Saturday, September 13, 2014
For the Left, the Ray Rice episode is an opportunity to “reprogram the way we raise men.”
If conservatives want to know why we are losing the culture and the country, it is important to understand that while very few kids and young adults are watching Fox News (or news programs of any kind, for that matter), they inhale sports programming. It’s ubiquitous — television, radio, the Internet. And thus equally unavoidable is sports commentary, more and more of which has less and less to do with sports. Tendentious “sports journalists,” the majority of whom are decidedly left of center, are much less guarded about their hostility to conservatives than their fellow progressives on the political beat. It is a hostility that takes for granted the chummy agreement of its viewers and is designed to make Millennials want to be part of the fun.
This week, the big national news is a sports story. It involves Ray Rice. The star running-back was cut by the Baltimore Ravens after video surfaced showing him punching his now-wife’s lights out in an Atlantic City casino elevator. The National Football League and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, are in the hot seat because, some allege, the NFL had the video before suspending Rice for a measly two games. Logically, the video shouldn’t matter: The commissioner clearly knew Rice had knocked Janay Palmer out cold before issuing the trifling suspension. But graphic video has a way of overrunning logic.
My purpose here is less to wade into the Rice mess than to consider how radical ideas — like the Left’s war on boys — get mainstreamed.
Let’s say the New York Times published, or CNN aired, a fawning news story about tribal politics and Alinsky-style community organizing — how the Left uses (and often manufactures) crises to shake down big corporations, the payoffs from which pour into the coffers of “grass-roots community groups” (i.e., left-wing grievance activists such as ACORN and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network), underwriting their promotion of the “social justice” agenda in schools and the media. Big deal, right? Such stories are standard mainstream-media fare, and very few impressionable young people see them.
But what if the news story was not ostensibly political? And what if it was not published in news media but in entertainment programming — say, a hip sports show, slipped into the mix between the top plays of last night’s ballgames?
On Friday, after highlights of the previous night’s game between the hometown Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, ESPN’s Sports Center reported, incredulously, that many female Ravens fans proudly wore their No. 27 jerseys in homage to Rice. Although this week’s coverage made him Public Enemy No. 1, it turns out that Rice is still quite popular among fans in Baltimore. One woman, clad in her Rice jersey, explained that while she did not condone his behavior, Rice had said he was sorry and was deserving of a second chance, just like other people who have done abominable things. It was a mitigating factor, in her view, that Ms. Palmer (now Mrs. Rice) had started the fight, and that the muscular professional football player was simply retaliating.
A second female Rice fan conceded that there was no excuse for the running back’s violent aggression, but contended that it was for the legal system, not the NFL, to punish him. Since prosecutors allowed Rice to enter a rehab program in anticipation of dismissing the case, rather than face a criminal conviction and prison sentence, she reasoned that the NFL should have let it go at that.
Is she right? Personally, I think a private organization like the Ravens or the NFL should have its own, loftier standards of conduct. A business is well within its rights to demand more of its employees than that they merely avoid criminality.
That said, however, the common assumption that Rice got a comparative slap on the wrist from the legal system is dubious. State prosecutors insist that he got the same deal any first-offender would have gotten. As a former federal prosecutor, I suspect that is true. Rice expressed contrition; the victim married him and ardently supports him; he is apparently complying with the rehab terms; and, unlike the vast majority of similarly situated defendants, his offense is going to cost him millions of dollars in lost salary and advertising income. Am I trivializing domestic violence? Are the state prosecutors? I don’t think so. Police and prosecutors must assess Rice’s case in the context of all domestic-violence cases involving men beating women. Unfortunately, many of them are far worse than Rice’s offense and involve serious recidivist offenders. It is certainly possible that he got special treatment because he is a celebrity, but that can also cut the other way.
In any event, I was surprised that ESPN gave airtime to the Rice supporters. The progressive soap-opera storyline of the Rice coverage is that our aggressive, competitive culture, which has made the NFL so popular, desensitizes men to the gravity of domestic violence; that women are uniformly outraged by this state of affairs; and that football and the men who play it must be tamed. ESPN is a prominent author of this particular narrative, so one wouldn’t expect coverage of women who dissent from it.
I should have figured, though, that the segment was just a set-up for what followed: a lengthy editorial interview with Kate Fagan. A former college basketball player, Ms. Fagan is now, yes, a sports journalist. Author of a memoir The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians, she is a staple at ESPN-W. That’s where the network focuses on women in sports and, seamlessly, on political and social matters that the Left has successfully branded “women’s issues.”
For the politically aware, listening to Kate Fagan is a lot like listening to President Obama or any other deft community organizer. She first invoked tribal politics in refusing — or at least making a show of refusing — to rebut the female Ravens fans who sympathize with Rice. That, she said, would be “pitting women against women” — a no-no. She then skillfully lowered the boom: The problem is not Rice’s cheerleaders; it is our “culture.”
Those women, you see, are really victims of insidious bourgeois attitudes inculcated by the education system. Our task, therefore, is not to condemn them for being so wrong but to ask ourselves, “Why is this issue not as black and white as it should be?” Translation: Why is something so obvious to thoughtful progressives like Ms. Fagan so elusive to the riff-raff in their Rice jerseys?
So what’s the answer? Ms. Fagan opined that people should stop focusing so much on whether Commissioner Roger Goodell should get fired or how long Rice’s suspension should be. That’s too “reactive,” and Fagan says it’s time to be “pro-active.”
How? By working to undo our “culture” of “raising men to want to not be like women,” a culture that tolerates the teasing of boys who “throw like a girl.” The way to do that, she said, was to “hold the NFL’s feet to the fire” until the league ponies up “millions of dollars” for a domestic-violence fund. The extorted treasure would then be doled out to grass-roots community organizations, who could then send their trained experts to middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Boys would be instructed that differentiating men from women breeds domestic violence.
As Fagan put it, the goal must be“reprogramming how we raise men.” That, she said, is how we’re finally going to get — all together now — “change.”
Through all of this, the ESPN anchor played the role of amen-corner, not interviewer. There was no suggestion that the women clad in Rice jerseys might have some valid points — it was simply accepted that they were well-meaning simpletons who, like schoolboys, need “deprogramming.” There was no hint that football as a sport, and the NFL as an institution, might not be drivers of domestic violence — that while the culture bears responsibility, the problem might have a lot more to do with the breakdown of the family, the scorn heaped on chivalry, the disappearance of manners, and the general coarsening of our society that result from relentless progressive attacks on traditional values and institutions.
No, it was instead presented as incontestable fact that (a) there was a crisis involving violence, (b) the NFL and its violent sport must be responsible for it, (c) the NFL has deep pockets, and (d) the NFL should thus be coerced to fund bien pensant activists to perform progressive social-engineering on schoolboys.
Kids who tuned in to ESPN Friday morning to see the highlights of Thursday night’s game were treated to political indoctrination masquerading as sports commentary. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what football fans were treated to during the coverage of the game itself. And it happens pretty much every day.
Conservatives complain incessantly, and not without cause, about Republican fecklessness in confronting the Obama Left’s agenda, about the news media’s becoming an adjunct of the White House press office. But Washington’s political arena is just where the score is tallied. The game is being played, and lost, in the popular culture.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
Friday, September 12, 2014
The Islamic State has everything to do with Islam.
When you are dealing with an administration whose officials look you in the eye and tell you the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization, it’s tempting to laugh off the idiocy spouted by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry about how the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam. We should resist the temptation, though, because there is a dangerous purpose behind the laughable assertion.
Obviously, Bing West and Daniel Pipes are correct that the terrorist group is entirely Islamic. As I’ve been arguing here more times and for more years than I care to remember, what we presume to call “radical Islam” (a/k/a Islamic supremacism, Islamic extremism, political Islam, Islamism, and whatever other “Islam [fill in the caveat]” terms we devise to avoid considering whether Islam itself inevitably breeds terrorism) is not very radical among the world’s Muslims. There are pacific constructions of Islam, too, but it is silly not to acknowledge that Islamic supremacism is a mainstream interpretation of Islam. It is firmly rooted in Islamic scripture and endorsed by many of Islam’s most influential scholars. Indeed, when you read what the scriptures say, there is a good argument that the pacific constructions are the ones that are radical revisionism.
This point has been made so many times it should hardly be necessary to point out that Obama and Kerry, like Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, and like many Bush-administration officials before them (including President Bush), are dead wrong when they deny the nexus between Islamic doctrine –– the literal scriptures –- and terrorism, decapitations, totalitarian government, repression of women, rabid anti-Semitism, the murder of homosexuals, and so on. Still, it would be a serious error merely to observe that they are wrong, snicker at their fecklessness, and move on.
There is a reason they are taking a position diametrically opposed to reality.
Obama and Kerry, like transnational progressives in both of our major political parties, believe there are “moderate Islamists” who are the key to stability in the Middle East. Now, the term “moderate Islamist” is contradictory: an Islamist wants government by sharia, Islam’s totalitarian societal framework and legal code. There is nothing moderate about sharia. Those who want it implemented are not “moderates” even if they don’t commit mass-murder to get their way. Sharia is also anti-liberty, anti-equality, and anti-Western. Therefore, we should oppose Islamism just as we oppose other freedom-killing ideologies. That doesn’t mean we need to go to war with all Islamists, but we should work to diminish their influence and we should never regard them as a solution to anything.
Notwithstanding their abhorrence of the West, “moderate Islamists” are regarded by Obama and Kerry as potential allies: people, groups, and, in the case of Turkey, for example, countries that we can work with to solve the problems plaguing the Middle East and overcome our own security challenges. It is thus critically important to Obama and Kerry for the public to believe that (a) all Islamists are not basically the same and (b) there is a sharp difference — a day-and-night difference — between “moderate Islamists” and terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. If, instead, the public becomes convinced that all Islamists, violent or non-violent, adhere to essentially the same ideology, the administration’s goal of working with Islamic supremacists becomes politically untenable.
It is impossible to convince people that non-violent (or, at least, purportedly non-violent) Islamists are not representative of Islam. The administration tried that with its “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood flyer . . . and has been embarrassed ever since by the howls of laughter. Most significant Islamist groups are rooted in or affiliated with the Brotherhood. Not only do these groups claim the mantle of Islam’s representative; our government concedes that status to them.
It is vital to Obama and Kerry that the public sees these Islamist groups as having nothing in common with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. And since the latter, like the “moderate Islamists,” define themselves by their adherence to Islam, Obama and Kerry have no alternative: They must deny them standing as true Muslims. That is why they assert that the claim of Islamic State jihadists to be faithful Muslims waging holy war in the name of Islam is fraudulent — and, just as ridiculously, they assert that jihad has nothing to do with violence.
The problem, of course, is that “moderate Islamists” and violent jihadists are bound together by sharia-based Islamic ideology. Yes, they have their differences, but those differences are mainly about tactics; and, to the limited extent they are doctrinal, they are irrelevant as far as we are concerned because the differences do not affect the core Islamist belief that we are the enemy.
Many violent jihadists who go on to join al-Qaeda and, now, the Islamic State (an offshoot of al-Qaeda) got their start in the Muslim Brotherhood. They seamlessly graduate from Brotherhood teaching to insatiable jihad because Brotherhood teaching lauds jihad. In fact, the transition happens because many of those who receive Brotherhood instruction become frustrated by the contradiction between the Brotherhood’s aim of a worldwide caliphate and endorsement of jihad to achieve it, on the one hand, and its counsel of patience in pursuing it, on the other.
It is precisely because Islamists share an ideology rooted in Islam, and what they see as a divinely mandated mission of conquest, that a Muslim can so predictably evolve from student to sharia adherent to “moderate Islamist” to not-so-moderate Islamist to terrorist. It happens frequently. And the common ideology rooted in Islam also explains why so many “moderate Islamists” financially and morally support violent jihadist organizations even if they don’t take up arms themselves.
The Islamic State has presumed to declare a caliphate. Al-Qaeda franchises think that is hasty — especially since someone else is running the caliphate — and would proceed more gradually, setting up emirates and hoping for more consensus among Islamists. Both organizations want to confront the West only violently; the Muslim Brotherhood, on the contrary, teaches that, while violent jihad has its place (see Hamas), it is valid to negotiate with the West, to infiltrate the West’s institutions, and to achieve whatever conquest can be achieved without violence.
Among the Islamists themselves, these differences are extremely controversial and cause bitter disputes. But as to us, the differences are beside the pont: They do not change the reality that these are all Islamist groups, they all hate and want to conquer the West, and they all want repressive sharia implemented. Some groups are more of an immediate threat than others; some of them need to be defeated militarily while others require a different approach; but all of them are enemies of the United States and all of them support terrorism.
And all of them are Islamic.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
By Charles Krauthammer
September 11, 2014
September 11, 2014
President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. (Saul Loeb/AP)
In his Islamic State speech, President Obama said many of the right things. Most importantly, he finally got the mission right: degrade and destroy the enemy.
This alone will probably get him a bump in the polls, which have dropped to historic lows. But his strategic problem remains: the disconnect between (proclaimed) ends and means.
He’s sending an additional 475 American advisers to Iraq. He says he’s broadening the air campaign, but that is merely an admission that the current campaign was always about more than just protecting U.S. personnel in Irbil and saving Yazidis on mountaintops. It was crucially about providing air support for the local infantry, Kurdish and Iraqi.
The speech’s only news was the promise to expand the air campaign into Syria and (finally) seriously arm the secular opposition. But this creates a major problem for Obama. Just a month ago, he ridiculed the non-jihadist rebels as nothing but a bunch of “doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth.” Now he deputizes them as our Syrian shock troops. So he seems finally to have found his Syria strategy: F-16s flying air support for pharmacists in tanks.
Not to worry, says the president. We’ll have lots of other help — “a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.” He then proceeded to name not a single member of this stout assembly or offer even an approximate number.
Democrats have a habit of accusing George W. Bush of going it alone in Iraq. According to the Center of Military History of the U.S. Army, Bush had 37 nations with us. They sent more than 25,000 troops. So far, Obama has a coalition of nine: eight NATO members plus Australia. How many of those — or of the much touted Arab coalition behind us — do you think will contribute any troops at all?
Why, this grand coalition does not even include many congressional Democrats. That’s why Obama hasn’t asked for Congress’s authorization. Democrats are ambivalent about this endeavor. With an election coming up, they are terrified of casting a vote supporting it.
And what will this campaign look like? Not Iraq or Afghanistan, the president reassured the nation. The model will be Somalia and Yemen.
Is he serious? First, there’s no comparing the scale. This year has seen 16 airstrikes in Yemen, two in Somalia. Two! That doesn’t even count as a pinprick.
Second, there is no comparing the stakes. Yemen and Somalia are strategically marginal. The Islamic State controls a vast territory in the heart of oil-rich Mesopotamia, threatening everything of importance in the Middle East.
Third, are these results we want to emulate? Yemen and Somalia are failed states — unsafe, unstable, bristling with active untamed insurgencies. We occasionally pick off a leader by drone — an absurdly inadequate strategy if the goal is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, which the administration itself calls a terror threat unlike any we’ve ever seen.
And beyond the strategy’s halfhearted substance is its author’s halfhearted tone. Obama’s reluctance and ambivalence are obvious. This is a man driven to give this speech by public opinion. It shifted radically with the televised beheading of two Americans. Every poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly want something to be done — and someone to lead the doing.
Hence Wednesday’s speech. Its origins were more political than strategic. Its purpose was to save the wreckage of a presidency at its lowest ebb. (If this were a parliamentary democracy, Obama would lose a vote of nonconfidence and be out of office.) Its point was to give the appearance of firmness and purpose, i.e., leadership.
You could sense that Obama had been dragged unwillingly into this new unproclaimed war. Which was reminiscent of Obama’s speech five years ago announcing the surge in Afghanistan. In the very next sentence, he announced a fixed date of withdrawal. Then added, lest anyone miss his lack of enthusiasm, “the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”
Meaning, not Afghanistan.
At the time, I called it the most uncertain trumpet ever sounded by a president summoning the country to war. I fear the campaign against the Islamic State will be a reprise.
Even the best war plans run into trouble. This one already suffers from a glaring mismatch of ends and means — and a grand coalition that is largely fictional. Difficulties are sure to come. How will the commander in chief, already reluctant and ambivalent, react to setbacks — the downing of the first American pilot or perhaps a mini-Tet Offensive in Baghdad’s Green Zone engulfing the U.S. Embassy?
On that day, we will need a steady, determined president committed to the mission. Do we have one even now?
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Thursday, September 11, 2014
September 10, 2014
Bill Maher clashed with Charlie Rose over Islam during an appearance on Rose's Bloomberg Television program this week. Maher, the host of Real Time on HBO, scoffed at Rose's numerous attempts to link Islam to Christianity and to try to disavow radical Muslims as representatives of the religion. Rose contended numerous times that "moderate Muslims" do not approve of the actions of radical groups like ISIS. Maher noted Muslims when polled overwhelmingly agree with ideas like killing those who leave Islam and stoning adulters. Rose said the Koran does not teach Muslims to do "these kind of things." Below is a transcript of their conversation:
BILL MAHER: I saw Howard Dean on TV the other day and he said something along the order, he said the people in ISIS -- he said I'm about as Islamic as they are, you know, distancing the vast numbers of Islamic people around the world from them. That's just not true.
CHARLIE ROSE: It is true.
MAHER: It is not true, Charlie. There is a connecting tissue between --
ROSE: Behind every Muslim is a future member of some radical?
MAHER: Let me finish.
ROSE: I was doing that.
MAHER: There are illiberal beliefs that are held by vast numbers of Muslim people that --
ROSE: A vast number of Christians too.
MAHER: No, that's not true. Not true. Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it. Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second class citizens. Vast numbers of Christians --
ROSE: I agree with that --
MAHER: -- do not believe if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ you should get killed for it. So yes, does ISIS do Khmer Rouge-like activities where they just kill people indiscriminately who aren't just like them? Yes. And would most Muslim people in the world do that or condone that? No.
MAHER: But most Muslim people in the world do condone violence just for what you think.
ROSE: How do you know that?
MAHER: They do. First of all they say it. They shout it.
ROSE: Vast majorities of Muslims say that?
MAHER: Absolutely. There was a Pew poll in Egypt done a few years ago -- 82% said, I think, stoning is the appropriate punishment for adultery. Over 80% thought death was the appropriate punishment for leaving the Muslim religion. I'm sure you know these things.
ROSE: Well I do. But I don't believe --
MAHER: So to claim that this religion is like other religions is just naive and plain wrong. It is not like other religious. The New York Times pointed out in an op-ed a couple weeks ago that in Saudi Arabia just since August 4th, they think it was, they have beheaded 19 people. Most for non-violent crimes including homosexuality.
ROSE: I know that they cut the hands off the thief.
MAHER: Right, okay, so we're upset that ISIS is beheading people which we should be upset about but Saudi Arabia does it and they're our good friends because they have oil. Okay. But they do it too. This is the center of the religion. I'm not saying -
ROSE: But they're now fighting against ISIS too. They're joining us in the fight. As is the Emirates. As is Jordan. They are all Muslim countries.
MAHER: Well, they are both fighting ISIS and they are for ISIS.
ROSE: Well, it's not the government. I mean, some of them --
MAHER: Certainly the governments.
ROSE: It's a bit like today about Qatar. The big story today in The New York Timesabout Qatar. And some guy there is supporting, who is a Muslim --
MAHER: But I mean in Mecca where infidels, non-Muslims, are not even allowed in the holy parts of the city. I mean, right there, we don't have that example in other religions. They do behead people. Now if they were beheading people in Vatican City, which is the equivalent of Mecca, don't you think there would be a bigger outcry about it? So this is the soft bigotry of low expectations with Muslim people. When they do crazy things and believe crazy things, somehow it's not talked about nearly as much.
ROSE: Would you come to the table and debate this with a moderate Muslim?
MAHER: Find one, yes. Find one.
ROSE: I promise you I'll find one.
MAHER: Find a Muslim --
ROSE: I do believe that what we see with ISIS is not representative of --
MAHER: As I said, connecting tissue.
ROSE: -- not representative of the Islamic religion. I don't think the Koran teaches them to do these kinds of things.
MAHER: Well you're wrong about that. The Koran absolutely has on every page stuff that's horrible about how the infidels should be treated. But for example again ISIS says that they should perform genital mutilation on all women 11-46. Would most Muslims agree with that? No. Or carry it out? No.
But as Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out, she says --
ROSE: I wouldn't expect for her to --
MAHER: And she would know better than --
MAHER: But can we really say --
ROSE: She's been a victim.
MAHER: -- women are treated equally in the Muslim world? I mean, their testimony in court is very often counted as half. They need permission to leave the house in some places.
ROSE: But a lot of moderate Muslims would say in fact one of the things that we need to modernize is the idea of the way we treat women.
MAHER: But in this country, if you just use the wrong word about women, they go nuts. And all these other countries --
ROSE: As they should.
MAHER: -- they're doing things like making them wear burqas and I hear liberals say things like, 'they want to.' They want to. They've been brainwashed. It's like saying a street walker wants to do that.