Birth of a baby chavista

On May 16, Tucker Carlson welcomed a guest on his Fox News TV show who looked as if he was about twelve years old. He was, in fact, a 19-year-old college student named Dakotah Lilly who was there to defend chavismo in Venezuela and to deny that any of that country’s current problems – including the collapse of food supplies and medical services – were caused by socialism.

In the interview (which begins at about the thirty-minute mark in the video below), Carlson asked Lilly to address the fact that wherever socialism has actually been tried, it has been a disaster. Sidestepping Carlson’s list of Soviet bloc countries whose modern histories prove his point, Lilly simply parroted Maduro administration propaganda. “What Venezuela is currently facing right now,” said Lilly, “is terrorism at the hands of the opposition” – an opposition that, he insisted, is deliberately destroying “the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years.”

From beginning to end, Lilly’s portrait of Venezuela today was Alice-through-the-looking-glass stuff. The real victims of violence in the country, he charged, are supporters of the Maduro government. The real causes of Venezuela’s economic problems are (a) sanctions by the United States and (b) “hoarding by multinational corporations.” He even defended the Supreme Court’s closing, on Maduro’s orders, of the National Assembly. Carlson asked whether Lilly could speak Spanish or if he had actually ever been in Venezuela, but never got an answer to either question.

Dakotah Lilly

Who is Lilly? He’s currently a student of political science at Eugene Lang College (a unit of the New School in New York City) and a member of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), whose website makes it clear that it’s basically a bunch of junior Communists. Lilly isn’t the only SYNA member who has drunk the Kool-Aid on Venezuela: the group’s site features an article in which one Caleb T. Maupin (a frequent contributor to Iran’s Press TV) sneered at the idea that the downfall of the Venezuelan economy confirms “clichés [Americans] heard in elementary school about how ‘Communism just doesn’t work.’” Maupin claimed that, on the contrary, “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

Cindy Sheehan giving a hug to everyone’s favorite race hustler and shakedown artist, Jesse Jackson

As for Lilly’s own oeuvre, in September 2015, Cindy Sheehan (a famous antiwar activist during the George W. Bush administration who all but disappeared from the media once Barack Obama became president) posted on her website a “guest article” by Lilly entitled “Socialism, A Love Story.” Excerpts: “Capitalism isn’t working and it never has….Capitalism is a system that has run its course, much like slavery and feudalism. The future however is optimistic and a new system is on its way to being established, that system is Socialism.” As to the argument that socialism “never works in practice,” Lilly confidently asserted: “This could not be farther from the truth. Humans are naturally co-operative beings and to suggest that exploiting each other for valueless paper is somehow embedded in our genes is ludicrous.”

Caleb T. Maupin

What about China or the USSR? These weren’t really socialist countries, argued Lilly, although “Socialist elements of the USSR and Cuba, have led to the launching of the Sputnik and the eradication of homelessness and hunger. Imagine what the potential of Socialism is in a nation as rich and developed as the USA.” At the time he wrote that article, Lilly was, according to his contributor’s note, the 17-year-old “leader of Lehigh Valley Youth Democratic Socialists” whose “first mass action was joining Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox and other organizations in March in WDC for Spring Rising; in his spare time he likes smashing patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism and defending the oppressed.”

Those now-iconic empty Venezuelan grocery-store shelves

Why would such a callow and obscure character as Lilly be invited on Carlson’s show in the first place? The answer, one suspects, is that all the heavy hitters who were standing up for chavista economics as recently as a couple of years ago have either changed their tune or changed the topic. You might suggest that the best way to respond to the puerile views of a Dakotah Lilly is to ignore him; but this is the sort of person who, in a couple of years, will be out of college and in a first-rung position at some think tank or NGO or congressional office in Washington, D.C., or some other power center, using his twisted opinions to help set the nation’s future agenda. Best to be aware of these people as soon as possible, and to remember to track them as they move from the classroom into positions of authority. 

