Who is Kathy Dettwyler?

Kathy Dettwyler (center, in dress) with students, 2016

During the past few days we’ve been studying the responses of several ethically challenged commentators to the arrest and imprisonment of American student Otto Warmbier – who died on July 19 – by the brutal regime of North Korea, which accused him of removing a propaganda poster from a hotel corridor. Instead of recognizing Warmbier as a victim deserving of sympathy, writers at Salon and Huffington Post, and so-called comedian Larry Wilmore, either criticized him for his supposed disrespect for his totalitarian hosts or made fun of him for having gotten himself into trouble in the Hermit Kingdom in the first place. But worst of all was Kathy Dettwyler, an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware, who on her Facebook page and in a reader comment posted at the website of National Review, actually tore into Warmbier after his death. To their credit, her bosses at the University of Delaware were quick to issue the following statement:

Otto Warmbier at his press conference in North Korea

The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered.

The University of Delaware values respect and civility and we are committed to global education and study abroad; therefore we find these comments particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values. Our sympathies are with the Warmbier family.

This statement was soon followed by another one indicating that the university would not be rehiring Dettwyler after the present semester.

Kathy Dettwyler, breastfeeding expert

We were so disgusted by Dettwyler’s remarks about Warmbier that we decided to find out more about her. It turns out that Dettwyler is an “expert” on breastfeeding. She is sometimes described as a “breastfeeding advocate” – which means, basically, that she believes in breastfeeding babies until long after they have ceased to be babies. In one article she suggests that it is reasonable to keep breastfeeding a child until somewhere between the ages of three and eight. A brief career summary: after studying at UC Davis and Indiana University, she has bounced from one college faculty to another – the University of Southern Mississippi, Texas A&M, SUNY Plattsburgh, Millersville University.

University of Delaware

After her remarks about Warmbier made national news, The Review, a newspaper published at the University of Delaware, ran a piece about her stating that she had “earned a reputation” at the college “for incorporating her political beliefs into her teaching.” The article quoted junior Nicolas Diclaudio, who had taken two anthropology courses taught by Dettwyler. According to Diclaudio, Dettwyler “would routinely go on political tangents, oftentimes making derogatory remarks about President Donald Trump and his supporters….Dettwyler’s classroom activity became seriously unacceptable when she began to include her political beliefs in academic assessments, asking questions with intentional ideological bias.”

A question about Donald Trump and his supporters from a test by Dettwyler, along with the “correct” answer: true.

“I would always pick the answer that I knew she wanted because I didn’t want it to affect my grade,” Diclaudio told The Review. “Me and some of my friends would stop going to class and just read the textbook because her lectures got out of hand.” The Review noted that Diclaudio was not surprised by Dettwyler’s remarks about Warmbier; on the contrary, the student referred to Dettwyler’s Facebook post on Warmbier as “The most Kathy thing I’ve ever seen.” Student comments about Dettwyler at the website Rate My Professors confirm Diclaudio’s report: “It’s her opinion or no opinion…will give you attitude if you ask certain questions.” “She is very opinionated and blunt.” “Easily the rudest professor I have had at UD.” “She’s extremely rude.” “Way too opinionated to the point where she becomes unprofessional.” “Very opinionated and can be perceived as rude.” “Very opinionated and rude.” “Extremely strict and rude. She thinks she created Anthropology and hates America….She’s horrible and obnoxious.” “Insufferable. I’ve never experienced a professor who’s as self-important…one of the rudest people I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.” “Unbelievably rude when students disagree with her but she tells us to question authority.”

While various national media failed to get any comment out of Dettwyler, she did respond to an inquiry by The Review, stating that “A couple of students complained about my comments in class about Trump, when what I did was talk about statements he himself had made, and lead the students through and analysis of the underlying cultural beliefs they reflected….This is part of my job as an anthropology professor.”

Prison report: Lula in, Leopoldo out

While all kinds of terrible things are happening in South America and around the globe, that continent recently supplied us with a couple of pieces of very good news.

