Ever oppressed, never privileged: Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong

After the New York Times‘s newest editorial board member, Sarah Jeong, was revealed to have sent out hundreds of repellent tweets about white people between 2013 and 2015, leftist commentators rushed to her defense. The editors of her own previous employer, the website The Verge, not only stood up for Jeong but condemned those who dared to call out her bigotry, accusing people of “intentionally [taking]them out of context” and of subjecting poor Sarah to “an unrelenting stream of abuse” online.

In the view of the folks at The Verge, the only guilty parties here were those whose jaws dropped when they read Jeong’s tweets: they’re “dishonest and outrageous”; they’re “trolls”; they’re yet more journalist-haters who are “acting in bad faith” and who have a “malicious agenda.” These horrible people on the right, you see, “take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.” And it distracts terrific journalists like Jeong from their vitally important effort to “report on the most toxic communities on the internet.” This is pretty rich, given that it would be hard to find stuff on the Internet that’s more toxic than Jeong’s own tweets. But of course in the Verge mindset, attacks on other human beings are ugly only if those human beings are members of recognized victim groups.

Jim Hoft

At Fortune, Jeff John Roberts accepted the argument that Jeong’s tweets “amount to irony or barbed humor, not racism.” Humor? Irony? Sorry, no sale. In the Guardian, Sam Wolfson defended Jeong by demonizing Jim Hoft, who first drew attention to her old tweets on his site Gateway Pundit – according to Wolfson, “a far-right blog that often publishes entirely false stories that bolster the Trump administration.” (Lie.) Wolfson approvingly quoted one Ijeoma Oluo’s argument that Jeong was “using humor to get through the white supremacist bullshit this society shovels on WOC [women of color].” Wolfson helpfully added that “Jeong’s tweets arguably form part of a genre of commentary common on Twitter and in mainstream media, from the hit Netflix show Dear White People to the bestselling book Stuff White People Like, which seek to highlight the ways people of color can be excluded by white society.” Exactly how on earth, one wonders, can Jeong, a Berkeley and Harvard Law grad and Times editorial board member, be viewed as an “excluded” individual?

When we googled “Sarah Jeong” and “Times,” the first hit was from Vox, which called Jeong “a venerated tech culture journalist” and “an outspoken progressive and feminist, making her an obvious target for the right-wing internet mobs.” As Vox outlined it, the right was out to get Jeong all along and the tweets were merely a useful weapon. Poppycock. Vox, like the other leftist outlets, rejected the racist label: “To equate ‘being mean to white people’ with the actual systemic oppression and marginalization of minority groups is a false equivalency.” Again, to describe a Harvard grad and Times top dog as oppressed or marginalized is beyond absurd – it’s a postmodern ideological construct that has no connection whatsoever to lived reality.

Stephen Hawking: a brilliant scientist, a flawed man

Stephen Hawking

It was impossible not to be in awe of the British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who, after leading one of the most remarkable lives of the past century, died on March 14 at age 76. Over the course of his decades-long career, Hawking made a long series of earth-shaking discoveries about the nature of the universe; he developed complex and extraordinarily important theories about singularities, black holes, quantum mechanics, and a number of other perplexing aspects of modern science, and he won a long list of major prizes in his field, plus the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, which was presented to him in 2012 by Barack Obama. 

In addition to doing vital scientific work, Hawking was a first-rate and immensely successful popularizer of scientific ideas, writing books like A Brief History of Time (which stayed on the London Times bestseller list for five years after its publication in 1988 and was ultimately translated into more than 35 languages) and giving talks and lectures around the world in which he did his best to explain his complex insights to members of the general public.

The young Hawking

And he did all of this while suffering from one of the most cruelly debilitating disorders known to man, motor neuron disease (also known as amyotropic lateral sclerosis, ALS, and Lou Gehrig’s disease), which caused him to undergo a very public physical deterioration that ultimately resulted in nearly total paralysis. It is impossible to watch the 2014 feature film about his life, The Theory of Everything, in which the young Hawking was played by actor Eddie Redmayne, without feeling extraordinary empathy for Hawking’s suffering and admiration for his courage and tenacity. Expected to die only a few months – or, at most, a couple of years – after his diagnosis at age 21, he ended up defying all expectations, living longer with ALS than anyone ever had before.

