by John Holbo on September 24, 2004

That’s Latin for ‘do your own research, pal!

This is, I suppose, a follow-up to my previous post on media bias. Some commenters think I didn’t get my liberal game face on sufficiently. I thought the red honk nose was pretty scary, on a man my age. Family man. Anyhoo. The point of connection is another passage from Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon.

Students of Descartes’ “First Meditation” might want to check out this under-appreciated, thinly novelized, allegedly accurate historical account of a curious serious of events in Loudun in the early 1600’s. A number of nuns decided they were possessed by devils and a luckless guy, name of Grandier (jerk, couldn’t have happened to a nicer), was behind it. (I gather he is more sympathetic in the Ken Russell version.) And that was how his troubles began. (I’ve blogged this before, but not here.)

During the spring and summer of 1634 the main purpose of the exorcisms was not the deliverance of the nuns but the indictment of Grandier. The aim was to prove, out of the mouth of Satan himself, that the parson [Grandier] was a magician, and had bewitched the nuns. But Satan is, by definition, the Father of Lies, and his evidence is therefore worthless. To this argument Laubardemont [who wants to get Grandier], his excorcists and the Bishop of Poiters replied by affirming that, when duly constrained by a priest of the Roman Church, devils are bound to tell the truth. In other words, anything to which a hysterical nun was ready, at the instigation of her exorcist, to affirm on oath, was for all practical purposes a divine revelation. For inquisitors, this doctrine was a real convenience. But it had one grave defect; it was manifestly unorthodox. In the year 1610 a committee of learned theologians had discussed the admissibility of diabolic evidence and issued the following authoritative decision. “We, the undersigned Doctors of the Faculty of Paris, touching certain questions which have been proposed to us, are of the opinion that one must never admit the accusation of demons, still less must one exploit exorcisms for the purpose of discovering a man’s faults or for determining if he is a magician; and we are further of the opinion that, even if the said exorcisms should have been applied in the present of the Holy Sacrament, with the devil forced to swear an oath (which is a ceremony of which we do not at all approve), one must not for all that give any credit to his words, the devil being always a liar and the Father of Lies.” Furthermore, the devil is man’s sworn enemy, and is therefore ready to endure all the torments of exorcism for the sake of doing harm to a single soul. If the devil’s evidence were admitted, the most virtuous people would be in the greatest danger; for it is precisely against these that Satan rages most violently. “Wherefore St. Thomas (Book 22, Question 9, Article 22) maintains with the authority of St. Chrysostoml, DAEMONI, ETIAM VERA DICENTI, NON EST CREDENDUM. (The devil must not be believed, even when he tells the truth.)

My point is not that sound files, video clips, transcripts saved by Media Matters are inherently no more conducive to veridicality in reportage than an hysterical nun in the hands of an Inquisition exorcist. Nay, I have a different agenda. Concerns about media bias go back a long way, amigo.

By the by, I think maybe we won’t touch bottom regarding all this ‘but that just happened in the false Iraq’ stuff until someone actually goes and does the necessary; explicitly founds a formal tux, tie and tails gnostic Philip K Dick-style full on pro-Bush religion about how the reason why there is still trouble, even though it was mission accomplished in 2003, is that it’s really still 2003, but the Evil Liberal God of our world wants you to believe that time has passed. (Link via boingboing.) Thank goodness the Good God is sending us pink laserbeams of information via the interweb.

No, seriously. If you are arguing about media bias, there is no point but to be generous and Rawlsian about it. Otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir.



marcel 09.24.04 at 4:47 pm

I got lost, esp. the last couple of paragraphs. Did you start channeling Fafnir there?


Barry Freed 09.24.04 at 5:09 pm

Here’s your full on pro-Bush religion for ya:

Bush is Lord

Don’t know about the time travel angle though. Perhaps something to do with the Philadelphia experiment?


jholbo 09.24.04 at 5:12 pm

I was trying to ‘reach’ Fafnir, but I think there was interference. Hurry, there isn’t much time.


jdw 09.24.04 at 5:15 pm

The MSM has been so focused on Rathergate that they’ve completely ignored the 17th century possessed-nuns story. Advantage: Holbosphere!


bob mcmanus 09.24.04 at 6:59 pm

Somebody once said (actually I am thinking Gide, but he may have been quoting) that “The Devil is most powerful when there is the least belief in him.”

Somebody else has said that the right has a tactic of preemptively accusing the left of the right’s intended dirty tricks.

I am moving beyond the veil to the position, and demand a media that Lyndon Larouche would call fair and balanced.


Motoko 09.25.04 at 5:05 pm

Isn’t that from The Usual Suspects, Bob?


yabonn 09.25.04 at 6:12 pm

Maybe “the devil’s biggest trick is to make you believe he doesn’t exist”?

That would be baudelaire, then.


bob mcmanus 09.25.04 at 7:04 pm

“Isn’t that from The Usual Suspects, Bob?”

Well, it is almost a major theme of Andre Gide’s Counterfeiters and journal (diary?); been 25 years. As I remember, used in terms of cultural nihilism in the narrative; subtle manipulation of characters by other characters; and a perceived lack of authorial intrusion and control.

In this case, I was saying that charges of liberal bias are intended to distract from actual conservative bias.

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