No, that creative alliteration is not my doing. It is a phrase used by Vice President Spiro Agnew to refer to the members of the media with whom he had a very acrimonious relationship. Said Agnew while speaking to the California Republican state convention on September 11, 1970: “In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club — the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’” While the phrase is generally attributed to Agnew, it was actually written by White House speechwriter William Safire. It was phrases like those that the media loved to mock, back in those halcyon days when big newspapers and network news – – the corporate media – – were the only sources for news.
Nowadays, in 2018, the corporate media–CNN, MSNBC, network news, big city newspapers like the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times on the left, Fox News on the right (mainly) and USA Today in the center left–are mainly outrage machines rather than reportage. My own personal favorite outrage machines are more or less independent blogs and websites, like PJ Media, the Resurgent, Frontpage, and Townhall.
New lows in objectivity and accuracy are set daily in a race to the bottom of worth, honesty and value. Since these rants and screeds masquerading as news have given birth to a new disease of Outrage Fatigue Syndrome, it is up to your Uncle Curmudgeon to keep you truly informed. What you are all wondering is, “how did we arrive at this sorry state of affairs?” Do you want the truth, or was Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men for you troglodytes) correct when he accused TOM freaking CRUISE! “you can’t handle the truth!” We’ll see.
The answer is that we citizens of the United States, more than other nation, in our relatively smug, secure, prosperous existence, compared to the rest of the world, embarked years ago on a futile quest for certainty in a world which is by nature, fraught with uncertainty. “Huh, that’s it? I want my money back,” you say? Well you didn’t give me any money, yet some of you will still demand a refund, if not government action, or take the default route to conflict resolution, a lawsuit. Let me explain my reasoning, and if you still want a refund, you can stick your request where the sun don’t shine, because your satisfaction is of no consequence to me.
Now if that made you angry, you are a case in point for my theory. You see, back when a bunch of British colonists won their independence and then wrote a constitution, none of them expected certainty. They pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to each other in this deadly and uncertain war against the mightiest military power in the world, and by the grace of God were victorious, though many of them did lose lives and property. Even after victory, they had to find a consensus on how to govern an ever-expanding nation, as thousands of poor farmers pushed west to stake a claim to some land so they could eke out a subsistence living. Did any of them expect certainty? Heck no, children died of diseases that have been eradicated in our lives, mothers died by the hundreds in childbirth, drought and storms killed their crops, and without a Whole Foods Market within buggy distance they starved, and of course there was always the uncertainty of which tribe of native Americans was going to dispute their claim to land with a flurry of arrows and a very short haircut.
Then there was the Civil War, which killed more citizens by far then any foreign wars, then Americans by the thousands went overseas to die in two world wars and the Korean War. Still, the idea of seeking certainty was kind of a head-scratcher for Americans. This thing created by the Roosevelt administration, called social security, was still a tiny blip on the radar of most Americans (Ida May Fuller received the first check issued, for $22.54(!), January 31, 1940). “Really, the government gonna take care of me in my old age, in your dreams.”
Maybe social security was the beginning of the end of self reliance, but the quest for certainty, and even perfection, really got into high gear during the Vietnam War years. How? The pampered and hyper-idealistic” baby boom” generation, the largest demographic in our history, demanded: attention, perfection, and certainty of and from the United States. Gratitude for our blessings, appreciation of our principles, respect for authority–defined as anyone over 30–and willingness to have a dialog rather than temper tantrums and non-negotiable demands all went out the proverbial window. Once out the window, they all got trampled on by the stampede to “have it your way”, apologies to Burger King notwithstanding.
News flash folks. Perfection doesn’t exist, except in Heaven. Certainty doesn’t exist, except in Heaven. You aren’t entitled to anything except what the Constitution and laws guarantee, which is NOT certainty of outcome! Your blubbering about having it all led us to today’s sorry state.