With President Obama

Hawking was, in short, an extraordinarily remarkable man in many ways. To quote from President Obama’s comments at the 2012 medal ceremony: “From his wheelchair, he has led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos. In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and showed us the power of the human spirit.” But there is at least one major blot on his memory. As Judy Siegel-Itzkovich wrote after his death in the Jerusalem Post, he “apparently had a love-hate relationship with Israel – the affection from the 1970s until about a decade ago, and the disaffection more recently.” We will look more closely at this lamentable failing on Thursday. 

Admiring the Mitfords

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Tina Brown

In September, veteran editor Tina Brown reviewed The Six, a new joint biography — no, not of the half-dozen famous French composers who went by that collective monicker — but of Britain’s notorious Mitford sisters, some of whom we’ve been discussing this week. Brown wondered:

Why did [Diana] and Unity find the shimmer of totalitarian violence so attractive? Why were they dazzled by the glamour of authoritarianism…? Why were even their milder siblings — placid Pam, brother Tom, and their refined, aloof mother, Sydney — also fascist sympathizers…? Why was Jessica drawn to — or blind to — Stalin’s nominally left-wing brand of murderous tyranny?

These were, of course, sensible questions (even though the bit about Stalin being “nominally left-wing” was an absurd, transparently feeble effort by the left-wing Brown to delink Stalin from “the left”). But they were followed by an utterly outrageous question: “So which of ‘The Six’ does one come to admire?”

Admire?

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Hadley Freeman

Brown isn’t alone in thinking that there’s actually something worth admiring about these women. Alas, any number of biographers, memoirists, and others have spoken of the Mitfords in similar terms. One of them is Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman. Two years ago, she confessed to her own intense admiration for the Mitfords – and further confessed that she was uneasy about feeling such a powerful fondness for them.

Why was Freeman uneasy? Because Jessica was a Stalinist and the others were Nazis (or at least Nazi sympathizers to some degree or other)? No. Freeman was uneasy because she was worried that admiring the Mitfords is “seen as something girlish, shallow and immature, like having an over-developed fondness for ponies, or wanting to be a ballerina.”

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The Mitford family

Freeman went on – and if you’re reading this standing up, please sit down:

As a middle-class American – and Jewish, to boot – I should be repulsed by the Mitfords. That I’m not is because they collectively represent something much greater than their (fascinating) biographical details….To me, and I suspect to a lot of other women (for it is mainly women) whom they fascinate, they remain an exciting reminder of a woman’s ability to shape her own life, for better or worse, uncowed by familial and social expectations and restrictions.

Yes, you read that right: the ultimate lesson of the Mitfords’ lives – the lives, that is, of these slavish, foolish, pathetic acolytes of Hitler and Stalin – is all about female empowerment.

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Nancy Mitford

Freeman continued: “Decca went from being a pampered, uneducated aristocratic child to a fierce civil rights campaigner in the US.” Well, yes, Jessica (Decca) did involve herself in the U.S. civil-rights movement – but she did so because she, like her Kremlin masters, saw CPUSA participation in that movement as advancing the larger cause of spreading Communism in the Western world. As for Diana, wrote Freeman, she “remained unapologetically devoted” to her husband Oswald Mosley “to the day he died.” Yes, Diana loved her husband, the most dangerous Fascist in British history – and she also kept praising Adolf Hitler until the day she died. Nancy? She “lived a somewhat lonely life in Paris, writing novels.” Hoffman delicately omits to mention Unity, presumably because Unity’s devotion to Adolf Hitler was so fanatical that even Hoffman can’t find a way to prettify it.

“How many of us,” Hoffman asked, after offering up these perverse thumbnail portraits,

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Unity Mitford with Hitler

can say that we pursued such individualistic lives, utterly unshaped by our parents and unlike our siblings?….it might sound odd to say this about a family spiced with such bitter ingredients as Hitler and loss, but what the Mitford sisters represent is courage and freedom.

Hoffman was right about one thing: yep, this did sound odd. More than odd.

mitford_1441145cFor this was, in fact, a family of sisters who hated freedom, and made no secret of it. Indeed, if Unity, Diana, and Jessica hadn’t made so much noise about their hatred of freedom and love of totalitarianism, chances are they’d hardly be remembered today. Yes, the West’s twentieth-century struggle to defend liberty against the scourges of Nazism and Communism yielded up a great many examples of remarkable courage in the cause of freedom: the rows of grave in military cemeteries across Europe testify to that. To use these same words to sum up the lives of the vile Mitford maidens is, it must be said, nothing less than obscene.

Arthur Miller’s crucible

Yesterday we started exploring the life and career of the late playwright Arthur Miller, who continues to be viewed by mainstream American cultural commentators as a pillar of principle – and who, since his death in 2005, has been shown to have been an active Communist.

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Arthur Miller in 1966

Indeed, historian Ron Capshaw has shown that Miller, even after becoming a famous writer, was careful to alter his political views in accordance with changes in Party orthodoxy. To sum up these changes briefly: during the 1930s, the CPUSA rejected all non-proletarian literature (i.e., literature that did not center thematically on the oppression of the workingman by the capitalist system); in 1944, under Earl Browder, the Party became more tolerant, accepting certain kind of non-proletarian writing as legitimate; a year later, however, after Browder was replaced as head of the Party by William Foster, “Browderism” became heresy. Through all these shifts in policy, Miller kept one finger firmly in the wind, dutifully reflecting the pronouncements of the Party bosses in his plays and other writings.

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Later, he would write The Crucible as an outraged reaction to the execution for treason of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, whose crime was nothing less than having helped pass the secrets of the atom bomb to the Kremlin. What’s interesting is that while he opposed the Rosenbergs’ execution, in 1949, participating in a New Masses symposium, he expressed the opinion that the American poet Ezra Pound, who had lived in Italy during the war and delivered crackpot radio speeches in support of Mussolini, should be shot. In short, while Miller viewed fascist treason as a capital crime, then, he did not see Communist treason in the same way.

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The original 1953 production of The Crucible

For Miller, indeed, Communism was no treason at all. In a 1996 article in The New Yorker, he explained that he had written The Crucible because he recognized certain experiences as universal: just as people in colonial Salem had turned the other way when their neighbors were arrested for witchcraft, and gentiles in Nazi Germany had turned away when their Jewish neighbors had been arted off to Auschwitz, so in the 1950s “the old friend of a blacklisted person” could be seen “crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him.”

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Senator Joseph McCarthy

Note that Miller here equated Communists not with Nazis but with the Jewish victims of Nazis; the Nazis he equated with Joe McCarthy and HUAC. Four years later, writing in the Guardian, he revisited his reasons for writing The Crucible, this time ridiculing the belief, during the late 1940s and early 1950s, “that a massive, profoundly organized conspiracy was in place and carried forward mainly by a concealed phalanx of intellectuals, including labor activists, teachers, professionals, sworn to undermine the American government.”

Miller treats this “belief” as an absurdity. On the contrary, the existence in midcentury America of a large-scale intellectual conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government is an irrefutable historical fact. Indeed, it is a fact that has become increasingly well substantiated in recent years as more and more incriminating documents from the Soviet archives have come to light.

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Nine of the Hollywood Ten

And this fact, as has often been noted, points to the central problem with The Crucible and its supposed relevance to what (thanks to Miller) came to be called the anti-Communist “witch hunt”: in seventeenth-century Salem, there were no witches; in mid twentieth-century America, there was an underground network of would-be Communist revolutionaries, and Miller was an active member of it. The executed “witches” of Salem were innocent victims; the Rosenbergs were anything but innocent, and neither were the Hollywood Ten, all of whom have been shown to be card-carrying Communists. And neither was Miller himself.

(Another failed parallel should also perhaps be pointed out: while the Salem “witches” were put to death, the Communists that HUAC and McCarthy uncovered were deprived of work by the Hollywood studios for a few years, with a few being jailed very briefly for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents. Whether or not one considers their questioning by Congress or their punishment by the studios to have been just, the fact is that most of them were extremely well-off people who did not suffer materially for having been found out as Communists.) 

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Inge Morath

Yesterday, we began our brief look at Arthur Miller by noting his image as a man of profound social conscience. One closing detail. Miller and his third wife, photographer Inge Morath, had a son, Daniel, who was born with Down’s syndrome in 1966. Inge wanted to keep the baby, but at Miller’s insistence he was put away in an institution near their home, which, according to one former employee, “was not a place you would want your dog to live.” Inge visited Daniel weekly; Miller never saw him – not once. He refused to talk about Daniel, and in his autobiography, Timebends, which came out in 1987 (by which time Daniel had moved into a group home), Miller dropped the boy entirely down the memory hole. Still later, apparently under pressure from his son-in-law, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Miller agreed to meet his son, who by then was doing very well and living on his own. But when Inge died, Miller told the Times obituarist that they had only one child together, their daughter, Rebecca. This from a man whose most admired play, Death of a Salesman, concludes with a famous speech in which a character, speaking at the grave of Willy Loman, passionately insists that “attention must be paid” to the life of even such an apparently insignificant person as this just-deceased salesman.

Such, then, was the moral hypocrisy of Arthur Miller – whose private morality could not have been more thoroughly inconsistent with his glorious public image as a world-class bulwark of social conscience.

Baader-Meinhof: The Stasi connection

The Baader-Meinhof Group, otherwise known as the Red Army Faction (RAF), represented itself as a small, independent group of heroes taking on not only West Germany but the entire American Empire. In fact – as has been increasingly well documented in the years since the fall of the Iron Curtain – they were far from independent.

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1981: bombing of Ramstein AF Base

After German reunification in 1990, massive East German archives were opened and discoveries began to be made. One of those discoveries, made in 1991, was that a 1981 RAF attack on a U.S. Army base, which included a failed attempt to kill U.S. General Frederick Kroesen, commander of American forces in Europe, was in fact a joint operation with Stasi, East Germany’s brutal secret police. Stasi officers, it turned out, had trained RAF members to use anti-tank grenades and had also supplied them with the grenades. Later information showed that the Stasi also trained RAF members responsible for the 1981 bombing of the U.S. air base at Ramstein, which wounded 17 people.

These revelations severely damaged the RAF’s reputation among its many West German fans. But they were just the beginning.

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Bettina Röhl

As we noted yesterday, one of Ulrike Meinhof‘s daughters, Bettina Röhl, went on to become a journalist herself – and a fierce critic of the RAF. Röhl, who was ten years old when Meinhof was captured and incarcerated, and fourteen when she committed suicide in prison, published a book in 2006 about the RAF that was sardonically entitled Making Communism Fun.

Among Röhl’s revelations, based on archival research, was that konkret, the far-left magazine that was published by her father and edited by her mother, was for many years wholly financed and directly controlled by the East German government. Far from being a free voice of dissent, in other words, it was, at least in the early 1960s, an out-and-out East German propaganda organ, and Röhl’s father was, in Bettina’s own words, a bought-and-paid-for “useful idiot” who accepted 40,000 deutsche marks per issue for following the Honecker regime’s orders. Later, Röhl was able to document the regular transfer of funds from the East German government to the RAF.

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1967: death of Benno Ohnesorg

In 2009, further archival studies forced a total rewrite of the event originally cited by the RAF as having triggered its founding. In 1967, the shooting by a police officer of university student Benno Ohnesorg at a demonstration against the visiting Shah of Iran outside the opera house in West Berlin had solidified young West German leftists’ hostility toward their government – and had intensified their belief that things were better on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The 2009 revelations, however, showed that Karl-Heinz Kurras, the cop who killed Ohnesorg, was in fact a Stasi spy and a member of the East German Communist Party. There’s no definitive evidence as to motive, but as at least one observer has pointed out, the likely reason for Ohnesorg’s murder is that “Kurras on his own or under orders from the Stasi decided to give the left wing a matryr to mobilize them.”

ARCHIV: Der angeklagte Rechtsextremist Horst Mahler wartet vor dem Landgericht Muenchen (Bayern) auf den Beginn seines Prozesses wegen Volksverhetzung (Foto vom 12.01.09). Der Rechtsextremist und fruehere NPD-Anwalt Horst Mahler ist vom Landgericht Muenchen wegen Volksverhetzung zu einer sechsjaehrigen Haftstrafe verurteilt worden. Der Vorsitzende Richter Martin Rieder begruendete am Mittwoch (25.02.09) das hohe Strafmass damit, dass der Angeklagte "voellig uneinsichtig und unbelehrbar" sei. Zudem koenne das umfangreiche Gestaendnis Mahlers zu Beginn der Verhandlung nicht strafmildernd gewertet werden, da er keinerlei Reue erkennen lasse. Zu seinen Gunsten koenne lediglich das Alter des 73-Jaehrigen angefuehrt werden. "Der Angeklagte ist sogar stolz auf seine Taten", sagte Rieder. (zu ddp-Text) Foto: Joerg Koch/ddp
Horst Mahler

In 2011, the Guardian reported that Horst Mahler, one of the RAF’s founders, had reportedly been a paid Stasi informant until 1970. (By the way, in what may be regarded as a reflection of the ideological confusions that marked most of the RAF’s high-profile members, Mahler later became a neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier.)

Over the years, the picture has come ever more sharply into focus – and the role of the Stasi in the story of RAF has loomed larger and larger. It was, for example, the Stasi that smuggled RAF leaders Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader back into West Berlin after they’d spent some time laying low in France and Italy, waiting for things to cool down back home.

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A wanted poster showing RAF members

The Stasi’s involvement grew with the rise of the so-called second and third generation of the RAF, who came to the fore after the first generation were sent to prison (and the top names committed suicide). Thanks to Stasi training, this new wave of RAF members were able to carry out more professional-quality acts of terrorism. Many of these later RAF members eventually retired in East Germany, where they were given new identities and rewarded with lifestyles that ordinary East Germans could only dream about – only to be arrested, tried, and imprisoned after German reunification.

In short, it’s clear by now that the RAF was, when you come right down to it, a Stasi operation. But this aspect of the RAF story is still often overlooked – for example, in the 2008 German movie The Baader Meinhof Complex. We’ll get around to the movie tomorrow.

Exit Rousseff

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Dilma Rousseff

Well, it’s over. On Wednesday, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office.

Back in January, we wrote about the increasing calls for Rousseff’s impeachment by ordinary Brazilians who had lost faith in her government’s disastrous socialist policies, who were disgusted by the massive scandal surrounding the government oil firm, Petrobras, and who – bottom line – were determined not to let her turn their country into another Venezuela.

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Olavo de Carvalho

Brazilians, commented Romanian-American political scientist Vladimir Tismaneanu, were turning out to be less susceptible to utopian promises than their neighbors in Venezuelan and Argentina. Philosopher Olavo de Carvalho observed that Brazilians weren’t just rejecting Rousseff – they were rejecting “the whole system of power that has been created by the Workers’ Party, which includes intellectuals and opinion-makers in the big media.”

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Dilma the terrorist: a mug shot

Today, on the other side of the Brexit vote and the GOP’s nomination of Donald Trump, it’s hard not to wonder whether the grassroots Brazilian effort to oust Rousseff is part of a spreading global thumbs-down for corrupt, supercilious socialist elites. If so, good show. 

As it happens, we spent that whole week in January on Rousseff, recounting her beginnings as a rich girl who joined a revolutionary terrorist group called COLINA; her entry into politics (a career in which, from the outset, she distinguished herself by her combination of administrative incompetence and genius for making and exploiting connections); and, finally, her increasingly disastrous tenure as president, capped by the Petrobras scandal, described by the Wall Street Journal as “the biggest corruption case ever in a country with a long history of scandals.”

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Kim Kataguiri addressing an anti-Rousseff rally

We also profiled one of the leaders of the anti-Rousseff movement, 20-year-old Kim Kataguiri, whose activism was spurred when one of his college teachers praised the socialist policies of the ruling Worker’s Party. Kataguiri responded by making a series of You Tube videos promoting free-market capitalism and founding the Free Brazil Movement, which has grown like kudzu.

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Rousseff with Lula

In March, we noted the arrest of a Rousseff sidekick, the imprisonment of two more of her cronies, and the resignation of her justice minister; in April, we reported on a government raid on the home of former president – and fallen saint – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (We also noted Rousseff’s unsuccessful, and patently ludicrous, attempt to shield him from prosecution by naming him as her chief of staff.) Not long after, we reported that Marcelo Odebrecht, the CEO of Brazil’s biggest construction firm – and, naturally, a close associate of Rousseff’s – had sentenced to 19 years for bribing authorities in connection with Petrobras contracts.

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Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda

Later in April, we learned that notorious journalist Glenn Greenwald (of Edward Snowden scandal fame) and his husband, David Miranda, were on Team Rousseff, with Miranda signing his name to a Guardian op-ed accusing Rousseff’s opponents of seeking to engineer (what else?) a “right-wing coup.” In a July profile of callow, reliably far-left Salon columnist Ben Norton, we pointed out that he’d used the same exact words as Miranda, calling Rousseff the victim of a would-be “right-wing coup.”

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Evo Morales

And now – well – here we are. She’s out. Congratulations to the people of Brazil. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean an instant turnaround for their country –that’ll take serious, comprehensive reform – but it’s a necessary start. 

Oh, and then there’s this news. In reaction to the “right-wing coup” in Brasilia, three of Rousseff’s fellow socialist economy-destroyers – Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, and Evo Morales of Bolivia – all recalled their ambassadors. Well, birds of a feather and all that. Let’s hope their days in power are numbered, too.

Owen Jones: covering for Islam

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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.

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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:

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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

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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.”

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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.”

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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: Britain’s answer to Ben Norton

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This is Norton

Recently we spent several days getting acquainted with Ben Norton, a baby-faced American whose callow, knee-jerk-leftist pieces for Salon and elsewhere have caused him, inexplicably, to be taken seriously as commentator on world events. He is a walking poster boy for unthinking ideological conformity: he hates his own country, he despises Israel, he’s been a consistent apologist for chavismo in Venezuela, for the Kirchners in Argentina, and for Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and he’s a staunch defender of the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islam generally.

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This is Jones

You could be excused for getting Norton confused with the equally boyish-looking Owen Jones, who is currently a columnist for the Guardian. Jones used to write a column for The Independent, and has also contributed to the New Statesman, Mirror, and other leftist outlets. Like Norton, he’s also a fixture on political TV programs. The main difference between these two lads is that Jones is British. Otherwise they’re both singing almost exactly the same tune: anti-American, anti-Israeli, pro-all those Latin American socialists, and, last but far from least, pro-Islam.

Jones, an Oxford grad, has a far-left pedigree: his grandfather was a member of the British Communist Party, and his parents met as members of a Trotskyite group. So he’s not exactly a rebel; he’s just gone into the family business. At 31 (though he could pass for a high-school student), he’s already written two books: Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (2011), which made his name and resulted in his gig at The Independent, and The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It (2014). His rise, like Norton’s, has been lightning-swift: in 2013, The Telegraph named him the seventh most influential member of the British left.

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His masterpiece

What has he done to earn all this attention? As with Norton, one is compelled to conclude that he’s become a welcome voice in the pages of the left-wing press and on the politically oriented chat shows because, first, his views are entirely predictable and thus perfectly suitable for the crude this-side-vs.-that-side mentality that governs much of the legacy media and, second, he’s young and cute and lively, a creature of the social-media age whom the powers that be at geriatric media organs like the Guardian, the Beeb, and Sky News think will help improve their sickly readership/viewership numbers among members of his generation.

Certainly he hasn’t brought any fresh thinking to the table. “Modern capitalism is a sham,” he has written, and “democratic socialism is our only hope.” He has made this same statement over and over again, using somewhat different words each time, in innumerable pieces and media appearances.

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Sadiq Khan

As for the Islam issue, Jones, like Norton, is less interested in writing about cases of mass slaughter by jihadists than about incidents in which, say, some non-Muslim is alleged to have pulled a hijab off of a woman’s head or to have yelled some naughty word at her on the street. Indeed, his standard response to those giant terrorist attacks is to wring his hands about anti-Muslim backlash. Last November, he wrote that “in the US Muslims have to endure growing threats of violence and abuse.” He routinely spreads disinformation about Islam (“the Qur’an forbids the killing of innocent people”). This spring, he vocally championed the successful candidacy of Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, for mayor of London, despite Khan’s ties to a radical imam and Islamic State supporter. (Khan, who has supported the “right” of women in the UK to wear full burkas, has already ordered a sharia-like ban on images of “indecently” clad women on public transport and refused  to ban Hezbollah from London.)

What about that little above-mentioned detail about his own personal life – namely, the fact that he’s gay, and would therefore automatically be imprisoned, tortured, or executed in Islamic countries? We’ll get to that tomorrow.

John Pilger’s “great game”

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John Pilger

How better to introduce John Pilger than to quote from a notorious piece he published in The Guardian in July of 2002? The piece in question, we hasten to point out, isn’t much more appalling that many of the other things he’s written during his more than half-century-long career. But it certainly is representative, and it spells out his worldview with considerable – and disgusting – clarity.

“It is 10 months since 11 September,” he wrote

and still the great charade plays on. Having appropriated our shocked response to that momentous day, the rulers of the world have since ground our language into a paean of cliches and lies about the ‘war on terrorism’ – when the most enduring menace, and source of terror, is them….There is no war on terrorism; it is the great game speeded up. The difference is the rampant nature of the superpower, ensuring infinite dangers for us all.

Those sentences pretty much sum up Pilger’s worldview. Everything that happens in the world can be explained by a single, overarching, black-and-white narrative: the West, with the U.S. at its helm, is an evil force, poisoned by cutthroat capitalism, bloodthirsty imperialism, and an abiding illusion of freedom (Pilger refers to America and its allies as “societies that call themselves free”) and motivated by an unflagging lust to overpower and control the rest of the planet.

johnpilgerThis is the aforementioned “great game.” Every non-Western nation is a victim of this game; every non-Western people is virtuous; every non-Western culture is superior to the West.

All the tensions in the Middle East, therefore, are the fault of Israel, which is nothing more or less than a terrorist outpost of the West, run by the likes of “supreme terrorist Ariel Sharon.” (“[T]he Zionist state,” Pilger has written, “remains the cause of more regional grievance and sheer terror than all the Muslim states combined.”) Hamas, Hezbollah, all of them, are only reactive forces, lashing out in defensive response to the West’s vicious assaults.

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With Hugo Chavez

In the same way, Castro is a hero, and Cuban freedom fighters are terrorists. Today’s Japan is “very ultra-nationalist…the kind of Israel of Asia, for the United States,” while today’s Communist China is an innocuous country that seeks only to develop its economy without Western interference. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua were saints; their opponents were demons. When it comes to sheer wickedness, the worst Taliban fanatics, in Pilger’s view, have nothing on “the Christian Right fundamentalists running the plutocracy in Washington.” Ukraine’s 2014 democratic revolution was “Washington’s putsch in Kiev,” and it turned Ukraine “into a CIA theme park right next to Russia.”

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Ho Chi Minh

On and on it goes. Ho Chi Minh was a good guy; the U.S. waged the Vietnam War not just against North Vietnam but against all of Vietnam, “north and south, communist and non-communist.” (No mention, of course, of Ho’s epic brutality, of the pernicious role of China, or of the dark reality of Communism in postwar Vietnam.)

Even Osama bin Laden himself was not so horrible compared to the real bad guys: “Al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan,” wrote Pilger, “were kindergartens compared with the world’s leading university of terrorism at Fort Benning in Georgia.” Yes, he actually wrote that. All too often, his stuff reads like some kind of parody of knee-jerk anti-Americanism. 

Who is this clown? We’ll dig deeper tomorrow.