companies announced a successful vaccination mysteriously just a few days after the November election, Harris and other vaccination deniers were among the first cohorts to be vaccinated. 

Joe Biden, first vaccinated on December 21, claimed no American was vaccinated until he took office on January 20 (“It’s one thing to have the vaccine—which we didn’t have when we came into office”). He quickly took ownership of the once ridiculed Operation Warp Speed and blamed Trump for not producing quickly enough vaccinations that Biden had doubted would even appear in 2020. Never have the facts of a pandemic in American history become more politicized and warped by the media for political advantage.

From the Capitol to Mighty Joe Biden to Minneapolis

Now we are presented with yet more legendary narratives. On January 6 a mob, mostly of pro-Trumpers, broke into the Capitol. Some vandalized it and many resisted police. That account of a violent intrusion seems fairly certain. But we additionally were assured that this was an “armed insurrection,” and that an insurrectionist “murdered” a police officer, Brian Sicknick. His body lay in state at the Capitol in rare homage to his sacrifice thwarting off alt-right, white supremacist revolutionaries.

Yet—so far—no master insurrectionist planners have emerged; no plan of a coup or of a Capitol takeover exists. There are no cells found deep inside the government that were activated by or followed up on the assault. Donald Trump did not urge violence, but the opposite in warning demonstrators to be peaceful. If he is culpable of anything, it was the bad idea of organizing a huge rally, while the Congress was in session, on the premise that it was still imminently possible to overturn the election result of early November. He should have informed his supporters that, whatever grievances they had, there was zero chance on January 6 of that election reversal ever occurring. 

Officer Sicknick did not, as the media and impeachment narratives insisted, die from head trauma from a violent assaulter. The cause of his tragic demise remains unclear. But he may have died from natural causes, not necessarily aggravated by riot-related violence. No one arrested in the Capitol was found either to have brought in or to have used a firearm. No one was then “armed.” No protest or vandal brought their own plastic ties into the Capitol to kidnap or “arrest” legislators as media reports have alleged. 

We still await the full story of January 6, an event that was used politically to justify a second impeachment and trial of Trump, the greatest militarization of Washington, D.C. since the Civil War, and the most intrusive use of state power in memory to root out supposed insurrectionists throughout government.

Another legend presented as fact is the vigorous presidency of 78-year old Joe Biden. If he has not given a press conference in 50 days, we are told, it is only because he does not wish to become a distraction from pressing events. 

His slurred speech, fragmented pronunciation, mental fogginess, slips, and blank stares are not reported fully. In late 1944 if millions of Americans still believed the myth that FDR could walk on his own, albeit with difficulty, and remained in sound health, so in 2021 Joe Biden is supposed to be cogent, alert, and without cognitive issues. 

The result? The United States is now unknowingly engaged in a great experiment not seen since the hushed-up incapacity of stroke-victim Woodrow Wilson: can the oldest president in our history, with obvious cognitive impairment, serve as a virtual commander-in-chief? Can he meet head-to-head with either friendly or hostile leaders? Or will the fusion media play its accustomed role of putting ideology over the interests of the American people and keep raving over his purported Lincolnesque speeches?

We are soon to witness the most contentious and volatile trial in modern American history. It will not just determine whether Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was innocent, or guilty of either manslaughter or second or third degree murder in the death of George Floyd while in police custody. It will also determine whether there is peace or violence again in our major cities.

The media has not apprised us that there are legitimate arguments that Chauvin may not be guilty of murder, given the strange Minneapolis police institutionalization of knee-to-neck methods of subduing resisting suspects, and possibly lethal levels of drugs found in the toxicology reports of the deceased. Any effective prosecutor might well convince a jury of Officer Chauvin’s recklessness and his obliviousness to the appeals of the gasping suspected that nonetheless would justify a conviction of involuntary manslaughter—but not murder.

The case is ambiguous, difficult, and no doubt will be full of surprises as heretofore new evidence is introduced. Clearly, it should never have been held in a tense Minneapolis. Yet the public is not prepped by the media to envision a fair trial in which we allow attorneys, judges, juries, and the evidence to determine the likely truth.  

Instead, there is a sword of Damocles hanging over the entire proceeding—that of a return to 2020 summer-like looting, arson, and riot. That specter results from 90 days of prior violence contextualized and excused by the media. Street activists expect the same exemption should they not like the verdict—that is, anything other than a murder conviction and a long prison sentence.  

Since May 25, 2020, an entire country has been recalibrated with woke remediation and reparatory programs—in hiring and admissions, and through workshops, reeducation, thought training, and renaming and rewriting of American customs and traditions. Thanks to the media, that entire reset has hinged on the supposedly open and shut case of a murderous Chauvin, aided and abetted by his co-conspirator officers and partners in crimes.  

Their supposed murder of an innocent in custody was proof of an institutionalized racist, lethal, and nationwide rogue police industry—itself the reflection of a racist America. That allegation is now printed as fact. At this late date the media will not wish a mere trial to stand in the way of the ongoing Jacobin revolution in our midst that it helped to start. 

In sum, the left-wing postmodern idea of “truth” as a mere pick-and-choose official narrative is now normal. The relativist idea that everyone has a legitimate “truth” of his own broke out of its incubator—in this case the university—and is now a scourge upon the land. Legends become fact, and lies become truth on the basis of their service to a cause. 

In our upside-down world, the smeared “liar” is the revealer of such fraud. And sadly the deified “truth-teller” is in truth the abettor of falsity. 

And all this is the work of amoral “moralists.”  

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Getty Images

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