Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advice for Overcoming Depression

From time to time I offer up some comments on New York Magazine’s “Ask Polly” advice column.

As a rule I like advice columns. I second the opinion offered by a colleague some time ago, that therapists would do better to spend more time studying Miss Manners and less time with Freud and the Frankfort School.

Some advice givers are especially good, like Emily Yoffe when she was writing the Dear Prudence column for Slate and Kwame Anthony Appiah who writes The Ethicist column for the New York Times. Both Yoffe and Appiah are intelligent, thoughtful and adult.

But, not all advice columnists are created equal. When Yoffe was replaced at Slate by someone named Marilyn Ortberg, the quality declined immediately. Ortberg is not a bad or unintelligent person, but she is simply too young for the job. I have long since ceased reading her columns.

But, a special award for bad advice must go to the Ask Polly writer for New York Magazine. I find this to be especially disappointing because the magazine often runs excellent stories about psycho science under its “Science of Us” rubric.

I don’t write about Polly very often because I would prefer not to beat up on people who are obviously defenseless. Today, however, I ran across a Polly column that makes some sense, and that spares us much of the maudlin sentimentality that makes most of the columns indigestible.

The letter writer, who calls herself “Sad and Probably Selfish” tells Polly that she is depressed. Underemployed and bereft in the big city she moved back in with her parents, only to find, as the old saying goes, that you can’t go home again.

She expected that she would be warmly welcomed in the bosom of her family. She expected to find a loving Mom and Dad, happy to have her at home again.

Apparently not. Her parents have been anything but welcoming. They have refused to play therapist to their whiny, self-absorbed daughter. This has evidently hurt her feelings.

She wrote to Polly, apparently knowing that Polly is past master at dishing out emotional blather:

And most of all, my parents have made it clear that they are uninterested in and unable to deal with my sadness. My mother has suggested I am selfish for expecting her to take on my problems on top of her own and it would be better for everyone if I just sucked it up and never spoke about it like she’s always done.

I feel invisible. I want to wander the halls weeping and force them to look at me and listen to me and feel as helpless in the face of my sadness as I do. Probably this is selfish. I’m not a kid anymore, and my parents don’t have to subvert their lives and desires to mine. But I’m increasingly resentful and depressed by their unwillingness to acknowledge what I feel. The obvious solution is to move out, but I can’t afford to and have nowhere to go. But I don’t know how to balance the strong, silent insistence that I put on a brave face and my desire to just fall apart sometimes, and the fact that I came home because I thought it was where I’d be allowed to do so, and the knowledge that that’s so selfish and immature. How do I find some peace in this situation for as long as I’m powerless to change it?

You should read this over any time you are wondering why the millennial generation has garnered such a negative reputation. Her parents are telling her to suck it up and to be an adult. She believes that they should be like whiny therapists, providing emotional support, along with free room and board.

What does Polly have to say about all this? She opens by expressing sympathy with the young woman and suggests that her mother has a problem.

In her words:

This is a woman who can’t handle raw emotion from someone close to her. She wants to help, but she can’t, and she hates herself for it. She is defensive about her inability to help you, so she calls you names to make herself feel less guilty about it.

Said mother might also feel guilty for having raised a parasite. Or better, she might not understand how the ambient culture has turned her wonderful daughter into a parasite.

It is possible that the mother might reasonably be repulsed by the way her daughter is behaving. She might feel that allowing her daughter to indulge in a regressive return to her childhood state will not help her at all. And she might very well be right.

One suspects that Polly is blaming the mother because if she doesn’t the letter writer will not follow any of her advice.

Polly writes:

You want support, and you’re going to keep making your unhappiness more and more apparent to her, and she wants you to get tough and leave her out of it, so she’s going to keep saying hurtful things to push you away. 

Polly’s solution: find a therapist. One suspects that some level of professional assistance will be useful, though Polly does not say which kind of therapist this woman should seek out.

The advice is sound, if only because it will cause this woman to stop trying to make her mother into a therapist. And hopefully it will stop her from thinking that the world and her parents exist to accommodate her emotional states.

Of course, it would all be better if the woman got a job. Recall that Harvard psychiatrist Richard Mollica once said: “the best anti-depressant is a job.” One suspects that this woman will, if she consults with a therapist, be put on medication. She ought to get a job and to get to the gym. It is not as complicated as we think it is.

Polly knows this and recommends it, but she knows that the woman had a job and friends and a gym membership before she moved back home. The woman wrote that she was underemployed. Apparently, the indignity of being a barista at Starbucks was too much to bear.

Undoubtedly, she is suffering from too much high self-esteem. She must have been told that she was terrific. And that, after graduating from college she would go out and change the world.

Then, when she encountered the real world she discovered that the world was not in on the joke. Rather than accept that she had been lied to, she moved back into her childhood bedroom… the better to regress.

The solution is simple: she like other underemployed millennials should learn how to do the best they can with the job they have.

Colin Powell once recounted that on his first job, garnered at age 19, he was sweeping the floors of a warehouse. He told himself that he would do the job better than anyone else had ever done it. And he did. One day, while he was industriously sweeping the floors, the manager walked by and saw him. The manager offered him a promotion, saying: why is that guy sweeping floors?

Understanding the way the world works—surely something that they do not teach in college these days—will serve this young woman in better stead than has all of the self-esteemist nonsense.

I would also like to know whether there was a boyfriend involved. Or whether there were a few too many hookups. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but while I agree with Polly that work and exercise and perhaps even therapy would be very helpful for this woman, the dog that didn’t bark—to take a line from Arthur Conan Doyle—is her relationship status, especially her past relationships status.

Any therapist who ignores this is a fool.

Then, Polly offers some constructive advice. If the woman cannot get a job right away she should close the book on her parasitical existence by becoming a contributing member of the household.

Polly suggests:

To help you feel less guilty and selfish, I would put two helpful household tasks on your schedule every single day. For example: Do some laundry. Weed the garden. Load the dishwasher. Walk the dog. Wash the windows in the front of the house, inside and out. The harder the chores, the better. Do things your mom has been putting off. (Check with her first.) This will buy you a lot of goodwill, and it will make you feel less worthless. 

In order to feel less worthless she should make a positive contribution to the home. Instead of whining about how her mother refuses to kowtow to her emotions she should offer more help around the house.

One understands that this will feel like housework. One understands that today’s young women believe that they are much too good to do housework. Nevertheless, Polly’s advice is germane and to the point.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Blog Appreciation Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make a special effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have taken Cyber Monday as the time to kick off my annual fundraising campaign.

It might not seem like it, but it does take some considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who are thinking about how they can express their appreciation for my efforts, I recommend making a donation.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you would rather not have to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks sent to my address: 
                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

Thank you in advance.

Is This the End of Liberal Democracy?

One recalls—just barely-- the halcyon days when the Berlin Wall fell and when liberal democracy was busting out all over. Francis Fukuyama became famous for declaring that we had reached the end of history and that the Hegelian prophecy had been fulfilled.

For reasons that escape me many conservative thinkers embraced Fukuyama as one of their own. And yet, Hegel was anything but a conservative. He was a wide-eyed idealist who became the godfather of Marxism.

Fukuyama had allowed his mind to be occupied by one of Europe’s greatest idealists. Yet, he and his acolytes failed to understand that Hegel was anything but a proponent of free enterprise and liberal democracy. Hegel did not believe that human beings could, through the exercise of their free will, direct the course of history. His was an alternative to British empiricism and eventually American pragmatism.

Hegel believed that history embodied the movement of the World Spirit.  Human beings could advance the historical narrative or resist it. They could catch the wave or fight it. There was no place for true freedom in Hegelianism. This never prevented Communist governments from calling themselves “democratic.” By that they meant that they were enacting what Rousseau called the “general will,” the true wishes of the populace, even if they had not been expressed in an election. If the people do not know what is good for them the Party does.

Fukuyama simply misunderstood Hegel. In so doing, he resurrected the reputation of a thinker whose acolytes brought extraordinary destruction to the world.

It was anything but conservative thinking.  This shows a regrettable truth: conservative thinkers have ceded the philosophical high ground to the left. When they take a whiff of its thin air they become disoriented. It’s a conspicuous failure, one that should not be dismissed lightly.

If we wish to extricate ourselves from the Hegelian straitjacket we should note that the end of Communism did not produce a triumph of liberal democracy. It offered us two nations trying, each in its own way, to recover from Communism. Call it a clash of policies, a competition between different approaches to political and economic reform. Nothing about it was given in advance.

In Russia Mikhail Gorbachev offered economic reforms, coupled with what he called “glasnost,” a Jeffersonian approach involving free elections, free speech, a free press and the other trappings of liberal democracy.

In China, which was in far worse shape than Russia, the transformation had begun ten years earlier, when Deng Xiaoping instituted economic reforms by privatizing communal property and opening the doors to free enterprise. The Chinese leader had no real use for liberal democracy, probably because he believed that it was a destabilizing force.

The protesters who occupied Tiananmen Square in 1989 discovered that Deng and his cohorts in the Politburo saw democracy as a threat to economic reform, not its handmaiden. China’s subsequent success has told many people that democracy was not a necessary accompaniment to free enterprise capitalism.

When Communism fell, China got to work and Russia got to bickering. After a time Russia decided that an authoritarian ruler would be more effective than a liberal democrat. With the advent of Vladimir Putin, it appears, at least for now, that Deng won the debate. The more they see Americans having a debate over transgendered restrooms, the more they are convinced that they made the right decision.

Today, countries that want to institute serious economic reforms are more likely to follow the Chinese than the Russian models. Worse yet, Western democracies with their hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over everyone’s hurt feelings seem to many leaders to be weak and in decline.

And yet, in the past, nations have underestimated the certain nations in the West. In particular, German militarists mistakenly imagined that the nation that gave us gentility and good manners would not have the guts to fight against an embodiment of macho strength. They learned, to their chagrin, that they had underestimated Anglo-American grit and strength.

