During his sycophantic conversation with President Barack Obama, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias poses a “question” that I imagine reflects the opinion of many on the Left these days: “Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?”
Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.
The president, in his own peripatetic way, ends up concurring with Yglesias’ appraisal of the world. Terrorism, the violent arm of a religious movement that threatens innocent lives and liberal ideals on every continent and people of every faith (including other Muslims), is entirely overblown when compared to a slight variation in the climate or some highly debatable assumptions about the future of human progress.
And, as you all know, there is a dearth of chilling stories about climate change in the media.
At least Obama was kind enough to acknowledge that Americans had some reason to be concerned about “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks.” As it turns out, these random people who got themselves shot in a “deli” in Paris happen to have been Jewish. The random people getting themselves shot at a satirical newspaper happened to have mocked Mohammad. And those 10 random people who were murdered and had their churches burned down by mobs in Niger last week, well they happened to be Christian folks.
It’s likely that all these victims would – with astonishing precision – be able to pinpoint both the religious affiliation and rationale of those responsible for their deaths. President Obama refuses to do the same. For the president, acknowledging who the victims of Islamic terrorism are means acknowledging the motives that drive it. Recognizing what drives a terrorist undermines the progressive theory that says this movement is merely a byproduct of shiftlessness, criminality and poverty rather than a movement driven by faith and political goals.
Gone are the days when were allowed to make (appropriate) distinctions between peaceful and radical Islam. Now we’re supposed to accept that these string of events are executed by aimless zealots, detached from any tradition or faith. Random. We are supposed to believe that this problem can be dealt with, as the president notes, in “the same way a big city mayor’s got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive.”
Dealing with political Islam is just like getting rid of graffiti and waiting for gentrification. You know, if only Saudi Arabia had a few extra bucks laying around, we’d rid the world of all of these delinquents.
For Jews, there is another reality that wishful thinking can’t change. According to Pew, there is rampant anti-Semitism in the Islamic world. Not only among radical factions, but everywhere. In moderate Jordan, 97 percent of the folks unfavorable view of Jews (not Zionists, Jews). The ADL found that 74 percent of the folks surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa had anti-Semitic attitudes. The number was 24 percent in Western Europe and 34 percent in Eastern Europe. Not all of this aversion to Jews is equality vitriolic or dangerous, of course. But it is undeniable that in Europe there is increasing violence, and much of it comes from Muslims.
All of which makes Obama’s politically correct construing of events even more disturbing.
Put it this way: the president is more inclined to call out Christian crimes against the Rhineland Jews of 1096 than Islamic crimes against Jews today. He’d rather dissemble for the sake of political correctness, using heavy-handed historical comparisons that aren’t only irrelevant to contemporary discussions about religious violence, but a stretch even if we discussed them in the context of history.
It should go without saying that Americans deserve a more accurate conversation about the threats they face. Maintaining precision of language throughout a long interview is probably tough. So I imagine Obama’s liberal use of “folks” wasn’t meant in a dismiss way. I don’t believe he has a problem with Jews – though, as Jonathan Tobin puts it, he sure has a blind spot. And his contention that terrorism isn’t tied to any specific religion comports well with things he’s said before. There was little chance the president would say the words “Islamic terrorists” – actually, “Islam” doesn’t make an appearance at all– to strip the conversation of a reality. But there was nothing “random” or senseless about these events. The message was sent. It’s why French soldiers have to stand outside synagogues and satirical newspapers today.
It’s also why, incidentally, a random bunch of folks with a nuclear weapon might make the Jews even more nervous.
Update: In case anyone was under the impression that the Obama had misspoken: