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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Sean Hannity’

Egypt: This Is Big

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

One way to gauge the import of the conflict erupting in Egypt is by looking at the character of media coverage in America.  Both sides of the political spectrum have been slow to advance narratives of blame.  What’s going on in Egypt doesn’t fit into any pat, off-the-shelf narratives.

There has been a curious absence of “themage” on the left: no unified narrative about this all being the fault of Bush-era failures of good fellowship, or of the plight of the Palestinians, or (my personal favorite) of warmongering arms dealers, oil mavens, or ([insert ROTFLOL here]) international banks.

Meanwhile, blame-fixing criticisms of President Obama are getting little traction on the right.  (I even saw Sean Hannity shouted down by other conservatives the other day, when he was advancing an Obama’s-to-blame theory.)  I have the sense that most on the right see – accurately – that what’s going on is bigger than either Obama’s shortcomings or America’s predicament under his leadership.  While the Arab Spring might well have never happened if the United States had had a different president in January 2011, it is more than overstating the case to say that it happened because of Obama.

It happened because of deep rifts and discontents in the Arab world.  Its progress since the initial trigger event has been shaped to some degree by the defensively triangulating inaction (mainly) of Obama’s America.  But there’s real there there, in terms of political divisions and conflict in the nations of the Middle East.

This is a genuine fight, not a series of mass protests out of which nothing will really change.  If we understand anything, it must be that.  The Western media have been reflexively – if perfunctorily – reporting the bloodshed in Egypt as a “military crack-down” on protesters.  But the truth is that, where military action is concerned, it is a strategy to get out ahead of civil war.  The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it intends to make a fight of this.  Its “protest camps” are not a stupid, time-on-their-hands Occupy Cairo escapade; they are bases from which to keep an armed fight going.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not care what happens to the people of Egypt: whether their streets become safe for daily life and commerce again.  It is willing to keep chaos and misery going for as long as necessary to topple the military’s interim government.  That is its present purpose.  The Muslim Brotherhood strategy is to make it impossible for the military to restore enough order and public confidence to move ahead with new democratic arrangements.  The strategy is pure Bolshevism, and we’ve seen it before, dozens of times over the last several centuries.

Reports from Friday’s fighting indicate that plenty of Egyptians are aware of this.  Citizens around the capital set up checkpoints to prevent the movement of Muslim Brotherhood formations:

Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.

And much of the fighting was between pro-Morsi supporters and other civilians:

Friday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches.

Few police in uniform were seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.

In keeping with the astonishing mass scale of the national revulsion against Morsi’s rule in June and July, the current fight is developing as a popular one.  The anti-Morsi citizens have no intention of waiting around to see their government fall back into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.  They are taking to the streets themselves.

This will have to be remembered in the coming days, when poorly armed civilians inevitably begin dropping out of the fight.  The civil population does care, and care enough to fight with sticks, stones, and fists, if necessary, even though It will take the military to put down the Muslim Brotherhood decisively – if, indeed, the outcome ends up being defined in that manner.

It may not be.  A key organizing factor in the June and July civil protests against Morsi was the “Tamarod” movement, a pastiche of anti-Morsi forces with little to unify them other than their objection to Morsi’s rule.  Some throwing in with Tamarod are Salafists themselves (including a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad); others bring some element of liberalization or secularism.  They made common cause with the military during the coup in July, but they are hardly a moderate, liberal, pro-Western force; in the days since, they have called for expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, and for Egypt to withdraw from the 1979 treaty with Israel.

Tamarod movements are busting out all over the Arab world (e.g., in Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain), portending many more months of instability and a long fight for the futures of these and other nations.  A movement with this much internal division to it will begin to splinter in Egypt: some of its members will want to take the lead in forging a new ruling consensus – specifically, in preempting the people to do so – and my bet for this is on the Salafists.

So there are more than two factions in the overall fight; this won’t come down to just the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whoever plays the spoiler role could put together some kind of modus vivendi linking the opposing factions.  A little bit of gesturing toward civil protections for the people; a little bit of door left open to shari’a.  It wouldn’t last long, if history is any kind of guide.  But Western observers are likely to put stock in it (and even be hoodwinked by it).

