Jon Stewart’s Daily Show exemplifies the media’s horrible whitewashing of communism

Forced labor in a Soviet GulagIf you read Timothy Snyder’s wrenching Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin about life West of Russia and East of Berlin from 1933 through 1945, the first thing you’ll learn is that Hitler wasn’t an innovator when it came to mass murder. Instead, he learned about it from Stalin, who had been practicing mass murder for almost a decade before Hitler really caught on to its possibilities.

It was Stalin, after all, who killed tens of millions in the Ukraine by confiscating every single bit of grain they produced, including the grain that was needed to seed the next season’s harvest.  He did this for two reasons:  (1) to break the back of the independent farming class, which did not want to become cogs in the socialist machinery; and (2) to sell the grain overseas to create the false impression the Communism was economically self-sustaining.  Hitler was inspired.

Hitler was also inspired by Stalin’s Gulags.  Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History, explains what was going on in these labor and death camps.  Jonah Goldberg introduces just two of the terrible stories Applebaum tells:

A slave who falls in the snow is not helped up by his comrades but is instantly stripped of his clothes and left to die. His last words: “It’s so cold.”

Hava Volovich, a once-obscure newspaper editor turned slave laborer, has a baby, Eleonora, in captivity. Eleonora spends her first months in a room where “bedbugs poured down like sand from the ceiling and walls.” A year later, Eleonora is wasting away, starving in a cold ward at slave “mothers’ camp.” She begs her mother to take her back “home” to that bedbug-infested hovel. Working all day in the forest to earn food rations, Hava manages to visit her child each night. Finally, Eleonora in her misery refuses even her mother’s embrace, wanting only to drift away in bed. Eleonora dies, hungry and cold, at 15 months. Her mother writes: “In giving birth to my only child, I committed the worst crime there is.”

Multiply these stories by a million. Ten million.

Goldberg wasn’t retelling these horrific narratives just to depress us.  Instead, he’s challenging the anodyne, bloodless narratives in which the American media is engaging during its Sochi Olympic’s coverage:

What to say of the gormless press-agent twaddle conjured up to describe the Soviet Union? In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.”

To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.

Bad as the Olympic coverage is on NBC and other news channels, what happened on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show the other night is worse.  Staff member Jason Jones went to Russia for the show and did a so-called “humorous” piece in which he looks longingly back on the good old days of the Cold War.  He commits so many fact crimes along the way that it’s hard to keep track.

The one that irked me most was the way Jones created a significant lie by telling a half-truth.  Thus, he gave deserved credit to Gorbachev for signing the paper that ended the Soviet Union, but forgets to show that Gorbachev did so, not just because he was courageous and principled (which he was), but also because the system was already collapsing.  He could retreat elegantly or be buried under a pile of bullets and rubbish.  Between the intense moral pressure from Pope John Paul II, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Lech Walesla; and the economic pressure from Ronald Reagan, the Soviet system, which was always unsustainable, finally ended, not with a bang, but with a long, drawn-out whimper.

More subtly horrible is the way Jones, playing a Stephen Colbert-esque stupid American, deliberately allows Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Duma member, to run rings around him. Jones may be smart enough and informed enough to be in on the fact that Nikonov is whitewashing the Soviet Union’s past and Russia’s present, but I’m quite sure that the 18-35 demographic watching the Daily Show has no idea what the reality is and was.

When Nikonov brushes off the fact that the Soviet Union was an “Evil Empire,” Jones challenges him by teasing his accent.  Jones next allows Nikonov to boast about the fact that the Soviets defeated the Nazis, and at great cost too.

While it’s true that the Soviets lost more people to the Nazis than did any other nation or nationality, those horrific losses were in large part due to the sheer inefficiency of the Soviet War machine. The Communists quickly turned their factories to war production, but the products were dreadful. More than that, it was always cheaper for Stalin to throw men at the Germans to absorb the German bullets, than for Stalin to waste his own bullets on the Germans. The sheer number of bodies Stalin had at his command was his greatest weapon — and Russia’s greatest tragedy.

Jones’ and Nikonov’s silly, staged argument about who won the war also obscures a much more important fact: until Hitler’s megalomania got the best of him, he and Stalin were allies during the first years of World War II. Right up until the maddened Nazi dog turned on him, Stalin was perfectly happy to make common cause with Hitler.

And so it goes, with Jones’ being the stupid American schooled by the polished Nikonov. None of it’s funny (as in, at a pure comedy level, it’s poorly done) and all of it is a huge steaming pile of pro-Communist misinformation, ending with Jones begging for a return to the Cold War and laughing at Americans who feared nuclear annihilation.

Here — see for yourself:

Goldberg opened his masterful slam against the media by talking about Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil”:

The phrase “banality of evil” was instantly controversial, largely because it was misunderstood. Arendt was not trying to minimize Nazism’s evil but to capture its enormity. The staggering moral horror of the Holocaust was that it made complicity “normal.” Liquidating the Jews was not just the stuff of mobs and demagogues but of bureaucracies and bureaucrats.

Thanks to the Daily Show, we’ve seen that banality sink to new lows.  It’s become the stuff of comedy.  And worse, it’s not the devastating comedy that exposes evil for what it really is.  Instead, through bad jokes and canned laughter, it gives moral stature to an evil system, all the while ridiculing the country that liberated tens of millions of people from endless slavery and brutal death.

Obama’s willingness to go to war against Syria

Obama, the presidential candidate who promised not to get America into wars, is on the verge of inserting America into the tar baby to end all tar babies:*  Syria’s civil war.  A lot of people are asking why in the world he’s doing this.  John Hinderaker thinks that Obama’s going to lob a few missiles into Syria in order to get some political cover for his ill-advised “red line” statement a year ago.  (I.e., if Syria uses WMDs, Obama’s going to have to think about acting decisively.)

I answered the same question differently.  I think Obama’s going to lob missiles because he can.  When he actually put boots on the ground in Libya, Congress huffed and puffed, but did exactly nothing to stop Obama’s illegal exercise of Congress’s war power.  Obama learned from that.

In every area, Obama is testing and pushing just how far he can go without Congress doing a darn thing to stop him.  Congress acquiesces when he refuses to enforce laws he doesn’t agree with, such as dealing with illegal immigrants?  Check.  Congress does nothing when Obama unilaterally amends legislation, as he’s been doing repeated with ObamaCare, doing everything from exemptions to delays, none of which are allowed under the law?  Check.  Congress does nothing when Obama embarks upon a war with Libya without first getting Congress’s go-ahead?  Check.

Obama fully understands that the phrase “use it or lose it” applies with as much force to institutions as it does to individuals.  Every time Congress fails to act to protect its turf against an approaching executive, Congress loses power and Obama gains it.

I am not comparing Obama to Hitler here, but it is instructive to note that Hitler invariably did a little testing before he launched full-out onslaughts.  The most notable example, of course, were his decisions to inch his way into Austria and the Sudetenland.  Britain, which was the only power he worried about, huffed and puffed, but stood aside.  The message to Hitler was clear:  today Austria and the Sudentenland, tomorrow all of Europe, and if that works, Russia and the rest of the world.

In this regard, it’s also worth noting that Hitler’s genocidal streak didn’t emerge until he invaded the areas within the Soviet orbit of influence.  It was then that his megalomania met Stalin’s successful mass murder in the Ukraine.  It’s not just that, had Hitler been stopped earlier, he never would have made it to the pale and released his madness on “inferior” people.  It was that, because his ambitions had never been checked early on, his sense of his limitless power grew.  He want from viewing England’s weakness as a tacit acceptance of his territorial ambitions, to believing that he had God-like powers to destroy.

Again, I am not comparing Obama to Hitler.  Obama doesn’t want world conquest (yet) and I doubt he’ll ever become genocidal (although, given free rein, he might pull a Mugabe in terms of shifting ownership from whites to everyone else), but I am saying that, if you allow people to get a little power to which they’re not entitled, they’re going to see that as license to take a lot.  Or as Lord Acton so nicely put it, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolute.”

________________________

*For the young ‘uns, “tar baby” is not an allusion to Obama’s skin color.  It comes, instead, from Southern folktales about Brer Rabbit trying to fight a doll made of tar and getting further and further entangled with it.

Oslo impressions

I liked Oslo. I can’t quite put my finger on why I liked it, but I liked it just as strongly as I disliked Stockholm. Go figure….

Part of the pleasure I took in Oslo was tied to the fact that the ship docked within one minute’s walk from the old fort/castle. I don’t have any literature to bolster my memory, so I’m riffing here when I say I believe it was originally built at the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th centuries. It was substantially remodeled at the beginning of the Thirty Year War at the start of the 17th century.

It’s a lovely structure, with huge, gray medieval blocks of stone serving as the base, and smaller, golden colored bricks from the Scandinavian Renaissance completing the climb to small, but fairy-tale like towers.

Housed within the walls of the castle is the “Resistance Museum,” a very nicely put together exhibit that focuses on Norway’s fierce resistance to the Nazi occupation. I had forgotten that the word “Quisling” owes its origin to the disgusting Norwegian politician who welcomed the Nazis and was disowned by his countrymen.

The museum opens with a nice homage to Norwegian Jews who fought in the resistance. Throughout the exhibit, it reminds visitors that Norway’s Jews died at Nazi hands.

The museum makes it clear that it is a point of pride that the Norwegians sided against the anti-Christian, totalitarian ideology that wanted to subjugate the world and kill Jews. It is inexplicable to me that now, throughout the Scandinavian world — and particularly in Norway — it is a point of pride that they side WITH an anti-Christian totalitarian ideology that wants to subjugate the world and kill the Jews.

Norway, after all, is fierce in its condemnation of democratic, pluralist Israel, and slavish in its devotion to the Nazi-like Palestinian cause. Norwegians seem oblivious to the fact that not only do the Palestinians espouse Nazi goals, they enthusiastically threw themselves in with the Nazis during WWII and have never backed away from them allegiance.

From the Resistance Museum, we wandered through the city, heading to the art museum, which houses one of the original Munch “Scream” paintings. (We skipped the Munch museum, because it’s being remodeled, while the main museum has a seizable exhibition.). Along the way, we visited the City Hall, which, once again, I can’t date. It drives me bonkers that I don’t know the dates of the things we saw, but the rest of the family was moving so quickly, I never had a chance to stop and study the details of what we so.

In many ways, the town/city hall has that muscular look of Soviet architecture, so I think it was probably built in the 1920s or thereabouts. On the outside, it’s a rather forbidding brick structure. On the inside, though, you find yourself in a light, airy, spacious chamber covered with brilliant murals and mosaics. It’s a very attractive space.

As for the Munch exhibit, I wish we hadn’t wasted our time. Aside from the Scream, which had the virtue of familiarity, nothing Munch did appealed to me. In his early years, his art was derivative, with a little Seurat (spelling?) here, a little Picasso there, a bit of Gauguin for a change, followed by a dollop of Manet — none of it done very well. Munch then settled into his own style of drab colors and uninspiring graphics. Had it not been for the Scream’s fitting so well into the 20th century zeitgeist, I doubt many would have found him memorable.

After the museum, we headed back to the waterfront and took a short, lovely ferry ride to the Viking ship museum. It houses three Viking ships recovered from burial mounds. Two are in good condition, with the third in fairly good condition. They are, in a word, amazing. For one thing, they’re incredibly elegant, with their high, curved prows, and their swelling bellies. They are a beautiful combination of design and functionality. They also have that intricate Viking carving, with twining animals and Gods winding their way up the prow, and ferocious animal heads decorating posts and sledges.

The Viking ships are also surprisingly small — surprisingly, I say, because the hearty Vikings who traveled in them covered remarkable distances on such an unfriendly sea. They went as far south as the Mediterranean and as far northwest as Nova Scotia. Along the way, they terrorized and settled parts of England, France, Greenland, and all points in between.

So here’s a little factoid: At the Resistance Museum, we learned that the Nazis sent around 400,000 troops to Norway because Hitler believed that the inevitable Allied invasion of Europe would take place there. In fact, as we all know, the D-Day invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy — which owe their name to the Norseman who settled there so many centuries before. Hitler was right that Norse shores would be the landing point; he just picked the wrong Norse shores.

After admiring the Viking ships, we went to the nearby folk museum, which is an open air museum in which they’ve assembled buildings from all over Norway. My only regret is that we had too little time there, since we arrived only 90 minutes before it closed.

Ninety-minutes simply wasn’t enough time to see all the buildings and living history exhibitions. We saw weaving, a farm kitchen from 1959, a “stave church” from the 12th century, a tenement from early 20th century Oslo, a bakery from the 1700s — and only scratched the surface. I could have spent hours there. Not only was it fascinating, it was so very beautiful, as the grounds were covered with idyllic green pastures, log cabins with grass growing on the roof, half-timbered buildings, and brick mansions.

When the museum closed, we headed to the Vigesland park. Vigesland was a man who spent around 40 years in the middle of the 20th century creating dozens of granite sculptures for a single park. The sculptures are meant to show people in motion and people relating to each other — parents and children, men and women, old and young. The park itself is beautiful, because it is terraced, green, and spacious, with flowers blooming everywhere.

As for the sculptures . . . well, they weren’t my cup of tea. They’re crudely done and I found them unappealing. The kids were “creeped out by them,” especially the fact that all the figures are nude. They found it off putting to see a naked father frolic with his equally naked children. I think growing up in an era of high-profile pedophile cases made this seem very inappropriate to them.

What totally revolted me was the centerpiece — a tall column of writhing, entwined bodies of all ages, all presumably dead. It’s supposed to show the cycle of life. To me, however, it looked like nothing more than a photo of the bodies at Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen — all ages, all sexes, all nude, all tangled together.

The park ended the day’s sightseeing and it was a slightly sour note. Having said that, though, I still found the tourist part of Oslo appealing. Incidentally, Vigesland is in a less touristy part, and we saw innumerable Muslims and Africans there. Not a critical mass, by any means, but still enough to hint that the immigrants aren’t in the city centers but are, instead, in the outskirts of these major Scandinavian towns.

As for the natives, they were good-looking, friendly, and almost all spoke incredibly good English. Surprisingly, they spoke with American accents. Usually when one travels, those who speak English do so with a British accent. In Oslo, though, they sounded almost American. Their effortless bilingualism was very impressive.

And those are my Oslo impressions. We’re now heading north to Bergen. The sea is calm and the sky is clear. Although it’s already 10 pm now, the sun is still well above the horizon. We’ve been told that tomorrow, as has been the case since our vacation started, it’s going to be HOT. I still can’t believe that, after two summers of steaming not vacations (the Mediterranean and Japan), my hopes for a cool northern sojourn have been dashed by a heat wave.

More later.

The wages of socialism — mass murder

Ukrainian peasants starve to death in the streets, 1933

Last year, my friend Bruce Kesler, who blogs at a wonderful conservative group blog called Maggie’s Farm, directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. What makes this book different from other books about that era is that it doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII.  Instead, it also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII.  It is an absolutely devastating book, describing the unimaginable scale of death that two socialist leaders — Stalin and Hitler — visited on the region between their two countries.

Although Hitler industrialized the killing machine, it was Stalin who created the model when he decided to destroy the Ukrainian kulaks (independent small farmers) who were standing in the way of his vision of a collectivized agrarian nation.  To achieve his goal, he brutally starved these farmers to death — 20 to 30 million of them.  Reading author Timothy Snyder’s description of their suffering is horrible — but it’s something that we need to read in order that we never forget how fundamentally evil socialism is.  The ones who really should read this book, of course, are American socialists, but sadly, they’re unlikely to do so.

If you can get a socialist to read Bloodlands, but he has still failed to learn his lesson about what happens when government — which lacks a conscience — decides that its job isn’t to enable individual freedom but is, instead, to control all people without regard to individualism, have him read Yang Jisheng’s book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. Hard as it is to believe, Stalin and Hitler were just the warm-ups for Mao, the Chinese leader who, inspired by Stalin, may well hold the record for being the biggest mass murderer in human history.

Arthur Waldron, writing at The New Criterion reviews Jisheng’s book and his review shows that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand why Leftists are fools when they’re frightened of corporations and, instead, want desperately to place control over every aspect of their lives in government hands.  It is impossible for a corporation to wreak the kind of havoc that socialist governments have visited upon their people.  The estimates for Mao’s killing fields during his “man-created disaster” range from 36 to 70 million.  (The higher number includes the babies that never got born to a starving population.)  As happened with Stalin’s socialist-created famine, people in dire straits did unspeakable things to survive, including cannibalism.  As Snyder said in his book (and I paraphrase), “an orphan was a child whose parents died before they ate him.”

When word of the Chinese famine got out, Mao blamed unspecified natural causes, and a credulous, Left-leaning, Walter Duranty-esque media dutifully passed this on.  It was a lie, of course.  There was nothing unusual about Chinese weather patterns from 1958-1962.  Moreover, even as the people died in the millions, food filled warehouses and party officials dined in style.

Jisheng knows firsthand about the famine:  alerted that something was wrong in his native rural area, he left the city with a rice ration, but arrived too late to save his father who, though alive, had become too starved to do anything but die.  When this happened, Jisheng accepted the party line and didn’t question the thousands of deaths in his area of rural China.  It was only during the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, which saw many millions more die, that Jisheng began to realize that the problem wasn’t nature or farmers or people who needed re-education — it was Mao’s socialist policies, all of which officials throughout China unquestioningly accepted, either because they were true believers, because they were mindless party drones, or because they were afraid.

Although Jisheng’s book isn’t the first to tell about the famine, Waldron thinks it’s the best:

Tombstone, however, is without a doubt the definitive account—for now and probably for a long time. The Chinese original is two volumes and banned in that country. In Hong Kong it has sold out eight printings. The English version has been most skillfully shortened, edited, and rearranged by a team of Western and Chinese scholars, with an eye to making what is very much a massive compilation of statistics and reportage into a volume more accessible to the English-speaking reader.

This is a book whose importance must be compared with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) in that it documents beyond the possibility of refutation ghastly horrors that were first rumored, then denied, then written about a bit, but only with Solzhenitsyn and Yang were so thoroughly documented and analyzed as to place them beyond question.

You should read Waldron’s review and then, if you have the heart and stomach for it, read Jisheng’s book.

When socialism fails, as it invariably does, the American Left equally invariably claims that the failure isn’t because the plan was fundamentally flawed.  To socialists, the problem is always implementation and the culprit is always the Republicans who made it impossible for the Democrats fully to implement their plans.  Books such as Bloodlands and Tombstone remind us precisely what happens when the Left has unfettered access to a helpless population.  Every person in America should be thanking God for Republican foot-dragging, and should hope that they drag their feet ever harder and faster.

When are we going to admit that there is a war going on between us and radical Islam?

I’m guessing that a majority of Americans (a slim majority, but still a majority) know that America entered WWII because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  What few stop to consider is why we ended up fighting, not only the Japanese who had just bombed us, but the Germans as well, since they, after all, had not yet done anything to us.  The answer to that unasked question is that, for reasons known only to a megalomaniac, a few days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Hitler declared war on the United States.  The United States took up the challenge with gusto.  Within months, America had become a war machine, cranking out ships, tanks, guns, airplanes, and trained troops.  If Hitler hadn’t acted, Germany might have won the war.  England, after all, was on the ropes by the time America came in to help out.

It’s a little chilling to think that, were we to replay December 1941 with Obama in the White House, America would simply have ignored Germany’s declaration of war.  We would have heard that we have no quarrel with the Germans, who are a peaceful people, except of course for a handful of madmen.  We would have been told that, if these madmen killed our citizens, we would bring the actual killers to justice, but that we had no quarrel with the nations or ideology that gave birth to those killers and that are hard at work to raise an army of madmen.

As our administration and media talked, Hitler would have tightened his grip on Europe; fought a single front war against the Soviet Union; killed all the Jews, Gypsies, mentally disabled, and homosexuals in Europe; and then enslaved all Slavs and Communists (never mind that Naziism was a variation of socialism itself).   At the end of the day, our government would have said that we’re scarcely in a position to criticize the Nazis, since America was once a slave country itself.  Congress would then have announced economic sanctions, but the Executive office would have failed to enforce them.

But we don’t need a hyp0thetical December 1941 to imagine what our current administration would do.  We can watch it in real-time today.  There is a saying that “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” — and it’s funny that you should mention Egypt right now.  As if 9/11/01 and 9/11/02 weren’t strong enough declarations of war, Islamist clerics are actively calling all Egyptians to wage war against the west, starting with kidnapping:

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has urged Egyptians to restart their revolution to press for Islamic law and called on Muslims to kidnap Westerners, the SITE Intelligence Group said Friday.

In a video released on jihadist forums and translated by the US monitoring service, Zawahiri also lashed out at President Barack Obama, calling him a liar and demanding he admit defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa.

Criticizing the new Egyptian government — led by a president drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood — as corrupt, he said a battle is being waged in Egypt between a secular minority and Muslims seeking implementation of Shariah law.

I’ll admit that this is a challenging war because we are fighting, not a single nation, but a geographically diffuse ideology, but it is still war.  After all, what do you call it when a vast and recognizable group of individuals announces that it intends to kill and enslave your people, and then uses arms to carry out that promise?

We should be addressing this war on all fronts:  militarily, economically, and ideologically.  Instead, we are pretending it’s not happening.  To give credit where it’s due, George W. Bush figured out the military part and, with Iran, the economic part.  His problem, though, was that, as leader of a pluralist country, but he couldn’t bring himself to break through political correctness to admit that we are at war with a huge ideological foe.  After all, many Americans who are good, decent people share the same label (i.e., “Muslim”) as that foe. We confuse linguistic nuances with substance.

A problem of nomenclature, though, should not be allowed to obscure the fact that we have an active, resolute, powerful, and devious enemy.  We therefore do not fight that foe by excusing it.  Instead, we fight it by using every breath of free speech to challenge it in every way possible — debate, media, leaflets dropped from airplanes, and whatever else could work.

Obama has been the ultimate Islamist apologist.  He has only half-heartedly imposed sanctions against Iran, given a blank check to the Palestinians (who are a front in this Islamist jihad), weakened Israel (which is an ally in this existential battle), demoralized troops and energized enemies in Afghanistan by setting a certain pull-out date, and undermined a nascent democracy in Iraq by pulling out all troops without leaving a provisional force.  As for what just happened in Benghazi, that’s a chapter in itself, one that includes institutional cowardice and politicizing, lying, cover-ups and, with the imprisonment of a video maker, the destruction of our First Amendment.

Not only is Obama not much of a leader, he’s totally unsuited to military leadership.  You have to love your country to lead your military.  Obama doesn’t.  You have to believe in your country’s values to lead your military.  Obama doesn’t.  You have to courage to lead your military.  Obama doesn’t.  At every level, in every way, Obama fails as a military leader.  Let’s fire him from the job before it’s too late and we find ourselves defeated in the war we continue to pretend doesn’t exist.

Christmas thoughts from a Jewish blogger

I’m about to wade into theology here, so feel free to beat me around the head (politely, of course), if I’ve committed some egregious doctrinal sin.  Before you do, though, please follow my argument to its conclusion, to see whether I’m on the right track.

I got to thinking about evil today. In my earlier post, I took it upon myself to define what I believe constitutes good (as opposed to evil) at a societal level:  Maximum individual freedom within a framework of stable laws.  What I want to discuss in this post is the evil of the individual, whether it’s just a handful of individuals committing acts of great evil, or evil on the vast scale of Stalin, Hitler, Mao or Kim Jung-Il (as well as their minions, who kept the leaders’ hands free of actual blood).

As I contemplate evil men, what always strikes me is that they are distinguished from “merely” bad people by the way in which they view their fellow man.  Your ordinary bad guy is motivated by greed, fear, anger, jealously, etc.  His own feelings drive him.  He’s not thinking about the relative worth of the people against whom he acts.  He’s simply thinking about his own needs.

People who commit evil on a grand scale, whether their victims are small in number or large, may fall prey to these passions, but these all too human emotions are not what drive them.  Instead, they commit their evil acts because they feel separate from and above ordinary humanity.  In their own minds, they are a superior species, a pleasant fact that entitles them to starve the kulaks, kill the Jews and gypsies, or turn their own nation into a giant prison camp.  The root cause of evil isn’t an unloving mother or a bourgeois upbringing or a racist society.  Instead, it is the evildoer’s fundamental lack of humanity.

Which gets me to the birthday the Christian world celebrates on December 25.  Christ was not like other gods.  The Greek and Roman panoply of gods was filled with beings who, while they suffered from more than their fare share of human foibles, nevertheless were always aware of their separation from mankind, and treated mankind as pawns in the godly games.  Christ, however, embraced human-kind.  His passion was the human passion.  Rather than rejecting human-kind, he took upon himself human pain and, in return, gave grace.  By giving himself over to humanity, rather than holding himself above it, Jesus was the antithesis of evil.

(To those of you who are hoping I’ve converted, I haven’t.  If there is any religion in me, my allegiance is to the Jewish God, an abstract, overarching figure that created human-kind, embraces His creation, and judges human-kind with a creator’s loving objectivity.  To my mind, both good and evil are concepts too small to describe the enormity of the Jewish God.)

So, while I am not now, and probably never will be, a Christian, I join with all of you in celebrating Christmas — a holiday that truly celebrates the good in all of us.

Merry Christmas!

The lessons about bullies that we seem determined not to learn

So often, there are what I call “matched sets” of stories in newspapers.  This happens when one article makes a point, and another article perfectly illustrates that point.  Today, Spiegel provided the perfect pairing of the way in which the modern Western (that is, Leftist) world refuses to learn lessons, but insists on repeating the fatal mistakes of yesteryear.  The first article, part of a collection Spiegel is running to mark the 70th anniversary of WWII’s beginning, points to the fact that Europe’s appeasement stance was like steroid juice to Hitler, spurring him on to ever greater heights of aggression:

In the years leading up to World War II, Britain and France underestimated just how determined Adolf Hitler was in his lust for conquest. The failure of Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement meant war was inevitable.

[snip]

Chamberlain, the conservative product of a family of politicians, was part of a large faction that sought to appease Germany by fulfilling its wishes, provided they appeared legitimate and were not enforced with violence.

Appeasement was a policy that fed on emotions as well as intellect, at least with Chamberlain. The British prime minister had lost his beloved cousin in World War I. From then on, he advocated the basic principle of all pacifists: Wars have no winners, only losers.

[snip]

Historians have since realized that the military situation for the Western Allies was far from hopeless. Hitler had exposed western Germany by moving troops eastward for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In addition, Germany’s gasoline reserves were barely sufficient for a four-month military campaign. Significantly, senior German military officials feared a world war. A small group, which included Beck and Weizsäcker, even planned to stage a coup in the event that war broke out.

But while Hitler shrugged off his generals’ warnings — “I know that England will remain neutral,” he said — the worst-case scenarios being painted by British and French experts played into the hands of those politicians who wanted to avoid war at all costs.

There’s so much more (and I urge you to read the whole article), but the above certainly makes the point: “I know that England will remain neutral.” A natural bully can immediately tell when his victim is going to abase himself for good ‘n all.

One would think that Germany, of all countries, would understand that, once bullies get a head of steam from dealing with compliant victims, little can stop them short of the brutist of brute force.  Yet the same day saw this article about a judge’s supine position in the face of demands from a known terrorist:

In Germany, it seems, it’s okay to name children “Jihad.” A Berlin court has ruled that the name Djehad is neither denigrating nor offensive — even if the child’s father is a man considered by German intelligence agents and the United States to be one of the country’s most radical Islamists.

A Berlin court ruled this week that a man suspected of being one of Germany’s leading radical Islamists, can name his son “Djehad,” an alternative spelling of the Arabic word jihad. A city official had previously rejected the name because of its connotation of Islamic holy war.

A city official said it had rejected listing the name in the city’s birth registry because it could endanger the child’s welfare. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, the term “jihad,” which in the West is usually regarded as meaning “holy war,” has had negative connotations in Germany. The child’s father himself, German-Egyptian Reda Seyam, is being monitored by German intelligence agencies and is known to have fought as a jihadist in Bosnia.

But this week a local superior court, following previous rulings in an administrative court and a regional court, said the name was unobjectionable.

In its ruling overturning the city’s decision, the court argued that “Djehad” is a common first name for Arab males that also evokes the duty of Muslims to promote their faith both spiritually and within society. The use of the word as a first name, the court argued, was in no way denigrating or offensive.

The court conceded that, in recent years, radical Islamists have used the term to express the idea of an armed struggle against people who don’t share their faith. But that could not justify a restriction of the right of the parents to choose their child’s name as they see fit, they said, adding that the parent’s motives for selecting the name were irrelevant.

Again, I urge you to read the whole article, but the cited material gives you a sense of the way in which the German intelligentsia is bound and determined to worship at the feet of its new overlords.

Evil is as evil does

Michael Ledeen has a written a wonderful article that uses the evil in the world’s recent past (Hitler, Stalin), as a springboard for discussing the West’s resolute refusal to see the evil in its midst. I think the following paragraphs are the core of his argument, but the whole article is well worth reading:

By now, there is very little we do not know about such regimes, and such movements. Some of our greatest scholars have described them, analyzed the reasons for their success, and chronicled the wars we fought to defeat them. Our understanding is considerable, as is the honesty and intensity of our desire that such things must be prevented.

Yet they are with us again, and we are acting as we did in the last century. The world is simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes – from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahhabis – who swear to destroy us and others like us. Like their 20th-century predecessors, they openly proclaim their intentions, and carry them out whenever and wherever they can. Like our own 20th-century predecessors, we rarely take them seriously or act accordingly. More often than not, we downplay the consequences of their words, as if they were some Islamic or Arab version of “politics,” intended for internal consumption, and designed to accomplish domestic objectives.

Clearly, the explanations we gave for our failure to act in the last century were wrong. The rise of messianic mass movements is not new, and there is very little we do not know about them. Nor is there any excuse for us to be surprised at the success of evil leaders, even in countries with long histories and great cultural and political accomplishments. We know all about that. So we need to ask the old questions again. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? Why do we treat them as if they were normal political phenomena, as Western leaders do when they embrace negotiations as the best course of action?

No doubt there are many reasons. One is the deep-seated belief that all people are basically the same, and all are basically good. Most human history, above all the history of the last century, points in the opposite direction. But it is unpleasant to accept the fact that many people are evil, and entire cultures, even the finest, can fall prey to evil leaders and march in lockstep to their commands. Much of contemporary Western culture is deeply committed to a belief in the goodness of all mankind; we are reluctant to abandon that reassuring article of faith. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we prefer to pursue the path of reasonableness, even with enemies whose thoroughly unreasonable fanaticism is manifest.

This is not merely a philosophical issue, for to accept the threat to us means – short of a policy of national suicide – acting against it. As it did in the 20th century, it means war. It means that, temporarily at least, we have to make sacrifices on many fronts: in the comforts of our lives, indeed in lives lost, in the domestic focus of our passions – careers derailed and personal freedoms subjected to unpleasant and even dangerous restrictions – and the diversion of wealth from self-satisfaction to the instruments of power. All of this is painful; even the contemplation of it hurts.

Then there is anti-Semitism. Old Jew-hating texts like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” now in Farsi and Arabic, are proliferating throughout the Middle East. Calls for the destruction of the Jews appear regularly on Iranian, Egyptian, Saudi and Syrian television and are heard in European and American mosques. There is little if any condemnation from the West, and virtually no action against it, suggesting, at a minimum, a familiar Western indifference to the fate of the Jews.

Finally, there is the nature of our political system. None of the democracies adequately prepared for war before it was unleashed on them in the 1940s. None was prepared for the terror assault of the 21st century. The nature of Western politics makes it very difficult for national leaders – even those rare men and women who see what is happening and want to act – to take timely, prudent measures before war is upon them. Leaders like Winston Churchill are relegated to the opposition until the battle is unavoidable. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to fight desperately to win Congressional approval for a national military draft a few months before Pearl Harbor.

Der Fueher’s Face

In a comment to my earlier post about talk with an ideological foe being dangerous, Gringo mentioned a classic anti-Nazi piece of Hollywood propaganda (made when Hollywood viewed America as the ally, not the enemy).  I found it at YouTube (of course), and share it with you.

And for those of you who are I Love Lucy fans, I think you’ll enjoy William Frawley assuring Americans that they will win the war: