Without a doubt one of the most hilarious pieces of literature ever written is Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters. Written in the 1650’s, it consisted of a purported series of letters written by a Parisian to his friend in the provinces. At that time the Jesuits (with the help of the French monarchy) were attempted to suppress the Jansenists, those purveyors of serious Christianity. Pascal, coming off a dramatic conversion experience and sympathetic to the Jansenists, took an unusual tack. Instead of directly attacking the propositions of the Jesuits about their “probable opinions” (which moved in the direction of situational ethics,) he set up (for several letters at least) a Jesuit who baldly explained the content of their doctrines based on their own authorities. He clearly showed the nature of their ideas, such as how it was permissible to kill in a duel to defend one’s honour, it was okay to arrive at Mass as long as you beat the elevation of the Host, etc.
For anyone who is familiar with traditional Roman Catholicism, the work is an absolute howl. In explaining with clarity their doctrines, the “Jesuit” ends up making fun of them, just as Ned Lamont’s supporters trash their own cause in the way they attack Joe Lieberman.
But let’s look at things from another view: this was seventeenth century France, there was an absolute monarchy, books had to be printed “with the privilege of the King,” etc. Pascal wrote these anonymously; it took the public (who laughed with him) and the Jesuits (who were incensed) some time before they realised who had written it. The work put the Jesuits’ “morality” into public ridicule, but it was only a temporary reprieve: the Jesuits managed to eventually grind the Jansenists into the ground with the help of the state.
In this “modern” world of ours, we’re supposed to be past this kind of thing. But now we have the spectable of Congressional Democrats threatening to “review” ABC’s broadcast “privilege” unless it alters or pulls altogether its upcoming (hopefully) series on 9/11. This is especially amazing when we consider that ABC is certainly part of the “mainstream” media that the Democrats rely on so heavily to get their point across.
The problem with representative democracy in the United States is that it has gone on so long that we take it for granted. But, given our heavy-handed legal system, it wouldn’t take much for meaningful freedom of expression to dissappear. Naked pressure such as this is a more obvious example of this than most.
And there’s one more lesson the left needs to learn from the French. The suppression of Janesnism weakened the state of Christianity in France, opening the way for the French Revolution. The Bourbons made a pact with the devil when they joined with the Jesuits, and the devil got his balloon payment in 1789. (Remember, Rolling Stones fans?)
Weakening the security apparatus and then supressing the truth about your actions will only lead to the same kind of thing. None of the meaningful enemies of the U.S. will suffer the left to continue if they win. If the Democrats succeed in pulling this off, they will continue they suffer the same fate of Louis XVI at the hands of people who don’t mind doing it on the Internet.
Let’s hope this can be headed off, or, as the little rondeau at the start of the Provincial Letters: Retirez-vous, péchés!