To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell
Sunday, January 13, 2019
By William Kristol, From TheWeekly Standard, Thanksgiving 2012:
…George W. Bush was ridiculed by the left, and criticized by some on the right, for speaking of the Global War on Terror. The left hated the notion of a global war of any sort, and the right disliked the imprecision of “terror.” But the term “war on terror” has always struck me as good enough for government work. For what the West stands against is terror—whether the terror of modern secular totalitarianism or the terror of an older, and now revitalized, religious fanaticism. From the Great Terrors of Stalin and Hitler to the attacks on New York and Tel Aviv, and on Madrid, Bali, and Mumbai, terrorists of all stripes know who their enemies are. They attack across the world and kill Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike—but they grasp that the centers of resistance, the nations that stand most squarely in their path, are the United States and Israel.
And so these two very different nations—Christian and Jewish, large and small, new world and old (though the new world nation is older than its newly reborn old world counterpart)—find themselves allied. More than allied: They find themselves joined at the hip in a brotherhood that is more than a diplomatic or political or military alliance. Everyone senses that the ties are deeper than those of mere allies. Israelis know that if the United States fails, so shall Israel. Americans sense, in the words of Eric Hoffer, “as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.”
I write this on the eve of Thanksgiving, the most Old Testament, the most Hebraic, of our national holidays. On Thanksgiving we don’t celebrate our rights or our achievements, or honor our soldiers or great men. Rather, we thank the Almighty for our blessings here in America. We might also thank Him for restoring the homeland of the Jewish people, as Israelis might thank Him for the existence, side by side with Israel, of a loyal and steadfast America.
From "For GOP, Support For Israel Becomes New Litmus Test,"New York Times, March 27, 2015:
“It is remarkable,” said William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine and one of the leading voices promoting Israel’s cause in the United States. Mr. Netanyahu, who goes by the nickname Bibi, has become a rallying point for Republicans, he said. “Bibi would probably win the Republican nomination if it were legal,” he said.
Mr. Kristol, emailing from Israel where he was meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, described the shift as a result of broader underlying trends in American politics as the political left grows more “European” and the political right grows more “Reaganite.” He added that “the conservative belief in American exceptionalism is akin to Zionism.”And he said the contrast between Mr. Obama’s friction with Mr. Netanyahu and former President George W. Bush’s strong support for Israel “is pretty dramatic.”
President Clinton cruising through the Democratic primaries unchallenged, it is all the more striking to hear Buchanan speaking happily of a mob with pitchforks descending on GOP-run Capitol Hill. In the plum days of Ronald Reagan, Republicans loved to talk of an 11th Commandment prohibiting intra-party nastiness. Laments former Tennessee senator Howard Baker, an Establishment archduke: "My friend Bob Strauss says, We taught you how to act like Democrats.' "
(William) Kristol stoutly calls for a little more nobility: "The way in which conservatism has succeeded in a democracy is by learning how to incorporate populism, popular instincts and even prejudices into the message. If you're interested in politics, you don't blame other conservatives for adopting certain populist ways of speaking.
"Someone needs to stand up and defend the Establishment," says Kristol, a sometime strategist, party ideologist and the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine. "In the last couple of weeks, there's been too much pseudo-populism, almost too much concern and attention for, quote, the people -- that is, the people's will, their prejudices and their foolish opinions. And in a certain sense, we're all paying the price for that now. . . . After all, we conservatives are on the side of the lords and barons."
"But there will always be an Establishment in a system like ours. The task is to make it a decent Establishment, and not just pretend that the voice of the people is always right. . . . We at the Weekly Standard are pulling up the drawbridge against the peasants. I may need to get myself pitchfork insurance."
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Unlike most other mass shootings in America, the slaughter of 11 Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in late October did not trigger demonstrations against the National Rifle Association or calls to curtail Second Amendment freedoms. Instead, it triggered an orgy of blaming and shaming of the people and the social forces that were said to have instigated it.
First, blame was directed toward the “toxic” rhetoric President Donald Trump was said to have used on Twitter to warn about invading immigrant hordes, which was alleged to have set the stage for the attack. Then, it was directed toward the torrents of “online hate” that had overtaken social media and had animated the crazed Jew-hating gunman to barge in during Saturday services and start blasting.
In kindergarten, Americans learn that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” In the new digital dispensation, however, it’s worth asking whether that old childhood chestnut still applies. To many, especially aggrieved or beset American minority groups obsessed with “cyberhate” and online “microaggressions,” it seems that words will ever hurt you.
Before the blood was even dried on the floor, the Pittsburgh massacre was cited as proof that social media companies had been irresponsible in allowing online hate to fester on their various platforms, and that free speech protections needed to be curtailed in light of the rising tide of anti-Semitism that digital incitement had fueled.
That these calls for censorship were coming from activist groups, most connected in some way or another with the anti-Trump “Resistance,” was one thing.
Since the 2016 election, civil liberties groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) have been operating in tune with the first principle of the Resistance: that there should be “no platform for fascists.” Both groups have devoted a lot of their energies to blacklisting people they find objectionable, wildly exaggerating both their offensiveness and the level of threat this represents to eliminate political pushback against their agendas and to enhance fundraising.
These groups have also forged partnerships with Big Tech platforms who were already ideologically sympathetic with them and already predisposed to marginalize political, cultural, and ideological views at odds with the dominant pro-diversity, pro-multicultural politically correct consensus within their organizations.
In the liberal monocultures of these Big Tech entities, views and causes that are politically distasteful or threatening need to be suppressed, often through the manipulation of algorithms and content moderation with little accountability or transparency built into the process.
In the past, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) could have been counted on to hold up the banner of free speech high and loud. But the ACLU, mindful of its donor base, has been pretty tepid, refusing to call out the ADL and the SPLC by name. The ACLU is more interested these days in multicultural advocacy than in upholding constitutional protections for free speech, the right to free assembly, and free thought.
Many of the appeals to limit internet free speech, however, have come from journalists in the mainstream media.
Like much in the age of Trump, it made for an upside-down, inside-out moment, with journalists who should have been going into battle for free speech actually saying that the First Amendment as it has been traditionally understood might be a threat, even as they grow hoarse condemning Trump for deriding the media as the “Enemy of the People.”
Journalists who once fought blacklisting and censorship are now embracing it, or mumbling that these things must be seen in the context of spreading right-wing authoritarianism and the struggle against “racism, nativism, misogyny, and xenophobia.”
There is a mistaken assumption at the bottom of this that you can somehow purge or contain acts of isolated extremist violence on the part of a few by limiting the free speech of the many, whether they are on the main platforms or minor ones like Gab—completely anti-utilitarian.
There is also the assumption that we, as a society, can come to some agreement on what “hate speech,” in fact what bigotry itself, is, and also agree on what organizations and processes have the technical ability, the legal authority, and the cultural legitimacy to make those determinations.
In many ways, Big Tech is already Big Censorship, with Google discussing ways in which it can become “The Good Censor,” Twitter banning those unfortunate enough to become the target of online vigilante mobs, and Facebook shutting down pages of people after an algorithm has identified them as dangerous or insulting.
This has already moved us in a dystopic direction, into the realms of “Nineteen Eighty Four,” “Brave New World,” and “Minority Report”—the world of thought crimes and precrimes, with people afraid to state their views because they have no idea what will bring them under suspicion, cut them off from modern modes of communication, or put them in jail.
Post-Pittsburgh, calls for censorship represent a kind of digital putsch to gain control over social media platforms in the same way that multicultural orthodoxy gained earlier control over the mainstream media, academia, and Hollywood.
The kind of internet censorship they’re proposing is said to be aimed at bigotry and hate. But in the hands of Big Tech, it will short-circuit legitimate policy discussion, especially by those who can in any way be labeled—or mislabeled—as racist, sexist, nativist, xenophobic, or misogynistic.
This new digital censorship is at odds with the current nationalist moment. It represents an effort on the part of globalist corporations to impose global speech codes at exactly the point that a large part of the American electorate simply and clearly said “no to globalism”—and an increasing number are seeing that the sky will not fall if they do.
More importantly, the new digital censorship is at serious odds with the spirit of our First Amendment, which, as the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously noted in 1929, isn’t just there to defend “the thought that we like” but is meant to protect “the thought that we hate.
Back in 2010, when WikiLeaks first released data from Afghanistan stolen by U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, , concerned about dissident actors taking matters of intelligence and national security into their own hands. The same when Ed Snowden made his disclosures about unauthorized NSA wiretapping and abuses of the FISA warrant process.
But in the face of widening state surveillance of private citizens through various digital communications networks (whether you call that Deep State surveillance or not) and in the face of increasing abuse of privacy by big digital platforms, I have come to a new admiration for people such as journalist Glenn Greenwald, who enabled both whistleblowers. I will throw my lot in with him, here at any rate.
As Greenwald noted in the , in what should be a must-read for anyone in journalism, politics, or tech:
“Our discourse, our newsrooms, and our academic institutions are now drowning with people who demand that any speech be banned and suppressed that they regard as ‘hurtful,’ ‘offensive,’ ‘traumatizing,’ or fostering a feeling of being ‘unsafe.’ But what they really mean is that they want speech suppressed that they and those who agree with them find ‘hurtful’ and ‘traumatizing.’ Speech that makes their political enemies feel offended, uncomfortable or unsafe is heralded as brave and provocative.
“That double standard is unsustainable. It’s empty and depraved. It is certain to consume not just one’s political enemies but also one’s political allies. … Censorship advocates reap what they sow, and it usually ends up consuming them and their own allies. It may be karmic justice, but it does massive damage to the ability to have free discourse, the right of dissent, and the flow of unpopular views.”
Part two in this series will focus on developments inside Big Tech companies and points where America’s most cherished national traditions, i.e., the rights to free speech and the rights to free assembly, are being sacrificed to advance the globalized interests of Big Media and Big Tech with the assistance and guidance of entities other than the U.S. government. Part Three will examine the faulty cultural, journalistic, and ideological assumptions behind all this, and how efforts to curb online hate, specifically anti-Semitic online hate, might actually encourage more of it instead.
Media Criticism from The Epoch Times
As the official network of the anti-Trump “Resistance,” CNN is known these days less for the journalistic prowess that led it to dominate cable news than for journalistic posturing and preaching. It’s anti-Trump 24/7/365, and the abandonment of its core values has cost it dearly, in terms of both ratings and reputation.
The worst offender is anchor Don Lemon, who has a two-hour broadcast every weeknight. In any given segment, no matter what the subject or its relevance, Lemon seems incapable of not bringing up that he is a gay black man who was a victim of child sex abuse and that he believes Trump represents both a personal and a political affront to him because of who he is—although he never quite explains why that is.
But lately, Anderson Cooper has been getting in his own angry, indignant, and condescending licks. The moralizing is cut with a self-righteous refusal to acknowledge facts and realities that challenge his biases and those of the network.
This, of course, isn’t the way journalism is supposed to work, skepticism being the mother’s milk of the news business. But in the age of the anti-Trump, skepticism has taken a backseat to proselytism and agitprop. A lot of newsrooms don’t do skepticism anymore if it means one of the following:
• challenging liberal pieties that have come to define the discourse on immigration, especially illegal immigration and the white-hot issue of Central American migrant caravans exploiting our asylum system to win residency in the United States; or
• having to report factual realities and evidence that might actually validate and legitimize Trump’s policy position—and the harsh rhetoric he uses to articulate them—or highlights the substantive validity of what he is saying, however badly phrased or misframed.
Cut to a recent “ focused on the migrant caravan that originated in Honduras and is traveling north to the United States’ southern border. The caravan had just crossed a bridge between Guatemala and Mexico after being stalled for a day, in what the media was calling a “showdown” between armed Mexican border guards and the thousands of Central Americans said to be solely “fleeing poverty and violence.”
On Twitter, President Donald Trump insisted that the caravan represented a “national emergency” and that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” Later that day, he repeated the charge in the Oval Office with the media present. The claim drew scorn and outrage from much of the press, with Trump’s insinuation that terrorists were using the caravan as cover being seen as a ploy to fan fear and induce public panic in the face of the looming midterm elections.
Repeating a pattern established during the 2016 campaign, the media focused more on Trump’s scary rhetoric than on any underlying truth. There was also a refusal to correct the blind spots and biases that corrupted coverage of the Great Family Separation Crisis on the Texas border with Mexico just a few months earlier. Central American border-crashers still wore a halo, idealized in such a way to avoid acknowledging the following:
• that many were not, in fact, fleeing political persecution but were seeking economic opportunity;
• that the vast majority would attempt to defraud authorities on the border with bogus asylum claims;
• that hostile elements from outside the hemisphere might be in the mix.
The “AC 360″ segment epitomized the eye-rolling condescension and indignant scoffing at Trump, and at any and all available facts that might have substantiated his insistence on undesirable Middle Eastern infiltration. In his opener, Cooper told the audience: “A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN there’s no evidence that ISIS or any other Sunni terror groups are trying to get into the country by coming across the southern border. No evidence. … No evidence of terrorist infiltration in the migrant caravan now making its way through Mexico. Zero, none.”
He was leading the broadcast with this, he explained, “because simple facts matter and the quiet truth bears repeating.” With just two weeks to go until the midterm elections, Trump “has chosen to fill the public arena with the exact opposite of a quiet truth or simple facts and he’s doing it in a way that seems designed to scare people,” he said, adding that the president of the United States is “out there loudly, repeatedly, unabashedly spreading falsehoods.”
Cooper followed with a video from the field, but only aired it after apologizing for doing so. “We’re only going to show this video sparingly because you can make the case that to play wall-to-wall pictures of thousands of men and women making their way north only serves the president’s purpose of making it appear more threatening than it actually is,” Cooper maintained.
CNN correspondent Bill Weir said that all he saw were “impoverished and genuine people” streaming north and Mexican villagers greeting them with freshly cooked tortillas and Christian gestures of welcoming a stranger. Trump was wrong to smear them, one migrant said, telling Weir through a translator: “We’re not terrorists. We just want to work. We’re running away from a form of terrorism in Honduras.”
Joining Cooper was CNN’s Van Jones, who dismissed Trump’s warning as a “talking point,” and a toxic one at that. Jones took pains to point out that “just because someone is Middle Eastern—of course, there are no Middle Easterners there—but doesn’t mean that they’re bad, it doesn’t mean that they’re terrorists.
“You know, we’re in this world now where Trump can say ‘Middle Eastern,’ and everybody then immediately somehow begins to think of ‘terrorist.’ Most of the terrorists that we, instances we’ve had in the United States, are not being committed by Middle Eastern people, by Muslims, they’re being committed by right-wing extremists in our country. So this is lie, on top of lie, on top of lie, wrapped in lies, and then with some lies on top of it.”
Jones said he appreciated the effort to check out the facts but still found it unseemly. “You’re talking about sick kids, you’re talking about pregnant women. They’re not demanding they’re being—they’re asking for help, they’re applying for asylum,” he said.
CNN’s resident supporter of Trump, Steve Cortes, said there might, in fact, be something behind the president’s charge. Jones countered with an extraordinary burst of virtue-tripping and guilt-mongering.
“The idea you’re going to participate in this smear campaign against these sick, hungry, scared people, it’s not fair, it’s not right. And I’m sad to hear you do it,” Jones said.
Later on in the broadcast, Cooper introduced Washington Post columnist Max Boot, who said that Trump was “firing up the base” with “appeals to prejudice and bigotry.”
Boot, who got the Saddam Hussein story on weapons of mass destruction exactly wrong during the Iraq invasion, insisted that Trump was trying to “pretend that these small numbers of impoverished Latin American refugees are somehow Middle Eastern terrorist[s]” bent on invading America. A “cult of personality” was at work, Boot maintained, appealing to “white nationalism,” to “racism,” and to “xenophobia.”
‘It Is Absolutely True’
For students of asymmetrical warfare, the use of refugee flows as cover to insert a fifth column of insurgents wouldn’t be surprising in the least. And it takes less than a minute of googling to find information on how Middle Easterners have, in fact, been showing up on the southern border with increasing frequency, courtesy of sophisticated and very far-flung human smuggling networks. And a significant complement of them has been found to have ties to terror groups who find our lax asylum-seeking procedures quite appealing.
Cooper and Jones had to work hard not to bring that into the discussion, preferring to look at the issue in terms of its Election Day salience rather than its implications for national security. The idea of Middle Easterners using the caravan as a cover was anathema—an insult to refugees and to a proud U.S. tradition of offering sanctuary to them. In doing so, CNN completely ignored one of the most knowledgeable intelligence analysts on the subject: former Texas state counterterrorism analyst Todd Bensman, who was actually traveling to New York for a speaking appearance the next day in an event sponsored by the Washington-based , where he has become the senior fellow for national security.
A former reporter who traveled through the Middle East in the years after 9/11 to report on vulnerabilities in our immigration and asylum systems that terrorists can use to their advantage, Bensman joined the intelligence community after getting a masters from the Naval Postgraduate School, where he wrote a thesis titled “The Ultra Marathoners of Human Smuggling: How to Combat the Dark Networks that Can Move Terrorists Over American Land Borders.” I met him in San Antonio last spring on a reporting trip I took through the Rio Grande Valley just before the last border crisis. He is laconic in that shy Texas cowboy kind of way, but tells it like it is…
Frederick Nietzsche had wise and enduring counsel for prosecutors, witch hunters, and grand inquisitors of all political, moral, moralistic stripes.
“Beware of hunting monsters, lest you become one,” Nietzsche warned. “And when you stare too long into the abyss, don’t be surprised if the abyss stares back at you.”
The insight is especially pertinent for the anti-Trump “Resistance,” which is evolving into something just a little bit less high-minded and idealistic than its leadership originally intended.
Although the Resistance was born in the spirit of principled opposition to what it contended was a man and a movement that were political monstrosities, it has become a kind of ogre in its own right. Over the almost two years of the Trump presidency, that Resistance—aided and abetted by its enablers in the media and in academia—has come to mirror many of the same vulgar, violent, and authoritarian impulses it condemned Trump for representing and—worse—for “normalizing.”
It’s unclear if we are on the edge of a political abyss. But the left does seem like it has come to embody many of the same things it has insisted are evidence of Trump’s various pathologies. It’s as if it’s refracting its own tactics, rhetoric, and strategies through a glass darkly, with the Resistance taking on the same deranged, malevolent tendencies that it so loathes in the president. In effect, it’s reproducing many of the things it’s trying to thwart, practicing what they’re supposed to be preaching .
Writing in The New York Times just after the inauguration, columnist saw the pattern emerging early on, and understood its implications:
“The danger for the established press is the same danger facing other institutions in our republic: that while believing themselves to be nobly resisting Trump, they end up imitating him.
“This mirroring is a broad danger, applying to more institutions than the press. Trump comes to power as a destroyer of norms, a flouter of conventions, and everyone will be tempted to join the carnival—to escalate when he escalates, to radicalize whenever he turns authoritarian.”
Such a dynamic, Douthat insisted, “is more likely to polarize than to persuade, which means it does a demagogue’s work for him.”
As the midterms approach, instead of merely “knowing one’s enemy” as warriors are taught, the Resistance has its enemy, breaching all sorts of political and democratic norms even as it hops up and down with its hair on fire about the norms that Trump has breached.
Flashback to June 2015: Almost as soon as Trump finished declaring his candidacy in the lobby of Trump Tower in the summer of 2015, the media branded him as a fearmongering demagogue, a stalking horse for white resentment and status anxiety who would bring on anti-democratic disaster…
The U.S. presidential election of 2016 was widely acknowledged as an “epic fail” for the American media, an almost willful refusal to recognize Trump’s popular appeal and to understand the power of the populist issues he bannered.
In the weeks that followed the upset victory, there was a broad consensus that the press was deeply out of touch with important slices of the American electorate, especially white working-class men and, ironically, educated white women who had actually broken against Hillary Clinton.
There were promises of institutional rectification, including in-depth post-mortems that would examine the newsroom assignment policies and the editorial decision-making that had contributed to this massive choke.
Editors at elite news organizations were quoted as saying that the election result had highlighted a problematic cultural, social, and political insularity in the newsroom. To correct that, they would be looking to hire reporters, opinion journalists, and broadcast pundits who could identify with, or give voice to, those who had been ignored or dismissed as “deplorable” for embracing Trump’s “America First” agenda, especially its economic nationalism and opposition to illegal immigration.
But this institutional rectification never happened. By Inauguration Day in mid-January, the U.S. media had become a dedicated member of the anti-Trump “Resistance,” refusing to “normalize” the new president.
“Stay angry,” longtime liberal pundit Leon Wieseltier advised, while New Yorker editor David Remnick, who has become de facto dean of the Resistance’s journalistic wing, wrote that Trump’s election was “an American tragedy.”
Fascism isn’t our future, Remnick contended. “It cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so—but this is surely the way fascism can begin. … To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.”
In fact, some of the most prestigious news organizations dedicated themselves to the Resistance as an editorial branding strategy, to boost ratings or Facebook “likes,” which had become an important part of their digital survival strategies.
Rather than recruit journalists who could help them connect with pro-Trump voters, media organizations already obsessed with improving newsroom “diversity” redoubled efforts to hire minorities and millennials. In the process, they practically made an opposition to Trump, or posturing to that effect, an ideological work rule.
Journalists who had challenged the anti-Trump media tide were ignored, as if they were on some blacklist. And, as Trump has repeatedly pointed out, no news executives, editors, or elite columnists connected with the Epic Fail of 2016 lost their jobs. In fact, some found themselves in even more prestigious positions.
Never-Trumper Bret Stephens was wrong about almost everything related to Trump during the campaign and could not have been more disdainful or feckless toward the Trump voter in general. Yet he was able to leave The Wall Street Journal editorial page in order to join the Opinion section of The New York Times, which still has not hired a single writer who might be said to represent the kind of thinking that the place so painfully lacked before the 2016 election.
If anything, the parameters of acceptable debate within the media narrowed after the election. “Overton windows” that had widened during the campaign, and briefly after Trump’s actual election victory, were in many cases slammed shut.
The journalism of the Resistance will go down as one of the most profound breaks with objectivity and professional detachment in the history of the media, if not the very end of them.
Resistance journalism stands as a monument to media group-think, a lack of journalistic humility and rank partisanship raised to an exponential level. At its center is an intensification of anti-Trump tropes and jaundiced, ideologically deranged narratives that gave rise to the Epic Fail to begin with: Trump as a creature of the white electorate’s racism, sexism, nativism, homophobia, and Islamophobia; blood and soil-style “Hate” as the new core of American politics; white supremacy in mortal struggle against the values of the civil rights movement and transnational multicultural progressivism; diversity as a solution for the dilemma of widening social and income inequality instead of a distraction from it, if not an accelerant.
In the Resistance narrative, Trump is Authoritarianism Incarnate, Hitler in the offing, if not Hitler himself as many of our most important, if ethnocentric, pundits actually had the chutzpah to charge during the campaign. Enforcement of immigration laws is totalitarianism; ICE is the New Gestapo. There’s no difference between legal and illegal immigration. He’d never have gotten in if not for Russia’s anti-democratic collusion, and once Congress reveals the extent of the collusion, he’s to be impeached, his election effectively and righteously nullified.
The recent Kavanaugh hearings represent one of the more egregious examples of the media’s repetition compulsion, or what might be called 2016 Redux. The coverage shared the same blind spots of 2016 and echoed the same kind of bias that fed the original Epic Fail. It was a microcosm of history repeating itself—media history, at any rate. Déjà vu all over again...