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#BringBackOurBalls

Posted by on May. 14, 2014 at 6:59 AM
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1 mom liked this


by Mark Steyn  â€˘  May 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm


It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week's Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared - on social media! - and that's all that matters, isn't it?

Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn't actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn't require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama's hashtag is just a form of moral preening.

But then what isn't? The blogger Daniel Payne wrote this week that "modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing". He was musing on a press release for some or other "Day of Action" that is, as usual, a day of inaction:

Diverse grassroots groups are organizing and participating in events such as walks, rallies and concerts and calling on government to reduce climate pollution, transition off fossil fuels and commit to a clean energy future.

It's that easy! You go to a concert and someone "calls on government" to do something, and the world gets fixed.

There's something slightly weird about taking a hashtag - which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose - and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. Maybe the talismanic hashtag never required a computer in the first place. Maybe way back during the Don Pacifico showdown all Lord Palmerston had to do was tell the Greeks #BringBackOurJew.

As Mr Payne notes, these days progressive "action" just requires "calling on government" to act. But it's sobering to reflect that the urge to call on someone else to do something is now so reflexive and ingrained that even "the government" - or in this case the wife of "the government" - is now calling on someone else to do something.

Boko Haram, the girls' kidnappers, don't strike me as social media types. As I wrote last year:

The other day, members of Boko Haram, a group of (surprise!) Muslim "extremists," broke into an agricultural college in Nigeria and killed some four dozen students. The dead were themselves mainly Muslim, but had made the fatal mistake of attending a non-Islamic school. "Boko Haram" means more or less "Learning is sinful," this particular wing of the jihad reveling more than most in the moronic myopia of Islamic imperialism.

But moronic myopia goes both ways, doesn't it? If the hashtag doesn't work, maybe we could persuade Boko Haram to trade the girls for these guys:

~Arguments about why Hillary Clinton refused to put Boko Haram on the State Department terror list are about as useful as an Obama hashtag right now. But it is worth remembering that the group's first terrorism attack was a recent as 2011. They are, therefore, part of the same metastasization of jihadist violence throughout the northern half of the African continent as the Benghazi assault and the Kenyan shopping-mall attack. This growth of al-Qaeda affiliates went on throughout almost the entirety of Obama's first term, but because Joe Biden had a cute line ("bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive") nobody paid any attention to it. #NothingToSeeHere.

~My former National Review colleague Charles C W Cooke has got himself in a bit of hot water with a column arguing that schools should teach Holocaust denial and be proud of it. This isn't just a whimsical fancy conjured out of thin air, but Charlie's reaction to the news that a California public school had given their Eighth Graders an essay assignment arguing that the Holocaust didn't happen. They have now backed down.

I thought Laura Rosen Cohen had the best response to Cooke, and I urge you to read it. I have my own problems with his piece. I think no subject should be off-limits, and I regard the laws in many Continental countries criminalizing Holocaust denial as philosophically repugnant and practically useless - in that they confirm to Jew-haters that the Jews control everything (otherwise why aren't we allowed to talk about it?) and they enable Muslims and other groups to go around arguing that, if you're prepared to pass restrictions on free speech protecting Jewish sensitivities, why can't we have some, too?

But my main objection to the National Review post is that it's a debater's point. And in that sense it has no more impact upon what's really happening in our world than Michelle Obama's hashtag. I am always astonished at how little American middle school students know, or are required to know. The idea that, in an educational culture that barely teaches the history that actually happened, there should be room to teach Holocaust denial as an intellectual exercise is ridiculous.

Secondly, Charlie seems unaware of what's going on in schools around the world. In that post about Boko Haram from last year, I also wrote this:

Up north, in the crucible of liberal social democracy, City Hall in Copenhagen held hearings earlier this year about the bullying of Jews in heavily Muslim public schools. Seventeen-year-old Moran Jacob testified:

'In eighth grade, his teacher told him to say that he was Palestinian and that his mother was Russian. "I had to lie about who I was," he recalls. But it didn't work. They knew. Eventually, a group of his classmates ganged up on him and stabbed him in the leg. "You can't go here anymore," his teacher said. "I have scars," he told the hearing. "Not on my body, but on my soul . . ."

'"Jews have learned to keep a low profile," Max Mayer, president of the Danish Zionist Federation, told the hearing. "To not exist in the city…" And they teach their sons to do the same: wear the skullcap at school, but take it off when you leave. This, Mayer said, has become standard practice for Danish Jews: "Don't see us, don't notice us."'

This is liberal, multicultural Europe in the 21st century. As part of his thanks for raising the subject, young Moran Jacob was subsequently set upon by "Arabic kids" on Strøget, the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen, and forced to move away from the neighborhood in which he's lived all his life. He's now considering leaving Denmark...

Listen to how cowed the school principals sound in the Copenhagen story and then figure the chances of anyone addressing the issue honestly. Boko haram, indeed.

To the people who drove that Jewish boy out of his school, arguing that the Holocaust never happened is not a dazzling virtuoso display of Oxbridge-level intellectual gymnastics but just business as usual. As I wrote seven years ago:

Over in London the other day, there was an interesting story in The Mail On Sunday, which began as follows:

"Schools are dropping controversial subjects from history lessons--such as the Holocaust and the Crusades--because teachers do not want to cause offence, Government research has found . . . Some teachers have even dropped the Holocaust completely from lessons over fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic reactions in class."

Indeed. This was from a study for the Department of Education, which reported: "Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned. Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes. In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."

I felt vaguely I'd read this story before, and I had: different country, same discreet closing of the door on awkward corners of the past. In the Netherlands, schoolteachers are reluctant to discuss the Second World War because "in particular settings" pupils don't believe the Holocaust happened, and, if it did, the Germans should have finished the job and we wouldn't have all these problems today.

When these stories crop up in the papers, official spokespersons rush to reassure us that no formal official decision has been made. The Holocaust remains on the national curriculum, no plans to change anything, nothing to worry about. It's just isolated schools here and there where it's become a subject more honoured in the breach, and only in the interests of "avoiding causing offence." Which, let's face it, is what most of us want to do, because if you're "causing offence" it can get pretty exhausting. In the Middle East, for example, I'm like those British and European schoolma'ams: on the whole, I avoid bringing up the Holocaust--in part because in the Muslim world it's a subject impervious to reason, but also because it's very disheartening to meet folks who are bright, witty, engaging, perceptive and then 40 minutes into the conversation you mention the Jews and discover that your bright, witty, engaging, et cetera companion is, at a certain level, nuts.

That's the problem a lot of European teachers are facing. If a large percentage of your class has a blind spot, it's easiest just to move on to something else. Hizb ut-Tahrir, a prominent voice among European Muslims, tells its adherents that "the Jews are a people of slander . . . a treacherous people" and that Islam commands believers to "kill them wherever you find them." Last year, a poll found that 37 per cent of British Muslims agreed that British Jews are a legitimate target "as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East." Who wants to argue with that every time you mention the Second World War? Best just to drop the subject.

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." The Muslim community in Europe does not yet "control" anything: they are, relatively, small in numbers, though big in certain cities and bigger still in the schools of those cities. Nevertheless, it is significant that, though still quite a long way from formal "control," they are already determining the shape of the future, and thus of the past. The Holocaust did happen. Millions did die. "Facts," said John Adams, "are stubborn things." But not in the Europe of 2007. Faced with serving a population far more stubborn than any mere fact, Continental teachers are quietly putting reality up for grabs.

That's never a smart idea. The California schools superintendent who wanted his Eighth Graders to turn in essays arguing that the Holocaust didn't happen is called Mohammad Z Islam. That's why they got the assignment, not because they wanted to turn themselves into the Oxford Union. As Laura Rosen Cohen pointed out, there are all kinds of lively topics Mr Cooke might propose for our schools: Did Mohammed exist? What's the deal with his nine-year-old bride? But in the real world even mild questioning of whether Islam is a "religion of peace" is beyond the pale, and across the Continent the Holocaust is disappearing from school curricula.

That's the problem. There's no point winning an Oxford debate if the other side win everything else.



by on May. 14, 2014 at 6:59 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Debmomto2girls
by Platinum Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:06 AM
1 mom liked this

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM
7 moms liked this
Some people just hate anything the either of the Obama's do

Others don't like the missing girls getting all that attention

Most have been conservatives - go figure


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
billsfan1104
by Jules on May. 14, 2014 at 7:09 AM
7 moms liked this
This is where I feel for out president. Because he cannot just have our troops rescue them. As much as he probably wants too, he can't.
I don't know what the answer is here.
This world sucks sometimes.


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

billsfan1104
by Jules on May. 14, 2014 at 7:12 AM
3 moms liked this
You have to admit that fake sad pouty face holding up a sign that does NOTHING to help, is kinda stupid.
In fact all these hashtag causes does nothing to help. Do you really think that the kidnapper will change their mind because Michelle Obama is holding up a sign with the hashtag bring back our girls??


Quoting sweet-a-kins: Some people just hate anything the either of the Obama's do

Others don't like the missing girls getting all that attention

Most have been conservatives - go figure


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:13 AM
6 moms liked this
No, but it raises awareness and now everyone is talking about it which is the first step to getting action

Your hatred of the First Lady is known and your comment is a reflection of that


Quoting billsfan1104: You have to admit that fake sad pouty face holding up a sign that does NOTHING to help, is kinda stupid.
In fact all these hashtag causes does nothing to help. Do you really think that the kidnapper will change their mind because Michelle Obama is holding up a sign with the hashtag bring back our girls??


Quoting sweet-a-kins: Some people just hate anything the either of the Obama's do

Others don't like the missing girls getting all that attention

Most have been conservatives - go figure


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
billsfan1104
by Jules on May. 14, 2014 at 7:18 AM
1 mom liked this
Did you read my other comment where I said infeelnfornthe president?? I bet you are going to ignore that one.

I do not hate anyone. To include the First Lady. I happen to think that hashtag activism is stupid. People think that just because they hashtag they are doing something and that is all they have to do.



Quoting sweet-a-kins: No, but it raises awareness and now everyone is talking about it which is the first step to getting action

Your hatred of the First Lady is known and your comment is a reflection of that


Quoting billsfan1104: You have to admit that fake sad pouty face holding up a sign that does NOTHING to help, is kinda stupid.
In fact all these hashtag causes does nothing to help. Do you really think that the kidnapper will change their mind because Michelle Obama is holding up a sign with the hashtag bring back our girls??


Quoting sweet-a-kins: Some people just hate anything the either of the Obama's do

Others don't like the missing girls getting all that attention

Most have been conservatives - go figure


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

SlightlyPerfect
by Silver Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:20 AM
But isn't this the perfect example of what the internet has become? It's a tool we can use toward human productivity (think organizing relief efforts or inventing the next big thing), but for most people it's nothing more than a tool for cat videos, Netflix, Candy Crush, and Twitter/Facebook. People who use hashtags feel like they're doing something without doing anything at all. It's like modern-day prayer.

Quoting billsfan1104: You have to admit that fake sad pouty face holding up a sign that does NOTHING to help, is kinda stupid.
In fact all these hashtag causes does nothing to help. Do you really think that the kidnapper will change their mind because Michelle Obama is holding up a sign with the hashtag bring back our girls??


Quoting sweet-a-kins: Some people just hate anything the either of the Obama's do

Others don't like the missing girls getting all that attention

Most have been conservatives - go figure


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

Carpy
by Ruby Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Why can't he?  It is totally American to do so.

Quoting billsfan1104: This is where I feel for out president. Because he cannot just have our troops rescue them. As much as he probably wants too, he can't. I don't know what the answer is here. This world sucks sometimes.
Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?



billsfan1104
by Jules on May. 14, 2014 at 7:30 AM
I would like him too, but can he??


Quoting Carpy:

Why can't he?  It is totally American to do so.

Quoting billsfan1104: This is where I feel for out president. Because he cannot just have our troops rescue them. As much as he probably wants too, he can't.
I don't know what the answer is here.
This world sucks sometimes.


Quoting Debmomto2girls:

Do you think America should get involved and send troops in to rescue the girls?

Carpy
by Ruby Member on May. 14, 2014 at 7:31 AM


As American foreign policy continues its long string of failures—not a series of singles and doubles, as President Obama asserted in a recent news conference, but rather season upon season of fouls and strikes—the question becomes: Why?

Why does the Economist magazine put a tethered eagle on its cover, with the plaintive question, "What would America fight for?" Why do Washington Post columnists sympathetic to the administration write pieces like one last week headlined, "Obama tends to create his own foreign policy headaches"?

The administration would respond with complaints, some legitimate, about the difficulties of an intractable world. Then there are claims, more difficult to support, of steadily accumulating of minor successes; and whinges about the legacy of the Bush administration, gone but never forgotten in the collective memory of the National Security Council staff.

More dispassionate observers might pick out misjudgments about opportunities (the bewitching chimera of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, or the risible Russian reset), excessively hopeful misunderstandings of threats (al Qaeda, we were once told, is on the verge of strategic defeat), and a constipated decision-making apparatus centered in a White House often at war with the State and Defense departments.

U.S President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a selfie picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (C) during the memorial service of South African former President Nelson Mandela. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

There is a further explanation. Clues may be found in the president's selfie with the attractive Danish prime minister at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in December; in State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in March cheerily holding up a sign with the Twitter TWTR -1.62% hashtag #UnitedForUkraine while giving a thumbs up; or Michelle Obama looking glum last week, holding up another Twitter sign: #BringBackOurGirls. It can be found in the president's petulance in recently saying that if you do not support his (in)action in Ukraine you must want to go to war with Russia—when there are plenty of potentially effective steps available that stop well short of violence. It can be heard in the former NSC spokesman, Thomas Vietor, responding on May 1 to a question on Fox News about the deaths of an American ambassador and three other Americans with the line, "Dude, this was like two years ago."

Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin's seizure of Crimea with the line that this is "19th-century behavior," the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being "so 1980s." When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering "hope and change" to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a "stinkburger" or a "meanwich") and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.

In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is "unacceptable" or that a dictator "must go," that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. And when reality, as it so often does, gets in the way—when, for example, the Syrian regime begins dousing its opponents with chlorine gas, as it has in recent weeks, despite solemn deals and red lines—the administration ignores it, hoping, as teenagers often do, that if they do not acknowledge a screw-up no one else will notice.

The Obama administration is not alone. The teenage temperament infects our politics on both sides of the aisle, not to mention our great universities and leading corporations. The old, adult virtues—gravitas, sobriety, perseverance and constancy—are the virtues that enabled America to stabilize a shattered world in the 1940s, preserve a perilous order despite the Cold War and navigate the conclusion of that conflict. These and other stoic qualities are worth rediscovering, because their dearth among our leaders is leading them, and us and large parts of the globe, into real danger.

Mr. Cohen was counselor of the State Department from 2007-08.

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