Lula

In Brazil, almost a year after socialist President Dilma Rousseff’s removal from office, her mentor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison. Both were brought down by their roles in the Petrobras scandal, a.k.a. Operation Car Wash, the largest scandal ever in the history of that nation. Lula, a Worker’s Party politician who served two terms in Brazil’s highest office and who anointed Rousseff to succeed him, was found guilty of corruption and money-laundering. Lula plans to appeal the verdict; meanwhile, four – count them, four – other corruption trials lie ahead of him.

Dilma Rousseff

The specifics of Lula’s corruption are tawdry and rather dull: he was found guilty of taking a massive bribe – in the form of a luxury beachfront apartment – from a construction company, OAS. In addition to presenting Lula with the apartment, OAS also gave Lula’s party about $27 million in bribes in return for a suspiciously lucrative contracts with Petrobras. At the trial, Lula denied having anything to do with the apartment in question.

Protégé and mentor in happier times

It’s hard to explain just how staggering the conviction of Lula is in his home country. He’s not just a former president but a national icon. His admirers believe that his socialist policies helped boost the Brazilian economy, lifting millions out of poverty. As a result, he’s widely revered as a folk hero, the ultimate man of the people, the very personification of socialist largesse – so that the idea of him raiding the treasury on behalf of OAS in exchange for an apartment seems a particularly cheesy sort of betrayal.

Lula is actually eligible to run again for president, and, prior to his conviction, was leading the polls in the run-up to next year’s elections. But if his appeal fails, he won’t be allowed to be a candidate. In any case, his conviction has surely diminished him in the eyes of at least some of his fans.

Leopoldo López

So that’s the good news from Brazil. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Venezuela, which is basically a tool of President Nicolás Maduro, took an action that surprised the world: it ordered that Leopoldo López be removed from prison, where he has languished for more than three years, and placed instead under house arrest.

Nicolás Maduro

López, of course, is someone whose fortunes we’ve been following pretty closely on this site: as we wrote in March of last year, he is “the chavista regime’s most eloquent critic [and] the opposition’s most charismatic leader” and was plainly locked up “for no other reason than that he is …by far the most potent threat to the power of…Maduro.”

Hugo Chávez

This is a man who, as mayor of one of the five municipalities that make up Caracas, was recognized for his erudition and eloquence and showered with international awards for excellence and transparency in public service – making him the very antithesis of the crude caudillo Hugo Chávez and his lunkhead successor, Maduro. As we have put it previously:

López is so manifestly everything that Maduro is not, so completely the Gallant to his Goofus, that it seems almost too tidy a scenario; if this were a film script, the producer would almost certainly order the writer to make the villain at least somewhat less buffoonish and corrupt and the hero somewhat less noble and courageous.

Liliana Tintori at the White House in February with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Senator Marco Rubio

Our most recent mention of López here was in March, when we noted that his wife, Liliana Tintori, had met with President Trump at the White House not long after the latter’s inauguration. At the time, Trump issued a call for López’s immediate release. It was more than President Obama had ever done for López, and it may well have made a difference.

In any event, López is out of jail, and that’s good news. But, like the rest of the people in his country, he’s not yet entirely free. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the course of Venezuela’s fortunes, and Leopoldo’s.

Is America going Commie?

Is it true or not? We don’t know. But we thought it might be worth passing on, as a glimpse into the American Communist mindset, with the proviso that there is no way of knowing whether there’s even a grain of truth in it.

Emile Schepers

Here it is: the American Communist Party publication People’s World claimed on April 19 that “Communist Party membership numbers [are] climbing in the Trump era.” In fact, the article reporting this development was not original with People’s World – it was copied out of the international edition of the Cuban daily Granma, which of course, like all media on that island prison (other than a handful of surreptitious Samizdat blogs), is under the thumb of the Castro regime. But the article was an interview with a People’s World hack, Emile Schepers, who aside from writing regularly for that publication is also International Secretary of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

Here’s the gist of Granma‘s interview with Schepers: the CPUSA “has been receiving membership requests ever since Donald Trump was elected President.” At the moment, to be sure, its numbers are, um, modest: 5,000 members nationwide out of a total U.S. population of over 300 million, or about 0.0017%. But hey, as Granma helpfully explained, this sad showing is a result of “Cold War repression,” or, as Schepers put it, “the phantom of the McCarthy era.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Yes, the McCarthy era – the firing of a few State Department Communists, the brief imprisonment of American citizens who were serving a foreign enemy, and the execution of two people who did nothing less than help provide the USSR with the secrets of the atomic bomb. As opposed, of course, to the Castro era, during which countless people were shot by firing squads for being gay, for being dissident writers or artists, or for having connections (of whatever kind) to the Batista government. Because of McCarthy’s Senate hearings and/or the House Un-American Activities Committee, a few rich Hollywood screenwriters flew to Paris or London to work there until the whole thing blew over; because of Castro, over a million Cubans took their lives in their hands to make their way to Florida – and freedom – on small boats or rafts.

Fidel Castro

Schepers, a South Africa-born anthropologist who grew up in various places around the U.S. and now lives in Virginia (just like the Soviet spy family in the Netflix series The Americans), acknowledged to Granma that “the United States is in no way experiencing a pre-revolutionary situation in the communist sense.” But, on the upside, “capitalism is showing terminal signs worldwide.” Schepers believes Bernie Sanders, if nominated by the Democrats, would have defeated Donald Trump. But a big problem remains: that of “organizing workers and trade union structures” in America “around defending the rights of the most vulnerable workers.” The article then mentioned that the CPUSA has been a strong supporter of the chavista movement in Venezuela. The irony that even the “most vulnerable workers” in the U.S. are far better off than their counterparts in today’s Venezuela – not to mention Cuba – seemed lost on the editors at both Granma and People’s World.

Thugs at Berkeley

Yvette Felarca

Yesterday we met Yvette Felarca, a leader of the California-based violent radical group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which calls itself anti-fascist but whose own rhetoric and tactics are right out of the fascist playbook. Last June, she led a violent BAMN action in Sacramento that would have lost her her middle-school teaching job if the district administrators had any backbone. But that event pales alongside BAMN’s biggest operation ever, which took place on February 1 of this year. It was on that date that BAMN, employing physical violence and destroying property, succeeded in closing down a planned speech at UC Berkeley by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo Yiannopoulos giving one of his campus speeches in drag

“This is not about free speech,” Felarca told her followers before the big event. She described Yiannopoulos and his crew as “not people who are interested in any genuine debate. They hide behind that hypocritically to try to shut up and put in our places women or Muslims or minorities or oppressed groups. But what they are really trying to do is they’re trying to assert their power, threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, kill us.” For those unfamiliar with Yiannopoulos’s standard act, it may be necessary to say that he and his cohorts are not out to rape or kill anyone – they are out to restore some semblance of sanity to a largely campus-based subculture that has been infected by the kind of demented rhetoric in which Felarca specializes, smearing anyone who disagrees with her fanatical views as Nazis, fascists, racists, and so on.

These and following pictures: the Berkeley riot

“This is real,” she continued. “This is life and death…. We can shut this fucker down, we can get rid of Donald Trump….when the Nazis tried to kill some of us, after we recovered, some of them threatened me and students at my school and tried to get me fired. But they didn’t succeed, and the students and the parents and the community rallied together and not only got me my job back but we’re stronger now, so we have got to stay united.”

There ensued – at the flagship campus of the University of California system – a spectacle out of warn-torn Beirut or Sarajevo. Felarca’s disciples behaved like storm troopers. Destruction was rampant. The image of the free exchange of ideas at an American college being shut down by jackbooted thugs was chilling.

As one news source put it: “Those who came to hear Yiannopoulos speak were beaten fists and flag poles by protesters, who also doused attendees with pepper spray….Several folks at the event posted videos online highlighting the violence, as well as protesters yelling ‘fuck you racists’ and other profanities. Others, wearing masks and dressed in all black, hurled Molotov cocktails, smashed out windows at a student center where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, threw fireworks and rocks at police, blocked traffic, and caused other mayhem.” CNN wrote: “The violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by CNN affiliate KGO. She was able to respond that she was OK after the attack.”

More tomorrow.

