Owen Jones: the self-delusion endures

Owen Jones

He still looks like a high-school kid – in fact, he’s 34 – but he’s been called “by far and away the most influential left of centre commentator” in all of Britain. To read him is to be baffled by the thought that anyone, anywhere, could possibly be influenced by him. The son and grandson of card-carrying Communists, he’s the ultimate knee-jerk ideologue, who, in his columns for the Guardian, his zillions of tweets, and his endless TV appearances, never comes out with anything remotely surprising, nuanced, perceptive, or thought-provoking. As we noted when we first wrote about Owen Jones on August 2, 2016, he has actually written the following sentences: “Modern capitalism is a sham.” “Democratic socialism is our only hope.” These two statements are at the core of his belief system. He is a fan of Cuban Communism and for a long time was a staunch defender of chavismo in Venezuela.

There’s more, to be sure. Jones is gay, and never tires of railing against right-wing homophobia; at the same time, however, he’s a big booster of Islam, and consequently a sworn enemy of right-wing “Islamophobia.” But what about the fact that sharia law calls for gays to be executed, and that several Muslim countries do indeed punish homosexuality with death, while others prescribe long prison terms and/or various forms of torture? Well, when confronted with those facts, he had this to say: “I’m done with people only mentioning LGBT rights when Islam is involved.”

The big walk-off.

This self-contradiction came to a head in June 2016 when a jihadist killed dozens of people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Discussing the massacre on Sky News, Jones attributed the murders to the perpetrator’s homophobia, but refused to discuss the Islamic roots of that homophobia, claiming that to do so would be to diminish the atrocity’s horror. Jones further insisted that neither the host of the Sky News program, Mark Longhurst, nor his fellow panelist, Telegraph journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, were, as Hartley-Brewer later wrote, “entitled to venture any opinion on any issues arising out of this crime because we were straight and therefore could not presume to care as much about the deaths of 50 gay people as Owen.” In short, to quote our own summing-up of the exchange, “Jones was trying to use his gay identity to shut down any effort to link this mass murder to Islam.” Pressed on his refusal to face the simple fact that Islam has a problem with homosexuality, Jones walked off the show, later asserting that he’d done so because Longhurst had “repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people” – which, as Hartley-Brewer put it, was “a blatant flat-out lie.”

Katie Hopkins

Jones’s walk-out drew many other media comments. In the Spectator, Rod Liddle, wrote that “the reliably idiotic left-wing columnist Owen Jones had a temper tantrum,” storming off the TV set because neither Longhurst nor Hartley-Brewer “would accept that the tragedy [in Orlando] was all about Owen.” In the Mail, Katie Hopkins drew a clear line in the sand: “Until Islam is tolerant of gay rights, we cannot tolerate Islam….LGBT rights or Islam….It is a binary thing.” Fellow gay writer Douglas Murray tweeted: “I’m sorry for Owen Jones. I would also feel guilty if I’d spent my life covering for the ideology that just killed 50 LGBT people.”

Douglas Murray

What happened on that Sky News show, of course, was that Jones was confronted with the irreconcilability of his pro-Islam and pro-gay stances. A more mature and honest commentator would have felt compelled to acknowledge this conflict and to do some serious rethinking. Instead, Jones sought to distract the TV audience from his predicament by throwing a fit and lying about his interlocutors. You might have thought that this pathetic display would have put a dent in his growing fame. On the contrary: it only enhanced his celebrity. Too many British newspaper readers and TV viewers, apparently, prefer his self-referential, ideologically reliable, and often hysterical commentaries to the views of more sophisticated, intelligent, reflective, well-informed people.

Margaret Thatcher

Anyone who expected that Jones, after his Sky News crisis, would actually work out his self-contradictions on Islam and homosexuality has been sorely disappointed. Incredibly, nearly three years after the Orlando massacre, he’s still toeing the same exact line. “Muslims and LGBTQ people should stand together, not fight each other,” read the headline on his Guardian column for April 11. In the piece, he took on a current controversy in Britain, where primary schools have announced plans to introduce “LGBTQ-inclusive education” and Muslim families have protested, in many cases successfully pressuring the schools to withdraw their plans. Jones harked back to “Section 28,” the long-dead law introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 to prevent the “promotion of homosexuality in schools.” Section 28 was repealed in 2003, and the prejudices that gave rise to it have almost entirely disappeared from English society – except, of course, in the rapidly growing Muslim community, where the reigning views of gay people are far more chilling than those held three decades ago by even the most bigoted member of Thatcher’s government.

British Muslims protest “inclusive education.”

But Jones is still unwilling to go there. Anent the ongoing Muslim campaign against “LGBTQ-inclusive education,” he writes: “The dangerous conclusion to draw from this saga is that Muslims and LGBTQ people are on a collision course.” But Islamic doctrines being what they are, how can he deny that these two groups are in fundamental conflict? As has been the case for years, Jones, being unable to honestly address this question, instead dodges it entirely and makes this move: “That is certainly the battle cry of ever more emboldened Islamophobes, who never talk of LGBTQ rights except when it becomes convenient artillery in their bigoted war on Muslims.” Note the wily wording here: Jones doesn’t exactly deny that being gay is a capital crime under sharia law; he just shifts ground, shoving Islamic homophobia out of the way and changing the topic to right-wing “Islamophobia.” There should, he insists, “be bonds of solidarity between two oppressed groups who are liable to have had abuse yelled at them on the streets by the same people.” But how often are Muslims in Britain actually victims of public abuse – and how often are Muslims the abusers? Is a gay person in Britain more likely to be harassed or beaten up by a Muslim or by a right-winger of British extraction? Jones doesn’t dare to ask these questions, the honest answers to which would upset his base, threaten his Guardian gig, and slow his meteoric rise to the top of the commentariat pack.

Top three stooges of 2017

It’s not clear what, if anything will happen to Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding now that its founder, benefactor, and namesake is under arrest in his Saudi homeland for bribery, extortion, and money-laundering, but chances are good that the current director, Jonathan A.C. Brown, will land on his feet. Allah knows there are plenty of other magnificent job opportunities in the Western world for top-flight apologists for radical Islam, and Brown is at the very tip of the top. Since converting to the Religion of Peace in 1997, as we wrote in March, he’s been an ardent apologist for Islamic slavery (which, he’s explained, is “kinder and gentler” than other kinds of slavery, because it’s not “racialized”), a defender of Koranically sanctioned child marriage, and a whitewasher of the sharia-imposed death penalty for gays.

Which brings us to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, an assistant editor at Foreign Policy who, after Brown came under legitimate attack for his disgusting views, dismissed the criticism as Islamophobia. This, it turned out, was not a one-off: Allen, who’s married to a Muslim, had previously written an article in the Washington Post suggesting that her family was Islamophobic for serving non-halal food on Thanksgiving, and has since painted U.S. government terror probes as acts of bigotry. Yes, as we noted in May, Allen skirted the fact that these probes have uncovered widespread terrorist links, but never mind: in her world, Muslims are always innocent and concern about terror always a front for hate.

Then there’s Jordan-born Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who consistently paints Israeli Jews as racist oppressors who’ve never felt a benign impulse and Palestinians as innocent victims who’ve never known a bigoted thought. In this regard, of course, he’s barely distinguishable from Brown and any number of other contemporary academics. What singles Massad out is that he’s a gay man who, on the grounds that gay identity is a Western construct, considers campaigners for gay rights in Muslim countries tools of colonialism and takes the side of their oppressors. When Egyptian cops arrested and brutalized 52 gay men in 2011, then, Massad approved, responding to U.S. congressmen who sought to help the victims by serving up this heartless comment: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

Happy New Year.

Joseph Massad: betraying gays

massad
Joseph Massad

We’ve been discussing Joseph Massad, yet another Columbia University professor whose “teaching” consists largely of spreading Jew-hatred, spouting contempt for the West, and whitewashing the history of Islam. In these regards, he’s of a piece with his colleagues Hamid Dabashi and Gil Anidjar, whose careers we’ve already looked at. But Massad has one attribute that makes him stand out amidst his fellow propagandists in Columbia’s Middle Eastern Studies department: he’s gay. Now, you might think that as a gay man he would appreciate the freedom that gay people enjoy in the Western world and would look upon Islamic culture, with its harsh treatment of gay people, more critically than men like Dabashi and Anidjar.

kirchick
James Kirchick

Nope. Massad first laid it all out in a 2002 article, “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World,” and then elaborated on it in a 2007 book, Desiring Arabs. Now try to follow this: as Massad sees it, homosexuality exists in all cultures, but gay identity is a Western construct, and campaigns for gay rights in Islamic countries are therefore acts of colonialism. As James Kirchick put it in 2007, Massad views “the case for gay rights in the Middle East [as] an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West.” The efforts of those gay activists (whom Massad dubs the “Gay International”) to bring gay rights to the Muslim world are, in his view, not benign but malignant – just one more aspect of the American and Israeli effort to crush Muslim culture, Muslim values, and Muslim morality. “Massad’s intellectual project,” comments Kirckick, “is a not-so-tacit apology for the oppression of people who identify openly as homosexual. In so doing, he sides with Islamist regimes over Islamic liberals.”

mideast-egypt-homosex_horo
Two of the 52 men arrested on the Nile party boat

Nor is Massad’s position purely theoretical. In 2011, when Egyptian police arrested 52 gay men on a party boat on the Nile and then proceeded to torture and shame them, parading them in public and showing them on television, Massad sided with the authorities, dismissing the 52 men as “westernized” persons who got what they had coming to them because of their fraternization with gay Western tourists. For Massad, the 52 men, being Egyptian, couldn’t really be gay, even though many of them explicitly said they were; in Massad’s lexicon, they were “gay-identified” – meaning that they identified not with their own culture, and with the categories that are a natural part of that culture, but with the colonialist Western enemy.

tom-lantos-5
Tom Lantos

Massad also condemned the U.S. congressmen Barney Frank and Tom Lantos, who threatened to stop U.S. aid to Egypt unless the 52 men were set free. Massad defended his position in the following way: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

One of the 52 men described their arrest as “our Stonewall,” a reference to the 1969 riot in New York’s Greenwich Village that is generally viewed as marking the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. But Massad rejected this claim, saying that while the Stonewall rioters saw themselves as gay, the 52 Egyptian men did “not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny.” As Kirchick observed, “Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced.” Massad further maintains that very few Arabs who have sex with other men think of themselves as “gay” or support the idea of gay rights.

massadbokIndeed, as Kirchick underscores, all 418 pages of Desiring Arabs are predicated on this claim. But Massad offers no evidence to support it; he doesn’t take into account that to openly identify as gay or engage in gay activism in much of the Arab world would be to risk instant death; and he ignores evidence such as that presented in a 2002 article by Yossi Klein Halevi, who had interviewed a number of young Palestinian men who lived in Tel Aviv. All of the men engaged in same-sex activity, all identified as gay, and all had fled from Gaza or the West Bank, where they stood a very good chance of being imprisoned or murdered by their own families or friends, in order to be able to live in the safety of Israel.

kramershalem
Martin Kramer

If you think a man who holds such repulsive positions should not be on the faculty of Columbia in the first place, the fact is that he has come close to getting fired. Accused in 2004 of harassing pro-Israel students, he was exonerated by a faculty committee, although its “findings” were widely viewed as a whitewash. When he was up for tenure in 2009, a battle ensued. Fellow Middle East scholar Martin Kramer wrote that “Massad does Columbia no credit”; after Columbia President Lee Bollinger signed off on Massad’s tenure, the New York Daily News called on the university’s trustees to block tenure. Jacob Gershman wrote in the New York Post that “Columbia’s trustees must decide: Do they attempt to clean up after Bollinger and stop this absurdity—or do they confer academic legitimacy on Massad’s ideas and agenda? Hesitant to insert themselves in an academic matter, the trustees would be wise to consider the consequences of silence.”

Owen Jones: covering for Islam

owenjones
Owen Jones

As we noted yesterday, gay Guardian commentator Owen Jones lost his temper and walked off of a TV program on the night of the Orlando nightclub massacre. His purported reason? The other two people on-screen had refused to call the killings homophobic. This was not, in fact, the case. What bothered him, apparently, was that if he hadn’t thrown a fit, he would have been forced to listen to a discussion of a topic he has been trying to avoid for years – namely, the fact that Islam, which he has defended fiercely against all comers, does in fact preach the murder of gay people such as himself.

Rod-Liddle-008
Rod Liddle

The Telegraph‘s Julia Hartley-Brewer, who was on the TV show with Jones, accused him of making the massacre all about himself. Rod Liddle, writing in the Spectator, agreed: “the reliably idiotic left-wing columnist Owen Jones had a temper tantrum while reviewing the papers on Sky News — and stormed off the set, apparently because neither the presenter nor the other reviewer, Julia Hartley-Brewer, would accept that the tragedy was all about Owen.”

Liddle went on:

This was an attack upon an LGBT community, Jones insisted — needlessly, as it happens, because everybody had accepted that it was an attack upon an LGBT community….But none of it was enough for Owen. The only thing that mattered was that it was an attack upon gay people, and so it was a kind of singularity, an atrocity which Owen, being gay, could have to himself. The fact that a loathing of homosexuality is but one of the many problematic facets of Islam — along with misogyny, a contempt for those who are not Muslim, a hatred of Jewish people — was something which Jones could not accept. Presumably because this contradicted his resolutely fixed mindset that Muslims are oppressed people and are therefore as one in the struggle for liberation along with gay and transgendered people.

Indeed. In the Daily Mail, Katie Hopkins agreed with Liddle. While admitting that there was no love lost between her and Jones, she tried to be generous and sympathetic: “Owen is caught on a human fault line partly of his own making – he writes for the Guardian and is a cheerleader for Labour who prioritise Islam over the LGBT cause far closer to his own hurting heart.” She then read Jones the riot act:

katiehopkins
Katie Hopkins

Someone has to call this thing. Until Islam is tolerant of gay rights, we cannot tolerate Islam. In any sense. You have to choose.

LGBT rights or Islam. Black or white. Yes or no. Stop or go. It is a binary thing. You need to decide.

Douglas Murray, a somewhat older and infinitely wiser gay British writer, who recognizes Islam for what it is, summed up his view in a single tweet:

I’m sorry for Owen Jones. I would also feel guilty if I’d spent my life covering for the ideology that just killed 50 LGBT people.

If Jones was feeling guilty the night of the Orlando massacre, it didn’t last for long. The day after, he recorded a video (see below) utterly ignoring the issue of Islam – except for a brief mention of London’s new Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom he praised, absurdly, as a staunch defender of gay rights. The useful stoogery, in short, goes on.

It’s all about Owen

owen3
Owen Jones

We’ve been getting to know Guardian columnist Owen Jones, whose devotion, as a gay man, to gay rights – and readiness to criticize any Western institution for homophobia – has coexisted from the beginning of his still-young career with his ideologically rooted refusal to criticize the most homophobic force on the planet, namely Islam.

For a while there, he seemed to be able to pull off this contradiction. Then came the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre.

Appearing on Sky News with host Mark Longhurst and Telegraph journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer on the night of the mass murder, Jones tried to stake out a position that was simply not tenable. As Hartley-Brewer summed it up afterwards, Jones had made three assertions:

Orlando-Pulse-Shooting-670x449The first was that the man responsible for the massacre, Omar Mateen, was a homophobic killer and the reason for his hatred of gay people was totally irrelevant.

His second was that to question why Mateen might have been a homophobe (was it his Islamic faith or was he just an angry hate-filled lunatic?) was to deliberately undermine the horror of the atrocity.

And the third was that neither Mark Longhurst nor I were entitled to venture any opinion on any issues arising out of this crime because we were straight and therefore could not presume to care as much about the deaths of 50 gay people as Owen. In his own words: “You don’t understand this because you’re not gay.”

JuliaHB720cc0003
Julia Hartley-Brewer

In other words, Jones was trying to use his gay identity to shut down any effort to link this mass murder to Islam. As Hartley-Brewer pointed out, Jones is one of many people on the left who are “intent on putting their heads in the sand about the unquestionable fact that Islam has a problem with homophobia….Does it matter whether the Orlando killer hated gay people because he just happened to hate gay people or because he believed that such hatred was fundamental to the teachings of his Islamic faith? I think it does.”

Rather than admit that Islam teaches homophobia, Jones chose to turn the spotlight on his host and fellow panelist, claiming repeatedly that they were denying that homophobia was a factor in the Orlando atrocity – even as they both repeatedly agreed with him that, of course, it was.

Watch the exchange for yourself:

On the morning after his Sky News appearance, Jones stuck with his on-camera spin, maintaining in the Guardian that he had “walked off in disgust” as “an instinctive reaction” to Longhurst, who, he asserted, had “continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people….He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.”

Mark Longhurst
Mark Longhurst

To this, Hartley-Brewer replied, succinctly and correctly: “This is a blatant flat-out lie.” Owen also wrote in his Guardian follow-up: “I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me.” Hartley-Brewer found this to be altogether too much: “Really Owen? Because from where I was sitting, the entire thing has been ENTIRELY about you all along.”

Others also weighed in on Jones’s petulant walk-off. We’ll get to them tomorrow.

Owen Jones: silent on Muslim homophobia

Yesterday we began looking at Owen Jones, who is famous in Britain but whose celebrity, thankfully, hasn’t yet spread to North American shores. Jones, as we noted, is a gay socialist – and a strong defender of Islam. How strong? Consider this.

owen4
Owen Jones

In a 2012 column, he called anti-Muslim prejudice “a European pandemic” and “the most widespread – and most acceptable – form of bigotry of our times.” This in a time, note well, when Islamic countries execute people for being gay or apostates, when jihadist groups slaughter Christians and Jews, and when women are treated as the property of men throughout the Muslim world. In one article he cited a poll result showing that “45 per cent of Britons agreed that ‘there are too many Muslims’ in Britain. Imagine if nearly half the population admitted to believing that ‘there are too many Jews’ in Britain: how loud would our alarm be?”

islamshariaHe didn’t mention, of course, that the number of Jews in Britain is declining rapidly because Muslim Jew-bashing is leading them to migrate to places like the U.S , Australia, and Israel. Nor did he acknowledge other polls showing that a majority of British Muslims want sharia law in the UK and think homosexuality should be illegal. Jones has repeatedly railed against European “Islamophobia” – but has never faced up to the fact that there are very good reasons why Europeans are concerned about Islam and not, say, about Hinduism or Buddhism.

kran
That image

In July of last year, an ex-Muslim named Saif Rahman tweeted an image to Jones. It showed a Koran with an overlay of rainbow colors – signifying, of course, gay rights. Rahman invited Jones to retweet the image. Jones refused, “because I think this is self evidently trying to provoke [rather] than win people over to LGBT rights.” In reply, Rahman asked: “why do you think it would provoke anyone? And if so, do you accept we have a serious problem?” Jones wouldn’t go there: “I’m done with people only mentioning LGBT rights when Islam is involved.”

jones1Other critics of Islamic homophobia then joined the discussion, supporting Rahman and challenging Jones: “So the rights, persecution, murder of gays in the Muslim world mean NOTHING?” one of them asked. Jones, instead of addressing this deadly serious subject, rejected the right of straight people to lecture him about homophobia: “This [is] like men lecturing women about feminism or white people lecturing black people about racism.” One critic extended an invitation to Jones: “Climb out of your identity-based politics and start thinking in terms of reason, argument, actual human rights.” But Jones refused the invitation.

gayfreeAs one observer commented, Jones uses the cover of identity politics and “broad-minded respect for other cultures” to avoid “criticising even the most regressive elements of another minority group. In his own mind, it is not his business to do so.” Instead, “he declares his unconditional and indiscriminate solidarity with all Muslims, irrespective of how hostile a given individual’s views and values may be to his own. And, consequently, he finds himself objectively defending the Islamic religious right from the pressures of progress at the expense of those they victimise.” What, then, is Jones saying, in effect, to gay Muslims? It’s simple: “gay liberation for me, but not for thee.”

PulseNightClub
The Orlando Pulse before the massacre

All this was mere preamble, however, to Jones’s response to the jihadist mass murder in June at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which gained him more attention than he’d ever received before. Tune in tomorrow.

Jermaine Jackson, the D-List Dennis Rodman

Jackson-2-01[1]Hardly anybody in the Western world these days knows or cares much about the teeny West African dictatorship of Gambia, and hardly anybody in the Western world these days gives much thought to Jermaine Jackson, the older and far less talented and charismatic brother of the late Michael Jackson and member of the family musical group The Jackson Five. Yet the obscurity of the country doesn’t make the brutality of its government any less terrible to the approximately two million people who live in it, and the has-been status of Jermaine Jackson doesn’t make his grotesque kowtowing to the clownish autocrat who runs Gambia any less reprehensible.

jammeh
Yahya Jammeh

First, a few facts about that autocrat, Yahya Jammeh (officially referred to as “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa”). He took power in a 1994 coup and has survived eight attempts to overthrow his rotten regime. He’s been described as “holding sway through a potent mixture of state brutality and mysticism.” Under his rule, Gambia has developed the “worst press rights” in west Africa, which is quite an accomplishment, and innumerable journalists have been imprisoned or assassinated or “disappeared.”

obama_jammeh
Jammeh and one of his wives with President and Mrs. Obama

And that’s just for starters. Jammeh’s also a crackpot of the first water who claims to be able to cure “a long list of maladies including obesity and erectile dysfunction.” In 2009, he accused a thousand of his subjects of being witch doctors and ordered them beaten and forced to “drink hallucinogens.” In 2000, thugs acting on his direct orders “gunned down 14 school children…who were protesting against his regime.” Last December, the European Union halted €13 million in aid to Gambia in response to its ghastly human-rights record; in the same month, the U.S. government revoked Gambia’s preferential status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a step hailed by a Gambian freedom activist as “a clear indication that the international community has had enough of Yahya Jammeh’s tyrannical rule.”

gambia
Protest against Jammeh’s dictatorship, December 2014

As with the Kims in North Korea and the Castros in Cuba, Jammeh’s countenance is ubiquitous throughout his realm, with his face being “used to advertise everything from food to phone credit.” One human-rights activist, indeed, has even called Gambia “the North Korea of Africa.” Jammeh is especially preoccupied with homosexuality, having called gays “vermin” and destroyers of culture and threatened to decapitate them. “Some people go to the West,” he announced in a 2014 speech, “and claim they are gays and that their lives are at risk in the Gambia, in order for them to be granted a stay in Europe. If I catch them I will kill them.” Last year, he approved a law punishing homosexuality with life imprisonment. Among many other offenses, he’s been accused by Senegal, the country that surrounds his own (except for a small sliver of Atlantic seacoast), of trying to ship Iranian weapons to separatist rebels in Senegal’s Casamance region.

gambia-2
A Jammeh billboard in Banjul, the capital of Gambia

This is the man whom Jermaine Jackson calls a friend and a “very, very real person,” whatever that means. During a visit to Gambia in 2010, Jackson hung out with Jammeh and announced that he wanted to play a role in what he described as Gambia’s development. (As one German newspaper noted, nobody, especially human-rights activists, thinks that there is anything deserving of the label “development” going on in Gambia.)

Jackson-01[1]In addition to identifying Jammeh as a key figure in building bridges between Africa and African Americans, Jackson praised him effusively for his belief in Allah, his “respect” for his people, and above all for his “truthful” nature. Jackson said that he’d met many world leaders over the years, but placed Jammeh “above all of them because of his devotion to Allah.” At a concert Jackson held in Gambia during his visit, he addressed Jammeh personally from the stage, saying: “Thank you for being you for the world. Thank you for being you for Africa. Thank you for being you for Gambia. Thank you for loving him, Gambia.”

Think of it this way: if Jammeh is the Kim Jung-un of the D-list, Jermaine Jackson is the D-list Dennis Rodman. No, it’s certainly not as high profile a friendship, but it’s every bit as odious. And, of course, every bit as dumb.

 

 

Pat and Putin – a love affair

putin3
Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has invaded other countries – but, hey, they used to be part of the USSR, and who are we to question his desire to bring them back into the Kremlin’s loving embrace? He’s had his critics imprisoned, tortured, poisoned – but, hey, you can’t deny that the Russian people love him! Also, he’s terrorized gay people – but, hey, it’s all in the name of protecting Russian youth from perversion.

Such is the reasoning of one American conservative after another who think the Russian despot is the bee’s knees.

Never mind that he’s driven the Russian economy into the toilet. They like his style. They like his demagoguery. They like his contempt for the EU and UN. (They don’t seem to realize that it’s possible to disapprove of these institutions without becoming a Putin fanboy.) And they like the speeches in which he celebrates “traditional values” and his country’s Christian heritage – never mind that he’s pretty much as far as possible from a model of gospel virtues.

Meet The Press
Pat Buchanan

We’ve seen how respected conservatives like Christopher Caldwell have found ways to reduce Putin’s perfidy to a handful of peccadillos. But the real master of pro-Putin propaganda is good ol’ Pat Buchanan. When the Kremlin was the headquarters of a dictatorship that ruled a so-called “union” of so-called “republics” and that identified itself as Marxist-Leninist, Buchanan was among its fiercest adversaries in the West; now that the Kremlin is the headquarters of a dictatorship that rules Russia alone in what is supposedly a non-Marxist republic, he is one of its fiercest defenders in the West.

In September 2013, for example, he praised a New York Times op-ed by Putin in which the Russian president assailed the U.S. position on Syria and decried the concept of American exceptionalism. A few months later, Buchanan extolled a speech by Putin condemning NATO expansion. “When he talks about the Cold War he has a valid point,” Buchanan insisted on an episode of the McLaughlin Group.

The Soviet Union,” Buchanan explained, “took its army out of Germany, out of Eastern Europe, all the way back to the Urals. They dissolved the Warsaw Pact. And what did we do? We moved NATO into Central Europe, into Eastern Europe, into the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. We’re trying to bring in Ukraine, trying to bring in Georgia. He’s saying, ‘Get out of our space; get our of our face.’”

Why is Pat so big on Putin? Largely because Buchanan, famous for his “culture war” speech at the 1992 G.O.P. Convention, sees Putin as a brother-in-arms – a fellow culture warrior out to rescue traditional values from Western secularism.

In August 2013, for example, Buchanan mocked Western outrage over Putin’s new Russian law against “homosexual propaganda” – which could lead to imprisonment for anybody, gay or straight, who had anything positive to say about gays or even about any particular gay individual. Citing Pope Benedict XVI, Buchanan reminded readers that the “unnatural and immoral” nature of homosexual acts “remains Catholic teaching.” So, he argued, “if we seek to build a Good Society by traditional Catholic and Christian standards, why should not homosexual propaganda be treated the same as racist or anti-Semitic propaganda?”

Buchanan also ridiculed Western support for the gutsy women of the anti-Putin rock group Pussy Riot, who, as he put it, “engaged in half-naked obscene acts on the high altar of Moscow’s most sacred cathedral.” He asked: “Had these women crayoned swastikas on the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., would the [Washington] Post have been so sympathetic?”

For Buchanan, Putin’s crackdown on gays and protests and so on was all part of an admirable effort “to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation it had been for 1,000 years before Russia fell captive to the atheistic and pagan ideology of Marxism.” Quoting Putin’s statement that the “adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped turn it into one of the largest world powers,” Buchanan asked: “Anyone ever heard anything like that from the Post, the Times, or Barack Hussein Obama?”

Four months later, Buchanan again found occasion to extol the Moscow martinet. “In the culture war for mankind’s future,” he asked rhetorically, “is he [Putin] one of us?” For Buchanan, the answer was clearly yes. Putin has blasted the U.S. for supposedly revising “moral and ethical norms” and equating “good and evil.” Buchanan helpfully provided a “translation” of Putin’s critique: “to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.” For Buchanan, plainly, the validity of this charge was self-evident. “Our grandparents,” he lamented, “would not recognize the America in which we live.”

Most Americans and most people around the world, Buchanan went on to argue, share his and Putin’s “traditional values” orientation. “Only 15 nations out of more than 190,” he noted, recognize same-sex marriage. “In the four dozen nations that are predominantly Muslim, which make up a fourth of the U.N. General Assembly and a fifth of mankind, same-sex marriage is not even on the table.”

Putin Views Russian Arms On Display At Expo

Predicting a 21st century in which “conservatives and traditionalists in every country” would be “arrayed against the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite,” Buchanan made clear that he was on the former side, arm in arm with Putin, the Communist rulers of China and North Korea, the tyrants of sub-Saharan Africa, and the brutal Islamic regimes of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran (where gays are, of course, executed), and against the liberal democracies of North America and Western Europe.

Again: one can deplore many aspects of 21st-century Western culture without throwing one’s lot in with the world’s most murderous despots.

Putin’s U.S. fan club

 

Vladimir Putin is a thug, a gangster, a demagogue, who has gained popular approval in Russia by encouraging his people’s most barbaric impulses and demonizing everything civilized. Yet he has his Western admirers.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

We’ve examined lefty movie director Oliver Stone‘s unsavory enthusiasm for Putin, ditto that of conservative journalist Christopher Caldwell, who’s characterized Putin’s Western critics as “harsh” – a word he seemed loath, interestingly, to use in describing Putin’s own imprisonment, torture, and assassination of pro-democracy dissenters.

Now we’ll look at a few other right-wing Putin fans.

  • First up: Jacob Heilbrunn of The National Interest. Just as Caldwell slammed Putin’s Western critics as “harsh,” Heilbrunn chided them for “pummeling” Putin – a thought-provoking choice of words, given that Putin literally has people pummeled (and worse). In response to a London Times article noting parallels between his actions and those of Joseph Stalin, Heilbrunn asked: “But is he really that bad?”

Yes, Heilbrunn recognized his obligation to accept a degree of criticism of Putin: “No one is under the illusion that Putin is a very nice man or that he isn’t in charge of a pretty nasty regime.” But he held out the illusion that Putin is “creating a stable foundation for a democratic state as emerged in Spain after the death of Francisco Franco.” Sheer fantasy.

  • Let’s move on to Rod Dreher, a sometime contributor to National Review and Weekly Standard, who wrote in August 2013 that while he “deplore[s] the anti-gay violence taking place in Russia today,” he “agree[s] with Pat Buchanan when he says that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is defending traditional Christian moral standards and actual Christians more than America is.” While the West has become “post-Christian,” argued Dreher, Putin’s Russia is “in important ways more conscious of its Christian history and character than the United States.”

Four months later, Dreher returned to the topic, saying that while Putin, through “our Western eyes,” might look like “an authoritarian who hates gay people,” what really matters is that “Putin is playing a long game here, a game that is far more serious and consequential for the survival of his country than American culture warriors can see.”

raimondo
Justin Raimondo

  • Or check out Justin Raimondo, who, writing in January 2015, mocked concerns about the corruption of Putin’s regime – saying that the roads in Russia, for example, can’t possibly be any worse than the ones in his own neck of the woods in northern California – and rejected the idea that Putin was eroding political freedoms or that his elections were rigged. Raimondo denied that Russia is on its way to being a “failed state”: “Russia is nowhere near becoming anything like, say, Somalia, a classic failed state.”

Similarly, “Russia is very far from being a ‘dictatorship’”: Putin’s suppression of opposition parties and media isn’t all that much worse, Raimondo claimed, than the situation in the U.S. For Raimondo, Putin isn’t an aggressor but a victim – namely, of a “wave of Russophobia.” Besides, however bad Putin may be, he insisted, some of Russia’s other potential leaders are much worse, and if any of them gain power, it’ll be the West’s fault.

  • Then there’s surgeon, author, and presidential aspirant Ben Carson, who in February 2014 wrote that “there may be some validity” to Putin’s claim that the US and Europe had become godless. “While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage,” Carson averred, “the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours.”
  • Writing in the same month, William S. Lind, former director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, celebrated Putin for helping Russia to “emerg[e] once more as the leading conservative power” Quoting Putin’s criticism of same-sex marriage, his statement that many Europeans are ashamed of their religious convictions, and his insistence on “the rights of the majority,” Lind asked: “Should we not cheer a Russian president who dares to defy “political correctness?”

While America, he concluded, “is becoming the leader of the international Left[,] Russia is reasserting her historic role as leader of the international Right.” He called on his fellow American conservatives to “welcome the resurgence of a conservative Russia.”

Franklin Graham
Franklin Graham

  • In March 2014, Billy Graham’s son and successor, Franklin Graham, praised Putin for cracking down on homosexuality, favorably contrasting his brutal suppression of gays to President Obama’s “shameful” support for the human rights of gay people. “Putin is right on these issues,” Graham asserted, saying that Putin had taken an admirable “stand to protect his nation’s children.”

Graham asked: “Isn’t it sad…that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?”

Conservatives like these used to despise the Soviet Union. But they’ve made a role model out of Putin’s Russia, which is basically the Soviet Union with a makeover.

Still, none of them is quite as eloquent in his enthusiasm for Putin’s tyranny than Pat Buchanan, who once upon a time was perhaps the fiercest Cold War combatant of them all. We’ll move on to his perverse praise for Putin next time.