Great Britain gave us the architect of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain, but it also gave us Winston Churchill. We note that the weak-kneed Obama administration removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the oval office. How better to choose personal pique over strength? How better to announce that one is going to follow a policy of appeasement?

And yet, today’s European social democracies have been projecting weakness. As has the pusillanimous Obama administration. They seem to believe in the Hegelian prophecy, thus that they are on the right side of history and need not do anything in particular to prevail. By attacking all evidence of masculine and martial virtues they have systematically weakened Western culture, to the point where entire nations have opened their arms to marauding armies of Muslim refugees.

The issue was in play in the last presidential election. There, to the manifest chagrin of all those who embraced the gospel of weakness, the American people chose strength over weakness. Even though the Trump campaign manifested too much macho posturing, it succeeded in getting its message across.

True enough, Trump kept suggesting that he wanted to become more isolationist and less internationalist. And yet, with the nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense Trump has shown that perhaps he did not really mean much of what he said about disengaging from the world. And he certainly showed that he wanted strength above all else. Strangely enough, the New York Times this morning suggested that a guy nicknamed “mad dog” would be a good influence on the Donald. Because Mattis was thoroughly familiar with geopolitics and the functioning of the military. Naturally, a senator named Kirsten Gillibrand said that she would oppose Mattis, on the grounds that he was military. Would she have said the same of George Marshall? Or was she just trying to manifest girl power?

The American people seemed to decide that candidates not named Trump were too weak and too sensitive to conduct the war against Islamic terrorism. President Obama was so afraid of it that he refused to pronounce its name. As for Hillary, she failed miserably in her Libyan incursion and she was surrounded by women. At times, her campaign looked like it was being run by a coven. She made “Stronger Together” her campaign slogan, but very few people really believed that it was more than posturing.

In a time of war, at a time when Western civilization is under attack, the American people opted for strength over weakness. And the American people, especially America’s young people, seem less concerned with the bickering that has come to define democratic deliberation and more concerned with a strong leader who can fight and win a war. They were less worried that George Bush was too strong than that he was not strong enough. 

Fukuyama notwithstanding, liberal democracy is no longer the rage that it once was. Around the world young people say that they would prefer a military coup, thus a more authoritarian government.

The following account of a recent study comes to us from Quartz:

People everywhere are down on democracy. Especially young people. In fact, so rampant is democratic indifference and disengagement among millennials that a shocking share of them are open to trying something new—like, say, government by military coup.

That’s according to research by Yascha Mounk, a Harvard University researcher, and Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne. The remit of their study, which the Journal of Democracy will publish in January, analyzes historical data on attitudes toward government that spans various generations in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. They find that, across the board, citizens of stable liberal democracies have grown jaded about their government, say Mounk and Foa—and worse.

And that is not all. These young people are open to radical proposals to limit freedom of speech. This might mean that they have been brainwashed in authoritarian principles. But it might also mean that they are looking for a wartime leader and not for more girl power.

Quartz reports:

Young people today are more into political radicalism and exhibit less support for freedom of speech than previous generations, according to the July study.

The survey also tells us that young people are less interested in civil rights and do not much care about elections.

Charles Krauthammer made a similar point in a recent column:

That era is over. The autocracies are back and rising; democracy is on the defensive; the U.S. is in retreat. Look no further than Aleppo. A Western-backed resistance to a local tyrant — backed by a resurgent Russia, an expanding Iran, and an array of proxy Shiite militias — is on the brink of annihilation. Russia drops bombs; America issues statements.

What better symbol for the end of that heady liberal-democratic historical moment. The West is turning inward and going home, leaving the field to the rising authoritarians — Russia, China, and Iran. In France, the conservative party’s newly nominated presidential contender is fashionably conservative and populist and soft on Vladimir Putin. As are several of the newer Eastern Europe democracies — Hungary, Bulgaria, even Poland — themselves showing authoritarian tendencies.

Discredit where discredit is due. Krauthammer believes the current feckless American administration has opened the way for an authoritarian resurgence:

And even as Europe tires of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its rape of Ukraine, President Obama’s much touted “isolation” of Russia has ignominiously dissolved, as our secretary of state repeatedly goes cap in hand to Russia to beg for mercy in Syria.

With China, Krauthammer sees the same tendency:
As for China, the other great challenger to the post–Cold War order, the administration’s “pivot” has turned into an abject failure. The Philippines has openly defected to the Chinese side. Malaysia then followed. And the rest of our Asian allies are beginning to hedge their bets. When the president of China addressed the Pacific Rim countries in Peru last month, he suggested that China was prepared to pick up the pieces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now abandoned by both political parties in the United States.

Of course, the post-Cold War period now seems to have been defined by the rise of Islamic terrorism. Faced with a significant threat, some Western nations have been trying to appease the holy warriors. Others are willing to fight.

The soft power of gynocentric European nations has led to a massive invasion and to increasing threats of terrorism. The authoritarian regimes in Russia and China have followed different policies and have tamped down on the jihadi tendencies of the Muslims within their borders. Vladimir Putin is not promoting a Merkelian open arms policy toward Muslim refugees. Xi Jinping has not concerned himself with the sensibilities of Chinese Muslims.

If you are addressing an enemy that seeks to destroy your civilization by terrorizing your population and by raping your women, you might think that show of force is required. And you might believe that you must unify the nation behind its leaders. This would not make you an incipient fascist. It would show you to be a realist who has tasked himself with cleaning up the mess that weak-kneed social democrats have visited on their nations.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Keith Ellison Perplex

After eight years of systematically ignoring anti-Semitism Democrats went into high dudgeon over Steve Bannon’s work at Breitbart news. The media organization was founded by a Jew named Andrew Breitbart and the article that was supposedly the most offensive was authored by someone named David Horowitz.

The story was salient because it affirmed the left-wing suspicion that anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry came from the one true enemy: the right wing.

Now, the specter of anti-Semitism has come to haunt the Democratic Party itself. In the wake of its election debacle the party had seemed to be uniting around the candidacy of one Keith Mohammed Ellison for Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Apparently, the lesson of election 2016 has been lost on Democratic operatives. As Mark Lilla wrote and as I commented on, the biggest loser in the election was identity politics. Dividing the nation into warring factions did not work out as expected. Placing everyone in different groups based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and whatever felt like a systematic attack on white people, an attack that relied on slander and defamation. And, not just on white people. It all felt like an attack on national unity. In the election the nation rose up against the tyranny of political correctness.

And yet, as Bob Dylan famously chanted: “When will they ever learn?” This week the night riders of the thought police have set out against a Texas couple named Chip and Joanna Gaines. The two have a television show on HG TV called Fixer Upper. They have parlayed their show into a budding media empire. No one who has watched the show has any but good feelings for the Gaineses. As it happens, they are a mixed race couple. Not that that matters.

What was their thought crime? In truth, it wasn’t theirs. It was attributed to the pastor of the church they attend. According to Buzzfeed, among others, their pastor Jimmy Seibert holds politically incorrect, and therefore heretical views about marriage.

The Federalist reports:

[According to] Jimmy Seibert, the Gaines’ pastor: “So if someone were to say, ‘Marriage is defined in a different way,’ let me just say: They are wrong. God defined marriage, not you and I. God defined masculine and feminine, male and female, not you and I.”

You may, of course, want to debate the point. As it happens, until a couple of decades ago, no one doubted this notion. Now, it has been thrown into question. But, that is not all. It has been denounced as a thought crime, as an offense against the faith. Anyone who believes what every human society has believed and practiced until a couple of decades ago is a bigot and does not deserve to have a television show on HG TV.

In fact, it does not really matter what Chip and Joanna Gaines believe or disbelieve. Attending a church where the pastor holds heretical views is, in the minds of the politically correct zealots, disqualifying.

If you were wondering why identity politics went down in flames on November 9, here’s one good reason. Then again, remember when Democrats and the political left happily excused a presidential candidate who attended a church led by a pastor who hated America, white people, Jews and Israel?

In the meantime, the great minds of the Democratic Party, led by their congressional leaders have missed the point of the election. Alan Dershowitz excoriates them for not being too bright:

What should a political party that has just lost its white working-­class blue-collar base to a “make America great again” nationalist do to try to regain these voters? Why not appoint as the new head of the party a radical left-wing ideologue who has a long history of supporting an anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam racist?

Such an appointment will surely bring back rust belt voters who have lost their jobs to globalization and free trade! Is this really the thinking of those Democratic leaders who are pushing for Keith Ellison to head the Democratic National Committee?

One hates to say it, but how can we ignore the fact that the current occupant of the White House himself had a long history of supporting an anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam racist. Hmmm.

To be fair, Rev. Jeremiah Wright was not a Muslim and did not belong to the Nation of Islam. And yet, he worked closely with Louis Farrakhan, even to the point of participating in rallies with him. And, Rev. Wright, happily published Hamas propaganda in his Church bulletin.

Do Democrats see Keith Ellison as the new Barack Obama?

Neither Farrakhan nor Wright nor, for that matter, Ellison, could support a campaign to make American great. Even if they disagree over whether America ever was great—they do not—they can hardly be expected to support anyone’s craving for national unity. After all, Wright preached something that was called black liberation theology… a doctrine that defined blacks as an oppressed class that needed to rise up and overthrow their white oppressors.

Since Ellison had a long history of associating with Farrakhan, it is fair to point out that the Nation of Islam founder has not been very much of a patriot.

Dershowitz made the case:

Ellison’s sordid past associations with Louis Farrakhan — the longtime leader of the Nation of Islam — will hurt him in Middle America, which has little appetite for Farrakhan’s anti-American ravings. Recently, Farrakhan made headlines for visiting Iran on the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution where he berated the U.S., while refusing to criticize Iran’s human rights violations.

Farrakhan also appeared as a special guest speaker of the Iranian president at a rally, which featured the unveiling of a float reenacting Iran’s detention of 10 U.S. Navy sailors in the Persian Gulf. (Jessica Chasmar, "Louis Farrakhan Speaking in Iran, Slams American ‘Dismal’ Human Rights Record," The Washington Times, Feb. 12, 2016.)

In addition to embracing American enemies abroad, Farrakhan has exhibited a penchant for lacing his sermons with anti-Semitic hate speech. Around the time that Ellison was working with the Nation of Islam, for example, Farrakhan was delivering speeches attacking “the synagogue as Satan.” He described Jews as “wicked deceivers of the American people” that have “wrapped [their] tentacles around the U.S. government” and are “deceiving and sending this nation to hell.”

Those who care can also examine the record of Ellison’s anti-Israeli votes in Congress. The record is perfectly clear to anyone who cares to look at it.

Dershowitz outlines it:

Ellison’s voting record also does not support his claim that he has become a “friend” of Israel. He was one of only eight congressmen who voted against funding the Iron Dome program, developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel, which helps protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets.

In 2009, Ellison was one of only two dozen congressmen to vote “present” rather than vote for a non-­binding resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from, reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

And in 2010, Ellison co-­authored a letter to President Obama, calling on him to pressure Israel into opening the border with Gaza. The letter describes the blockade of the Hamas controlled Gaza strip as “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents.”

And yet, the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party, including New York’s own Jewish senator, Chuck Schumer have supported Ellison. When Ellison ran for Congress in Minnesota Jewish groups decided that he had had a change of heart. They supported him.

When Barack Obama declared that his twenty year association with Rev. Wright did not matter, Jewish groups supported him. How did that work out?

Examine Obama’s contempt for the prime minister of Israel, his efforts to legitimize the Muslim Brotherhood and his efforts to empower the Iranian regime. Then you can ask precisely how much he had really put the Rev. Wright in the past. When Obama sent hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Tehran, money that would be funneled to Hamas and Hezbollah, the better to support their efforts to kill Jews... who in the American Jewish community stood up against him?

If Obama’s record with Rev. Jeremiah Wright did not matter to the Democratic Party, why should Keith Ellison’s?

Now, the Anti-Defamation League has just discovered that Keith Ellison is too anti-Semitic. So perhaps his quest for legitimacy at the DNC is over? But, then again, why did it take this much time? And when will people understand that the issue is not Keith Ellison, but Barack Obama?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blog Appreciation Week

Being as this is a conservative blog, I make a special effort to respect tradition. Even my own invented traditions.

Long time readers know that I have taken Cyber Monday as the time to kick off my annual fundraising campaign. It will last for the week, so you might see this same post repeated as the week goes on. Brace yourself.

It might not seem like it, but it does take some considerable work to produce these posts every day. For those who are thinking about how they can express their appreciation for my efforts, I recommend making a donation.

If you click on the orange Donate button on the left side of this page, the kind folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like.

If you would rather not have to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks sent to my address: 
                   310 East 46th St. 24H
                   New York, NY   10017

Thank you in advance.

Recruiting Terrorists

It is fairly obvious that Ohio State terrorist Abdul Razak Ali Artan was taking a page out of the Palestinian playbook. The Palestinians invented and have perfected the practice of using automobiles as weapons against civilians and the police, coupled with knife attacks.

Benny Avni explains it and notes that that, since these attacks happen in Israel, no one really cares:

As it happens, ISIS recently called on its followers to kill pedestrians with cars and other vehicles. According to several reports, ISIS was inspired by the July 14 attack in Nice, where a semitrailer-driving Islamist rammed celebrants of France’s Bastille Day, killing 84.

And late last week ISIS posted to the Web video clips with instructions on the proper use of knives and other sharp objects to maximize harming infidels’ bodies. Another Palestinian calling card.

Welcome to Israel, the terror lab where the latest innovations are tried, practiced and (sometimes) perfected before being exported. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, since the height of the “car and knife intifada” in September 2015, Palestinians committed 167 stabbings, 116 shootings, 48 vehicular attacks and one vehicle bombing, killing 42 people and injuring 602.

Yet, despite the frequency of attacks in the early days last year, and although a new form of terrorism was born, assaults at the heart of Israel’s cities rarely made it to speeches of world leaders tallying global terrorist incidents.

As might be expected, the New York Times conveniently forgot to mention that similar attacks have been a staple of Palestinian terrorists in Israel. It discussed attacks in France and Germany, without mentioning Israel.

As always happens now, when Islamic terrorism occurs, the Muslim community expresses deep anguish… not so much about the victims, but about the reputation of Muslims. Above all else they do not want to see their own reputations suffer.

In truth, human beings cannot, as a matter of mental economy, simply take every Muslim terrorist or any criminal from any other identifiable ethnic group as an individual, disconnected from any groups. Reputation is not merely a personal matter. It is shared. If you tarnish your good name others who bear it will also lose face.

