The Clare Spark Blog

July 4, 2014

How “independent” are we?

laba.ws_USA_Independence_DayIn defining myself both for and against the postmodernists or existentialists, I have stated that we are all prisoners of our context. Our choices are limited by the institutions we have made, and which either loosen our lips or force us to bite our tongues, lest we lose our jobs or break up “family” unity. Still, “Pierrot” tries to break out of jail.

While watching Fox News Channel as it boxes the compass of its on-air anchors and other sympathetic celebrities, I notice that most assert their vaunted freedom to say whatever they damn please along with their fulfillment of the American Dream despite humble beginnings. The overall tone was one of nationalist pride and complacency. I found this, at best, self-deceived, if not cynical.

Only Shepard Smith emphasized that this country remains in process, that the goals of human rights celebrated in the Declaration of Independence are incomplete and require attention. (Looking up the spelling of his name, I saw that he is rumored to have been demoted after he asked Roger Ailes to acknowledge that he was gay on the air.)

Shepard Smith seems to have a moral compass whereas not all his Fox colleagues celebrating Independence Day share his realism. I remember how passionately he covered Hurricane Katrina, literally shouting from a New Orleans bridge, when government at every level was not acting with appropriate dispatch in rescuing Katrina’s mostly black victims.

Back to the “independence” of Fox spokespeople yesterday and today as FNC observed the glorious Fourth. Though FNC claims to be “fair and balanced” its format and objectives are designed to get maximum eyeballs. It was brilliant in discerning that the many factions of “the Right” were shut out from MSM, including NPR, hence an underserved population would be easy pickings for advertisers. But having some social democrat voice talking points, while a conservative or libertarian contradicts him or her with other talking points, is not the same as the search for truth. (To be fair, not all Fox commentators are so predictable or conformist, but most are “moderates.”)

Whereas the Declaration of Independence, the precursor to the Bill of Rights, breathes the air of the Enlightenment. “American exceptionalism” (like “popular sovereignty”) is built on separating truth from error, hence the demand for checks and balances, the separation of powers, and the refusal of a monarch in favor of popular sovereignty. Yet today, we defer, often uncritically, to “leaders” whether these “good father figures” are politicians, clerics, celebrity academics, artists, or media personalities.

Lipschitz: Pierrot escaping

Lipschitz: Pierrot escaping

Did anyone think that the Founders goals would be easily achieved? These men of the Enlightenment were educated in the classics, in economics, and in international relations. Were they lacking knowledge of history, or without self-interest or ambition? Were they in total agreement with each other? Only the naïve would make such a claim. Still, they took tremendous risks, as those of us who succeed in this wild and wooly experiment in self-government do every day, often with fear and trembling, for the more sentient among us acknowledge how much “American exceptionalism” rests on the bounty of Nature, a Nature that we, in our hubris, do not always study and protect with requisite attention and zeal.

Some of our children have noticed this flaw. But their voices are unheard on FNC. [For a related blog, see



  1. I would take issue with your assertion, “Yet today, we defer, often uncritically, to “leaders” whether these “good father figures” are politicians, clerics, celebrity academics, artists, or media personalities.” The American impulse to defer to “leaders” is arguably lower today than anytime in the last 100 years. A major US newspaper led with an article on this topic last week. This populist response to rampant corruption and arrogance amonst our elites is long overdue and should be expected as a natural extension of our experiment in self-governance.

    Comment by Allen W — July 24, 2014 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

    • To Allen W. The major theme of this website is the sharp polarization between segments of the electorate, and also the “fair and balanced” motto of Fox News.. Taken in context, I thought I referred to any and all persons who fail to challenge authority. I agree with you that much anti-elitism is prominent now, but populism is not my favorite form of protest. Populism can be anti-intellectual and off target, as I have argued here before.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 24, 2014 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  2. The institution of first ladies, which started sleazily in Europe after WWII is the most amazing one amidst citizens of any sex discussing passionately “Gender”…US processes and processes, now the whole wild world which their minds cover, not to mention the heart, now under ther protection of the heart attack machine mentioned by B. Dylan

    Comment by brainandrain — July 5, 2014 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

    • He refers to Desolation Row and this verse:
      Now at midnight all the agents
      And the superhuman crew
      Come out and round up everyone
      That knows more than they do
      Then they bring them to the factory
      Where the heart-attack machine
      Is strapped across their shoulders
      And then the kerosene
      Is brought down from the castles
      By insurance men who go
      Check to see that nobody is escaping
      To Desolation Row

      Read more: Not sure I see the relevance to my blog, unless the comment was a general anti-capitalist protest or a youthful antimodern protest against the world created by Dylan’s predecessors.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 5, 2014 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

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