by Mark Judge
In the 2000 political drama “The Contender,” an opposition research attack is launched against a woman named Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) who has been nominated for the vice presidency. Part of the assault is a rumor, supposedly confirmed with actual videotape, that Hanson partook in group sex while she was in college. It turns out that the oppo was faked, part of a conspiracy not just to derail Hanson politically, but also to destroy her life. Still, Hanson will not go out and refute or deny the rumors even after they have been exposed as fake. In a key scene, Hanson is confronted by an irate president (Jeff Bridges) via his staffer (Sam Elliot), who demands she deny and debunk the rumors.
Hanson explains why she won’t address the scandal. It’s not just the questions they wanted to ask, she says. It’s that they felt it was OK to ask them in the first place. And it’s not. To respond to them is to forfeit dignity and honor. Hanson was not willing to do that.
It’s a remarkable scene because it is so rare these days that anyone in Hollywood or on the Left defends the concept of honor.
Honor is something that was at the center of my thinking in 2018 when, exactly like Laine Hanson, I was attacked by opposition researchers willing to do or say anything. The political Left and the media tried to destroy Brett Kavanaugh, a high school friend of mine. They used opposition research, extortion threats and an attempted honey trap. A woman named Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when we were all in high school. Ford claimed that I was in the room when it happened. Our Stasi media told the public that I’d presided over ten gang rapes and had bought and sold cocaine. They used as sources people I’d never met. Oppo research garbage was fed directly to the media, which passed it on to millions without scrutiny.
There was a lot of vicious and appalling behavior, which I am documenting in a book.
At the height of the insanity, I realized that someone might die as a result of the political and demonic cyclone the Left had created, and that person might be me. From the screaming protestors to the death threats and the extortionate lawyers, the atmosphere was just too combustive. Liberals at the Washington Post, Vox, Slate and other places were howling for me to testify. I would not. It’s not that I was afraid of the truth—everything they were throwing at us was garbage—but that, like Laine Hanson, I would not concede that moral pygmies like Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) would even be asking me questions. Had Blasey Ford had a complaint, she could have gone to the police, or helped conduct a full interview away from the TV cameras on Capitol Hill. She didn’t. The entire thing was a sham. I realized that I may well have been killed by a crazy on the street, or even have died by suicide if the pressure got to me—but still I would not talk to those Stasi assholes. As a friend of mine who is in the military said at the time: Death is temporary. Dishonor lasts forever.
Now, before it starts to seem like I am puffing myself up as a godly exemplar of honor, I’m not. The people who go to war to defend the United States, doctors and nurses who save lives without glorifying themselves, religious leaders who sacrifice their own comfort to help the poor—these are people of great honor. Moreover, the Clinton oppo research machine and its enablers in the media did dredge up some things from my past that I’m not proud of. I drank too much as a younger person, and was a smart ass who sometimes took jokes too far. One example that the press positively bathed in was an idiotic caption I had written in our high school yearbook, a sexual reference to a girl I was friends with as a teenager. It was a stupid gag that wasn’t even based on any truth. The media, working with people who were willing to act criminally, put it on front pages all over the country. After Brett was confirmed, I called the girl I had insulted, who is now a wife and mother, and apologized. I had acted dishonorably, even though I was 17 at the time. She was good enough to accept my contrition.
So I am not America’s most honorable person. I can and do, however, sometimes act with honor. Although I should not have been, during the Kavanaugh war I was repeatedly shocked at how dishonorably politicians, our supposed leaders, were acting. Senator Blumenthal led voters in Connecticut to believe he was a Vietnam veteran when, in fact, he was never deployed to Vietnam. He obtained at least five deferments. Blumenthal was a leader in demanding I be subpoenaed in 2018 to answer endless, idiotic questions about girls and keg parties. Blumenthal should have saved his breath. Death before dishonor.
It has been tragic how over the course of the 20th century, the all-powerful communist state has perverted the notion of honor to serve evil. In his great book Honor: A History, James Bowman explores how the concept of honor went from an expression common among regular people as well as military and aristocratic groups to a reflection of how well a citizen acts in the service of a therapeutic, woke liberal state. Bowman acknowledges that honor culture took a devastating blow during World War I, when old notions of honor were crushed by the senseless slaughter and devastating nature of modern warfare. Unfortunately, nothing replaced the old Victorian notions that pride in country, love and defense of neighbors, and telling the truth were important not just in how your fellow citizens saw you but in the eyes of God.
