Gloria Steinem, lightweight icon


Camille Paglia has neatly summed up the positive side of Gloria Steinem: “I hugely admired the early role that Steinem played in second-wave feminism because she was very good as a spokesperson in the 1970s. She had a very soothing manner that made it seem perfectly reasonable for people to adopt feminist principles…Also, I credit her for co-founding Ms. magazine and thereby contributing that very useful word, Ms., to the English language, which allows us to refer to a woman without signaling her marital status.”

But as it happens, it’s Paglia, too, who has best summed up what’s wrong with Steinem. For one thing, “that animus of hers against men.” For another, her lifelong fixation on the supposed oppression of upper-middle-class white American women such as herself, who in fact were, and are, among the most privileged people the world has ever seen.

Camille Paglia

Then there’s “the simplistic level of Steinem’s thinking,” as exemplified by her comment that “women reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.” (Or her attack on Paglia, about whom Steinem once actually said: “Her calling herself a feminist is sort of like a Nazi saying he’s not anti-Semitic.”) Then there’s Steinem’s “having turned feminism into a covert adjunct of the Democratic party,” one consequence of which was that she hypocritically kept her mouth shut during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In 2015, we reported on Steinem’s latest stratagem: a “walk for peace” from North Korea to South Korea, the point being, as she explained beforehand, “to call attention to this unresolved conflict that I suspect most people or many people have forgotten.” Or perhaps the point was to get her own name back in the headlines again, since she feared many people had forgotten her?

Steinem leading her Korea walk

Steinem quickly made it clear that she understood nothing whatsoever about North Korea. She planned, she said, to meet with North Korean women so they could compare their “experiences” as women in different societies. As if women in North Korea could speak honestly about their experiences without risking execution! The Daily Beast ran an article by Lizzie Crocker headlined: “Is Gloria Steinem a Propaganda Tool For North Korea?” Indeed, it was interesting to note that Steinem, who had made a career out of savaging postwar America’s supposed mistreatment of the female sex, said nothing in her Korea remarks about the nightmarish abuse of both men and women in the Hermit Kingdom.

Steinem and Ahn

It was even more interesting to note that Steinem’s partner in this inane enterprise was Christine Ahn, head of something called the Korea Solidarity Committee and a shameless apologist for the Kim regime. To judge by Steinem’s remarks about Korea, she had swallowed wholesale everything Ahn had told her about the topic. Why is Korea divided? Not because the northern part is a totalitarian dictatorship governed by a bloodthirsty tyrant, but because of the “Cold War mentality,” Steinem pronounced.

Steinem with Lahti

After years of such pathetic stunts, Steinem should be an object of ridicule. Paglia’s view of her should be the world’s view of her. But no, she’s remained a darling of the cultural elite. She’s the subject of an upcoming Off-Broadway play, Gloria: A Life, in which she’ll be played by Christine Lahti. A New York Times article took us into “the cool tranquillity of Ms. Steinem’s Upper East Side duplex,” where Lahti and Steinem fielded softball questions about the production. (Presumably the obvious title for the play, Oppressed in an Upper East Side Duplex, was too long for the marquee.) The Times noted that Steinem is also the subject of not one but two forthcoming movies: My Life on the Road, starring Julianne Moore as Steinem, and An Uncivil War, with Carey Mulligan as Steinem.

In 2018, does the American playgoing and moviegoing public really want to see dramas about the purported heroism of Gloria Steinem? This is, after all, a woman who, in the Times piece, is actually quoted as saying “it isn’t just that we live in a patriarchy. The patriarchy lives in us.” Isn’t it clear by now that, as an intellectual, she’s a lightweight? That, as an activist, she’s as domesticated a creature as you could imagine? And that, as a so-called oppressed person, she’s the very model of privilege?

South Korea: tame chaebol reform, or none at all?

 

Moon Jae-in

In South Korea these days, the billion-dollar question is this: is the administration of President Moon Jae-in serious about reforming the systematic corruption that’s been a national institution ever since Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and the other so-called “chaebols” began dominating its economy?

The history of chaebol criminality – which has largely taken the form of bribes to top government officials – goes back to the years following the Korean War. For decades, the South Korean public has increasingly cried out for reform. President Moon, who took office last year after his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office on corruption charges, has called chaebol corruption a “deep-rooted evil.”

But does he mean it? Or are the stiff sentences handed down in August to Moon’s crooked predecessor, Park Geun-hye, and her friend and partner in crime, Choi Soon-sil, a fluke?

Park Geun-hye

Then, of course, there’s the other, depressingly familiar, possibility: will Park and Choi, like their fellow crook, Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong (aka Jay Y. Lee), and a raft of convicted CEO-felons and presidents before him, end up being let out of jail on some technicality that leaves the entire country even more cynical about their judiciary’s dedication to equality before the law?

Kim Sang-jo

Well, so far Park and Choi remain behind bars. And only days after their conviction was affirmed – and their sentences enhanced – by a high court, South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) proposed new rules to govern the chaebols. The head of the FTC, Kim Sang-jo, who has acquired the nickname “the chaebol sniper,” has declared his determination to take on the ownership strucures of the two largest chaebols, Samsung and Hyundai.

Bruce Lee of Zebra Management

An abiding problem at these and other conglomerates has been that the families that founded them still rule them like kings, routinely making sweeping managerial decisions while ignoring the input of shareholders. Kim’s stated goal is to diminish the power of those families, whose grip on their conglomerates well exceeds their relative value of their ownership shares in those conglomerates.

How to address that problem? Well, under current regulations, a chaebol must own at least 20% of its listed subsidiaries and 40% of unlisted units. Kim’s new rules would raise those figures to 30% and 50% respectively.

Robyn Mak

That’s not all. Members of a chaebol’s founding family would not be allowed to have more than 15% of the voting rights in a listed affiliate of that chaebol. Other new rules would also limit the power of corporate kingpins to pull off mergers or spin off subsidiaries without shareholder support. They would also clamp down on circular shareholdings and other intra-conglomerate machinations and intensify disclosure requirements.

Yet in the eyes of serious observers, the commission’s proposed changes are too little, too late. “I would give 20 points out of 100, a basic score, to what the Moon government has done for corporate governance reform,” Bruce Lee of Seoul-based Zebra Investment Management told Bloomberg News.

Commentator Robyn Mak called the proposed new regulations “the first rewrite of antitrust rules in nearly four decades,” but added that given the slow growth of South Korea’s economy, the chaebols are in the catbird seat. “That means corporate governance reform probably will wind up weaker than originally anticipated.”

Indeed, modest though Kim’s proposed changes are, “Moon will struggle,” maintained Mak, “to gain political support to enact some of the new ideas.” We’ll keep abreast of developments.

Lana Del Rey: another showbiz coward

 

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey, the singer, has won a shelfful of prizes: two Brit Awards, a GQ Award for Woman of the Year, the MTV Europe Music Award, a Trailblazer Award from Billboard, plus four Grammy nominations. We’re also hereby presenting her with a perhaps less enviable accolade: we’re adding her to our Hall of Infamy for celebrities who have refused to perform in Israel. Among those who’ve already earned a place on the scroll of honor: Natalie Portman and Roger Waters.

Roger Waters

As we’ve seen, Waters has stooped so low as to equate Israel with Nazi Germany – a comparison that led Rabbi Schmuley Boteach to issue an angry correction:

…the Nazis were a genocidal regime that murdered 6 million Jews. That you would have the audacity to compare Jews to monsters who murdered them shows you have no decency, you have no heart, you have no soul. The Jews of Germany did nothing to invite the aggression against them. Indeed, they were loyal citizens of a country that many of them had fought for courageously just 20 years earlier in the First World War. They did not blow up buses for political purposes. They did not send terrorists into schools to murder children. They did not preach that killing German children would get them virgins in heaven. They lived lives of humanity and decency and were murdered for no other reason than the fact that they were Jews.

Far from being shamed into silence, Waters stayed on his high horse, preaching self-righteously about the purported evils of Israel, haranging both Robbie Williams and Dionne Warwick for agreeing to sing in Israel. 

Robbie Williams

Anyway, back to Lana. In her case, it started off well enough. Del Rey, who is touring the world to promote her latest album, Ultraviolence, originally agreed to play at the Meteor Festival, which took place at a kibbutz near Tel Aviv on September 6-8. When she first began to take heat for this move – from, among others, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which compared Israel to apartheid South Africa – she stood by her decision, saying “I believe music is universal and should be used to bring us together” and promising to perform “with a loving energy” and “a thematic emphasis on peace.” She added: “If you don’t agree with it I get it. I see both sides.” She further pointed out that she did not mean to make “a political statement” by doing a show in Israel. “We don’t always agree with the politics of the places we play within or in our own country,” she said.

Abraham Riesman

That didn’t last long. On August 31, Del Rey backed down. Her excuse: she was postponing her appearance at the festival until she could “schedule visits for both my Israeli and Palestinian fans, as well as hopefully other countries in the region.” We look forward to seeing her take the stage in Saudi Arabia, burka and all. In any event, as Abraham Riesman commented at Vulture, it’s unfortunate that people around the world are increasingly being introduced to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through these crude pressure campaigns against showbiz figures, which are orchestrated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. “Fifteen years ago,” wrote Reisman, “there was little to no stigma attached to a gig in Israel. Now, it seems inevitable that every musician who chooses to play there will face at least some degree of condemnation for doing so.”

Well, that’s how so much of the left operates these days: if it finds it doesn’t have truth and logic on its side, it resorts to lies and threats. And the more successful this strategy is, the more they’ll use it. It’s unfortunate that they managed to turn Lana del Rey, whose original instinct, as it happens, was the right one. 

South Korea: Will President Park’s 25-year sentence hold?

Samsung headquarters in Seoul

On the South Korea corruption front, the news keeps outdoing itself.

As we’ve noted before, the South Korean economy is dominated by a handful of conglomerates known as chaebols, all of them run by powerful and famous families. Over the decades, members of these families have been caught committing massive acts of corruption. They used to get away with it, usually, because the chaebols were viewed as having lifted South Korea up into the ranks of first-world nations and the families that ran them were objects of near-reverence. In recent times, however, South Koreans have increasingly viewed the chaebols as a hindrance to further economic growth, and as a result have been less tolerant of corruption on the part of their celebrated bosses.

Park Geun-hye

On this site we’ve been following the biggest corruption scandal in South Korean history. Over the past couple of years, investigators have been probing interactions between Samsung, the largest of the chaebols, and Park Geun-hye, who was president from February 2013 to March 2017. Those investigators eventually found that a close friend of Park, Choi Soon-sil, had taken a huge sum of money from Samsung in exchange for permission from Park to merge two of Samsung’s subsidiaries.

Lee Jae-yong (aka Jay Y. Lee)

The consequences of these findings have been dramatic. A quick round-up: in February 2017, prosecutors arrested Samsung’s de facto head, Lee Jae-yong, known in the West as Jay Y. Lee. In March 2017, Park was removed from office and replaced with Moon Jae-in, who promised the South Korean people that he would take action to limit the power of the chaebols. Alas, this is the oldst promise in South Korean politics. Presidents are always saying that they’ll rein in the chaebols, and they never do. In the same way, the CEOs of chaebols are always being arrested on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and the like, only to go free after little or no time in jail.

And that’s what happened to Jay Y. Lee. Last August, after a five-month trial on a range of charges, he was found guilty of everything and was sentenced to five years behind bars. This past February, however, without any warning, a judge sprung him from prison, providing an utterly absurd excuse for doing so.

To many South Koreans, this stunning move – this instant unraveling of justice – seemed to spell an end to any hopes of real reform.

Choi Soon-sil

Is there any possibility that South Korean authorities will do anything to suggest that they’re serious about tackling chaebol corruption? Look at the case of former President Park, who’s been in jail since last year. This past April, a lower court sentenced Park to 24 years and $16 million in fines for bribery, extortion, abuse of power, and other charges. In late August, a higher court, noting that she’d taken even more cash from Samsung than previously believed, bumped her sentence up to 25 years and $18 million. On the same day, her friend Choi was given a 20-year sentence. Meanwhile, in two additional trials that concluded in July, Park was sentenced to a total of eight more years in jail for breaking election laws and illegally spending government money.

Will these sentences hold? Or will Park and Choi be dealt the same get-out-of-jail-free card that Jay Y. Lee was handed? Stay tuned. In the weeks to come, we’re going to be giving these high-level hijinks the closer scrutiny they deserve.

Don’t confuse Joseph Massad with Mossad. Very different.

Joseph Massad

Columbia University has a lot to answer for, but Joseph Massad, whom we wrote about here last year, has to be near the top of the list. Born in Jordan, he earned his Ph.D. at that New York institution and now holds a tenure-track position there. Nothing has halted his rise, and nothing has brought him down – even though he routinely says staggeringly ugly things about Jews, Israel, and America, and paints pictures of Jewish and Palestinian attitudes, and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that are utterly unrecognizable to clear-eyed observers of the real world. For him, Jews and Israelis are always bigots and aggressors, America uniquely and almost exclusively imperialist, and Muslims and Arabs are consistently nothing more than innocent victims.

Massad’s most recent book

But that’s only the beginning. Massad is one of those loathsome creatures who claim that it’s the Palestinians, not today’s Jews, who are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. While erasing from history well-documented acts of Arab violence against Jews, he invents acts of Jewish anti-Muslim brutality. He has routinely equated Israel with Nazi Germany, described America as a primitive and barbaric sinkhole of “violent racism,” and whitewashed Islamic mistreatment of women while depicting the West as Ground Zero for misogyny. Whereas in fact Arab and Muslim leaders were friendly with Hitler and admired the Final Solution, Massad erases this history and invents a new one in which Zionist Jews were allied with the Nazis. Even though he’s gay, moreover, Massad approves of the abuse of gay people by Muslim individuals and governments, defending it on the grounds that homosexuality is a Western social construct and that Islamic authorities have the right to punish it vigorously in order to protect their culture and its values from being polluted by this alien form of immorality.

Jeremy Corbyn

Massad’s latest masterwork is an essay that appeared on the viciously anti-Israeli website The Electronic Intifada on August 24. Entitled “Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Colonialism,” it was yet another effort on his part to twist facts and torture logic. “Much of the ongoing acrimonious and toxic debate in Britain about allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party,” Massad wrote, “centers on expressions of opposition to Israeli laws, policies, ideologies, actions and declarations.” He might have added that much of it also involves the articulation by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour politicians of explicitly anti-Semitic sentiments. “When Palestinians resist Israeli colonialism and racism,” Massad goes on to assert, “they are not resisting the ‘Jewish’ character of Israel but its racist and colonial nature.”

Here, as throughout much of his oeuvre, Massad deep-sixes the systematic inculcation of Jew-hatred in Palestinian chilidren and the routine broadcasting by Palestinian media of blood libels, faked footage of non-existent IDF atrocities, etc. No, to believe him, the poisonous and irrational hatred for Jews that can be found among many people in Gaza and on the West Bank, and especially among Palestinian “leaders,” is merely a principled rejection of Zionism on the grounds that it is nothing more or less than a form of Western colonialism.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Asked about Massad’s essay, Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center dismissed him as “a denier of reality.” True enough. A writer at the Elder of Zion website also noticed that Massad, in the essay, played fast and loose with a quote from Winston Churchill in an effort to paint him as an anti-Semite. But so what? Massad is so far out there – so shameless a salesman of wholesale historical distortions – that it hardly makes sense to get very worked up at yet another Big Lie from this vile enemy not only of the Jews but of basic decency and truth itself.

Linda Sarsour, the Zelig of jihad

Linda Sarsour and friends (among them, notice actress Susan Sarandon)

Linda Sarsour’s social circle is a thing of wonder. This began to become common knowledge not long after she became a public figure on January 21, 2017 – the date of the Women’s March on Washington, of which she was a leading organizer and at which she was a prominent speaker. As we have discovered, Sarsour is chummy with Louis Farrakhan; she enjoys the support and admiration of socialists Bernie Sanders and Van Jones; and she turned out to be a good friend of Abdul El-Sayed, the Muslim who lost this summer’s Democratic primary for governor of Michigan.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj

But that was nothing. After the stunning news came, early in August, that a group of Muslims had been operating a camp in the New Mexico desert where they were teaching kids to become school shooters, it turned out that this compound had a Linda Sarsour connection. Specifically, three of the five people who were arrested at the place after a raid by authorities are the children of a Brooklyn imam named Siraj Wahhaj. Who is this imam? Well, for one thing, he was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. For another thing, he is an old pal of Linda Sarsour, who has mentioned him frequently with affection and gratitude.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj

In the case of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the son of the imam, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Like his pop, Sonny Boy would appear to be a past master in the fine art of killing innocents. That’s was he busy training those kids in New Mexico to do. The kids, by the way, were found starving and ragged in an underground trailer crammed with weapons and ammo. Also found there were the remains of a three-year-old boy who is believed to have been Wahhaj Junior’s son, whom he apparently abducted from the home of the child’s mother in Georgia.

Leo Hohmann

As Leo Hohmann spelled out in an August 10 article, Siraj Wahhaj – the dad – has close ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Sarsour, as it happens, “has become the face of ISNA.” At an ISNA conference last year, reports Hohmann, “she praised Wahhaj Sr. as her ‘favorite person’ and called on U.S. Muslims to wage political jihad against the Trump administration.” And we quote:

And to my favorite person in this room, that’s mutual, is Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who has been a mentor, motivator, and encourager of mine. Someone who has taught me to speak truth to power, and not worry about the consequences. Someone who has taught me that we are on this earth to please Allah and only Allah, and that we are not here to please any man or woman on this earth. So I am grateful to you Imam Siraj, and you might think this is weird, but every once in a while, when I get into that deep dark place, Imam Siraj comes and talks to me. And he helps me to emerge out of those places, so I’m grateful to you Imam Siraj, and may Allah bless you and protect you for a long time for our community, because we need you now more than ever.

Wouldn’t you think that the mainstream media, which have been so eager during the last year and a half to promote Sarsour, this self-identified “feminist” in a hijab, would consider her ties to the Taos County jihad camp big news? No, of course you wouldn’t, unless you were an incredible naif. In fact, as expected, the media have all but buried this story. Along with it, they’ve buried the fact that, as Hohmann records, “Wahhaj Sr. was an honored guest at the Clinton State Department and the Obama White House,” that he “was the first Muslim to lead prayer at the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991,” and that he has proclaimed that it is the duty of Muslims “to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Quran.” (He’s also “called for death to all homosexuals and lesbians,” but that’s hardly surprising from such a devout Muslim.)

Once again, then, Linda Sarsour has dodged scandal. She remains a darling of the American left and of the American media. One wonders what it will take to change that. Maybe if she takes off the hijab?