Ideologically pure, historically ignorant: Oliver Willis

Oliver Willis

On Tuesday we met Oliver Willis, a commentator who started out working for lowlife Clinton agitprop merchant David Brock and who, since the turn of the century, has been a staggeringly prolific blogger and tweeter, not to mention an occasional contributor to one or another of the usual websites (Salon, HuffPo). Perhaps the most surprising thing about his work is that he is never, ever surprising. His opinions, if you can even call them that, are ready-made, pre-packaged. He actually appears to think that he’s thinking, but he’s just regurgitating. As we saw on Tuesday, he thinks that he’s whip-smart (and that everybody to his right is an idiot), but all that he seems to have between his ears is a library of left-wing platitudes and victim-group grievance rhetoric.

Not a “real president”

To be sure, today’s Internet commentariat being awash in similar mediocrities, Willis doesn’t usually stick out from the crowd. Now and then, however, he demonstrates convincingly that his learning is skin-deep. Recently, when Donald Trump waited three days before calling out the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Willis tweeted: “FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to Nazis. Then again, FDR was a real president.”

The “real president”

As several members of the Twittersphere were quick to point out, FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to the rise of Nazism; by the most charitable calculation, he took more than two years, if you start counting from September 2, 1939 (when Britain and France responded to the Nazi invasion of Poland by declaring war on Germany), and stop counting on December 11, 1941 (when the U.S. declared war on Germany a day after Germany had declared war on us). Willis also appears to have forgotten a couple of other minor facts about his “real president”: first, that when Jews who were trying to avoid the Nazi extermination camps sought refuge in America, FDR turned them away; and second, that while FDR was willing to put a German-American, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in charge of the Supreme Allied Command, he felt compelled to put Japanese-Americans in California internment camps.

An actual Willis tweet

This is only one of many examples we could cite of Willis’s historical and cultural illiteracy. But for leftist ideologues, ignorance on the scale of Willis’s hardly matters. Nor does his barely serviceable prose style or his chronic inability to actually form an argument. No, what counts is reflexive devotion to the cause, period. And as it happens, Willis, just like his old boss, David Brock, is the most reliable of ideological tools. Hence fellow inhabitants of the DNC echo chamber shower him with praise. (If Willis is to be believed, Rachel Maddow has twice called him “the great Oliver Willis.”)

Willis with four other bloggers at the White House

Just as Brock, moreover, is far less dedicated to any political idea than to the continued success of the Clinton clan, Willis is such a servile devotee of Barack Obama that he was one of only five bloggers who were invited to a White House meeting with the 44th president in October of 2010.

“I would be unfair if I said that David Brock represents everything wrong with politics,” wrote Post columnist David Von Drehle earlier this year. “So let me say that David Brock represents almost everything wrong with politics.” The same, alas, can be said of Brock’s equally unsavory protégé, Oliver Willis.

Catching up with terror enabler Linda Sarsour

Women’s March on Washington

Linda Sarsour shot to fame on January 21 of this year, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. On that day, feminists marched down the major thoroughfares of several American cities; in Washington, at the main Women’s March, stars of film and TV and music and cable news and professional feminism (Gloria Steinem) took turns giving speeches. Madonna spoke of burning down the White House. Ashley Judd read a poem about being a “nasty woman.”

Linda Sarsour

Joining these superstars on the list of speakers was an obscure woman in hijab. Linda Sarsour, head of the Arab American Association of New York, was one of the event’s organizers, and she used her moment in the sun to say that she would “respect the presidency,” but not Trump himself. She said that Trump had been elected “on the backs of Muslims.” And she said that American Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.” She didn’t mention the suffering of the many non-Muslim Americans – and non-Muslims elsewhere around the world – who had experienced suffering as a result of suicide bombings, planes being piloted into buildings, gunmen opening fire at concerts and discos, and truck drivers mowing down pedestrians.

Rachel Maddow, lesbian Islam apologist

Sarsour was cheered. A star was born. Rachel Maddow had her on. Sarsour made outrageous claims about the supposed oppression of Muslims in the U.S., and Maddow didn’t question a thing she said. Nor did Maddow ask Sarsour how a woman who supports sharia law and openly praises Hamas, as Sarsour does, could call herself a progressive feminist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There are real feminists with Arab or Muslim backgrounds. Among them are Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brigitte Gabriel. Sarsour has smeared both of them. She has said that they deserve as “ass-whipping.” It is well known that Hirsi Ali, as as girl, was subjected to the brutal practice known as female genital mutilation. This didn’t keep Sarsour from saying that she wished she could take away Hirsi Ali’s and Gabriel’s vaginas because “they don’t deserve to be women.”

Sarsour is not just a woman of words. She is a woman of action. When Brandeis University announced plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, Sarsour participated in a successful effort to get Brandeis to change its mind.

Sarsour and friends

We wrote about all this in April. We devoted two days to Sarsour. We hoped that perhaps her fifteen minutes of fame would soon be over. Alas, no. Sarsour ended up being named to Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Earlier this month, Glamour Magazine included her and the other Women’s March organizers on its list of women of the year. Publications around the country, ignoring Sarsour’s own ugly views, have portrayed her as the virtuous victim of irrational Islamophobic hatred.

The scene of the Halloween attack

In late October, Sarsour tweeted a photo of her new Democratic Socialists of America membership card. A few days later, after the Halloween terror attack in lower Manhattan, she was heavily quoted in an AOL News story headlined “Muslim New Yorkers Are Bracing for Hate Crimes after Terror Attack” – one of those absurd “backlash” articles that always follow jihadist attacks and that seek to distract attention from the real victims of actual Muslim atrocities to imaginary Muslim victims of non-existent infidel atrocities.

That mosque in Paterson

After the Halloween massacre, Sarsour complained on Twitter that such events are always being used to paint all Muslims with a broad brush. As it turned out, she had more than a passing connection to the jihadist of the day, Saypullo Saipov. As was discovered soon after his arrest, Saipov had attended a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey, that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, under Mayor Bloomberg, had monitored closely. But the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is less worried about terrorism than about “Islamophobia,” listened to a certain individual who told him that monitoring mosques was an anti-Islamic act, and closed down the Demographics Unit. Who was that individual who got the mayor to stop the monitoring of mosques? Linda Sarsour. If not for her, in short, the New York police might have fingered Saipov as a potential terrorist and prevented eight deaths.

Shameless: David Sirota

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David Sirota

Yesterday we met David Sirota, an ardent supporter of Hugo Chávez and former spokesman for Bernie Sanders. As of 2013, Sirota was singing hosannas in Salon about what he described as Venezuela’s “economic miracle.” The next year found him working as an editorial staffer for Pando, a new website intended to be “the site of record for Silicon Valley.” In June 2014, however, Sirota and Ted Rall, the far-left cartoonist (who’d been working for the site for less than a month), were both abruptly dismissed without explanation.

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Friend: Bernie Sanders

By July 2015, Sirota was doing political coverage for the International Business Times – and being criticized for his failure to disclose his ties to Sanders, whom he had described on Twitter as a “friend,” even though many of his contributions to IBT were critical of Sanders’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton. Sirota, wrote one observer, made “little pretense of either accuracy or objectivity.”

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Target: Chris Christie

For example, a report by Sirota claiming that the U.S. Attorney in Newark was investigating then Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie – a claim that was readily picked up by the AP, ABC News, New York Magazine, and the Rachel Maddow Show blog – proved to be without basis. Sirota’s modus operandi, noted the observer, was to “publish an attack on a Republican, centrist or anyone not following the progressive agenda closely enough, and then create an echo chamber, regardless of the facts. Once the story has begun to take hold – in spite of inaccuracy – the damage is done.”

In other words, the fact that Sirota turns out to have been disastrously wrong about chavista economics hasn’t exactly imbued him with humility. Certainly he hasn’t issued any mea culpas for his inane, know-it-all gushing over the Venezuelan “economic miracle.”

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Marian Tupy

But if he’s tried to drop that chapter of his life down the memory hole, others remember. In May, Marian Tupy of the Foundation for Economic Education noted that thanks to the chavista economics that Sirota was applauding so recently, babies are dying in Venezuelan hospitals. Tupy quoted a recent New York Times account:  

By morning, three newborns were already dead. The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward. Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died… The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans.

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A pediatric ER in Venezuela

Tupy didn’t let Sirota go easily. Remembering Sirota’s snide claim, in his 2013 article, that when socialist countries go belly-up, critics of socialism “laugh [it] off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics,” Tupy rejected this “glib” view, stating that his response to the Venezuelan crisis was not laughter:

I do not find dying children laughable. But then, I did not laugh when I read about starving Ukrainians eating their children during Stalin’s Holodomor. I did not laugh when I read of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting infants off their bayonets in communist Cambodia. And I certainly did not laugh when I saw with my own two eyes children reduced to starvation by the Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In fact, there is nothing laughable about the almost incomprehensible degree of suffering that socialism has heaped upon humanity wherever it’s been tried.

As much as I would like to enjoy rubbing Sirota’s nose in his own mind-bending stupidity, I cannot rejoice for I know that Venezuela’s descent into chaos – hyperinflation, empty shops, out-of-control violence and the collapse of basic public services – will not be the last time we hear of a collapsing socialist economy. Looking into the future, it is safe to predict that more countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism “a go.” And, I am equally certain that there will be, to use Lenin’s words, “useful idiots,” like David Sirota, who will sing socialism’s praises until the moment when the last light goes out and time comes for them to move on and find something else to write about.

Amen.

Putin’s Dutch rapper

Today, October 7, Vladimir Putin celebrates his sixty-third birthday. To commemorate this occasion, we’re spending a few days here at Useful Stooges looking at Putin – and at a few of his benighted fans around the world. Today: a hip-hop star from Amsterdam.