Though Yvette Felarca’s looking glass

On February 1, Berkeley middle-school teacher Yvette Felarca directed what can fairly be called a paramilitary action by her “anti-fascist” group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), on the campus of UC Berkeley. It succeeded in its objective: to get university authorities to cancel a speech by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yvette Felarca

The officials cited security concerns. They issued a condemnation of “the violence and unlawful behavior” of BAMN. So far, so good. But then the officials expressed “deep regret” that BAMN’s “tactics” would “now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives.” Just to make their point crystal clear, the officials spelled out the fact that “Yiannopoulos’ views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own.” What exactly, one wondered, was the antecedent of the word “our” there? The entire administration of Berkeley? Everybody at Berkeley? Were the officials suggesting that absolutely nobody at the college agreed with Yiannopoulos about anything?

Milo Yiannopoulos

Given that this episode followed a period of several months during which Yiannopoulos had appeared at dozens of colleges around the U.S. and drawn large and enthusiastic crowds of students who very obviously liked virtually everything he said and were entertained and energized by the way he said it, this claim seemed dubious, to say the least. What was represented as a denunciation of BAMN by Berkeley officials read, on closer examination, like a pro forma slap on BAMN’s wrist, a slamdown of Yiannopoulos, and a between-the-lines suggestion that the best way to deal with the likes of Yiannopoulos was for the whole campus to act in lockstep by engaging in peaceful protest.

In any event, the actions by Felarca and her henchmen on that day didn’t affect her job. On the contrary, it resulted in plenty of national media appearances. On February 13, she turned up on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News, saying that Yiannopoulos “should not be able to speak in public to spread his racist, misogynistic and homophobic lies.” In fact Yiannopoulos is himself gay, is a white man who has had black boyfriends, and, while a fierce critic of the radical, male-hating aspects of third-wave feminism, has many female fans and is a firm believer in sexual equality.

When Felarca called Yiannopoulos a fascist, Tucker asked her to define the word. “A fascist,” she replied, “is someone who’s organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups in a movement of genocide.” She further charged Yiannopoulos with violence. When Carlson challenged these claims, she started babbling about how Yiannopoulos was “trying to be the youth face and token that other people who are organizing violence try to hide behind” and had “whip[ped] up a whole lynch mob mentality.” Carlson’s quiet observation that Yiannopoulos had never called for rape or genocide was ignored by Felarca, who repeated that people like him had to be “shut down.”

After her Carlson appearance, a spokesman for BUSD said that Felarca wouldn’t be punished for her extracurricular activities because of her “free speech” rights. How exceedingly ironic that BUSD decided that Felarca’s violent efforts to keep Yiannopoulos from exercising his own free-speech rights amounted to an act of free speech.

More tomorrow.

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.

Propaganda in the classroom

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David Parry

We’re always puzzled to find someone who teaches “communications” at the college level but who seems to have had very little professional experience in the field. David Parry received a B.A. at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. at the University of Albany, taught at the University of Texas at Dallas from 2007 to 2013, and since then has been an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he is chair of the Communications Department. “His work,” according to the university’s website, “focuses on understanding the complex social and cultural transformations brought about by the development of the digital network. He is particularly interested in understanding how the internet transforms political power and democracy. He also researches and is an advocate for Open Access Research.”

David Parry with group of students, Faculty, School of Arts and humanities
David Parry with some of his students back at UT Dallas

It is interesting to know what Parry’s “work” focuses on. But we’ve searched up and down the Internet and found almost nothing that would fall under the category of Parry’s “work.” To be specific, we found exactly one item: a revealing article entitled “Organizing information for ease of retrieval.”

One thing it revealed is that Parry is weak on punctuation. (In particular, he seems to be allergic to commas – so much so that it can be hard to follow some of his sentences.) More important, however, it revealed that he is a world-class master of the obvious.

sju“I have been teaching ‘digital stuff’ for about eight years now,” he writes, “and in those eight years I have noted a rather significant shift. While it used to be the case that when we would discuss the internet, social media, and the digital network, students would approach it with a certain lack of familiarity — ‘What is this strange object before us?’ Now they simply take it in stride.” No kidding! “When Facebook has 350 million plus active users,” he writes, “it is no longer a cultural outlier, it is the norm.” Wow! And here’s his conclusion: “These ‘new media’ aren’t new; they are central and a fundamental part of our cultural, legal, and social institutions. It is time we started treating them as such.”

St. Joseph’s University, then, has quite a superstar on its hands. But until the other day, Parry was a total unknown. That changed when a rant he delivered in front of his class was recorded by one of his students and ended up being posted online and shared at several popular websites. “As somebody who fights for liberal values,” said Parry, “I am not sympathetic to the white voters who make over $50,000 a year and said that we are going to vote for Trump….If you are a person of color in this room, if you are a woman in this room, you do not have to open your heart to them. They told you you are not a person….It is okay to deal with it any way you want, because that normalization should not…” At this point his voice trails off; he is unable to complete his sentence. (Great communications skills!)

After expressing concern that he will “not be able to get it all together here,” Parry goes on to say that “there are two…two…two…two…two groups of people in this room. All right? There are white dudes like me who have power, and then there are other people in this room. So I’m going to divide what I’m saying here.” His message to the powerless: “I’m not gonna tell you how to feel and how to be. I’m just going to invite you to feel and be anyway you want and to hopefully communicate to me what we can do to make this situation better. Um, because let’s be clear. This is violence. People are going to die because of what happened.” He raises the spectre of people dying because of indirect “state violence” in the form of a rewrite of Obamacare, the spectre of “direct state violence” in the form of intervention in “non-white communities.” He claims to have seen swastikas and to have heard kids in York, Pennsylvania, where he lives, shouting “white power.” “That is not my democracy,” he states. The tape ends there.

After his rant went public, Jesse Watters of Fox News tried to get an interview with Parry. But the chair of the Department of Communications didn’t feel like communicating:

Needless to say, Parry is entitled to his political opinions. But to force those opinions on his students when he’s being paid to teach communications is a totally inappropriate move. To tell his students that some of them are powerful solely by virtue of their gender and sex and that some of them are powerless for the same reason is reprehensible. And to tell those students that it’s legitimate for them to respond to Trump’s election victory in “any way [they] want” is to condone the very violence that Parry claims to be so terrified of.

Parry claims to believe in liberal democracy, but this is not how teachers in a liberal democracy are supposed to speak to their students. By the way, what kind of an example does it set for his communications students that, when confronted by the nation’s most-watched news network about his classroom conduct, he was apparently incapable of doing so?

[UPDATE, March 23, 2017: The video of Parry’s rant, which earlier was available on You Tube and linked to here, has now disappeared down the memory hole.]

Top ten stooges, part two

Yesterday we revisited five of our top ten useful stooges of 2016. Here are the other five, who happen to have one thing in common: a readiness to defend Islam, the premier totalitarian force of our time. 

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Ben Norton

He hates Israel, calls the U.S. a “rogue state,” celebrates the legacy of the Black Panthers, and reflexively responds to each new act of terrorism by fretting about anti-Muslim backlash and smearing critics of Islam. He’s boy scribe Ben Norton, who when he’s not writing for Salon – an execrable enough venue – can be found at such vile pro-jihad sites as Electronic Intifada and Middle East Monitor. Instead of condemning the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in January 2015, Norton slammed the victims as racists. Instead of writing about the massacres in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando (media attention to such events, he argues, only boosts bigotry), he penned an entire article about a white lady who’d jumped a hijab-clad woman on a Washington, D.C., sidewalk.

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Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny was born into a prosperous family (both her parents were lawyers), went to a posh English public school, studied at Oxford, and was soon a highly successful journalist and author. But she’s still (as she constantly whines) a victim of sexism, a member of an “oppressed class.” And every man’s an oppressor – except, note well, for those Muslim males who act on the permission their religion gives them to beat, rape, and even kill women with impunity. So it was that when gangs of “refugees” committed mass rape in Cologne last New Year’s Eve, Penny turned her ire not on the rapists, but on the “racists” who responded to this crime by criticizing Islam. 

