by Mark Steyn • May 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm
It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week's Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared - on social media! - and that's all that matters, isn't it?
Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn't actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn't require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama's hashtag is just a form of moral preening.
But then what isn't? The blogger Daniel Payne wrote this week that "modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing". He was musing on a press release for some or other "Day of Action" that is, as usual, a day of inaction:
It's that easy! You go to a concert and someone "calls on government" to do something, and the world gets fixed.
There's something slightly weird about taking a hashtag - which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose - and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. Maybe the talismanic hashtag never required a computer in the first place. Maybe way back during the Don Pacifico showdown all Lord Palmerston had to do was tell the Greeks #BringBackOurJew.
As Mr Payne notes, these days progressive "action" just requires "calling on government" to act. But it's sobering to reflect that the urge to call on someone else to do something is now so reflexive and ingrained that even "the government" - or in this case the wife of "the government" - is now calling on someone else to do something.
Boko Haram, the girls' kidnappers, don't strike me as social media types. As I wrote last year:
But moronic myopia goes both ways, doesn't it? If the hashtag doesn't work, maybe we could persuade Boko Haram to trade the girls for these guys:
~Arguments about why Hillary Clinton refused to put Boko Haram on the State Department terror list are about as useful as an Obama hashtag right now. But it is worth remembering that the group's first terrorism attack was a recent as 2011. They are, therefore, part of the same metastasization of jihadist violence throughout the northern half of the African continent as the Benghazi assault and the Kenyan shopping-mall attack. This growth of al-Qaeda affiliates went on throughout almost the entirety of Obama's first term, but because Joe Biden had a cute line ("bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive") nobody paid any attention to it. #NothingToSeeHere.
~My former National Review colleague Charles C W Cooke has got himself in a bit of hot water with a column arguing that schools should teach Holocaust denial and be proud of it. This isn't just a whimsical fancy conjured out of thin air, but Charlie's reaction to the news that a California public school had given their Eighth Graders an essay assignment arguing that the Holocaust didn't happen. They have now backed down.
I thought Laura Rosen Cohen had the best response to Cooke, and I urge you to read it. I have my own problems with his piece. I think no subject should be off-limits, and I regard the laws in many Continental countries criminalizing Holocaust denial as philosophically repugnant and practically useless - in that they confirm to Jew-haters that the Jews control everything (otherwise why aren't we allowed to talk about it?) and they enable Muslims and other groups to go around arguing that, if you're prepared to pass restrictions on free speech protecting Jewish sensitivities, why can't we have some, too?
But my main objection to the National Review post is that it's a debater's point. And in that sense it has no more impact upon what's really happening in our world than Michelle Obama's hashtag. I am always astonished at how little American middle school students know, or are required to know. The idea that, in an educational culture that barely teaches the history that actually happened, there should be room to teach Holocaust denial as an intellectual exercise is ridiculous.
Secondly, Charlie seems unaware of what's going on in schools around the world. In that post about Boko Haram from last year, I also wrote this:
To the people who drove that Jewish boy out of his school, arguing that the Holocaust never happened is not a dazzling virtuoso display of Oxbridge-level intellectual gymnastics but just business as usual. As I wrote seven years ago:
That's never a smart idea. The California schools superintendent who wanted his Eighth Graders to turn in essays arguing that the Holocaust didn't happen is called Mohammad Z Islam. That's why they got the assignment, not because they wanted to turn themselves into the Oxford Union. As Laura Rosen Cohen pointed out, there are all kinds of lively topics Mr Cooke might propose for our schools: Did Mohammed exist? What's the deal with his nine-year-old bride? But in the real world even mild questioning of whether Islam is a "religion of peace" is beyond the pale, and across the Continent the Holocaust is disappearing from school curricula.
That's the problem. There's no point winning an Oxford debate if the other side win everything else.
~Following that remarkable statement by Dr John Christy about his fellow IPCC author Michael E Mann, Steve McIntyre discusses the question of whether Dr Mann is guilty of "falsification", as the academic misconduct codes call it. I'll have more on this in the next couple of days, but do read Steve's post.
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© 2014 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc. All rights reserved.