The Craze to Canonize Mike Wallace

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Day after day, the big news — according to Yahoo, CNN, the old TV networks, and all the self-important newspapers — has been the sad demise of Mike Wallace, at the young age of 93.

Always he is called the “legendary” Mike Wallace, as if “legendary” were a title like Grand Exalted First Convener of the Muskrats’ Fraternal and Benevolent Association — an honorary title that for form’s sake must always be prefixed to the real name. Sounds good, means nothing — except, I’m afraid, to the fraternity of “newspeople” who put out this stuff.

Fools like Wallace were, and are, appointed to parrot the common opinions of a small circle of “opinion leaders.”

The man was a legend? He was a television “correspondent.” How can a man who read the news (or purported news) be the subject of some mysterious legend? If “legendary” is taken literally, it can only mean that to most Americans, his very being was mysterious; until now, most living people didn’t even know he existed. But to read the “news,” one would think that American peasants sat around the hearth fire every night, spinning yarns about Mike the Great.

Fortunately for the nation’s sanity, one of Wallace’s real, uh, um, accomplishments has now resurfaced. It’s a documentary about homosexuality that he concocted for CBS in 1967. In it, he opined:

“The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in nor capable of a lasting relationship like that of heterosexual marriage. His sex life — his love life — consists of chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits, and even on the streets of the city. The pickup — the one night stand — these are the characteristics of the homosexual relationship.”

That was grossly and offensively untrue. It is untrue now; it was untrue then. It was known to be untrue to people who actually knew any gay people (which, however, Wallace did), or had read a book that went deeper into the mysteries of sexuality than, say, the collected sermons of Pope Pius XII. Wallace later insisted:

“That is — God help us — what our understanding of the homosexual lifestyle was a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors.”

But supposing it’s true that “nobody was out of the closet” (and some of the people whom Wallace encountered were out of the closet), and also that this is what everyone understood (which it wasn’t): why, if Wallace knew nothing more than the falsehoods that everybody else — i.e., “we” — appeared to know, did he appoint himself to announce those falsehoods from the papal chair of CBS, as if they were news?

Here’s what’s going on. Fools like Wallace were, and are, appointed to parrot the common opinions — that is, the callow beliefs, misinformed notions, strange hunches, weird superstitions, and flat-out hysterias — of a small circle of “opinion leaders.” That is the “we.” These people are not particularly well educated. They know little or nothing about history. They aren’t curious about it, either. Their knowledge of science (“what we heard from doctors”) is extremely limited and completely unskeptical. If they read a book, they look for something that will confirm their pre-existing views, especially their assumption that everything important or “legendary” will naturally pertain to people like themselves. They know little of normal human life, by which I mean not only the vast field of sexuality but also such commonplace and obvious matters as how money is made, the nature of governmental power, normal forms and practices of religious belief, the fact that people actually enjoy getting drunk (I have an academic book on my table that attempts to explain why people drink), the various reasons why people value guns and other means of self-defense, the reasons why young families might want to live in the suburbs instead of some “green” high-rise, the resistance of parents to new-fangled notions of education, and above all, the sullen resistance of normal people to being “educated” by dopes like Wallace.

Yet these people — the “we” — are advertised (by themselves!) as heroes and “legends.”

You can say this about every broadcasting or newspaper “legend” you find. Cronkite. Murrow. And the next one who dies. He’ll get no eulogies from me.




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Comments

Jim Henshaw

re this: "β€œThe average homosexual ... is promiscuous. He is not interested in nor capable of a lasting relationship like that of heterosexual marriage. His sex life β€” his love life β€” consists of chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits, and even on the streets of the city.”

Change "the average homosexual" to "a substantial minority of younger men" and this would be closer to the truth. Sexual preference only enters into it if you're talking about gay male couples, since women tend to be somewhat more interested in pushing for commitment and sexual exclusivity than men.

But, that epiphany would have required Mr. Wallace to have talked to a few gay and lesbian couples -- you know, journalism.

Rodney Choate

Would it not be true to say that our social and legal structures are (and were) so twisted and alien, that it is difficult to tell exactly what is normal or desired behavior within groups, particularly among oppressed groups as homosexuals were at one time? As far as the general human population is concerned, humans are clearly not naturally monogamous. For right or wrong, that is a man made expectation that women seem to handle at least as poorly as men, although they often respond to the problem quite differently, and aren't held responsible for it.

Jim Henshaw

re this: "As far as the general human population is concerned, humans are clearly not naturally monogamous."

I'd say most women desire monogamy, while most men if they could indulge their desires prefer multiple partners but have learned from experience to lie or shut up about that around women.

Visitor

"Day after day"?....I heard about a 30 second story on one about his death.

Now, if you really want day after day...You have to be a Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, or Davey Jones.

Most people have no idea who Mike Wallace was. Let alone Cronkite, or Morrow. But everybody knew Houston's wrothless life. And they think it's more interesting.

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