I’m not feeling very good about myself right now
A few weeks ago, I learned that I can be a coward.
One day some weeks ago, I had what was started out as a delightful experience. I went to a writing seminar with a well-known, highly-experienced journalist from Fargo.
It was great. I learned a lot, and not just stuff about good composition. That’s something you can find in any number of sources.
We learned some of the myriad little hints and tricks that make the difference between someone who has a journalism degree and a real pro.
The presenter was great. He was an older man who spoke movingly about the toll taken on his spirit by covering some horrendous multiple homicides in Minnesota, and some horrific accidents.
And he told us about the delight of his little granddaughter that her beloved grampa was moving just a block away from her when he returned to North Dakota.
He talked about journalistic ideals, with entertaining and inspiring examples from life, and from movies such as Humphrey Bogart’s Deadline USA.
He was not only generous with his advice, but with his time. Since not all of the writing samples we had previously submitted for critique had been delivered, he offered to have us submit samples by email for his evaluation.
Then, at the end, he mentioned in passing that he admired Che Guevara.
Think of that for a minute.
He admires a man who: shot a heavily pregnant woman in the belly to make a political point — wrote his father early in his career, “Papa, today I killed a man, and I think I like it!” — set up his office with a window above the execution grounds so he could watch the hundreds, or thousands, he sent to their deaths, murdered by his loyal thugs.
He was a man whom the goddamn KGB thought was too extreme for their purposes!
But perhaps all you need to know about Che, is that unlike his many victims who faced the firing squads shouting, “Viva el Christo Rey! Viva Cuba libre!” or sometimes on a less exalted note, “Shoot, you maricones!” Che was captured after dropping a fully loaded automatic weapon, shouting, “I am Che Guevara and I’m worth more alive than dead!”
This man is not alone. Jean-Paul Sartre, Ted Turner, Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Steven Spielberg are among the luminaries who have made the pilgrimage to the shrine of Che and Fidel.
And still I want to ask, for God’s sake why?
Motive is one thing you can’t know for sure — but I’ve got a couple of ideas.
Perhaps some men who achieve affluence and influence in a free society will never have enough, because they can only have of their fellow men the power and deference that money and fame buy — not the abject fear that the power to kill gives.
And why would they want that?
Though I am one myself, I know that intellectuals tend to be more than a bit on the wimpy side. They admire strength, they want to be strong, but they don’t know what strength is — and too damned often they think strength is brutality.
I despise people like this. I despise them in academia, entertainment, journalism and all areas of public life. I think all decent people should scorn them openly, and their families should be made to feel ashamed of them.
And yet I said nothing — and I despise myself for it.
I could have said, “Oh, you admire a man who... (pick one of the above)?”
Instead I went along to get along. Perhaps, in some small manner of exculpation, I was too shocked by the cognitive dissonance of this kindly, humane, and sensitive man worshiping at the shrine of brutality.
And then again, perhaps at the back of my mind was the thought, I am working at the entry level of a profession he is a master of and wields influence in. And I’ve got a family too.
I suppose the Fargo Forum has good reason to think Mr. Haga is a first-class reporter, a great writer, acts according to the high standards we like to think the profession stands for, and his personal opinions are his own business.
So do you think that a man who admires murdering thugs and justifies mass murderer will scruple to lie if he thinks the cause he admires justifies it?
Do you think anyone would have a job in journalism or academia, no matter what his qualifications were, if he told a class, “I really admire that Ted Bundy, he really knew how to treat those %^&*s”?
And as for the state journalism association which sponsors these delightful seminars, to paraphrase Kipling:
If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: — We are not schooled by murderers, but only — by their friends.
Stephen Browne is a writer, editor, and teacher of martial arts and English as a second language. Currently he is working as city reporter at a small newspaper in North Dakota. He is also the founder of the Liberty English Camps, held annually in Eastern Europe, which brings together students from all over Eastern Europe for intensive English study using texts important to the history of political liberty and free markets. In 1997 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Yugoslav Movement for the Protection of Human Rights for his work supporting dissidents during the Milosevic regime. His regularly-updated blog is at rantsand.blogspot.com.