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Sally Kohn

It sounds like a set-up for a bad joke: a Jewish lesbian defending sharia law. But it’s no joke – it’s Sally Kohn, who after holding a series of jobs as a sleazy political operator and PR flack is now a CNN talking head. Even worse than her utter lack of a decent education is her utter lack of embarrassment about it: when an editor commissioned her to write about Amsterdam, she admitted she didn’t even know what country it was in – but that didn’t keep her from visiting it for a few days and banging out a piece accusing the natives of (what else?) Islamophobia.

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Owen Jones

“Modern capitalism is a sham,” advises British lad Owen Jones, and “democratic socialism is our only hope.” A Guardian columnist, Oxford grad, and son of Trotskyite parents, Jones is a consistent whitewasher of Islam who turns every act of jihadist terror into an excuse to denounce critics of Islam.

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Will Smith

Finally, there’s movie star Will Smith, who this year called for “cleans[ing]” America by eliminating Trump supporters. (He didn’t say how we should do it.) He also condemned America’s “Islamophobia” and extolled Dubai, which, he claimed, “dreams the way I dream.” Never mind that the UAE, where Dubai is located, is a sharia-ruled country where you can get stoned to death for being gay: Smith, a self-styled “student of world religion,” claimed that if Americans have a bad image of the place, it’s entirely the fault of Fox News.

Happy New Year!

Will Smith loves Dubai – and Dubai loves him!

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In Dubai in 2014, Will Smith donned Arab garb with his singer pals Tyrese and Maxwell

We’ve been talking about Will Smith‘s recent promotional trip to Dubai. It’s important to note that it wasn’t his first time there. Far from it: as one local news report explained, he “visits Dubai all the time.” He first set foot in Dubai “about 15 years ago.” In 2014, he went there to celebrate the birthday of a singer friend who goes by the name of Tyrese.

He loves the place. At the press conference about his new picture, Suicide Squad, he praisedDubai’s golf courses. He hailed its WiFi. He gushed over its movie theaters and skydiving. 

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Smith at his Dubai presser

He was quick to point out, moreover, that his kids (and fellow superstars) Willow and Jaden share his love for the United Arab Emirates. They performed there last year. And Willow went back “just a couple of months ago.” On that trip, “she FaceTime’d me from out in the desert on a camel.” Will volunteered that he thought “the cross of modern technology and the region’s ancient mode of transportation” exemplified by her using FaceTime while perched atop a dromedary was “beautiful. Really beautiful.”

Smith explained that, in addition to promoting his movie, one reason for his Dubai visit was his disgust over Islamophobia in America. He made it clear that he regards some Americans’ concerns about Islam as ignorant and misinformed. “I’m in Dubai and I’m having fun and I’m tweeting and I’m showing pictures,” he said cheerily. “Hey, doesn’t look like they hate me, does it?”

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Dubai

No, they sure don’t. Not as long as he’s ready, willing, and eager to provide the United Arab Emirates with such stellar PR.

But seriously: the man is so narcissistic, apparently, that his test of a country’s moral compass is how it treats him. Him. Not anyone else. Him. Period. 

One question, though. Is this self-styled “student of world religion” as ignorant as he appears to be about the horrific reality underlying the shining towers of Dubai? Or is it just that he doesn’t give a damn about how Dubai treats others, so long as it treats him like a prince?

dubai2The big news that came out of Smith’s press conference was this: he’s so fond of Dubai that, as one local journalist put it, “he hopes to soon make a movie in the Middle East about the Middle East.” Smith himself said that he “had a couple of ideas” for pictures and admitted that he’d met “a few times” with Dubai’s film commission. “I love it here,” he effused, “and I’d love to be a part of the mining of stories from this region.”

But his main reason for wanting to make a film in Dubai, he emphasized, is not personal but educational. As one Emirates reporter put it, “he wants to help teach his home country more about the region.” Or, to quote Smith’s own words: “The Middle East can’t allow Fox News to be the arbiter of its imagery. Cinema is a huge way to be able to deliver the truth of the soul of a place to a global audience.”

That wasn’t all. He had even more to say about the wonders of Dubai. “Dubai,” he pronounced, “dreams the way I dream.” 

Meaning what? We’ll finish up tomorrow.

Marinated in ideology: Sally Kohn

sally4She’s one of America’s most prominent commentators, and in late August she lit the Twitterverse on fire with what at least one website called “the dumbest tweet ever.” The tweet in question was directed at Donald Trump, and it slammed him for criticizing sharia law. Yes, she actually defended sharia law – a system of jurisprudence under which she, a Jewish lesbian, would be subject to the death penalty for any number of reasons.

kohnnnnThis was, to be sure, scarcely the first time Sally Kohn, now age 39, revealed her colossal ignorance of something that she, as a regular pundit on CNN, should know more about. But we’ll get around to those episodes – and, of course, to the sharia fracas itself – in good time.

First, let’s look at who this woman is – and where she came from.

Kohn’s climb up the media ladder has been swift. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she studied psychology at George Washington University, then got a joint Master of Public Administration and JD at NYU. During her student years she was also (in turn) an intern at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD), a “Vaid Fellow” (named for radical lesbian activist Urvashi Vaid) at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), an intern (briefly) at the Legal Aid Society, and director (again briefly) of something called the Third Wave Foundation, which she apparently founded herself (and of which we haven’t been able to find any trace on the Internet).

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Kohn on Fox News

Kohn went on to work at the Ford Foundation, the Center for Community Change (a “progressive community organizing group”), and the Movement Vision Lab (which, according to its website, “makes the world safe for radical ideas”). At these jobs, according to her own LinkedIn page, Kohn spent her time building “the capacity of grassroots organizations…to articulate their ideas and build creative strategies to advance their agendas,” leading “a grassroots think tank to articulate and enliven a bold, progressive vision,” and the like.

Five years ago she entered the public eye as a political commentator for Fox News and a contributor to the Daily Beast. Two years ago she moved from Fox to CNN. Meanwhile she’s become a sought-after speaker at colleges and elsewhere and (apparently) a successful “media and public speaking consultant.” As her website brags, the gay newsmagazine The Advocate has called her “the 35th most influential LGBT person in the media.” Mediaite named her “one of the 100 most influential pundits on television,” and in 2014 she made its list of the “Top 9 Rising Stars of Cable News.”

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Kohn on CNN

She is, indeed, a star – and, yes, a remarkably influential one. Which raises a couple of questions. First, what qualifies her to occupy such a powerful position? Second, what is the nature of the views she spouts to her ever-widening audience?

In addressing the first question, what one notices, upon looking through her résumé, is that her experience has been almost entirely with hands-on social activism. She’s never pursued a remotely serious study of, well, anything, other than law. (Do we really want to count undergraduate psychology?) She’s certainly never seriously studied any kind of history – cultural history, political history, social history, whatever. She’s clearly innocent of economics. She’s never been a reporter. She’s never clerked for a judge. Perhaps most important, until she went into the pundit business, she never held anything remotely resembling a real job in a profit-making enterprise.

In short, she doesn’t have an especially clear idea of how the real world works.

sally8No, whatever special wisdom she may have to offer is derived almost exclusively from years and years of living in a small, claustrophobic bubble of left-wing activism – years, that is, of being entirely devoted to the building of “creative strategies,” the advancing of dynamic agendas, and the articulating of “bold, progressive vision[s]” on behalf of various community groups, victim groups, interest groups, and the like.

kkkkkkAdmittedly, there are certain skills and certain kinds of knowledge that one can develop as a result of being wholly immersed in such activities. But we’re not talking here about the sort of background that’s designed to deepen an individual’s historical knowledge or enrich her cultural perspective. On the contrary, it seems fair to say that Kohn has spent her adult life doing one thing: marinating in ideology – and learning, above all, how best to package it, promote it, and market it. As far as we can tell, she’s involved herself in absolutely nothing – zilch, zero, nada – that might have had the effect of (horrors!) challenging her ideology. For a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue like Kohn, a fact that causes one to re-examine one’s ideology isn’t something to mull over, take into account, and learn from; it’s something to ignore, reject, repel, conceal, distort. 

As for the nature of her views – well, tune in tomorrow. There’s lots more to come.