One of the most destructive elements of political correctness involves its preference for emotion over accuracy – the casual disregard of normal standards of evidence and objectivity in pursuit of some “higher” cause. Two recent distortions, in the worlds of motion pictures and education, demonstrate this preposterous preference for feelings over facts.
The ambitious new film “Windtalkers” bills itself as an historical epic, complete with the declaration (featured prominently in the ads), “INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS.” The story attempts to re-create a fascinating sidelight of the Pacific campaign in World War II, in which the Marine Corps recruited nearly 400 Navajo Americans to develop and utilize a secret military code based on their native language. These “code talkers” performed a valuable service and managed to foil all Japanese efforts to break the code.
The film, however, introduces additional elements of racism, exploitation and even murder to advance its dominant theme of U.S. mistreatment of native Americans. Nicholas Cage and Christian Slater co-star as two Marine sergeants assigned to protect Navajo code talkers, and to execute them if they face any danger of falling into enemy hands. The entire film focuses on the moral dilemma of dedicated warriors asked to assassinate their own comrades for the sake of victory.
The problem with this premise is that it bears no connection to reality. USA Today interviewed some dozen survivors of this military experiment and all of them energetically denied the existence of any such orders about committing murder to protect the code. In fact, even the glossy press kit released with the movie by MGM acknowledged that the central element in the story line amounts to a grotesque distortion of history:
“After thorough research, Marine Corps historians were unable to locate any evidence that such orders ever took place – it would be illegal for a Marine to be ordered to kill a fellow Marine,” the studio conceded. But the filmmakers refused to feel thwarted by anything so trivial and inconvenient as the truth. As the press materials announced: “But the notion that a serviceman might have had to kill one of his own, someone he’d fought alongside and with whom he’d become friends, resonated with the producers.”
In other words, the fact that a murderous notion “resonated” with some executives overcame any reluctance about an irresponsible and libelous fabrication about the United States military.
In a similar vein, a recent controversy involving a public high school in the scenic town of Poulsbo, Wash., demonstrates the current eagerness to dispense with accuracy when it gets in the way of politically correct preachments.
Local members of the American Legion energetically objected to a popular class called “The Vietnam Experience” because it suggested that American troops regularly engaged in atrocities, and included graphic readings of a highly sexualized nature. The teacher of the course, Anthony Bressan, managed to shield himself from all criticism because of his status as a decorated Vietnam vet, wounded twice in service to his country, who held his students spellbound with first-person accounts of his nightmare experiences in Southeast Asia.
After extensive investigation, however, the teacher’s critics could find no evidence that he ever served in the armed forces in any capacity – during the years Mr. Bressan purported to fight as a “grunt” in “Nam,” he was actually registered as a full-time student at Central Washington University.
Asked to document his purported service, Bressan abruptly resigned – and evidence later appeared that he had lied about holding a master’s degree (which had resulted in a higher pay rate for years). In response to the scandal, a number of his loyal students wrote revealing letters to the local newspaper. One of them, Risa Di Cicco, baldly declared: “Whether he did or did not serve in the military, in my eyes, is insignificant … Nothing changes the fact that Bressan’s teaching touched numerous students. Lie or no lie, he impacted students in wonderful ways …”
Another alumnus of his controversial class, Mary Kaplan, proclaimed: “He wanted his students to grow into intelligent, inquisitive citizens instead of cows … The lessons he taught us are valid, whether he lied about his Vietnam War experience or not.”
Fabrications are acceptable, in other words, if they advance some notion of higher “truth.” Another student, Mercedi Smalley, makes that conclusion chillingly explicit: “Why are we so quick to judge Mr. Bressan anyway?” she writes. “We know the truth. We know what happened during the war and we learned from it. So some people got offended. Good.”
Examining the history of totalitarian states like the Soviet Union, many historians feel puzzled that so few citizens ever questioned the laughably obvious lies the regime regularly force-fed its people. Now, Hollywood producers and Washington state high school students reveal the continued existence of the warped attitudes that allowed such propaganda to flourish. In the name of some emotional imperative or ideological compulsion, they insist that an old-fashioned concept like The Truth must be purposefully, even proudly, discarded.