by Victor Davis Hanson
I Am Afraid I No Longer Believe . . .
…That we have an inquisitive American media as we once knew it. There has emerged something as bad as state-sanctioned coercion — which we could at least identify, and thus struggle against.
Now comes a more insidious, brave new self-imposed censorship of the Orwellian mode. It is not just the perennial embarrassment Chris Matthews describing his Obama ecstasy on camera, or even Newsweek’s Evan Thomas comparing his President to God, or even CNN execs being exposed trashing the U.S. abroad at Davos, or whitewashing Saddam, but rather a more incremental new groupspeak in which basic words and ideas — from terrorism to war itself — have been reformulated according to political dictates.
Iraq, From Good to Bad Back to Good?
Suddenly a Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zacharia (for the war, against the war, now for the war) are talking about victory in Iraq, and the chance to see its democracy foster change throughout the region. Bravo, but I think this is what Bush proclaimed in October 2002, when the House and Senate, in bipartisan fashion not only voted for 23 writs to justify the removal of Saddam, but praised him for his promise not to replace Hussein with another Gulf thug, but to try to foster a real democracy. What suddenly has transpired to suggest that mainstream pundits no longer think Iraq is ‘lost,’ but a keystone in a wider new Middle East policy to promote change? Had Bush listened to 90% of the pundits in those dark days of late 2006-mid 2007, there would be no democracy now for Obama to privilege as a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Or is that simple statement now also inoperative?
Cannot we wish Obama well, hope that the United States prospers under his leadership, appreciate his rhetorical skills — and yet still hold him accountable for what he says, and what he does?
Depression to Recovery in a Blink of an Eye?
From mid-November to mid-March, the media assured us that, as Obama warned, we were in a mess analogous to the Great Depression, a crisis, a morass. Then suddenly the stimulus passes (as of yet largely undistributed), the nearly $2 trillion deficit budget is approved — and? Yes, now the panic is over, the tide has been reversed, there are now time and resources to do healthcare, cap and trade, and massive education “reform.” The media went from Bush was Herbert Hoover to Obama is far better than FDR in a matter of a few days this winter, as the tanked economy, almost by sorcery, was suddenly ‘over the worst of it.’
Unemployment figures are now conditioned with contexts about new jobs created and new trends apparent — not that the aggregate jobless rate is still climbing. (What happened to “jobless recovery” serially evoked in the 2004 election?).
“They” and “Some” Did It, Not Me…
Straw men are everywhere. The President, the First Lady, and the Attorney General cannot begin a speech without “some say”, “there are those who believe,” or “I am not convinced by others who argue” — all followed by their own enlightened antitheses. We are perennially back to Michelle Obama’s “they” who raised the bar, or the nefarious “some” in the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton nexus that shredded the Constitution with military tribunals and renditions in order to steal Iraqi oil.
No one points out that almost every historical reference Obama invoked in Cairo — from the supposed Muslim role in great world discoveries to Islam fueling the Renaissance and Enlightenment to the Inquisition and Spain — was inflated, but, more importantly, always inflated from a politically-correct point of view.
Sorry, It’s Probably Wrong
When our President talks about his relatives’ war experiences, his own family’s Muslim connections, or anything much about the past, I expect it to be flat-out ahistorical, misleading, or contextualized by an aide over the next two months. So yes, I do not believe that any of his relatives liberated Auschwitz or knew those who freed Treblinka. I do not believe any of his numbers concerning, or analysis about, Muslims in America. I do not think he has a clue about the Renaissance and its relationship to the flight of Greek-speaking scholars to Western Europe from the fear of Turkish Muslims, or the Enlightenment’s interest in a Greece suffering under the yoke of an oppressive Ottoman fundamentalism.
Get With the Party Line
To the extent that one reads that Obama has flipped on key points of national policy — NAFTA, renditions, military tribunals, Predator attacks, wiretaps, intercepts, Iraq, etc. — we hear from conservative and moderate pundits not that his past demagoguery on these issues helped to demonize here and abroad American foreign policy at a critical time. Instead, we are supposed to be overjoyed that we can now appreciate his new flexibility and be thankful that his contradictions at least now led to the right way of thinking.
I No Longer Believe . . .
…That I can quite trust mainstream science and scientific elites as I once did. When world leaders and Nobel Prize winners meet to decry global warming, I don’t believe that there is a true give-and-take. I doubt what follows is empirical discussion of what is causing global warming and whether it is a natural, temporary phenomenon or a long-term permanent threat.
Time to Call In Orca
Is not the media invested in a sort of 60’s activist environmental politics, in which to assert rather than argue for global warming is part of a larger progressive agenda that makes one acceptable in particular circles — like a medieval cleric who mouths a list of ‘right’ positions on papal exegesis? (Here in California the lowly poor two-inch Delta smelt was losing his fight to cut off irrigation water to millions of acres, so suddenly “scientists” have super-sized him in our sympathies, and thus miraculously discovered that the real crises of the Pacific eco-system are big, Orca-like (and thus identifiable) “killer whales.” You see, they will starve without salmon, and a special sort of 19th-century salmon that used to go upriver in California’s rivers before the age of the pernicious dam and irrigation canal that brought all that cheap food to us.)
Many of the categories of Nobel Prizes have lost their once sterling reputations and have devolved into better-paying versions of the Pulitzer Prizes, predicated on ideology as much as achievement.
The Talented Mr. Gore
(In my lifetime I don’t think I ever witnessed anything like the career of one Al Gore, who, metamorphosized from disappointment over the 2000 election into a sort of religious zealot — part P.T. Barnum, part Deepak Chopra. And now he has ended up as globe-trotting Elmer Gantry, but a successful one. At break-neck speed he has labored to construct a world-wide environmental-shame empire, based on stifling debate, hawking films, videos, and study kits, selling penances called ‘carbon offsets’ evaluations for rich people, demonizing opponents of his views, and spreading the “Bush-did-it” religion. Was it about money all the time? Influence? Redemption? So he pulled it off and in a mere nine years ended up worth over $100 million and an energy-consuming lifestyle of the sort he once railed against?)
I No Longer Believe . . .
…that there will be much progress on race relations under Obama. Indeed, I fear the very opposite will occur.
Almost every major speech is predicated on his race, and his father’s always changing stance on religion. In 2011 will we still hear of his father and his family with Muslim connections?
Being Non-Racist Is Judging by Race
We are told not to believe what Justice Sotomayor on several occasions said and published — this is now something called “misspeak.” What was fascinating about her Berkeley speech was not just her now serial avowal that race and gender make one a better or worse judge. Two equally frightening facts emerged. She published these views in a periodical called La Raza Law Journal (“The Race’s” Law Journal). In her text, she referenced herself as a Latina or invoked Latina/Latino, according to my count, some 38 times. (I once told a student that if she did not stop prefacing every classroom remark about classical literature with “As a Latina…” I would answer back with the preface “As a white guy…”).
A promised postracial President nominated a justice who seems not just to be race-obsessed, but race-obsessed to the degree it governs her judicial philosophy. Woe to be a member of what she called “the old boy network” when you go into her chambers against a “Latina.” By her own admission, the Latina is the wiser party, based on her superior ‘life experiences.”
No Progress, No Nothing?
In this new racialist world, no one would ever remember that we have not had a white male Secretary of State — the world’s most powerful diplomat — in thirteen years — since the rather mediocre Warren Christopher stepped down in January 1997. There is rarely appreciation of change and what has transpired, only more anger at what supposedly must happen in the future. To read Sotomayor’s speeches, and I have now read about 5 of them, is to be subjected to a litany of statistics — always the theme being “this many judges are Hispanic, this is our percentage of the population, presto, this is what we must have…”
We Are All Percentages Points Now
There is rarely either any complexity, or appreciation of the irony to race. With between 12-20 million illegal aliens now living in the United States — the vast majority recent arrivals from Third World countries — are we to be shamed that we do not have politicians, Supreme Court justices, and professors in the proper percentages to reflect these new populations? Think of it — someone crosses the border illegally, and immediately becomes a percentage-point argument that a distant elite with a Spanish-surname is entitled to preferential treatment? (I ignore the fact Sotomayor’s racial percentages were once used by white racialists to show that minorities were inordinately responsible for violent crime in numbers far above their presence in the general population. It is unwise to quantify every aspect of the United States by racial percentages.)
The President himself never pauses and examines the irony of a half-African, half-white prep schooled person, lecturing the world on the African-American civil rights experience — with which by heritage and chronology he has had no experience.
Instead, the world of American racial identity politics distills down to the ability to claim some sort of affinity, any sort actually, with the African-American, Native American, or Mexican-American experience.
Where there is a will, there is always a way
Sometimes, as in the case of Ward Churchill, this is done through simple fabrication and fantasy. Sometimes the rich Honduran immigrant trills his r’s and uses his Spanish surname to become an oppressed “Latino” or “Hispanic.” Sometimes a Barack Obama somehow piggy-backs onto the African-American writ of prior grievance.
Princeton — the New Guantanamo
If one steps aside, ignores the contemporary chatter, and examines the process in disinterested philosophical fashion, it is abjectly illogical. (Note Michelle Obama’s brief reentry into contemporary racial politics — her testimonial confirmation of Sotomayor’s expressed discomfort and unease with Princeton undergraduate life, and the lasting unfairness of receiving affirmative action and then feeling as if the resulting gain in prestige and topflight subsidized education were not worth the commensurate sense that “they” and “some” and “others” doubted one’s achievement. Well, her reentry was very short-lived indeed.)
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson