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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Sat. 06/27/09 10:46:39 PM
The Week That Was
On Monday, all the news was Iran; by Friday, all the news was Michael Jackson. The breakneck speed at which the newscasters and punditocracy switched gears from one to the other was both astonishing and expected. Here are three pieces that say very well what I could only say rather poorly.
First, Understanding Obama on Iran by Andy McCarthy, Monday, June 22.
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Call me thick, but I continue to be baffled by a lot of the commentary, cited by Rich and others, which gives as the rationale for President Obama's diffidence his purported determination to preserve the opportunity to negotiate with the mullahs on their nuclear program. Obama is resigned to Iran getting nukes (perhaps even having them already) and has no intention of doing anything meaningful about it.
The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society. In this he is no different from his allies like the Congressional Black Caucus and Bill Ayers, who have shown themselves perfectly comfortable with Castro and Chàvez. Indeed, he is the product of a hard-Left tradition that apologized for Stalin and was more comfortable with the Soviets than the anti-Communists (and that, in Soros parlance, saw George Bush as a bigger terrorist than bin Laden).
Because of obvious divergences (inequality for women and non-Muslims, hatred of homosexuals) radical Islam and radical Leftism are commonly mistaken to be incompatible. In fact, they have much more in common than not, especially when it comes to suppression of freedom, intrusiveness in all aspects of life, notions of "social justice," and their economic programs. (On this, as in so many other things, Anthony Daniels should be required reading — see his incisive New English Review essay, "There Is No God but Politics", comparing Marx and Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb.) The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated — "equal rights" and "social justice" are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies.
The key to understanding Obama, on Iran as on other matters, is that he is a power-politician of the hard Left : He is steeped in Leftist ideology, fueled in anger and resentment over what he chooses to see in America's history, but a "pragmatist" in the sense that where ideology and power collide (as they are apt to do when your ideology becomes less popular the more people understand it), Obama will always give ground on ideology (as little as circumstances allow) in order to maintain his grip on power.
It would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs, so Obama's instinct was to do the next best thing: to say nothing supportive of the freedom fighters. As this position became increasingly untenable politically, and as Democrats became nervous that his silence would become a winning political round for Republicans, he was moved grudgingly to burble a mild censure of the mullah's "unjust" repression — on the order of describing a maiming as a regrettable "assault," though enough for the Obamedia to give him cover. But expect him to remain restrained and to continue grossly understating the Iranian regime's deadly response. That will change only if, unexpectedly, it appears that the freedom-fighters may win, at which point he'll scoot over to the right side of history and take all conceivable credit.
I think Victor had this right on Saturday: "Obama is almost more at ease with virulent anti-Westerners, whose grievances Obama has long studied (and perhaps in large part entertained)," (though I'd have omitted the "almost"). Mark Steyn made the same point in a post last week (about a Robert Kagan column that Pete Wehner also discussed).
It's a mistake to perceive this as "weakness" in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters' side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn't done that, and he won't. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely. That's not weakness, it's strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us.
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Second, Some Quick Thoughts on Michael Jackson by Jonah Goldberg, Friday, June 26.
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Generally speaking, I’m a believer in the rule that we should not speak ill of the dead. Or at least we should wait a decent interval before doing so (if we never spoke ill of the dead, history would be meaningless). But, I must say I find the media’s instinctive rush to sanctify Michael Jackson disgusting.
Look, I understand that Michael Jackson was an “icon.” I understand that some people loved his work and that many people who never met him believed they loved the man too.
But I didn't, and I’m hardly alone. If Michael Jackson were just another famous person, I’d probably stay silent and let the pro forma celebration of his memory roll by without comment. (For instance, I have no problem whatsoever with the media taking a moment to pay respects to Farah Fawcett).
Sure, I liked the Jackson Five. I liked “Thriller,” too, when I was a teenager. Michael Jackson was an “icon” for me too.
But let’s pause for a moment on that word “icon.” It seemed the consensus adjective for the news networks. NBC ran a special on two “American Icons” — Fawcett and Jackson. Every cable network (including Fox, for the record) used the word “icon” to describe him as if this was some sort of safe harbor, a word everyone could agree on. “Love him or hate him,” the implied logic went, “he was an ‘icon.’”
Yes, well, maybe so. But that doesn’t let you off the hook. Even though the term sounds neutral, it isn’t. An icon, technically speaking, is a religious symbol deserving of reverence and adoration. The networks may not have intended to use the word that way, but they certainly showed an unseemly amount of reverence and adoration for the man.
I think part of it is the narcissism of our celebrity culture. Here was a guy so many of “us” read about in People magazine for so long. His passing, therefore, isn’t a loss in the sorrowful sense of the word, but in the selfish one. It’s a loss of an interesting subject, a creature to gossip about and to fill a few minutes on E! or Entertainment Tonight.
Everyone likes to invoke Lord Acton’s axiom that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But nearly everyone forgets that he coined this phrase not to indict powerful men, but to instruct the historians who write about them. Historians tend to forgive the powerful their transgressions. Likewise, journalists (for want of a better word) tend to forgive the famous.
Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything.
I say: Who cares who his famous friends were? Who cares what a “fascinating” person he was? If you want to talk about his death as an end of an era, have at it. But that’s not what the Barbara Walters set is doing.
I know that Michael Jackson wasn’t convicted of the despicable crimes he was accused of. And that’s why he never went to jail. Three cheers for the majesty of the American legal system. But in my own personal view, he wasn’t exonerated either. Nor was he absolved of his crimes because he could sing, moonwalk, or sell 10 million records. (Though many of us suspect the money and fame he made from those things is precisely what kept him out of jail).
And, while I merely think he was a pedophile, I know he was not someone responsible parents should applaud, healthy children emulate, nor society celebrate.
And while we’re at it, his relatively early death wasn’t “tragic.” He was one of the richest people in the world. He spent his money on perpetual childhood and he was perpetually with children not his own.
Meanwhile, in the last ten days, we’ve seen or heard of remarkable people who’ve given their lives for freedom in Iran. We’ve heard of innocents killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the last decade, America has lost thousands of heroes in noble causes and thousands of innocent bystanders who were denied the simple joys of life through no fault of their own. Those deaths are tragic, and we're hard pressed to think of more than a handful of names to put with the long line of the dead.
If anything, Michael Jackson’s life, not his death, was tragic.
Every year at the Oscars they show a montage of people who died over the previous year. Invariably, the audience only applauds for the really famous people. This has always offended me. Not necessarily because the famous people don’t deserve praise but because it’s so clear that the audience is clapping for the fame. Michael Jackson had many accomplishments. But the press is sanctifying him because he was famous, deservedly so to be sure, but not because he was good. So much of the coverage seems to miss this fundamental point, as if being famous made him good.
I feel sympathy for Jackson’s family and friends who understandably mourn him. But I can't bring myself to mourn him any more than I mourn the random dead I read about in the paper everyday. Indeed, I confess to mourning him less.
Every channel says this is a sad day for America. I agree. But not for the same reasons.
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Finally, Sorry Neda, We Have a Pedophile to Worship by Joy Tiz, Friday, June 26.
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For previous generations, the question: “Where were you when Kennedy was shot” has served as a conversation starter as well as a catalyst for exploration of a shared history. It would seem that the quintessential question will soon be: “where were you when you found out Michael Jackson was dead?”
For the record, I was at the gym. Credulous, I trusted that the Jackson story would get a few minutes of coverage before Bret Baier returned. My jejune confidence that Charles Krauthammer would momentarily be providing commentary about actual news was hastily crushed. Abstrusely, Fox News brought Shepard Smith in to cover this astounding turn of events.
You know what would be really shocking? Michael Jackson dying at the age of 87. That would have been a real stunner, well deserving of the nauseating nonstop narration that should be reserved for heads of state.
Time really stands still on the treadmill when you are listening to a fervid Geraldo lamenting Anna Nicole Jackson’s “shocking” death.
All other news of the day having been declared inconsequential, Fox proceeded to indulge in unnecessary and disproportionate keening about the calamitous death of the world’s most famous pedophile.
The same Michael Jackson who once told a reporter it was “sweet” and “charming” to sleep with little boys and ply them with “Jesus Juice” (known to lucid people as “wine”) has been deified. Jackson, who dangled one of his babies off of a hotel balcony also obtained those children via a bizarre and labyrinthine arrangement, named one of them Blanket and made them wear burkas.
Jackson is exceedingly popular in the United Kingdom, confirming Mark Steyn’s reflection that the United Kingdom is further along than the United States in the march toward complete social and economic collapse. But not to worry, we won’t quit until we’re Number One.
Michael Jackson recently converted to Islam. Michael’s brother, Jermaine, converted to Islam in 1989. Even the Religion of Peace failed to deliver true bliss.
Americans know far more about Michael Jackson than they do about the history of Iran and its relationship to the United States. Most of what America knows is wrong, having been subjected to pertinacious propaganda in Ayers’ based public education.
Which is why the interest in the life and death of Neda Agah-Soltan was so facilely dwarfed by the opulent freak show that surrounds Michael Jackson.
Neda was the beautiful young Iranian woman who was gunned down in the streets of Tehran for the crime of showing up. She showed up to take a stand for freedom and took a bullet in the neck for her aspirations. A relative in the United States had cautioned Neda not to attend any demonstrations, telling her “They’re killing people.” To which the lionhearted and prescient Neda replied: “Don’t worry, it’s just one bullet and its over.”
For just a flicker in time, Neda became an icon, a symbol of the young Iranians’ longing for the most elemental liberties. It was easy for Americans to be incensed at the barbarous slaughter of a young woman so lovely and earnest. Young Iran has caught a glimpse of freedom, the inescapable byproduct of advancing technology. The noteworthiness of Neda is in no small measure due to the ease with which young Americans can appreciate her as not so unlike themselves.
Part of the delusive indoctrination that goes on in public schools includes the rewriting of Iranian history in a way that abets the left.
In actuality, before the Jimmy Carter regime, the United States and Iran were on friendly terms. The Shah of Iran was the least backward of all Muslim leaders. The shah, who is erroneously characterized as a villain, was responsible for giving women the right to vote. In other Arab states, they still don’t have the right to leave the house without a husband or other male relative. Unimaginable though it may be post-Carter, Iran and Israel were not always bitter enemies. The current government of Iran is as much an enemy of the Iranian people as it is of Israel.
Iranians are understandably horrified by the new American president who has referred to the Ayatollah as Supreme Leader, a show of respect for the legitimacy of the barbaric regime. Barack Obama went so far as to send a letter to the Ayatollah Khomeini weeks before Iran’s June 12th election. Obama was pandering to the brutal, backwards and oppressive Iranian leadership.
Back when the news still took the trouble to cover the bloodbath in Iran, the world saw young Iranians holding signs in English. Urgent pleas were coming through computers worldwide begging the leader of the free world to help the Iranian people. Many Americans would be amazed to learn how many Iranians were educated via petrodollars in the United Kingdom or the United States. Some Iranian young people speak far better English than your local high school kids.
The late shah’s son reached out to Obama for support:
“I would like to take this opportunity and tell the President this is a crucial moment - on behalf of my compatriots and millions who have been turning to the outside world, particularly to this President - to say: don’t let us down.”
While Barack Obama was eating ice cream, Neda’s parents were forced from their home by government agents. Public displays of mourning were shut down. Nineteen year old Kaveh Alipour was gunned down by government barbarians. After frantically searching for news about his missing son at hospitals and eventually the morgue, Alipour’s father was told he would be required to pay a $3000 “bullet fee” to reimburse the government for the ammo expended in executing his child.
Barack Obama did eventually deliver the obligatory “we are outraged” statement. He held off as long as he could, until public opinion became too clamorous to overlook. While he gabbled, the violence in Iran escalated. Iranian citizens were being massacred in the streets with axes and machetes. Students were being routed from their beds in their dorm rooms.
Ronald Reagan responded to a similar cry for help from the people of Poland who were then enslaved by the Soviet Union. Reagan minced no words in decrying the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire”. He never expelled gibberish about how the United States shouldn’t “meddle” as innocent citizens suffer.
Then, as today, pantywaist liberals were caterwauling about toning down the rhetoric so as not to pique oppressive dictators. Thankfully, Reagan ignored such nattering. The Poles were doing what the Iranians are today: insisting on the most basic of human liberties. Ronald Reagan had no intention of sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how this thing played out:
"In a stiff note to Soviet boss Leonid Brezhnev; Reagan said that if the Russians kept up their thuggish response to Poland they ‘could forget any new nuclear arms agreement.’ Gone too would be better trade relations, and in their place would be the ‘harshest possible economic sanctions’ if they even thought of invading Poland as they had done with Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Hungary in 1956."
The Soviets responded by declaring martial law and shutting down the Polish borders, as well as squelching communications with the outside world.
Reagan was unflinching. He wrote in his diary:
"I took a stand that this may be the last chance in our lifetime to see a change in the Soviet Empire’s colonial policy re Eastern Europe. We should take a stand and tell them unless and until martial law is lifted in Poland, the prisoners were released and negotiations resumed between Walesa and the Polish government, we would quarantine the Soviets and Poland with no trade or communications across their borders. Also tell our NATO allies and others to join us in such sanctions or risk an estrangement from us. A TV speech is in the works."
Reagan helped spirit the defecting Polish Ambassador out of the country and to the United States. Leonid Brezhnev was livid. Reagan was delighted; Brezhnev’s outrage confirmed to Reagan that he was on the right track. Ronald Reagan went on to use every tool at his disposal to topple Brezhnev’s regime and replace him with Lech Walesa.
Ronald Reagan won the battle to liberate the Polish people. They have not forgotten. He is considered, in the words of the Polish president, the ”architect of democracy.”
Barack Obama is certainly no Ronald Reagan. The entire world, including the United States would be better off and more secure if the Ayatollah’s government toppled. The death of a pedophile has created a distraction from having to deal with the knotty problem of full scale slaughter in the streets of Iran.
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