Sarsour’s sham feminism

Yesterday we met Linda Sarsour, an organizer of the Women’s March on January 21 – and a devout Muslim who defends Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and accuses the U.S. of executing Muslim children.

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Linda Sarsour

Not long before the Women’s March raised her profile, Sarsour deleted dozens of old tweets – which, fortunately, had already been saved by critics. In some of these tweets, she expressed her support for sharia law. For example: “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cars become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” Here’s another: “I don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat pork, I follow Islamic way of living. That’s all Sharia law is.” Then there’s this one: “shariah law is reasonable and once u read into the details it makes a lot of sense.”

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The Women’s March

In fact, there’s nothing “reasonable” about sharia. It is anti-woman, anti-human, anti-freedom. It allows men to have four wives but allows women to have only one husband. It permits men to divorce at will while forcing women who want divorces to go through lengthy judicial processes that may or may not end in divorce. Under sharia, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man. Women are required to obey their husbands and must ask permission to leave the house. A woman who claims to have been raped must produce four male witnesses, and if they cannot be found, she is considered not to have been raped but to have engaged in forbidden sex acts for which she can be executed. Sharia prescribes the death penalty for gays, for apostates, for Muslim women who marry infidel men, and for much else.

There are women with backgrounds in the Muslim world who have stood up courageously for their rights of their sisters living under sharia. One of them is Ayaan Hirsi Ali; another is Brigitte Gabriel. Sansour has viciously attacked both of these women. In one tweet she said that Hirsi Ali and Gabriel were “asking 4 an a$$ whippin’.” She added: “I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.” In 2014 Sansour, who has called Hirsi Ali a “hatemonger,” took part in a successful campaign to get Brandeis University to cancel plans to award her an honorary degree.

When asked on Fox News about Sarsour, Hirsi Ali commented: “Ms. Sarsour is hostile to me not because she knows me but because she is a fake feminist. Ms. Sarsour is not interested in universal human rights. She is a defender of sharia law [and] there is no principle that demeans, degrades, and dehumanizes women more than the principle of sharia law.” Hirsi Ali went on to ask why, if Sarsour is so concerned about women’s rights, she never speaks up for the women imprisoned and executed in Muslim countries for such “crimes” as blasphemy. Hirsi Ali noted that when some of her own friends told her they would be participating in the Women’s March, she told them: “We have real threats to women.” She enumerated some of them: female genital mutilation; child brides; gender-selective abortion. Why, Hirsi Ali asked, weren’t American women marching against those atrocities?

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 20: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., speaks at a news conference at the House Triangle with faith leaders to urge Congress to protect programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare and call on lawmakers make sure "everyone pays their fair share." (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

Good questions. Clearly, Sansour has no business being viewed as a feminist heroine. And yet many leading figures on the left have declared their unconditional loyalty to her. Among those who have tweeted their support are Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, TV commentators Van Jones and Sally Kohn, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and celebrities Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, and Mark Ruffalo (who told Sansour: “You are the best of what America is”).

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Mark Ruffalo

How can this be? How can a woman who supports sharia be embraced by self-styled progressives as “the best of what America is”? Unfortunately, many “progressive” Americans today suffer from a particularly perverse brand of cognitive dissonance when it comes to Islam. Like everyone else, they know about Islamic terrorism, and they’ve heard (they must have heard, at this point) that sharia is profoundly illiberal; and yet they’re incapable of seeing Islam as anything other than a religion of victims. They have no trouble criticizing Christianity, but they consider any criticism of Islam – up to and including criticism of even the most brutal aspects of sharia – to be beyond the pale. And so it was that we witnessed, on January 21, the obscene spectacle of an immense crowd of self-declared freedom lovers applauding a proud adherent of sharia.

Linda Sarsour, sharia apologist

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The Women’s March, January 21

On January 21 of this year, the Women’s March took place in cities around the world. The premise of the event was that Donald Trump, who had been inaugurated president of the United States the day before, is hostile to women and represents a threat to their success and well-being. Millions of women took part in the protests; the official list of speakers in Washington, where the main march took place, included such high-profile names as feminist Gloria Steinem, actress Scarlett Johansson, and TV talking head Melissa Harris-Perry.

But there was at least one speaker in Washington who wasn’t a household name. We’re referring to Linda Sarsour, a Brooklyn-born Muslim who was one of the four national co-chairs of the event. Sarsour is also the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a spokesperson for the National Network for Arab American Communities.

Sarsour, who wore a hijab at the march, began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum.” She then told the crowd: “I stand here before you unapologetically Muslim-American, unapologetically Palestinian American.” Her audience cheered. “Sisters and brothers,” she continued, “you are what democracy looks like!” More cheers. She then said: “I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this President of the United States of America.” Trump, she explained, “won the election on the backs of Muslims” and other groups. “The Muslim community,” she charged, “has been suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.” Since, that is, 9/11.

Not that she mentioned 9/11. In fact she didn’t mention any of the acts of Islamic terror that have occurred since 2001, both in America and around the world. For her, the history of the last fifteen years has been a history not of one barbaric mass murder after another performed in the name of Islam, but of a silent epidemic of cruel, soul-crushing Islamophobia.

She elaborated on this view on a recent episode of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Muslim children, she maintained, are being killed in the U.S. She offered no evidence or examples, and Maddow did not ask for any. Sarsour also complained that proposed anti-sharia laws in various U.S. states would “prevent Muslims from practicing their faith.” Maddow did not ask her to elaborate on this claim, either. On the contrary, Maddow essentially confirmed Sarsour’s dystopic picture.

Sarsour presents herself as a progressive, a supporter of democracy and freedom, of women’s equality and LGBT rights. But her own record belies this self-representation. Some time before the Women’s March, as it happens, Sarsour deleted innumerable tweets that she had written over the years. Fortunately some of her critics have archived the tweets. They make it clear that she’s not the freedom-lover she pretends to be. Instead, she’s a firm supporter of Hamas and Saudi Arabia. She has tweeted that Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women “puts us [the United States] to shame.” She’s defended Saudi Arabia’s record on women by pointing out that there are women in the Saudi parliament.

And there’s more. Tune in tomorrow.

“The white Jeremiah Wright”

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Fr. Michael Pfleger

Yesterday we met Father Michael Pfleger, a prominent Chicago priest and ally of Barack Obama’s who has been celebrated in The New Yorker and elsewhere as a crusading civil-rights hero. As we noted, he’s also a close friend of Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan.

“You can think of Father Michael Pfleger as the white Reverend Jeremiah Wright,” wrote Daniel Greenfield in 2008. “Not only does Father Michael Pfleger have a longstanding association with Wright and his Church, he has longstanding ties to Louis Farrakhan.” Indeed, Pfleger has said the following about Farrakhan:

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Pfleger enjoying a friendly moment with Farrakhan

I’ve known the minister both as someone who I have great respect for as a prophetic voice, as a mentor but also as a friend and as a brother. We’ve become very close friends over the years. Our families have been close; he’s shared dinner at my house as I have at his many, many times. He has preached from our pulpit here at this church on three different occasions.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In 2015, Pfleger wrote on Facebook:

Looking forward to getting on the bus tomorrow night to go to DC for the Anniversary of the Million Man March….and hearing my Brother Minister Louis Farrakhan….There is no leader in America who can draw the attention and hearts of millions of people seeking Justice and Truth like him……I thank God for his friendship and his Prophetic and courageous Voice….we never needed it more than right now…….Love my Brother.

In 2010, Pfleger, Wright, and Farrakhan came together on a single stage. The occasion: the presentation to all three of them of “Living Legends” awards. Who gave out the awards? Wright himself. Yes, he gave himself an award – just like some tinpot African dictator.

Of course, Wright and Farrakhan aren’t Pfleger’s only friends. He has a lot of them – many of whom are quite famous. In 2015, Matt C. Abbott called Pfleger a “well-known instigator who often panders to liberal politicians and celebrities.” And the celebrities who call Pfleger a friend are nothing less than multitudinous. Among those to whom Pfleger has gladly played host are the race hustler Al Sharpton and the radical singer Harry Belafonte (who, like Pfleger himself, took to Pfleger’s pulpit to blame the U.S. for 9/11). Kareem Irfan, a leading Chicago imam who has excused terrorist beheadings and has close links to terrorists, was also invited to speak at Pfleger’s church – on a 9/11 anniversary, no less.

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Pfleger leading an anti-gun protest

What else is there to say about Pfleger? Well, one thing is that the list of protests he’s led would fill a small book. In 2002, he “led a rally at the Dirksen Federal Building condemning the destruction of [Yasir] Arafat’s compound” in Gaza. Once he led a gun-control protest outside a gun shop, telling the shop owner: “We’re gonna find you and snuff you out.” (He also said he’d “snuff out” politicians who oppose gun control.) In 2014, he led his parishioners in a street protest against violence – not against the gang murders that have made Chicago the murder capital of America, mind you, but against the Chicago police, whom Pfleger accused of “genocide.”

Michael Pfleger, living saint?

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Fr. Michael Pfleger

For four decades he’s been the priest in charge at “Chicago’s largest African-American Catholic church.” He’s led more than his share of demonstrations and been arrested dozens of times. Barack Obama has praised his “heroic work.” His name: Father Michael Pfleger.

In February of last year, Evan Osnos wrote a love letter to him in the New Yorker. A sample:

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Spike Lee

Last year, when Spike Lee was preparing to make “Chi-Raq,” about violence in Chicago, he asked Pfleger to introduce him to gang members, parents of slain children, and others. “Father Pfleger is the great facilitator,” Lee told me. “He’s the point guard, with everything coming through him.” Lee copied sentences from Pfleger’s sermons in creating the character of a white priest played by John Cusack. “That character,” Lee said, “is a cross between Father Pfleger and the father that Karl Malden played in ‘On the Waterfront.’ ” When the film came out, Vic Mensa, a Chicago hip-hop artist, criticized the “white savior concept” as “hurtful to our power as dark-skinned people.” Lee responded that that might be true if Cusack’s character didn’t exist, and added, “He would not be there forty years if he’s not the real deal. He’s a living saint, and they’re lucky they got him.”

To be sure, a few paragraphs into the profile Osnos admitted that some Chicagoans “dismiss Pfleger as a huckster who is more interested in getting attention than in working to find solutions.” One top cop calls him “Pfather Pfaker.” Others say he’s “too cozy with City Hall, a moderate posing as a radical.”

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Jeremiah Wright

But there’s nothing fake about Pfleger’s longtime friendships with two notorious Chicago-based racists and anti-Semites: Obama’s former minister, Jeremiah Wright, and Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. Wright, it will be recalled, became nationally famous during the 2008 election campaign, when the media pored through years of his sermons and found such statements as this: “White folks’ greed runs a world in need.” The Sunday after 9/11, Wright preached: “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye….America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Wright accused white scientists of creating the HIV virus in order to commit genocide against people of color. After Obama became president, Wright said his former parishioner hadn’t contacted him because “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.”

(Caption Information) Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Leader, Nation of Islam is seen during his speech.Rosa Parks Funeral at Greater Grace Temple Church.Detroit, Mi, November 2, 2005, Detroit, MI. (The Detroit News/Clarence Tabb, Jr.)
Louis Farrakhan

As for Farrakhan, this is the man who famously called Judaism a “gutter religion” and has frequently referred to Jews as “killers.” “These false Jews,” he has preached, “promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength and making evil fair seeming. It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews.” In 2015, Farrakhan called on his supporters to murder white people. Addressing Jews in one speech, Farrakhan said: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Even the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center considers the Nation of Islam a hate group.

Asked on TV about his two friends, Pfleger said: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back while you tear down Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright. How dare you. How dare you. How dare you seek to reduce Jeremiah Wright, who’s one of the greatest Biblical scholars this nation has, to a 30-second sound bite and try to demonize him and trivialize him. You cannot do that.”

More tomorrow.

Red Ken’s anti-Semitic fantasies

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingston reached the pinnacle of his career in the years 2000-2008, when he served as mayor of London. Before that he served for many years as a member of Parliament and, later, as head of the Greater London Council. Now 71 years old, he’s one of the veteran figures in the Labour Party – he’s been an active member for 47 years – and has enjoyed wide respect and affection within its ranks, despite his tendency to defend radical Islam and insult Jews and Israel (a country he considers anathema). Thanks to his far-left views, he has long been known by the nickname “Red Ken.”

Naz Shah

But Red Ken is no longer every Labourite’s favorite socialist crank. In an interview with the BBC in April of last year, Livingstone stood up for Labour MP Naz Shah, who’d been suspended from the party for having written or reposted anti-Semitic material in Facebook. For example, she’d compared Israel to Nazi Germany and reposted a meme calling for Israel to be moved to the U.S. In her defense, Livingstone said: “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel.” In other words, Hitler “was supporting Zionism.” Only later, according to Livingstone, did the Führer go “mad” and decide to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Seen from one perspective, the former mayor’s remarks were nothing new: as Richard Ferrer put it in the New Statesman, Red Ken has “made gratuitously antagonising Jews into an art form.” While serving as mayor, for example, Livingstone played host to Islamic religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, for whom rabid Jew-hatred is an inextricable part of his theology.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Qaradawi, by the way, is also big on hating homosexuals, and when British gay-rights advocates protested Livingstone’s extremely gracious – in fact, downright friendly – treatment of Qaradawi, Livingstone shot back by calling them dirty Islamophobes. Yet even though Jews and gays tend to form an important part of the Labour Party base, especially in London, Livingstone somehow got away with all of this.

He didn’t get away with his comments in defense of Naz Shah, however. Shortly after airing his curious rewrite of modern German history, Livingstone was fired from LBC (formerly the London Broadcasting Company), for which he had co-hosted a TV program for eight years. Not until this April did the Labour Party take up his case. After three days of deliberations, the party’s National Constitutional Committee declared his words about Jews “grossly detrimental,” but decided to suspend him from the party instead of expelling him outright. In the meantime, speaking to reporters, Livingstone made things even worse for himself, claiming that the Nazis had sold guns to Zionists before the war and that this amounted to a “real collaboration” between the two. When asked to apologize, he refused.

Livingstone in his Che/Corbyn t-shirt

After his suspension, Livingstone was photographed wearing a t-shirt bearing an imagine that combined features of Che Guevara and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – who, like Red Ken, is a radical socialist. It was unclear whether Livingstone, a fan of Che’s and a longtime ally of Corbyn, was trying to make a statement about Corbyn, who had criticized him for his remarks about Jews, or whether the shirt was just part of his ordinary casual wardrobe. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May, a member of the Conservative Party, said that Labour’s failure to dump Livingstone entirely amounted to a “betrayal” of Britain’s Jews. One hundred and seven of Labour’s own MPs, along with 47 Labourites in the House of Lords, agreed, signing on to a statement by the Jewish Labour Movement that criticized the committee’s decision to suspend rather than expel. And the Independent called his suspension “the mildest of rebukes for a 71-year-old who has no intention of running for office and describes himself as a ‘house husband.’”

These developments came at a bad time for Labour. Local elections will be held on May 4, and Labour’s prospects were already looking poor.

The despicable Van Jones

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Van Jones

When news of Van Jones’s Communist background came to light in 2009 – shortly after he’d been named the Obama White House’s “green czar” – Kyle Smith of the New York Post called out the New York Times for ignoring the story. (Note: weirdly enough, the 2009 New York Post story linked to above is misdated at the Post‘s own website as being from 1999.) “The Times purposely ignored” Jones’s Communist history, wrote Smith, “because it was hoping that the story would go away, because it likes people like Comrade Jones and was hoping he wouldn’t be forced out.”

021804 Former Post employee,Kyle Smith, pictured here at Langan's has written a book called Love Monkeys which is loosly based on his time at the paper. The book includes several scenes in a bar that is based on Langans. And with no doubt Steve Dunlevy plays a role in the novel.
Kyle Smith

What was the Times‘s excuse for not reporting on the story? It claimed that Jones himself wasn’t important enough to merit such coverage. This was transparent hogwash. The New Yorker had profiled Jones at length only a few months earlier, and the Times’s own Thomas Friedman had devoted “four breathless fanzine pages” to him in a recent book. As Smith put it: “The Times continues to treat communism as a cute campus peccadillo like pot smoking or nude streaking.”

Also in 2009, it emerged that Jones had signed a letter suggesting that 9/11 was an inside job by top U.S. government officials. He had also engaged in race-war rhetoric, accusing “the white polluters and the white environmentalists” of “essentially steering pollution into people of color because they don’t have a social-justice framework.”

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Bill O’Reilly

Jones felt obliged by the media pressure to leave his White House job in order to keep the heat off of President Obama and his environmentalist colleagues. At the time, however, he did not renounce Communism. Not until 2011, when he was working at both the Center for American Progress and Princeton, did he have a lawyer, Joseph E. Sandler, send a “cease and desist” letter to Fox News demanding that Fox hosts Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck stop referring to him as a Communist. Sandler insisted that Jones had long since ceased being a Communist and was now “firmly pro-market.”

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Sean Hannity

The Fox hosts had also called Jones a 9/11 Truther; Sandler denied this. Finally, the Fox hosts had aired a video of the Oakland event on September 12, 2001, and had noted the vile sentiments expressed by Jones and his fellow participants. How did Sandler respond to this? “Mr. Jones,” he wrote, “was one of many speakers at a small gathering in Oakland on Sept. 12th 2001 convened to express shock and horror at the atrocities committed on 9/11.” To watch the video is to recognize this as a flagrant misrepresentation of the emotions expressed at that event.

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Glenn Beck

“Mr. Jones,” Sandler went on, “does not agree with the hateful, misguided sentiments of some of the attendees featured in this clip and has never endorsed or adopted any such sentiments. His comments at the rally were for all people to eschew violence and pursue change through peaceful means.” Again, this is a lie: Jones had spoken explicitly of revolution.

“As with any political figure,” wrote Sandler, “he is often forced to share the stage with people with whom he strongly disagrees.” But nobody was forcing Jones to be on that stage. He spoke last. Any decent American would either have walked away from that event after hearing the other speakers – or would have explicitly denounced their disgusting remarks on the spot. Van Jones did neither.

The conclusion is simple: whether or not he is still a Communist in his heart, Jones was, as recently as 9/11, an avowed revolutionary who on the day after that monstrous attack on his country willingly consorted with the worst kinds of America-haters; and as of 2011, when his lawyer wrote that letter, he was still prepared to lie about it.

Van Jones, 9/11 traitor

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Van Jones

If you’ve ever watched CNN, you almost certainly know who Van Jones is. He’s a regular contributor to the network who has also served in the Obama White House, taught at Princeton, and worked at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Born in small-town Tennessee to a schoolteacher mother and a school principal father, he attended the University of Tennessee and Yale Law School. During the years that followed his 1993 graduation from the latter institution, he worked for, founded, or co-founded a wide range of NGOs, activist groups, grassroots organizations, advocacy projects, initiatives, social enterprises, and the like. His causes have ranged from “racial justice” to “environmental justice” to “economic justice.”

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President Trump addressing Congress

As presented on sites like Wikipedia, his career comes off as that of an admirable liberal who has spent his life crusading for the betterment of American society. On CNN, he comes off as a hardcore man of the left but also exhibits a charm and humor that take the edge off his politics. After Donald Trump’s address to Congress in March, Jones earned the ire of some of his Democratic friends and colleagues when he praised the speech and – in reference to remarks that Trump addressed to the widow of a Navy SEAL – said that Trump “became President of the United States in that moment, period.” It seemed a moment of laudable honesty that transcended ideology and partisan rancor.

But there’s more to Jones than meets the eye. Arrested in 1992 as part of a San Francisco mob protesting the acquittal of the cops who’d beaten Rodney King, he was jailed alongside Communists and anarchists. “This is what I need to be a part of,” he thought. Next thing he knew, he was a Communist. In 1994, he founded a Marxist collective called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM.

He was involved in STORM for a decade. Then he moved on. Soon he was in the mainstream. Was he still a Communist? Hard to say. On the one hand, he no longer publicly identified as one. On the other hand, he never explicitly renounced Communism.

On September 12, 2001, in Oakland, Jones took part in a “solidarity” gathering for “people of color”– solidarity, that is, not with the victims of 9/11, but with Arab and Muslim Americans who during the previous 24 hours had supposedly been subjected to a massive wave of bigotry and violence all over the country. (This, of course, was either a conscious lie or a fantasy.)

9-11There could hardly have been a more revolting event that day anywhere in the U.S. Instead of reviling the terrorist attacks, the speakers condemned the U.S. government for its internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, for its historic mistreatment of blacks and American Indians, and for its bombing and abuse of people in Kosovo, Palestine, Iraq, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere around the globe. The people at the World Trade Center, said one speaker, died “because of our government’s inhumane foreign policy.” Another speaker expressed “satisfaction” at the attack on the Pentagon. Jones was the last to speak. “It’s the bombs that the government has been dropping around the world that are now blowing up inside the U.S. borders,” he said. “We’ve got something stronger than bombs. We’ve got solidarity. That dream of revolutionary solidarity is stronger than bombs.”

By 2008, Jones was identifying not as a Communist radical but as an environmental activist. In an interview that year, he explained that for him, the green movement’s demand for “eco-capitalism” was just a small step on the way to eradicating all “systems of exploitation and oppression.” In other words, for Jones, as for many other environmentalists, the green movement seems to serve as a useful, popular means of fighting democratic capitalism without being burdened by the unpopular label of “Marxist” or “Communist.”

More tomorrow.

Fronting for the DPRK: The Kaufman Music Center

The Ureuk Symphony Orchestra

Last October, we wrote about the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble that had performed before an enthusiastic crowd at the Kaufman Music Center, a major New York City concert venue, on September 22. Five days after the concert, the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell of an article which revealed that the event, billed as a “Peace Korea Concert,” had in fact been pure North Korean propaganda. In addition to standard items from the classical repertoire, the evening’s program had included North Korean works celebrating the Kim dynasty, praising Kim Jong-un, and calling for the absorption of South Korea into North Korea.

That’s Christopher Joonmoo Lee in the middle

Since the words were all in Korean, of course, many audience members didn’t really know what they were listening to. There were exceptions, though: among those in attendance were several North Korean diplomats, including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. The orchestra conductor, Christopher Joonmoo Lee, also understood every word. For, as it turned out, Lee, whose Korean name is Ri Jun Mu, isn’t just any musician: he’s a crony and operative of the Pyongyang regime. He spends a lot of time in North Korea and appears regularly on North Korean TV. As if all this weren’t explosive enough, the Journal pointed out that the orchestra had been performing at the Kaufman Music Center several times a year for over a decade – and in the city that may be the hub of the international news media, no reporter, apparently, had ever put it all together.

The Journal‘s revelations came as a surprise not only to most of the people who’d attended its September 22 concert but also to some of the musicians in the orchestra. The piece was, in fact, so devastating that we assumed – or, at least, hoped – that it would bring an end to this chapter in the history of North Korean propaganda. Nope! On February 4, an article in the New York Post brought the news that the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra was coming back to the Kaufman Music Center on that very day. This time around, the concert was entitled “February Spring” – a phrase used in North Korea to refer to Kim Jong-il’s birthday on February 16. The program, as always, would mix classical chestnuts with “North Korean cult songs praising the regime and its dictators, presented innocently as simply ‘Korean folk tunes,’ ‘music from a North Korean composer,’ etc.”

Lee surrounded by friends and fans

As the Post observed, what mattered here was not “that some unsuspecting Upper West Side 1-percenters are listening to militaristic songs,” but that “back in North Korea the concerts are touted as a triumph in the land of the ‘American bastards.’ It’s cultural warfare at its finest.” Indeed. The Post also added several details that were new to us. For one thing, the Ureuk concerts are underwritten by the Korean American National Coordinating Council, “a fanatically pro-Pyongyang front group once reportedly investigated by the US government for tax evasion and for serving as agents of North Korea.” For another, Lee, the orchestra conductor, is “a KANCC board member and a zealous supporter of the North Korean dictatorship.” He’s taken part in the “April Spring Friendship Art Festival,” an annual event in Pyongyang, and has written a poem celebrating the idea that North Korean nuclear bombs “could be the ‘death rattle’ of the ‘big-nosed’ Americans.” This from the man who wields the baton at “Peace Concerts”!

No, it’s no surprise that fanatical North Korean loyalists are doing their best to spread the Kim regime’s propaganda in the evil West. But why is the Kaufman Music Center providing them with a hall? Why didn’t the Wall Street Journal exposé put an end to this outrage once and for all? Why are people buying tickets to these things? Are Manhattanites that starved for classical music offerings?

Rewarding hate at Orange Coast College

Olga Perez Stable Cox

We recently covered the story of Olga Perez Stable Cox, a teacher of Human Sexuality at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, who got her fifteen minutes of fame back in December when a videotape of one her classroom rants was posted online. The subject of the rant was Donald Trump, whom she called a “white supremacist,” whose election she described as an act of terrorism, and whose supporters, including some of her own students, she had done her best to try to humiliate, calling on Trump voters in the classroom “to stand up and show the rest of the class who to watch out for and protect yourself from.” Several of Cox’s students later told the media that such rants on her part were a frequent occurrence, and that her goal was plainly not to engage students in constructive dialogue but to “bash” and “belittle” Trump supporters and paint every one of them as “an LGBT community hating white supremacist.”

Caleb O’Neil

After the video went viral, the university administration and faculty snapped into action. No, they didn’t punish Cox – they went after freshman Caleb O’Neil, who had taken the video. The teacher’s union threatened to sue him; the school threatened to suspend him. (In fact, he was suspended, although, thanks probably to the international media attention, his suspension was later rescinded.) For her part, Cox, far from expressing any remorse or showing any sign of self-reflection, took her ranting public, insisting that she was the victim her, that she was the one who was being bullied, and that the students who were complaining about her classroom behavior were “part of a national campaign to intimidate liberal professors.”

Peter Holley

Well, guess what? There’s more news from the Cox front. On March 28, Peter Holley reported in the Washington Post that Cox has now been named Orange Coast College’s Faculty Member of the Year.

Holley’s own account of the videotape episode was outrageously slanted, implicitly affirming Cox’s own view of herself as a victim of a conservative conspiracy. Cox, he wrote, “had come to embody everything that many conservatives despise about higher education”: she was “openly gay” and “pushed conventional boundaries” in her sexuality classes. Sorry, but in today’s academy there’s nothing surprising about an openly gay professor talking frankly about sexuality, especially when the subject of the class is Sexuality Studies. (To be sure, Holley also mentioned that Cox had called Trump’s election an “act of terrorism,” but this seemed a mere footnote: as Holley framed it, Cox had been a thorn in many reactionaries’ sides for a long time, simply because she was gay and talked about sex.)

Rob Schneiderman

Holley, who actually described Cox as a “beloved professor,” also accepted as factual her unsubstantiated claim that she had been “forced to flee her home in December after her provocative comments about Trump’s election went viral, unleashing a flood of hate-filled emails that included violent threats.” (Note that Holley doesn’t describe Cox’s own remarks about her Trump-supporting students as “hate-filled.”) Holley quoted some epithets from the emails Cox had received: they included “libtard,” “Marxist,” “nut case,” “vile leftist filth” and a “satanic cult member.” The implication here is that such language was out of line; it doesn’t seem to occur to Holley that when you call an election an “act of terrorism” and a president a “white supremacist” you have to expect to get as good as you give. Holley quotes Rob Schneiderman, head of the local teachers’ union (which is apparently largely responsible for her award), as calling Cox “a dynamic and inspirational professor” and echoing Cox’s line that she, not pro-Trump students, was the victim of “bullying and intolerance and scapegoating.” But although Holley mentions Caleb O’Neil in passing, he omits to recount the vicious effort by Cox’s union and the school administration to destroy the student’s academic career.

Wrote Holley toward the end of his article: “Schneiderman said the Faculty Member of the Year award is meant to highlight Cox’s dedicated approach to her students and their well-being.” The unintended irony would be funny if it weren’t so thoroughly appalling.  

Tightening the screws in Venezuela

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

Ever since this website got underway, we’ve been following the inexorable economic decline of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela under the rule of Hugo Chávez’s hapless yet ruthless protégé and successor, Nicolás Maduro. We’ve seen how Maduro’s stubborn devotion to socialist policies has led to shortages in basic goods and even – in a country that’s one of the world’s largest oil producers – to an inability to provide Venezuelan motorists with enough gasoline to keep their cars and trucks going.

Political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez

A year ago, the Venezuelan electorate dealt chavismo a huge blow by electing a National Assembly dominated by opponents of the Maduro regime. The vote was viewed as a potential game changer. Observers assumed there would be major changes in the offing. For example, it was widely believed that Maduro’s most high-profile political prisoner, the folk hero Leopoldo López, would soon be free.

Donald Trump, Liliana Tintori, Mike Pence, and Marco Rubio at the White House on February 15

Well, López is still behind bars. (His wife, Liliana Tintori, met  with President Trump in February, after which Trump called for Lopez’s immediate release.) And not much else has changed, either. At least not for the positive. On the contrary, Maduro has flexed his muscles more aggressively than ever – limiting the authority of the National Assembly, stepping up arrests of opposition leaders, imprisoning people without trial, canceling elections, violently crushing protests, closing down CNN en Español, and barring the New York Times’s Caracas correspondent from the country. In late March, according to the Times, “the United States, Canada and a dozen of Latin America’s largest nations called for Mr. Maduro to recognize the National Assembly’s powers, a rare joint statement that reflected deep impatience with his government.”

A Venezuelan protester holds up a flag bearing the slogan: “No dictatorship”

Alas, Maduro, instead of responding to this statement by developing a newfound respect for the National Assembly, did precisely the opposite. On March 29, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is dominated by Maduro loyalists, essentially dissolved the National Assembly and said that henceforth it, the Court, would be exercising legislative powers in its stead. In one fell swoop, this outrageous action effectively removed from the scene the major challenge to Maduro’s authority. As the Times noted, “In taking power from the National Assembly, the ruling removed what most consider to be the only remaining counterbalance to the president’s growing power in the country.”

Julio Borges protesting the Court’s action

Of course, there’s a word for this sort of thing: coup. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, did not hesitate to call it precisely that. The U.S., Mexico, and Colombia all officially denounced the Supreme Court’s action; Peru cut off diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, denounced the Court’s ruling as “garbage,” stating: “They have kidnapped the Constitution, they have kidnapped our rights, they have kidnapped our liberty.”

Nicolas Maduro

The Miami Herald quoted Peter Schechter, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, as saying that Venezuela should henceforth be treated as a “pariah state.” Stated Schechter: “If there was any doubt before, there should no longer be one: Venezuela is a dictatorship.” The Times echoed this view, noting that the Venezuelan government, which until recently had been described by many as “an authoritarian regime,” was now widely viewed as “an outright dictatorship.”

To anyone familiar with the dreadful, depressing history of institutionalized socialism, none of this should be terribly surprising. The implementation of socialist ideology inevitably leads, sooner or later, to economic crisis, food shortages, and the suppression of human rights; and this combination of disasters, in turn, almost invariably causes the tyrants in charge not to reverse their catastrophic policies but to tighten the screws and intensify their grasp on power.

Briefly put: this can’t end well.