Those who try to control the reputational damage by calling people Islamophobes are perpetrating a lie. The same applies to those who refuse to say that the terrorism has anything to do with Islam.

After the attack, ISIS declared Artan to be a soldier fighting for their cause, which may or may not mean that his attack was coordinated. It may mean that he took inspiration from the terrorist group and wanted to strike a blow against white privilege.

Of course, we want to know how Abdul Artan became radicalized. Rumblings suggest that he was influenced by Anwar al-Awlaki, who doubtless spoke to him from beyond the grave.

But Artan himself seemed to believe that he was pushed toward terrorism by Islamophobia. The Times story put that interpretation front and center:

Last summer the student newspaper, The Lantern, published an interview with Mr. Artan in which he complained about being afraid to pray in public as a Muslim, because of people’s negative perceptions of the religion.

“I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what media portrays me to be,” he told the newspaper. “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads.”

Why do they hate us, the Times seems to be asking. Because we are not nice enough to them, it seems to be answering. By its lights, if only we rid out hearts and minds of prejudice, terrorism would vanish into the cold night air.

One understands that Artan was not the brightest of the bright. If he was concerned about the reputation of Muslims he might have understood that committing terrorist mayhem on the campus of Ohio State University would not contribute to the cause. Clearly, the good name of Islam was not very high on his list.

Artan seems rather to have taken a page out of the politically correct chapbook. He believes that people are prejudiced against Muslims becaue of… the media. He blames it, implicitly, on the Islamophobia that has been stirred by the media. By that one assumes that he, like our president, blames Fox News.

Apparently, Artan believed that the problem was Islamphobia, because he believed that media depictions of Muslims were giving members of his faith a bad reputation. He does not consider that the actions of Muslims themselves might have contributed to the bad reputation. Being an Islamist terrorist means never taking responsibility when other people think ill of you.

In truth, the mass media and the Obama administration have been fighting the good fight against Islamophobia for nearly eight years now. The media, such as it is, keeps telling people that Islamic terrorism is not the problem, but that Islamophobia is. After all, that is the thrust of the Times article.

However much he was radicalized by al-Awlaki, Abdul Artan seems to have been consumed by the idea that he could, by committing a terrorist act, take revenge on those who looked down on his faith. He wanted to be respected. He wanted Islam to be respected. He wanted his culture to be seen as strong. He wanted it to appear to be superior. And the only way he knew now to do it was to kill people in its name.

Writing on Facebook Artan had declared that he was willing to kill a billion infidels. So much for the religion of peace. So much for Islamophobia. He was looking for converts.

He did not just have friends in the media. He did not know it but he also had sympathizers in the Ohio State University.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson, a diversity official at Ohio State University,  wrote on Facebook that we should feel compassion for a troubled young man. And she included the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter on her post.


Of course, Thompson was embracing a terrorist who was trying to murder people on her campus. And yet, her blindered ideology had taught her that if the terrorist was black and the police officer was white, he had been murdered by white privilege. She expressed no sympathy for the victims of the terrorist action.

One does not understand why she felt that Artan’s actions might reflect badly on her or on the Ohio State community, but, as a general rule, if you do not want the actions of one individual to reflect on your community, you must denounce what he did. You should call for the shunning of anyone who sympathizes with terrorist actions. Or of any imam who tries to provoke terrorism in his mosque.

In the Times report we read this:

As Ohio State officials took stock of the attack and made plans for classes to resume on Tuesday, they said they were thankful the injuries were not more severe and were optimistic that students would come together even if investigators discovered a link to terrorism.

“Our campus community is extremely tolerant,” Michael V. Drake, the university president, said in an interview. “The concept of branding a whole community for the act of a few leads to an intolerance that can make the world a more difficult place for all of us.”

And it adds this, from the Council of American Islamic Relations:

“We as yet know nothing about the motivation of the attacker, but we do know of his Somali heritage, and that will be enough for some people to falsely link this tragic incident to the faith of Islam and to the Somali and Muslim communities,” said Roula Allouch, national board chairwoman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We must not jump to conclusions. It is important to let the investigators do their jobs.”

Despite these suggestions, when a terrorist act is committed, we who are targeted have no obligation to forgive and to forget. We have every right to think that an act committed in the name of Islam has something to do with Islam.

Muslims themselves must denounce terrorism and must report the incipient terrorists in their midst. If they are not willing to do so, they are affirming that something about their faith produces these horrors. When they blame Islamophobia they are shifting responsibility and showing that they have no sense of honor.

If they want to disassociate themselves from Islamist terrorism they should begin by denouncing Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. If they cannot do it, if they are too afraid to do it, then they should stop complaining about being judged.

For its part, Ohio State University, in the name of two administrative officials has chosen the path of what it calls tolerance. It has chosen not to feel any anger and not to denounce the cause in whose name Abdul Artan acted. In so doing it is making it appear that Islamophobia is the real problem. Which is what Artan believed. If Islamophobia is the problem that means: the failure of the infidels to submit to Islam.