Today’s fight may not go the full fifteen rounds, but if it doesn’t, it will have to be fought again down the road.  Because there is no coexistence for soft despotism – or democracy-lite – and Islamism; there is no coexistence for anything else and Islamism.  And Islamism won’t stop fighting until it is put down decisively.

It is not actually unusual for the governments and media of the West to misread developments like these (or at least to have the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces as they witness them).  The last time there was comparative unity and accuracy of understanding about a Bolshevik moment was – well, the actual Bolshevik moment, in late 1917 and the few years following it, when Western governments sought briefly to support the White anti-Bolshevists.  Whatever the merits of that policy, the understanding on which it was based was perfectly accurate.  Bolshevism was an uncontainable threat.

Within a very few years after that, Western governments, and many in our media, had become invested in misreading or ignoring manifestations from the sanguinary arena of collectivist statism.  We were quite tolerant of Mussolini and Hitler until they declared war on Stalin, and to this day, tendentious narratives of popular support are adduced in our academies to explain the advance of Marxist totalitarianism across the map of the globe through the late 1970s.  There were major movements in the free world to define away the threat of communism incident not only to Stalin’s excesses but to Maoism in China, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the encroachments of Marxism on Latin America and Africa, and the standoff between East and West in Europe.

Throughout the 20th century, the bloody adventures of collectivism forced Westerners, and Americans in particular, to inspect and crystallize our view of who and what we were.  Through the “progressive,” statist movements in our own nations, we ended up being transformed away from the character we had once sought to honor and cultivate.  Yet for a time, in the late 1970s (with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK) and 1980s, we achieved a meaningful consensus that our liberal values had not been extinguished yet.  Acting on that consensus turned out to be enough, in that time and place, to overwhelm the failed ideology of Marxist socialism, in its totalitarian-state manifestation.

State-Islamism is doomed to inflict self-destruction and despair on its victims.  But what will we in the still-not-Islamist West do while it is organizing itself and launching its career?  We can’t go out and try to run everyone else’s county for him, after all.  And that said, we need not actively support the infliction of despotic Islamism on foreign populations.

How will we define ourselves during this process?  Will it be Islamism that has the momentum, with us defining ourselves as what we are not, in relation to it?  Or will we retake the public dialogue with our own propositions and language about liberty and limited government?  Our success in that endeavor was intermittent and incomplete, to say the least, during the Cold War.  Will we learn from that era and do better today?

Will we retain the capacity – always under attack, always fighting for its life – to define a totalitarian ideology truthfully, and let that truth be a guide to our policies?  These are questions to which we simply don’t know the answer.  There were days during the Cold War when even the most optimistic political observers would have answered them for us in the negative.

One thing we can be sure of, however – a thing we may see more clearly, I think, because we have the president we have today, and not a president who will act in a more traditional manner, according to the conventions of American statecraft.  The developments in Egypt have importance for the entire world.  They are about an ideological, Bolshevik-style assault on conventional, non-radicalized government.  That is the dynamic in play.  And, as much as they are about Egypt, the Egyptian people, and the fact that they do not want ideological “shari’a” rule, they are also, in an existential way, about us.  They are about who we are, and who we intend to be.  None of us will be the same when this is all over.

Twilight Of The Radio Gods?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
The interview with John Batchelor on the front page of this week’s Jewish Press should clarify, for anyone who still doesn’t get it, why Batchelor’s show is thriving while many of talk radio’s erstwhile Big Names suffer declining ratings.
Batchelor’s answers to interviewer Sara Lehmann’s questions offer a marked contrast to the prefabricated, often inane, talking points endlessly repeated by too many right-wing hosts. Really, how many times in a given hour can a listener with an IQ above room temperature abide hearing how Ronald Reagan was a precursor of today’s Tea Party activists (he was nothing of the kind) or how Sarah Palin is Abe Lincoln in heels (she is nothing of the sort) before feeling the need to slam the radio against the nearest wall?
In the introduction to her interview with Batchelor, Lehmann quotes from an article by John Avlon. In that piece, radio executive Randall Bloomquist, referring to the drop in listeners experienced by the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, tells Avlon, “if we ever want to grow, if we want to expand, we’ve got to be doing more than 18 hours a day of ‘Obama is a socialist.’ “
The Monitor saw this coming three years ago. In a piece written for Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, your always modest correspondent vented his frustration with the way conservative radio hosts were treating John McCain even as it was becoming obvious that McCain stood a better than fair chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination later that year.
“The relentless pounding of McCain,” I wrote, “while certainly popular with some conservatives, has elicited a growing backlash among others, with a number of conservative bloggers expressing disdain for the tactics of Limbaugh and company – some of them saying they can no longer bring themselves to listen to the very voices that for so long had constituted a focal point of their day.”
I admitted to knowing that feeling, noting that my own personal moratorium on Limbaugh and Hannity (I’d listened only sporadically, and never enthusiastically, to the various other hosts who had taken to treating McCain as though he were a Trotskyite trying to crash a conservative ball) began in stages, since old habits and loyalties do die hard.
I’d begin each day thinking that maybe the attacks on the senator would at long last start to diminish, in number if not intensity. But within minutes of either host opening his show the sliming would pick up right where it had left off the day before, with little or no regard for nuance or perspective. I’d switch to sports talk for an hour or so before returning to Limbaugh or Hannity, only to once again find myself muttering at the radio and reaching for the dial.
I noted that while “talk radio has, with rare exceptions, always been the thinnest of intellectual gruel, the rise of conservative talkers – which took place in the years just before the Internet changed everything about the way we consume news – was a galvanizing event for those of us who always saw through the neutral posturing of the Walter Cronkites, the John Chancellors, the Roger Mudds of that era. At last we had a slice of mass media we could call our own and by which we could help sway policy and elections and stay connected to fellow conservatives across the country.
“But talk radio is already something of a dinosaur, a rusted hulk lying on the side of the information superhighway. How could it be otherwise, in an age when we can log on and directly link to thousands of conservative websites and blogs – when we can communicate, unfiltered and instantaneously, with like-minded people not just across the country but around the world?
“Sean Hannity can insist all he wants that John McCain is a liberal, but simply by Googling McCain’s lifetime voting record we can see for ourselves that if he’s a liberal, words have no meaning. Rush Limbaugh can loudly champion Mitt Romney as the second coming of Barry Goldwater, but a quick Internet search is enough to confirm that Romney is anything but.”

Three years later, I would take back none of what I wrote. If anything, the reaction in right-wing radioland to the election of Barack Obama and his first two years in the White House has served only to amplify the problems already evident in 2008.

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Debate Continues To Rage Over Palin’s ‘Blood Libel’ Charge

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011


   WASHINGTON – The post-shooting debate over political civility is cooling down, but passions are still raging over Sarah Palin’s claim that critics were guilty of perpetuating a “blood libel” against her.

 

   Palin’s initial use of the term, in a Jan. 12 video message, drew sharp rebukes from liberal Jewish groups and even some conservatives. Since then, however, several Jewish notables, including Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and former New York mayor Ed Koch have defended Palin’s use of the term.

 

   Palin weighed in again Monday during an interview on Fox News – her first since the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) that also left six dead and another 12 wounded. Palin defended her use of the term “blood libel” and said she understands its meaning.

 

   “Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands and in this case that’s exactly what was going on,” Palin told Sean Hannity in the interview.

 

   Palin, a Fox guest contributor, also used the interview to condemn the shooting and other acts of political violence, and to offer prayers for the victims.

 

   The most recent Palin-related controversy echoes previous scrums revolving around the potential GOP presidential candidate, with critics arguing that she lacks the judgment, demeanor and smarts of a commander in chief, and her defenders seeing such slams as validation that she is just the right person to put the liberal elites in their place.

 

   Palin shows no signs of ceding the spotlight, but it was liberal politicians and commentators who were quick to put her in the center of the story following the shooting. Critics held Palin up as a prime example of violent political rhetoric that could have contributed to the gunman’s rampage, pointing to a map on her website that used images of gun crosshairs to indicate districts targeted in last year’s midterm elections.

 

   Giffords, who was shot and critically injured in the shooting attack, was the incumbent in one of the marked districts.

 

   During her Jan. 12 video message, Palin defended herself, insisting that “especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

 

   Palin seemed to be conflating generic calls to tone down the rhetoric – including one from Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff who was leading the investigation – with a number of attacks directly accusing her of responsibility. In fact, the debate about rhetoric subsequent to the shooting did not hew to party lines, and liberal pundits were among those vigorously defending Palin’s right to use strong rhetoric, while conservatives were among those who suggested she needed to dial it down.

 

   Palin’s reference to the ancient fiction that Jews killed children to drink their blood as part of a ritual – one that has inspired pogroms, massacres and attacks on Jews throughout the centuries and even today is referenced as fact in parts of the Arab world and the former Soviet Union – set off alarm bells.

 

   Jewish reaction ranged from outraged to uncomfortable to defensive.

 

   “Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others,” National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris said in a statement condemning her remark. “Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today.”

 

   The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League refused to endorse the notion that her actions may have contributed to the shooting, but they criticized Palin’s use of the term “blood libel,” saying it was offensive to Jewish sensibilities.

 

   Jews for Sarah, a pro-Palin group, defended Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2012.

 

   “Gov. Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one,” Jews for Sarah said. “Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel – whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzahs, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.”

 

   Within days, Dershowitz, Boteach and Koch also defended Palin.

 

   The Anti-Defamation League said it was inappropriate to blame Palin after the Tucson shooting and that she had every right to defend herself.

 

   But, the organization noted in a statement, “We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

 

   The question, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, was whether using a charged term like blood libel reinforced Palin’s legitimate argument at the unfair targeting of the right wing in the days after the shooting, or whether using the term undercut the point.

 

   “It distracts from her argument, which is thoughtful,” Jamieson told JTA. “If you are trying to get an audience to rethink, you don’t inject this particular historic analogy.”

 

   The fallback defense for Palin’s acolytes and others who defended her was that while the use of the phrase might be overwrought, she is hardly the first to commit this sin. Jim Geraghty, a correspondent at the conservative National Review, cited an extensive list of its uses over the past 10 years, though practically no elected officials were on it.

 

   Jamieson, who conducted a similar search, found that invoking the term in political argument is usually the province of bloggers and polemicists, not those who have held high political office or aspire to it.

 

   Voices across the Jewish religious and political spectrums, from the Reform movement to the Orthodox Union, and from liberals to conservatives, echoed the ADL’s statement.

 

   “The term ‘blood libel’ is so unique, and so tinged with the context of anti-Semitism, that its use in this case – even when Ms. Palin has a legitimate gripe – is either cynically calculated to stimulate media interest or historically illiterate,” Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote on Pundit Wire.

 

   “It is therefore distracting to Ms. Palin’s underlying message, which is one of sympathy for the victims and outrage that she and others are being accused of inspiring a mass murderer.”

 

   On the other hand, Koch and Dershowitz – two Jewish Democrats – defended her.

 

   In an op-ed column Koch declares that Palin had “defeated her harsh and unfair critics,” and argued that these days the “blood libel” term can “be used to describe any monstrous defamation against any person, Jew or non-Jew.”

 

   [Editor's note: Please see page 4 for Mr. Koch's op-ed article.]

 

   Koch frames the controversy as part of the wider debate over Palin, writing that “the fools in politics today in both parties are those who think she is dumb,” though he added that she is “not knowledgeable in many areas and politically uninformed.”

 

   “Many women understand what she has done for their cause,” writes Koch, who has endorsed Republicans for president but says he is “scared” of Palin.

 

   “She will not be silenced, nor will she leave the heavy lifts to the men in her party. She will not be falsely charged, remain silent and look for others – men – to defend her. She is plucky and unafraid.”


(JTA)

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