I would like to lodge something in your imagination—a small touchstone, we might say, by which, if you are so disposed, you may test the ideas and slogans and voguish trends that come your way.
Some such touchstone is necessary, I would think, for anyone who is not content to be a mere fool, and who does not want to be in the tragicomic position of waggling along behind every bandwagon that trundles past. And of course you and I find ourselves at a point in history that has a terribly heavy traffic in bandwagons. More of them are coming at us more rapidly and more noisily than, I should think, at any other time since the expulsion from Eden. You can’t avoid them. They rumble and blare and loom, magnified and amplified by every kilowatt and decibel that the media can muster. A hundred years ago, or a thousand or ten thousand for that matter, mountebanks and wizards and false prophets had to whip up what following they could on the strength of their own voice and their own tricks. Now every jester has an instant, vast, and utterly credulous audience via the talk shows. The audience is credulous, I say, because they have been schooled in the tradition of moral and intellectual democracy, in which every idea is worth exactly as much as every other idea, and in which we are committed to giving equal time, not just on the air or in the columns of newsprint, but also in our minds—equal time, I say, to Isaiah and Beelzebub, for example, or to St. Thomas Aquinas and Mick Jagger, or the Blessed Virgin and Bella Abzug. We see the talk-show hosts, sitting in vapid amiability while their guests blithely dismantle the entirety of history and myth, and we pick up this frame of mind. We take on an earnest, humorless, frame ...1
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