Saturday, February 02, 2008

Smearing the lense of history with Vaseline

I guess I should have paid more attention when I took a film studies course in university. Toronto Star book columnist (and former film critic) Geoff Pevere writes:

John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier" – so named by the dashing young candidate at the Democratic leadership convention of 1960 – was barely two years old when veteran filmmaker John Ford suggested the whole thing might be a lie. The context was a 1962 Ford movie called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a Western about a lawyer (played by James Stewart) who negotiates a bogus claim to heroism to a seat in the U.S. Senate.

At the movie's climax, a newspaper editor is informed that the real man who shot the desperado Liberty Valance isn't the man everybody thinks it was – meaning the eminent politician is something of a fraud. The truth leaves the newspaperman unimpressed.

"This is the west, sir," he says. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

It makes more sense now. Still, you have to wonder what benefit Barack Obama hopes to get from the Kennedy family endorsement of his candidacy when it's based on a lie.

For the Democrats and left generally, 1968 has become a kind of rallying call to unity. The year evokes a kind of lost Eden, the last moment when the communal idealism of youth culture functioned as a kind of umbrella that covered – and sheltered – everyone.


But did that country ever really exist? According to Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism– and the volume from which the above quote was pulled – the Democratic Party version of the 1960s is a "Sorelian myth. An age when the 'good guys' overturned a corrupt system, rebelled against their 'square' parents, and ushered in an age of enlightenment and decency, now under threat from oppressive conservatives who want to roll back its utopian gains." Balderdash, according to Goldberg: "Liberal baby boomers have smeared the lens of memory with Vaseline." They've printed the legend.

So much for authenticity.