Trump evil, CAIR good: the world of Bethany Allen

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

This week we’ve been exploring the world of Foreign Policy assistant editor Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who appears to have begun making a successful career for herself as a slick apologist for even the most extreme aspects of Islam. She did this recently by painting Georgetown University’s Jonathan A.C. Brown, who defended sharia law’s acceptance of slavery, as a victim of Islamophobia. Christmas before last, she performed a similar service for her Muslim husband, celebrating her parents’ Thanksgiving-dinner capitulation to his religion’s strict dietary laws as a triumph over cruel anti-Islamic bigotry.

She’s still at it. On a February 9 of this year, Allen-Ebrahimian wrote an article for the Washington Post in which she worried about the prospects for Muslim life in America under Trump – who, she charged, hates Muslims, and is surrounded by people who share that hatred. She noted that after 9/11 American Muslims “didn’t know where to turn for help….They had almost no political, social or cultural capital.” They were helpless, she lamented, when “Muslims and Muslim charities were targeted in terrorism investigations.” She omitted to mention, however, that these investigations found many Muslims, including supposedly peaceful imams and activists, to have intimate links to terrorists, and discovered that many Muslim “charities” were, in fact, fronts for terrorist groups. Mosques, too.

Ghassan Elashi, a CAIR leader convicted of funneling money to Hamas

But American Muslims, she reported, are no longer powerless. “American Muslims have learned to arm themselves, not with weapons but with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution….Muslim society in the United States has undergone a stunning transformation.” There are two Muslims in Congress, and plenty of groups such as “the Muslim Legal Fund of America, the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020, WORDE, the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Michigan, Ta’leef Collective in California, the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation and many others.”

She highlighted “the nation’s premier Muslim civil rights advocacy organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),” which in recent years has “vastly expanded its footprint and now operates 30 offices nationwide.” Again, she omitted to point out that CAIR has been shown to be closely tied to Hamas; that it has given aid to, and expressed support for, terrorist atrocities; and that it is, essentially, a front for a coalition of radical Islamic groups.

Ahmad Saleem (left, with lawyer), arrested last year on child-trafficking charges

But Trump, Allen-Ebrahimian freeted, may undo all of this. She quoted a speaker at CAIR’s annual banquet last December: “A nightmare that we have been fighting in this country for the past 15 years is now in the White House.” Many Americans – indeed, many people throughout the West – would say that the nightmare we have been fighting for the past 15 years is something called Islamic terrorism, which has taken thousands of lives in barbaric acts in New York, Paris, London, Madrid, San Bernardino, Orlando, Boston, Brussels, Mumbai, Bali, and numerous other places. In her Post article, and throughout all the work of hers that we’ve looked at, Allen-Ebrahimian only mentions these horrible actions in the context of complaining about reasonable actions intended to prevent more of them.

Bethany Allen: whitewashing totalitarian religion

Yesterday we took a look at Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian’s Christman 2015 Washington Post article about how her Christian family went all halal at Thanksgiving time in order to please her grumpy Muslim husband. We were disturbed by the article but impressed by many of the reactions in the Post‘s online comments field.

Bethany Allen-Ebrahamian

To be sure, many readers congratulated Allen Ebrahimian’s family for their welcoming spirit. Others, however, were more critical. One reader was put off by Allen-Ebrahimian’s statement that American Islamophobia had made her cry: “I bet the families of the San Bernardino victims burst into tears occasionally too.” Another reader didn’t appreciate the Trump bashing: “So you and your friends have a problem with Donald Trump because he wants to put more scrutiny to identify potential terrorists. Say that to the families who lost their loved ones in San Bernardino and Paris.” Another pointed out that Allen-Ebrahimian had married into a religion that punishes apostates with death and allows men to have up to four wives. Yet another was “sick and tired of the seemingly endless procession of Islamophobia articles and editorials by the Washington Post….Muslims are safer here than probably any other place in the world.”

