The Moment of Truth — June 27, 1998

Kukoc’s Wisdom

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and welcome to the Moment of Truth, that unique moment in the broadcast week when the truth is allowed to emerge and is nurtured by integrity to blossom, rather than being exterminated by the capitalist media commissars as is the general rule.

I heard a beautiful quote during the month of June 1998. I actually heard two beautiful quotes that month. The first was from Tony Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls. After the sixpeat or whatever they called it, he was being interviewed, and he was asked whether he thought there would be a team next year. Whether Michael and Scottie and Dennis and Phil would be back. Well, we know now that Phil rode off on his motorcycle, no longer will he be practicing Zen in the art of basketball coaching, he’s back to motorcycle maintenance, at least that’s how it looks right now. But at the time, right after the sixpeat, all the sportscasters were asking every Chicago Bull they could corner if he thought the team would be back together next season. And they asked this of Tony Kukoc. And he went on about well, Scottie this and Michael that and Dennis this and Phil that. And if Phil then Scottie and if Scottie then Michael. And then, in conclusion, he said something. In the context of the interview it sounded innocuous enough. He said, "Time is gonna show us what’s gonna happen next."

Like I say, in the context of the interview: innocuous enough. As a statement regarding the future of the Bulls, true enough, if a little awkwardly phrased. But taken as a statement about time, time itself, the nature of time, it was a phrase charged with universal profundity: What is time? What is the nature of Time? Time is gonna show us what’s gonna happen next.

Time is gonna show us what’s gonna happen next.

Remember that English is not Tony’s first language. He’s not a wordsmith, he’s an athlete. At least in the English speaking world. So he formed an odd, perhaps self-evident statement that accidentally happens to be a sweet little aphorism about the nature of time. Nice. A gentle giant of few words who speaks a simple yet great truth, simply by being himself and allowing the phonemes of a foreign language to tumble from his tongue.

Meanwhile, in the English-speaking world of letters, the American press is revealing itself to be an estate of shills, creeps and morons. A survey was taken of representatives of the mainstream press regarding their positions on a number of political and economic issues, and as a group it turns out that they are substantially more conservative than the country at large. This is not much of a surprise to those of us who sit around waiting for one of these tools of the capitalist control machine to accidentally tell the truth in spite of her or himself. But it’s become common knowledge that the more exposure a journalist has the less likely he or she is to be critical of the economic and political power structure. They even talk about it on AM radio. AM radio, not the last but certainly one of the proudest bastions of rightwing stupidity, as if rightwing stupidity doesn’t have enough bastions. Anyway, it has even penetrated the superthick skulls of one or two talkshow weasels on AM radio that a rich reporter is hardly likely to give an in-depth critique of the system of wealth distribution that enslaves most of the world.

Okay, good. So I was listening to the June 18, 1998 meeting of the National Press Club. The National Press Club is a club of exactly those jerks I was just talking about. Every once in a while they have a meeting, and they hire a guest speaker. For the past ten years most of these guest speakers have been either corporate executives or financial analysts, sometimes a government figure, and very very rarely, a journalist of some kind. Mostly their guests have been corporate and financial people, the new heroes of the world, the CEOs, the entrepreneurs, the money-policy makers. Great. The Press Club members like to have meetings and learn the latest investment scuttlebutt under the pretext of enjoying an uplifting lecture that NPR sees fit to broadcast as educational. And it certainly is, but only if you read between the lines.

This particular meeting of the National Press Club, June 18, 1998, the speaker was Richard Holbrooke. Now I have nothing salient to say about Richard Holbrooke. He’s a both a financial guy and a diplomatic guy, and he brokered the Dayton Peace Accords that have led to continued butchery in Europe and continued leadership in the region by one of the worst war criminals in this half of the rapidly closing century. He was under investigation by the Justice Department for possibly violating federal ethics laws by lobbying U.S. diplomats abroad in the interest of his investment banking company, Credit Suisse First Boston, but it hasn’t hurt his diplomatic career.

So, as I say, he’s a both a financial guy and a diplomatic guy, and finance and government are becoming hard to distinguish. Take the post of Secretary of Commerce, which is both a military and an economic post. A post Holbrooke was up for, about a year ago. The late Ron Brown held the post during a lot of the conflict Holbrooke was to broker an end to – Ron Brown, you might remember, was negotiating trade deals in a helicopter in a war zone when he was killed in a storm. Why he was negotiating trade during a war is only mysterious to those who haven’t yet realized that capitalism is an occupation government. But the only people who would admit to being that stupid are the mainstream press. And even they would be lying to protect their privileged status as commissars of the corporate rulers from becoming the subject of public debate.

So I’m listening to the June 18, 1998 meeting of the National Press Club. And the chairman – a man of the press, remember – A professional writer – Someone on whom we are expected to rely for some kind of intelligent expression of the political and economic vicissitudes that wash us in and out on their tides – A trusted language and information professional – He introduces Richard Holbrooke. Gives the curriculum vitae. Gives the guy’s whole resumé and extensive blah blah blah. And in conclusion he says the following: "Mr. Holbrooke’s critics have criticized his methods as Machiavellian. But his goals certainly are not."

One more time: "Mr. Holbrooke’s critics have criticized his methods as Machiavellian. But his goals certainly are not."

Now usually when people say Machiavellian in common parlance, or refer to Nicolo Machiavelli as a cultural referent, they are intending that the listener or reader call to mind the following famous oversimplification of Old Nick’s political advice: The ends justify the means.

If you are called Machiavellian, you might be justified in taking that to signify that you are thought of as someone who believes that The ends justify the means.

But let us review what the chairman of the National Press Club has told us:

"Mr. Holbrooke’s critics have criticized his methods as Machiavellian. But his goals certainly are not."

His methods are Machiavellian. But his goals certainly are not.

His methods make it seem like he thinks that the ends justify the means. But the ends he seeks justify those methods so profoundly that they somehow make you forget that he seems like he thinks his ends justify his means.

I’m sorry, it’s really too baffling to think about. Either the chairman of the National Press Club is a Zen master rivaled in the west only by Phil Jackson, or he doesn’t know what Machiavellian means.

The fact that the entire meeting of the National Press Club didn’t erupt into laughter, as I myself did as I was driving through the Adirondacks listening to the stupid thing on NPR, is further proof that the mainstream press has no reason to complain about public disdain for them and their profession. They’re lucky their existence – and their privileges – are tolerated at all.

Will this state of affairs ever change? To answer this I can only quote someone whose mastery of the English language far outstrips that of the Chairman of the National Press Club:

Time is gonna show us what’s gonna happen next.

Until then this has been the Moment of Truth with mejeffdorchen, we’re right here on National Beer Presents This is Hell with your host Chuck Mertz every Saturday on WNUR 89.3 FM Chicago’s sound experiment.