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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 15. 1969.

Credibility Gaps

Credibility Gaps

Liberals have usually the same political attitudes as the proverbial Irishman: mildly "agin the gov'mint."

This position is almost always the easiest to take in a casual argument: destructive criticism is so much more simple than suggesting constructive solutions. A tendency to ossify into a position of acidulous waspishness soon develops, and in a while the automatic reaction of resentment becomes evident after any government action of consequence.

The government is then blamed for its "credibility gap".

Yet credibility gaps can exist in the mind of the recipient as well as in the words of the spokesman. The Omega affair exemplifies the creation of this syndrome, compounded equally of fear and frustration, but mainly self-induced.

When the affair first blew up, early in 1968, with exciting revelations of the imminent peril of nuclear catastrophe in which Christchurch was being placed, the government reacted slowly. It appeared to find it hard to believe that such nonsense could be believed by supposedly intelligent people.

First statements by the Department of External Affairs in defence of its position were somewhat fumbling, and did not always seem to comprehend the antagonism with which the Omega proposal was meeting.

Why should they have been prepared? No other country had protested, and both the Solid Union and China had agreed to the use of the assigned V.L.F. wavelengths. No wonder the government found it difficult to deal with the capacity for self-delusion inherent in the liberal mind, fostered in several cases by reports which depended for their argument on demonstrably false background material.

Later some of the scientists who wrote so glibly in the early stages of the dispute were shown to have deliberately distorted their source material, and in some cases had actually invented it.

Yet the liberal publications which had originally been so happy to carry their lies were not willing to print the refutations that followed. Particularly to blame here were Canta, Salient and the Journal of the Public Public Service Association.

Thus was demonstrated a third failing of the liberal mind.

Liberals, resting, as they so often do, their ideas on an inadequate basis of research, usually react in a characteristic way when their beliefs are called into question.

Their realisation that their errors have been picked up usually results in a hardening of position; verbal violence may, in extreme cases, actually turn to physical violence in a frantic effort to convince themselves, if no-one else, that they have a sole monopoly of truth.

(The writer has had some personal experience of this reaction. When in 1968 he was unwise and unkind enough to print in Salient some quotations from a speech made by Mr Krishna Menon in Wellington, which speech suggested, ipso facto, that anyone foolish enough to make these statements was suffering from senile dementia, he received—luckily at second-hand threats of violence. It was interesting to note, however, that at no time did anyone question the accuracy of his reporting of Menon's meanderings.

Liberals and others who read in this manner resemble nothing so much as cornered rats, which, realising in desperation that there is no avenue of escape, finally turn [unclear: on] their pursuer with shrill, but terrified, protestations.

This consideration of the weaknesses in the liberal's personality should not lead one to suppose that his activities are always ineffectual.

The liberal virtue—in the purely pragmatic sense—is the capacity for selective indignation This ability to choose a matter for concern, and to follow it relentlessly, is at once the tactical strength (while the logical weakness) of the liberal's method of operation.

Accompanying the action are all the while shouts of "fascist, racist!" which has become the modern version of the huntsman's "tally ho!"

(For those who do not know the jargon of liberalism, one becomes a fascist by pointing out the inconsistencies in argument, the dubious irrelevancies, the moral flounderings, and sometimes the overt lies that so often are the basis for a liberal hypothesis.)

We can see this in the common liberal attitude towards South Africa—a country which suffers from the shared detestations of all liberals. A common argument presents the fact that some of the government leaders of the 1960's were, thirty years ago, against the intervention of South Africa in World War II. Ergo, they were Nazis. And this is one of the reasons why, in 1969, one should hate them!

Now remind a liberal that one of his folk heroes, the late Senator Robert Kennedy, was one of Joe McCarthy's right-hand prosecuting attorneys during the Un-American Activities hearings during the 1950s, and he will react with horror—despite the fact that McCarthyism is as dirty a word to a liberal as that catch-all "fascist".

Or, to give a more up to date example, there is the fascinating ease of F.B.I. head J. Edgar Hoover admitting to placing a wiretap on the telephone of Dr Martin Luther King. Jr. Liberal reaction came fast and furious. "Hoover must go," was the cry, echoed by liberal columnists throughout the U.S.A.—until it was pointed out that the wiretap was specifically approved in advance by the U.S. Attorney General of the time, none other than Robert F. Kennedy. And not only was it approved by Kennedy, but he had actually initialed the request.

When that news came out. Washington revelled in the sight of the liberal news media frantically backtracking.

We should not loose sight of their first reaction. The shouts of "muckraking," and "smear." That filled the air were the authentic liberal voice. Was not the beatification of the Kennedy's in progress, and is not is blasphemy to question the qualifications for sainthood?