Some seventy years ago, after Alger Hiss lied under oath and was believed, celebrated, lionized as "credible." Whittaker Chambers was finally able to prove his case with evidence.
On the day of Hiss's initial set of bald-faced lies to the nation, though, even Chambers' biggest congressional supporters were shaken, calling him up at his office at Time magazine, asking if he was sure he was right about Hiss.
From American Betrayal, p. 179
“Are you sure,” “In a voice in which I caught the unmistakable note of des- peration,” Chambers would write, he asked, “are you sure you are right about Alger Hiss?”
Of course, Chambers reassured him in the course of the jittery call.
“You couldn’t have mistaken him for somebody else?”
“Of course, I haven’t mistaken him,” Chambers said. Later, Chambers
wrote, “What stunned me as I stared at my desk, and was to puzzle me for some time to come, was a simple question: ‘How did Alger Hiss, in the face of the facts that we both knew, and under the eyes of some 150 million people, sup- pose that he could possibly get away with it?’ ”93
It was a good question—if, that is, you were coming from an Enlightenment world of fixed laws, legal and moral, a world where objectivity was magnetic north, a world that was already a dying star. Chambers’s years in the Commu- nist underground notwithstanding, his question came from this fin-de-siècle Retroland. Hiss, meanwhile, was opening brave new territory where facts were juggling balls, truth was strategically expendable, and ideology and raw power set life’s course. Deconstructionists would follow. They had to. A school of sys- tematic thought had to emerge to reflect and enforce the pressures to abort the search for objective truth.
Such a search for objective truth had previously defined Knowledge at least since the ancient Greeks came along, and, as Keith Windschuttle tells it, sought to replace the mythologies other cultures used to affirm their “sense of self- worth and place in the cosmos” with something brand-new: the attempt “to record the truth about the past.”94 This became what Orwell described as “neu- tral fact,” which, by his observation, ended in 1936 in Spain, and Koestler agreed. Today, the Greek example is forgotten, or dismissed as that of the dead- est of white males, and mythologies of self-worth are back in vogue, under- scored by the widely shared assumption that truth isn’t “within the historian’s grasp,” as Windshuttle puts it. This is what our children are taught in school, perpetuating this mythology of mythologies. This means, perhaps, we might look back on Alger Hiss and see not just an epic traitor who committed treason but also a pioneer of a shamelsss future. Like an early performance artist, Hiss, sans NEA grant, smeared lies all over naked, defenseless, truth, successfully cutting us all off from the facts, from reality, from our history. ...