The truth shall set us free

Or, depending on how things turn out, go with Sophocles: ‘How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there’s no help in truth’

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

BY ART CULLEN

It could make more than a few people wretch — and I hope it does — to hear me quoting James Comey quoting the Buddha: “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” So he wrote over the weekend as the President again called the former FBI director a liar and continued his campaign to turn the truth inside out and rip it out from its root.

Not to go on about vast right-wing conspiracies, but there is a vast right-wing conspiracy among the likes of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, the Koch Brothers and their paid flaks like Project Veritas. Its aim is no less than to destroy the press as an institution in America and thus to suppress the facts.

“Democracy dies in darkness.” That is the motto of The Washington Post since Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought the great newspaper of Watergate fame. Project Veritas, funded by the Koch Brothers who are funding Iowa State University, sent a woman into The Post to claim that she had been impregnated by Roy Moore, the Alabama stud. She had hoped to sucker The Post and embarrass it by publishing a phony story. But of course The Post checked it out and exposed Project Veritas for what it is: an enemy of the truth.

These campaigns are going on across the country. In Grand Junction, Colo., the local newspaper publisher had to threaten to sue a state legislator to stop him from slandering the newspaper as a purveyor of “fake news.” Local politicians have tried and continue to try the same thing with The Storm Lake Times. TV ads were run in the Des Moines TV market trying to defame Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines Water Works, for sticking up for clean drinking water.

All those efforts make The Washington Post, CNN, The Des Moines Register and The Storm Lake Times work all the harder at shouting down the lies that are filling our heads during idle hours on Facebook.

Post Editor Marty Barron is hardly afraid of Trump. He took on the Vatican over sexual abuse while editor of The Boston Globe. The Globe was right and courageous. Cardinal Bernard Law fled for Rome where he remains exiled from American justice.

When ABC News finds a reporter is a fraud, the reporter is fired. When Trump sees Flynn outed as a fraud, he fires Comey and blames CNN.

When The Des Moines Register learns about claims of sexual harassment in the Iowa Senate caucus, it investigates those claims and vets them, pores through court documents and covers the entire district court trial. When the Senate Republican Caucus stands without clothes, it covers itself in a whitewash report that acknowledges no actual incidents — despite the jury verdict. A settlement of $1.75 million was agreed to. The Register reported the facts, the politicians tried to make it sound as if nothing ever happened.

Comey’s definition of “long hidden” truth may be different than mine. It took at least a couple years for the truth to catch up with Nixon. It took us a couple years to figure out who is running Buena Vista County — it’s the Koch Brothers and Monsanto, not the board of supervisors or the county attorney.

Yet the truth does emerge.

The Washington Post’s finest hours were in reporting the truth about the absolute rot of the Nixon Administration. These are dark hours for democracy, but The Post will be vindicated in the end no matter the assault levied against it. It makes me glad that Jeff Bezos has the resources to pursue the truth on our behalf.

The newspaper in Grand Junction will not quit reporting the facts about the Colorado Legislature, eventually the people figure out who is telling the truth. As small as our voice is, we will continue to remind Iowans of how dirty corporate money is polluting our political, judicial and academic environment.

In the meantime, we will put faith in the wisdom of Comey, whose senior thesis in college was on the great American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who said, again quoting Comey:

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

A strong free press remains democracy’s first defense. We need this reminder every generation or so.