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“Ché voler ciò udire è bassa voglia.”

April 18, 2009, 6:32 pm

John Ziegler, you’ll remember, considers tragic suicide the perfect occasion for self-promotion, so his recent antics should come as no surprise. Here’s what happened:

He announced that he would demonstrate the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Journalism. On the day of the event, he was treated like a demonstrator.

That should be all you need to know, but Ziegler is a savvy self-promoter. At some point after he’d made his intentions to demonstrate clear enough to USC that they hired extra security and set up a barricade, he decided that he would not be demonstrating the event after all: he would be reporting on it. Here he is informing a very polite USC employee of that decision (3:48):

USC Employee: You indicated that you were here to demonstrate.

Ziegler: Actually no, I called off the demonstration. I’m just here to find out what’s going on.

USC Employee: But, so you’re not the media in a sense—

Ziegler: I’ve got a microphone and a camera and website. [quick edit] So now you’re acknowledging that because of my political position on this, that has something to do with the access to this event.

Some on the right believe that because Ziegler claimed to be a journalist while holding an implement of the trade, irony’s the order of the day:

The Annenberg School of Journalism . . . teaching journalists how to stonewall and intimidate . . . journalists.

Let me fix that for Mr. Morrissey:

Employees of the Davidson Conference Center and USC Department of Public Safety . . . teaching uncooperative demonstrators what happens to uncooperative demonstrators . . . when they refuse to comply when ordered to leave the premises.

Ziegler may, as he told Greta Van Susteren, have “decided against [protesting],” but if he never communicated that decision to anyone outside his own head, his belief that he would be greeted upon arrival as the journalist he had decided to be instead of the demonstrator he’d repeatedly declared he was going to be is delusional in the strong clinical sense. He believes other people can read his mind. That’s not all.

When the USC Employee fails to pluck the changed gameplan from Ziegler’s thoughts, he replies nonsensically: “I’ve got a microphone and a camera and a website,” he says, the implication being that the simultaneous possession of those items transforms a person into a journalist. If I walk up to Dodger Stadium carrying a cap and a glove and a bat tomorrow, am I a professional baseball player? If I walk into the Gordon Ramsay London with an apron and a hat and a sack of Henckels, am I a professional chef?

The only possible way telepathy and fallacy could have failed, Ziegler reasons, is if They are out to get him—if They are persecuting him. The fact that uninvited demonstrators are rarely allowed unfettered access to the invitation only event they are demonstrating never occurs to him, and why would it? Only he knows how special he is, and now that nobody can read his mind anymore, he has no means of telling the world how special he is.

Or he’s not clinically anything, merely too stupid to realize that if you announce your intent to demonstrate an event, everyone will consider you a demonstrator no matter what you call yourself because once you air that announcement any action you take will be interpreted as a protestation. The “I’m not protesting, Officer, I’m just standing here minding my business” routine never works because one you are a protester, standing there minding your business becomes an act of civil disobedience.

All of which is only to say, I think I need another Virgil. The one I have is wonderful—I love my cats, don’t get me wrong—but when I find myself in the eighth circle of Hell staring into an evil pocket at a hypocrite like Ziegler, it would be nice to have a Virgil who could rebuke me so soundly this would happen:

Like one asleep who dreams himself in trouble
and in his dream he wishes he were dreaming,
longing for that which is, as if it were not,

just so I found myself: unable to speak,
longing to beg for pardon and already
begging for pardon, not knowing that I did.

“Less shame than yours would wash away a fault
greater than yours has been,” my master said.
“and so forget about it, do not be sad.”

If ever again you should meet up with men
engaging in this kind of futile wrangling,
remember I am always at your side;

to have a taste for talk like this is vulgar!”

Preach on, Virgil, preach on.

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