Robert Fisk – An Appreciation

Journalist Robert Fisk, who writes for the Independent (UK), is the acknowledged dean of Western print journalists covering the Middle East.  His work is of a caliber that sets it apart, and Fisk, an increasingly popular figure on the lecture circuit here in the USA, is drawing large and enthusiastic audiences when he visits the States, which he does regularly.  But Fisk, who earned his Ph.D. in political science at Trinity College Dublin, is more than a journalist.  In his passionate pleas for individual integrity in professional journalism and his tireless efforts to educate his growing audiences about the terrible dangers inherent in Americans’ unquestioning acceptance of authority, Fisk is becoming one of our era’s foremost voices of reason and conscience, one of Western civilization’s philosopher-torchbearers.  If such phrases sound more like fawning adulation than critically astute and well deserved recognition, just take another look at the thoughts of those who have gone before, thinkers who blazed the trail upon which Fisk now boldly strides.

Philosopher Martin Heidegger, in a speech delivered to a German audience in his hometown in 1955, identified two general types of thinking, two ways of dealing with the world.  One is the technical, calculating, statistically oriented way of the organization man, ultimately reducible to the will-to-power; the other is the reflective, contemplative, and profoundly individualistic being.  Both approaches are instruments of great wills, wills that differ fundamentally in orientation, in method, and too often in their goals.  Even today, most writers find a home in the latter category, and Fisk is not alone in his keen awareness of the predicament imposed upon most writers by their need to make a living by writing for increasingly impersonal, amoral, vertically integrated corporate media organizations or his understanding of the dire consequences of corporate journalists’ wholesale abandonment of the obligations and standards of professional integrity.  But it is difficult to point to another Western journalist who matches Fisk’s animated eloquence or who writes and speaks with such moral authority.

For Heidegger and others–Carl Jung’s prophetic little sliver of a book, The Undiscovered Self, never more appropriate than it is today, comes immediately to mind–the great danger of our times is the technological, impersonal, and collectivist type of thinking that now invades and threatens to overwhelm completely the philosophic-meditative-individualistic processes of thought.  Only organic communities armed with faith in a will that is greater than the sum of its parts can take the offensive against the tyranny of an arrogant, anti-intellectual machine that openly declares its intention to rule not by the virtue of any example it might set but instead by mass deception, the suppression of human and civil rights, and threat of the monstrous power of its weapons of mass destruction, as Jung put it, “that peculiar flower of the human imagination, the hydrogen bomb.”

“What happened not so long ago to a civilized European nation?  . . . the truth is that we do not know for certain whether something similar might not happen elsewhere.  It would not be surprising if it did and if another nation succumbed to the infection of a uniform and one-sided idea.  America . . . seems to be immune . . .  but in point of fact she is perhaps even more vulnerable than Europe since her educational system is the most influenced by the scientific Weltanschauung with its statistical truths . . . in a soil that is practically without history.  The historical and humanistic type of education so sorely needed in such circumstances leads, on the contrary, a Cinderella existence. . . . Quite apart from the barbarities and blood baths perpetrated by the Christian nations among themselves throughout European history, the European has also to answer to all the crimes he has committed against the dark-skinned peoples during the process of colonialization.  In this respect, the white man carries a very heavy burden indeed.”  –C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self, 1957.

A vast abyss has yawned opened before the human community.  Some–especially noteworthy are the long-suffering Palestinians–fight courageously for liberty, self-determination, and sovereignty, but extremists on both sides of the chasm, religious fanatics, crass political opportunists, and their ill-educated, manipulated, misguided followers mostly, who have dared to lower their ideals before the challenge of human greed, war madness, and the lust for power, would divide the world with oppression and violence, West against East, Jew and Christian against Muslim.  That shadow will may succeed, unless enough of the rest of us can intellectually attain and creatively express a wholesome sincerity of purpose that that inspires friendship and trust even as it disarms enmity.  Journalists, writers, poets, philosophers, prophets and other progressive religionists are equipped to encourage the kind of insight that may yet enable humanity to avoid the worst.  Those, Fisk prominent among them, who call forth the best in us and exhibit, as Gandhi put it, “the change we wish to see in the world,” influence and educate others in their circles of acquaintance and among their readers.  They call our attention to the self-imposed restraints that are at once the most powerful and the most tenuous of all the factors of human civilization–concepts of justice and ideals of brotherhood.  It is upon such courageous efforts that our common future, if we are to have one, largely depends.

Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.