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Lil’ Kleine

He won’t turn 21 until later this month, but he’s already become a household name in his native country and raked in a boatload of dough. He’s a Dutch lad who was born Jorik Scholten but who is known professionally as Lil’ Kleine. He’s been acting for ten years; now he’s also a top-flight rapper. He and his musical partner, a 23-year-old who calls himself Ronnie Flex, were responsible for this summer’s #1 hit in the Netherlands, a tribute to booze, narcotics, and hook-up sex entitled “Drank & drugs.” The tune is of zero musical value; the lyrics are witless, reflecting the mentality not of two twenty-somethings but of a couple of rather dim, immature 12-year-olds. Here’s a rough translation of the refrain

If you want to chill, bitch, no problem, I’ll go there

I’m not coming alone, because I’ve got booze and drugs

I’ve got booze and drugs

On August 23, the song went triple platinum. As of the morning of August 30, the startlingly puerile and amateurish-looking You Tube video had racked up 15,726,795 views.

The population of the Netherlands is 16.8 million.

In August, Lil’ Kleine sat for an interview with the daily Het Parool. He talked about a number of subjects: his childhood in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, where he became accustomed to the sight of junkies shooting up and prostitutes plying their wares; his teenage years in another Amsterdam neighborhood, the Jordaan, where he and his brother lived in a one-parent home, his mother having taken off and left them in their father’s care; his early professional ambitions and activities (he trained to be a plumber and worked for a time as a carpenter); accusations that “Drank & drugs,” which includes the line “all the teenagers are saying yes to MDMA” (i.e. ecstasy) encourages kids to take MDMA (he denies the charge, but says that if you’re twenty or so and have your act together, MDMA “will definitely be fun”); Justin Bieber, whose ability to churn out hits he admires (“I could see myself chillin’ with Bieber”); gays (when he was little he found them icky, but now he has plenty of gay friends); money (“getting rich is now simply the most important thing in my life”); and, oh yes, Vladimir Putin.

putin23For Lil’ Kleine, it appears, is a big fan of Putin’s. He doesn’t really know very much about Putin, but then again he’s honest about the reason for this ignorance: “I have no time to follow the news because I’m far too busy with myself.” Still, he feels confident about his esteem for the Russian president: “Everybody always says, like, Putin is so bad and this and that, but I admire him. He defends his country and stands up for his people.” And he takes on “everybody in Europe and America” by “giving them the finger.” Lil’ Kleine likes that. He’d rather have a drink with Putin, he says, than with Obama.

Details from Lil’ Kleine’s interview spread rapidly. Dutch pop-culture websites and social media were saturated with choice tidbits from Het Parool. A few people tut-tutted over Lil’ Kleine’s remarks about Putin. But the overwhelming majority of those who summed up and shared and quoted from and linked to his interview were plainly just excited to discover all this new personal information about their hero.

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With Ronnie Flex

Now, why should any of us non-Lil’ Kleine fans care what he thinks? Because countless young people do. Around the Western world, the opinions of chart-toppers like him are saturating the new media and shaping the minds of innumerable young people who (a) are highly impressionable and (b) know next to nothing about the world. As a result, Lil’ Kleine and his counterparts in other countries are immeasurably more influential than any professional political commentator.

lil_ronnThink about it: on any given evening in the United States, the population of which is about 20 times that of the Netherlands, no political commentator – not Bill O’Reilly, not Rachel Maddow, not Megyn Kelly – gets a fraction of the number of viewers that “Drank & drugs” has gotten. On Sundays, Meet the Press is lucky to reach 3 million people. Lil’ Kleine’s comments about Putin may well have been retweeted more times in the course of a few days than anything anybody else has said or written about Putin in a long time.  

The truth is simple – and bleak: in the Western world today, callow stars like Lil’ Kleine steer the culture. They can endorse any product and it’ll fly off the shelves. They can put their names on a perfume and it’ll sell like hot cakes. In 2008, young Americans thought Barack Obama was the coolest guy on the planet, largely because their showbiz idols told them so. Their vote helped get Obama elected.

(FILES) A file picture taken on July 20,
Members of Pussy Riot behind bars (not the same kind of bar Lil’ Kleine wants to visit with Putin)

But seven years is a long time in youth culture. Now, Lil’ Kleine says that he’d rather go out for a drink with Putin than with Obama. His gay friends, if they’re better informed about Putin’s policies than Lil’ Kleine appears to be, might not want to join that pub crawl. And Lil’ Kleine himself might change his mind about Putin if he learned a little bit more. (We wonder if he’s ever heard of Pussy Riot.) Who knows? If he found out enough, he might even awaken to the realization that he himself is a poster boy for precisely the kind of Western, American-influenced cultural product that Putin considers emblematic of the decay of civilization and thus feels justified in punishing to the fullest extent of whatever law he feels like putting on the books.

But in the meantime, Lil’ Kleine has sent out the word that Putin is cool. And for hundreds of thousands of young Dutch people who know no more about Putin than he does, his thumbs-up makes – like it or not – a great deal of difference.