That was exactly the point that Artan was trying to make. And that was the lesson incipient terrorists will take from the reactions. They will see that terrorism works and that it causes Americans to soften their attitudes toward Islam. Seeing that their religion strikes fear in the hearts of infidels will propel them toward more acts of terrorism.

Would Abdul Artan have done it if he had believed that his actions would have discredited and disgraced his religion?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The End of the Anglo-American World Order

In what will count as this weekend’s big think magazine article Bard College professor Ian Buruma bemoans the advent of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. He sees them as an omen that presages the end of the Anglo-American world order.

Had he been slightly more astute he might have noted that eight years of President Barack Obama has seen America retreat from many of the values that made it great, powerful and it prosperous. Why blame Trump for something that has already happened?

Buruma argues that Barack Obama was trying to save America by producing a giant wave of equality. That goal was so important that Obama did not bother to concern himself with the production of wealth. Buruma does not seem to recognize that producing wealth and redistributing wealth are contradictory policies.

In what must surely count as one of the most misguided opinions offered by a serious thinker Buruma closes his article with a hope and a prayer that Western civilization, that is Judeo-Christian civilization will be saved by… you guessed it… Angela Merkel.

By pretending that all cultures are the same and that true liberal principles require you to submit to the kind of social chaos produced when unassimilable immigrants are allowed to overrun your nation Merkel has damaged her own country severely and has contributed mightily to the current rise of nationalism and populism.

As for Barack Obama, if I may repeat points that I have made previously, our president has failed to unite the country, refused to exercise American influence around the world, submitted to the ayatollahs and was cowed by Vladmir Putin and Xi Jinping. Rather than engage in the struggle against radical Islam—struggle that would have united the nation against a common enemy—Obama divided the country by going to war against Islamophobia and other forms of what he considered racism.

Purifying the American soul of sin was more important to him than asserting American greatness. If the Anglo-American world order is at an end, one primary reason is that Barack Obama put an end to it. He, and of course, those who voted for him and who still believe that he did a great job.

Obama thinks that America was founded on a racist past and thus that he cannot take pride in its greatest achievements… the ones that culminated in victory in World War II.

Buruma understands that the current world order derives from the last war in which America was victorious:

When Trump and Farage stood on that stage together in Mississippi, they spoke as though they were patriots reclaiming their great countries from foreign interests. No doubt they regard Britain and the United States as exceptional nations. But their success is dismaying precisely because it goes against a particular idea of Anglo-American exceptionalism. Not the traditional self-image of certain American and British jingoists who like to think of the United States as the City on the Hill or Britain as the sceptered isle splendidly aloof from the wicked Continent, but another kind of Anglo-American exception: the one shaped by World War II. The defeat of Germany and Japan resulted in a grand alliance, led by the United States, in the West and Asia. Pax Americana, along with a unified Europe, would keep the democratic world safe. If Trump and Farage get their way, much of that dream will be in tatters.

Buruma notwithstanding, the dream is now in tatters. It is interesting to see him blame someone who has not served a day in office while ignoring the influence of the current president.

Buruma does not draw the obvious lesson from World War II, and from British inventions like the Industrial Revolution and free enterprise. We won the war because we practiced martial values, not because we led the world in free love and peace marches. And he ignores cultural habits like the British stiff upper lip, the British tendency to queue up, and the value of patriotism and loyalty.

Instead, Buruma argues that the Anglo-American world order was produced by a wistful dream for equality. Of course, Jefferson did have something to say about equality in the Declaration of Independence, but the armies and the industries that produced the Anglo-American order were based on liberty more than equality.

One recalls that, well before Jefferson stepped foot in France, one Jean-Jacques Rousseau produced a “Discourse on Inequality” that set the minds of idealists abuzz but that helped produce the bloodbath called the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.

The martial values that won World War II were dismissed by the baby boomer generation in favor of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Their children value transgendered restrooms, trigger warnings and legalized weed.

Even before Barack Obama, America had been declining. It had suffered a series of failed military incursions and lost wars. Obama upped the ante by refusing to fight at all.

You can drool all you want about social justice but if your nation keeps losing wars, it will no longer set a standard that anyone will want to emulate.

About that Buruma has nothing to say.

In part, Buruma understands clearly the importance of capitalism:

Anglo-American capitalism can be harsh in many ways, but because free markets are receptive to new talent and cheap labor, they have spawned the kind of societies, pragmatic and relatively open, where immigrants can thrive, the very kind that rulers of more closed, communitarian, autocratic societies tend to despise.

To his mind the Cold War as a battle between ideas. It was our dream of equality versus their despotism.

Buruma argues:

The West, its freedoms protected by the United States, needed a plausible counternarrative to Soviet ideology. This included a promise of greater social and economic equality. 

Thus, Buruma claims that what made America great was the civil rights movement, culminating in the election of a president who had no real qualifications for the job. He ignores the fact that the election of Barack Obama defined the notion of qualification downwards. If Obama was so great and if he made America so great why have he and his political party been so roundly repudiated at the polls?

If Barack Obama set such a shining example why have more and more Americans lost faith in democracy? And, why have other countries around the world decided that liberal democracy is not for them?

If you want to know where Barack Obama’s loyalty lies, consider the fact that not a single member of his administration represented America at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. On the contrary, two White House officials will be attending the funeral of Fidel Castro. It’s not just that Obama is the master of the cheap shot; his sympathies lie with the oppressed not with the victors.

How much more do you need to understand?

In Buruma’s words:

America’s prestige was greatly bolstered not just by the soldiers who helped liberate Europe but also by the men and women back home who fought to make their society more equal and their democracy more inclusive. By struggling against the injustices in their own country, figures like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the Freedom Riders or indeed President Obama kept the hope of American exceptionalism alive. As did the youth culture of the 1960s. 

He does not mention, even in passing, that Anglo-American principles and achievements are constantly attacked in the school system and the media. The American academy, such as it is, is chockablock with professors who believe that America is an organized criminal conspiracy that needs to be brought down. They teach their students to despise the martial values that won World War II and to disparage the free enterprise system that produced prosperity after the war. They oppose Anglo-American hegemony as an article of faith. About this Buruma has nothing to say.

And Buruma does not appreciate the fact that the assault on America, coupled with the assault on Western Civilization has come to us from the same fever swamps that produced European fascism, Nazism and Communism.

He does not see that Middle Europeans who could not defeat America or Britain on the battlefield or in the marketplace, were taking out their frustration on local exemplars of the values they abhorred. That is, on their own local Jewish population. Within Nazi Europe Jews became surrogates for the forces of Anglo-American culture and values. It is certainly not an accident that today’s social justice warriors, led by Jeremiah Wright’s protégé, a man supported by Louis Farrakhan, reserve a special hatred for the state of Israel.

Buruma makes this point:

Wilhelm II, kaiser of Germany until 1918, when his country was defeated in the First World War, which he had done his best to unleash, was such a figure. Half English himself, he called England a nation of shopkeepers and described it as “Juda-England,” a country corrupted by sinister alien elites, where money counted more than the virtues of blood and soil. In later decades, this kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric was more often aimed at the United States. The Nazis were convinced that Jewish capitalists ruled America, not just in Hollywood but in Washington and, naturally, New York. This notion is still commonly held, though less in Europe than in the Middle East and some parts of Asia. But talk about “citizens of nowhere,” sinister cosmopolitan elites and conspiratorial bankers fits precisely in the same tradition. A terrifying irony of contemporary Anglo-American populism is the common use of phrases that were traditionally used by enemies of the English-speaking countries.

Note how brilliantly twisted Buruma is. Who declared himself a citizen of the world… in Germany, no less? It was Barack Obama, don’t you recall. The guardian class of elites-- idealists all-- has chosen to fight a culture war against the values that prevailed during World War II and the years that followed. These modern Platonists oppose the empirical culture of Great Britain. They have no use for science and they care less for American pragmatism. They do not judge ideas by whether they work in practice. And, let us be very clear, these same cultural elites, these citizens of the world have happily joined Fidel Castro and Jeremy Corbyn in waging war against Israel, the country that represents the values they despise.

Why do they do so? They abhor the notion that some cultures are superior to others, and that a band of Jews could build a free and prosperous nation in a place where Arabs had only known failure.

For his part Buruma resents the fact that Britons and Americans have taken pride in their victories and their successes. He would prefer that they become guilt-ridden slugs, spending their time doing penance for their sins.

Of course, he does not see pride as pride, but demeans and slanders it.

The self-flattering notion that the Western victors in World War II are special, braver and freer than any other people, that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of man, that Great Britain — the country that stood alone against Hitler — is superior to any European let alone non-European country has not only led to some ill-conceived wars but also helped to paper over the inequalities built into Anglo-American capitalism. The notion of natural superiority, of the sheer luck of being born an American or a Briton, gave a sense of entitlement to people who, in terms of education or prosperity, were stuck in the lower ranks of society.

As I said, Buruma closes his piece by declaring that the embattled and beleaguered Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, represents the true values of the West. In truth Merkel does represent the values of the guardian class, but she certainly does not represent the values that won two great wars. Could it be that she represents the values that lost two wars, that so totally resented Anglo-American hegemony that they turned their nation and the world into Hell:

The last hope of the West might be Germany, the country that Michael Howard fought against and that I hated as a child. Angela Merkel’s message to Trump on the day after his victory was a perfect expression of Western values that are still worth defending. She would welcome a close cooperation with the United States, she said, but only on the basis of “democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.” Merkel spoke as the true heiress of the Atlantic Charter.

Speaking of great ironies, the philosophers who have resented the Anglo-American values that prevailed over the great idealistic enterprises called Nazism and Communism want to hand leadership of the Atlantic alliance to Germany.