Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 11, 2011

RE: Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

When it comes to plain old bigotry, no. George Will in today’s column quotes Charles Blow’s March 26, 2010, column in  the Times. Blow notes that the “far right,” by which he means either mainstream conservatives or a group so small as to be of no importance, has romanticized the country of the past, a country that no longer exists. He writes:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

As Will points out, Blow thus casually pronounces that conservatives are all “misogynistic, homophobic, racist anti-Semites.” Since I personally know lots of female, gay, non-white, and Jewish conservatives, none of whom are good ol’ boys — a group with which I am also not unfamiliar — I can testify that Blow is mistaken.

Bigotry can be defined as taking a group of people who share one characteristic — race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political outlook, good-ol’-boyness, whatever — and assuming without evidence that they share another unrelated and undesirable characteristic. All blondes are dumb, for instance.

By that definition, Charles Blow is a bigot.

When it comes to plain old bigotry, no. George Will in today’s column quotes Charles Blow’s March 26, 2010, column in  the Times. Blow notes that the “far right,” by which he means either mainstream conservatives or a group so small as to be of no importance, has romanticized the country of the past, a country that no longer exists. He writes:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

As Will points out, Blow thus casually pronounces that conservatives are all “misogynistic, homophobic, racist anti-Semites.” Since I personally know lots of female, gay, non-white, and Jewish conservatives, none of whom are good ol’ boys — a group with which I am also not unfamiliar — I can testify that Blow is mistaken.

Bigotry can be defined as taking a group of people who share one characteristic — race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political outlook, good-ol’-boyness, whatever — and assuming without evidence that they share another unrelated and undesirable characteristic. All blondes are dumb, for instance.

By that definition, Charles Blow is a bigot.

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The Folks Aren’t Buying It

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

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Let Us Not Praise Pro-Terrorist Newspapers

As Alana noted this morning, Jeffrey Feltman, the former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, wrote a devastating letter to the New York Times, expressing his irritation with a piece it ran praising the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper as, among other things, dynamic and daring. “Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests,” Feltman writes. “Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Al Akhbar is a totalitarian propaganda sheet and, like all such organs of disinformation, routinely publishes fiction as well as news and analysis. “The hilariously erroneous accounts of my activities reported as fact in [the] newspaper provoked morning belly laughs,” Feltman added.

I wish I could say it’s bizarre that a vastly superior and more professional newspaper such as the New York Times would find anything at all nice to say about a crude rag in a semi-democratic country that actually does have decent newspapers, but this is typical of a scandalously large percentage of Western reporters who parachute into or set up shop in Beirut.

Here is Feltman again: “One of the curiosities I discovered as ambassador to Lebanon was the number of Western journalists, academics and nongovernmental representatives who, while enjoying the fine wines and nightlife of Beirut, romanticized Hezbollah and its associates like Al Akhbar as somehow the authentic voices of the oppressed Lebanese masses. Yet, I don’t think that many of those Western liberals would wish to live in a state dominated by an unaccountable clerical militia and with Al Akhbar providing the news.”

The New York Times is usually better than this. Eli Khoury, one of the founders of the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and publisher of the news website NOW Lebanon, once made a trip to the offices of the New York Times editorial board after they published some obnoxious articles about Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement.

“I said, ‘Listen guys,’” Khoury told me. “‘Lebanon is a country that didn’t need the help of the U.S. Army. You guys didn’t have to bomb our country. We’re talking about a bunch of grassroots democrats who went into the streets and seized their own thing with their own hands. And they expect democrats in the rest of the world to support them.’ Since then the New York Times has not done one single bad story about Lebanon.”

Maybe he needs to go back.

As Alana noted this morning, Jeffrey Feltman, the former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, wrote a devastating letter to the New York Times, expressing his irritation with a piece it ran praising the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper as, among other things, dynamic and daring. “Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests,” Feltman writes. “Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Al Akhbar is a totalitarian propaganda sheet and, like all such organs of disinformation, routinely publishes fiction as well as news and analysis. “The hilariously erroneous accounts of my activities reported as fact in [the] newspaper provoked morning belly laughs,” Feltman added.

I wish I could say it’s bizarre that a vastly superior and more professional newspaper such as the New York Times would find anything at all nice to say about a crude rag in a semi-democratic country that actually does have decent newspapers, but this is typical of a scandalously large percentage of Western reporters who parachute into or set up shop in Beirut.

Here is Feltman again: “One of the curiosities I discovered as ambassador to Lebanon was the number of Western journalists, academics and nongovernmental representatives who, while enjoying the fine wines and nightlife of Beirut, romanticized Hezbollah and its associates like Al Akhbar as somehow the authentic voices of the oppressed Lebanese masses. Yet, I don’t think that many of those Western liberals would wish to live in a state dominated by an unaccountable clerical militia and with Al Akhbar providing the news.”

The New York Times is usually better than this. Eli Khoury, one of the founders of the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and publisher of the news website NOW Lebanon, once made a trip to the offices of the New York Times editorial board after they published some obnoxious articles about Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement.

“I said, ‘Listen guys,’” Khoury told me. “‘Lebanon is a country that didn’t need the help of the U.S. Army. You guys didn’t have to bomb our country. We’re talking about a bunch of grassroots democrats who went into the streets and seized their own thing with their own hands. And they expect democrats in the rest of the world to support them.’ Since then the New York Times has not done one single bad story about Lebanon.”

Maybe he needs to go back.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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Loughner, McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

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They Sure Love That Map

Quick question: If the media really thinks Sarah Palin’s political map with crosshairs encourages political violence, why do they keep showing it? Aren’t there more potential victims “targeted” on that map?

The media never showed the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad because they really were scared it would trigger violence (against them). So we know they’ll self-censor when they truly believe violence can happen. That they keep reproducing the Palin map suggests they know it doesn’t inspire violence after all.

Quick question: If the media really thinks Sarah Palin’s political map with crosshairs encourages political violence, why do they keep showing it? Aren’t there more potential victims “targeted” on that map?

The media never showed the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad because they really were scared it would trigger violence (against them). So we know they’ll self-censor when they truly believe violence can happen. That they keep reproducing the Palin map suggests they know it doesn’t inspire violence after all.

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Still Moore Hypocrisy

Jon Stewart is having none of the heated-rhetoric teaching moment about the Arizona shooting:

“We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Monday night.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? But even Stewart’s attempt at levelheadedness falls short. The perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, actually listened to heavy-metal music. There’s no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner listened to right-wing broadcasts or frequented right-wing websites, etc. In this case, no connection really means no connection.

But Stewart’s comment raises an interesting point. The same people who were so quick to refute the possibility that media phenomena like heavy metal, Goth culture, and videogames influenced the Columbine killers are the same ones pushing the less credible heated-rhetoric line about the killings in Arizona. Lest we forget, Michael Moore called his silly movie Bowling for Columbine specifically to drive home the contention that blaming heavy metal for the shootings was as absurd as blaming bowling, a pastime the shooters also enjoyed. Yet this past Monday, his website featured an item headlined “Fox News: The No. 1 Name in Murder Fantasies,” laying blame for the Arizona shooting at the feet of conservative commentators. Which is it?  Does media inspire murder or does it not?

No doubt, Moore has already launched a little massacre media tour. It would be nice if a member of the oh so newly civilized press asked him about this dissonance.

Jon Stewart is having none of the heated-rhetoric teaching moment about the Arizona shooting:

“We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Monday night.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? But even Stewart’s attempt at levelheadedness falls short. The perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, actually listened to heavy-metal music. There’s no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner listened to right-wing broadcasts or frequented right-wing websites, etc. In this case, no connection really means no connection.

But Stewart’s comment raises an interesting point. The same people who were so quick to refute the possibility that media phenomena like heavy metal, Goth culture, and videogames influenced the Columbine killers are the same ones pushing the less credible heated-rhetoric line about the killings in Arizona. Lest we forget, Michael Moore called his silly movie Bowling for Columbine specifically to drive home the contention that blaming heavy metal for the shootings was as absurd as blaming bowling, a pastime the shooters also enjoyed. Yet this past Monday, his website featured an item headlined “Fox News: The No. 1 Name in Murder Fantasies,” laying blame for the Arizona shooting at the feet of conservative commentators. Which is it?  Does media inspire murder or does it not?

No doubt, Moore has already launched a little massacre media tour. It would be nice if a member of the oh so newly civilized press asked him about this dissonance.

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Obama Snubs Britain Yet Again

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

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Time Magazine Takes Its Israel Hatred to a New Level

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

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‘Loved and Were Loved, and Now We Lie’

Yesterday I quoted a line from a journalist who, in thoroughly politicizing the tragedy of this weekend’s shooting in Tucson, wrote that the “massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.”

The families and friends of the murdered victims might take exception with what “the important point” of the Tucson massacre is. For them, it’s not about manipulating the death of their loved ones to advance a political agenda; for them, it is about honoring the lives of the dead and the overwhelming grief that is now engulfing them.

If you want to see an absolutely heartbreaking interview that reminds us of the human cost of murderous rampages, watch this interview with John Green, the inconsolable father of the 9-year-old victim, Christina, who was gunned down in Tucson. It is an extraordinary and deeply affecting moment; Mr. Green showed tremendous grace in honoring the memory of his beloved daughter. He cried through parts of the interview, and so will you.

On Saturday night, while watching news stories about the shooting, I kept thinking about the victim’s families and the suddenness of the tragedy; of how they began their Saturday like any other Saturday until, because of the actions of a madman, their world came crashing down around them. The poet John McCrae wrote (in a very different context) words that stayed with me that night and since: “Short days ago; We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie.”

Christina Green, like the other victims, loved and was loved; and she is still loved. We may enter part of the Green’s world for a time and grieve with them — but soon, for us, life will go on. For them it will, too; but life will never, ever be the same. Their world has fractured and will never be fully repaired. For those who believe in prayer, this is one family (and not the only one) that deserves it.

(h/t: HotAir’s Ed Morrissey)

Yesterday I quoted a line from a journalist who, in thoroughly politicizing the tragedy of this weekend’s shooting in Tucson, wrote that the “massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.”

The families and friends of the murdered victims might take exception with what “the important point” of the Tucson massacre is. For them, it’s not about manipulating the death of their loved ones to advance a political agenda; for them, it is about honoring the lives of the dead and the overwhelming grief that is now engulfing them.

If you want to see an absolutely heartbreaking interview that reminds us of the human cost of murderous rampages, watch this interview with John Green, the inconsolable father of the 9-year-old victim, Christina, who was gunned down in Tucson. It is an extraordinary and deeply affecting moment; Mr. Green showed tremendous grace in honoring the memory of his beloved daughter. He cried through parts of the interview, and so will you.

On Saturday night, while watching news stories about the shooting, I kept thinking about the victim’s families and the suddenness of the tragedy; of how they began their Saturday like any other Saturday until, because of the actions of a madman, their world came crashing down around them. The poet John McCrae wrote (in a very different context) words that stayed with me that night and since: “Short days ago; We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie.”

Christina Green, like the other victims, loved and was loved; and she is still loved. We may enter part of the Green’s world for a time and grieve with them — but soon, for us, life will go on. For them it will, too; but life will never, ever be the same. Their world has fractured and will never be fully repaired. For those who believe in prayer, this is one family (and not the only one) that deserves it.

(h/t: HotAir’s Ed Morrissey)

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Just When Grace Is Called for, Count on the MSM to Wallow in Disgrace

Fox’s Bernard Goldberg, in commenting on the media’s coverage of the Tucson massacre, put it (as usual) very well: “In all my years as a working journalist I’ve never seen such shallow, thoughtless, agenda-driven drivel as I have in the past 36 hours — and it’s all masquerading as serious analysis and commentary.” He added, “This is as bad as anything they’ve ever done.”

As a wise friend wrote me yesterday: “I don’t think I have ever seen any episode in media that quite approaches this level of depravity.”

And Howard Kurtz put it this way: “This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nut job who doesn’t value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves.”

I concur with all three, and I only wish there were more media voices like Messrs. Goldberg and Kurtz, putting this disgraceful moment it its proper context.

Fox’s Bernard Goldberg, in commenting on the media’s coverage of the Tucson massacre, put it (as usual) very well: “In all my years as a working journalist I’ve never seen such shallow, thoughtless, agenda-driven drivel as I have in the past 36 hours — and it’s all masquerading as serious analysis and commentary.” He added, “This is as bad as anything they’ve ever done.”

As a wise friend wrote me yesterday: “I don’t think I have ever seen any episode in media that quite approaches this level of depravity.”

And Howard Kurtz put it this way: “This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nut job who doesn’t value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves.”

I concur with all three, and I only wish there were more media voices like Messrs. Goldberg and Kurtz, putting this disgraceful moment it its proper context.

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Morning Commentary

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

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In Praise of Jonathan Chait

I’ve gone a few rounds with Jonathan Chait in the past (he affectionately refers to me as the Bush administration’s Minister of Propaganda). I’m therefore delighted to draw attention to a piece he wrote — not to rebut it but to praise it.

According to Chait, “Conservatives are furious that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is being pinned on them. Their indignation is justified. The mania of Giffords’ would-be assassin may be slightly more right-wing than left-wing, but on the whole it is largely disconnected from even loosely organized extreme right-wing politics.”

Chait goes on to say this:

I can see why those concerned about the rise of right-wing hysteria would want to use Loughner as a cautionary tale — even if he wasn’t a product of right-wing rage, they may be thinking, he is an example of what right-wing rage could lead to. Yet they fail to understand that this will appear to conservatives as an attempt to use the emotion of the moment to stigmatize them. The mania of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party must be dealt with on their own terms.

A few weeks ago, Chait had nice things to say about something I wrote; today I have something nice to say about what he wrote.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’ve gone a few rounds with Jonathan Chait in the past (he affectionately refers to me as the Bush administration’s Minister of Propaganda). I’m therefore delighted to draw attention to a piece he wrote — not to rebut it but to praise it.

According to Chait, “Conservatives are furious that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is being pinned on them. Their indignation is justified. The mania of Giffords’ would-be assassin may be slightly more right-wing than left-wing, but on the whole it is largely disconnected from even loosely organized extreme right-wing politics.”

Chait goes on to say this:

I can see why those concerned about the rise of right-wing hysteria would want to use Loughner as a cautionary tale — even if he wasn’t a product of right-wing rage, they may be thinking, he is an example of what right-wing rage could lead to. Yet they fail to understand that this will appear to conservatives as an attempt to use the emotion of the moment to stigmatize them. The mania of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party must be dealt with on their own terms.

A few weeks ago, Chait had nice things to say about something I wrote; today I have something nice to say about what he wrote.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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