The San Bernardino terrorists

A couple of readers zeroed in on Allen-Ebrahimian’s husband – and his family: “What kind of a grown up is he when he doesn’t want to talk to your family because he was not served halal food[?]” Also: “I would be very interested to know the accommodations offered to you by your husband’s family.” Another reader had the same thought: “you (and your family) assimilated into his culture and started eating halal. What has he done to assimilate into yours?” Indeed, what’s missing from Allen-Ebrahimian’s essay is any sign of recognition on her part that she and her family have, unthinkingly or otherwise, accepted the idea that such accommodation should go only one way.

Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen and his wife

Another reader made essentially the same point: “When she was a child and her enlightened family took those global travels to broaden the kids’ minds, did they feel ‘isolated’ because nobody in Nairobi or Vienna served up Thanksgiving turkeys?…When she moved to China, did she expect people to Americanize their holidays for her benefit? On the contrary – by her own reckoning she did everything she could to leave Texas behind, and learn about, celebrate, and adapt to the traditions of her host country. Somehow in the United States, though, the progressive narrative deems that Americans are insensitive for celebrating their own traditions, and that people who move here voluntarily are victims when locals aren’t sufficiently speedy at rewriting traditions on their behalf.”

We might add that it’s especially unsettling to discover that Allen-Ebrahimian, raised in a free country, was drawn to a tyrannical Communist one (China) and, raised in a family that practiced a tolerant and loving version of the Christian faith, has now found herself whitewashing a totalitarian religious ideology.

Foreign Policy‘s apologist for Communist China and sharia law

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

This week we’ve been discussing Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian’s breathtakingly shameless attempt to rehabilitate Georgetown University sharia apologist Jonathan A.C. Brown and to smear his critics. This episode led us to ask: who is this Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian? We found a couple of items that may help answer that question.

Exhibit A: on December 23, 2015, the Washington Post published a piece by Allen-Ebrahimian that was plainly meant to be a heartwarming holiday story. She began by explaining that the 2015 holiday season was “unlike any other” she had ever experienced because this time Donald Trump had left “a lump of coal in my stocking, reminding me just how unwelcome my multi-faith family would be in his version of America.”

Allen-Ebrahimian and her husband

She explained that her husband is an Iranian Muslim who “tends to be particularly self-conscious when he’s invited to a meal where there are no halal, or at least vegetarian, options.” You see, even though he’d lived in the U.S. for 12 years, meals were “still an unwanted reminder that even something as universal as breaking bread can set him apart from everyone else.” A curious way to put it: the only thing setting her husband apart at dinners with non-Muslims are his own religion’s dietary rules.

Allen-Ebrahimian gave a brief account of her own background: born in Abilene to liberal Christian parents, she was taken by her parents on trips around the world, raised largely in Vienna, Austria, and after college moved to China, having learned from her travels “that neither Christians nor Americans had a monopoly on kindness, happiness or morality.” In China, she kept mum about her Christian and Texan roots, apparently ashamed of her background in that officially atheist totalitarian country.

Trump: coal in her stocking

Then she married a Muslim. At their first family Christmas dinner together, in 2014, her mother “included halal and vegetarian options for my new husband, and we were both thankful.” But, she added, “[t]hat was before Paris, before San Bernardino, before notions of religious tests and registries burst upon our national dialogue like a plague.” One would think she might refer to the terrorist atrocities as being “like a plague,” but no – it’s the idea of heavy vetting (misrepresented by her, as by many others, as “religious tests and registries”) that is “like a plague.”

So it was that as Christmas 2015 approached, Allen-Ebrahimian felt “a bit like we’re under siege.” Her anxiety caused her to break into tears. But then, at Thanksgiving, her mother “went to even greater lengths to see that almost everything was halal: Three whole zabihah chickens, with broth she carefully siphoned off into plastic containers for use in gravy and casseroles. Halal ground beef for taco night. Halal hamburger patties cooked in a clean pan on a stove rather than on the grill outside, which was covered in non-halal meat drippings. Even turkey bacon sprinkled liberally over salads and wrapped in spirals around asparagus clusters.” The effect on Allen-Ebrahimian’s husband “was immediate. Normally reserved, he talked more, cracked jokes and spent more time with everyone in the family room.”

Beautiful story, right? Or is it? Think about it and we’ll get back together tomorrow.