The God element here is crucial: honor was not just about local customs and traditions, but was connected to how you would be perceived after leaving this world. It had, as Bowman notes, “an independent existence of its own.” Living with honor was important, but so was dying with honor. World War I made such deaths more difficult. “The fact that we continue to mythologize the slaughter [of the war] in this way suggests a continuing need to remind ourselves that our parents and grandparents were right to dishonor honor,” Bowman writes, “perhaps because we fear its reinstitution into our twenty-first century culture.”
Starting with Lenin, communism tried to subvert old notions of honor, replacing it’s religious and local context with the all-powerful state. Bowman writes:
The extent to which the Communists, who lacked the self-consciously militarist trappings of the Fascist and the Nazis to provide a link with the old honor culture, consciously tried to reshape the honor culture to their own ends can perhaps be measured by their need not only to execute but also to disgrace those who were identified as traitors and counter revolutionaries by Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. By inducing them—in many cases, it seems without torture—to admit, falsely, to the most shameful acts, Stalin had made the point that in the Soviet system, honor itself was to be considered a mere creature of the revolution, and of revolutionary necessity, and to have no independent existence of its own.
This is what happened during the Kavanaugh war in the fall of 2018. Honor had no other use than to serve the Left. When people began to suspect that Ford’s story was wrong, to many it made no difference. Even as their consciences began to prick at them, few could summon the courage to do the honorable thing and call it out. As I’ve noted before, even the president of Planned Parenthood began to have reservations about putting Kavanaugh on the pyre when the facts began to emerge, but that didn’t stop Planned Parenthood’s attack. Journalist Ana Marie Cox actually went on television and said this: “We need to judge Brett Kavanaugh, not just by what he may or may not have done, but how he treats a woman’s pain. Will he take her pain seriously? Do the people interrogating her take her pain seriously?” So no, the facts did not matter in this instance. What mattered were feelings and serving the radical feminist state.
What is particularly ironic and sad is how politicians and media notables who once prided themselves on their countercultural and rebel bona fides have so enthusiastically embraced dishonor and deceit in service to the state. Cox has long been a hipster, tweeting about indie bands and attending trendy Austin festivals. She and I both have a huge admiration for the punk rock of the 1970s and 1980s, a subculture that put a premium on telling the truth even when it hurt. In the fall of 2018 the Washington Post ran a profile of me that described me as “a rebel—outspoken, profane, even boorish, but also surpassingly loyal to his friends.” It’s as good a description of punk as any.
There was a real idea of honor in punk, which rejected the utopianism of the hippies and the virtue-signaling of the Left as well as the stodginess of the Right. In one television appearance, Cox destroyed whatever punk honor she might have had. As James Bowman writes, “the Communist, of course, knew only too well what uses might be made of the popular honor accorded to rebels and misfits, and they were making sure that these . . . would be accorded none of the honor that they had cultivated when they themselves had been the rebels and misfits.” It was widely reported that my high school friends and I drank a lot of beer, gone on beach trips, thrown all-night ragers, published an underground newspaper, formed a band, and even may have had sex once or twice before marriage. (Brett, it should be said, was much more square than I, which perhaps makes him even more of a rebel, considering who some of our teachers were at the time.)
It’s the kind of countercultural stuff that Cox and her ilk would normally celebrate. She could not, and never will, understand how punk rock my navigation of the attempted assassination was. I was never going to testify, not because I was afraid of the truth, but because, like Laine Hanson, it was not honorable for the questions to be asked in the first place. If Blasey Ford had a beef, she could have done the honorable thing. She could have gone to the police. This would have meant evidence, due process, fairness.
After the end of the Kavanaugh mauling, I did some traveling. I drove from Washington, D.C. to Virginia Beach, a military town, then to Charleston, South Carolina to visit a high school friend, and then to Florida. I told myself at the time I wanted to experience some warm weather and go surfing—purge the diabolical spirits of D.C. from my soul. Yet I think subconsciously something else was going on. I wanted to be around people who had some honor.
– – –
Mark Judge is a journalist and filmmaker. His books include A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Damn Senators: My Grandfather and the Story of Washington’s Only World Series Championship. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Daily Caller.
Photo “protesting” by Lorie Shaull CC BY 2.0.