Tag Archives: Obama

Altruism and Patriotism

You can love something even as you try to change it. You cannot, however, love something that you are trying to change into its opposite. The same applies to the question of whether President Obama genuinely loves America.

Patriotism is a rational attitude toward one’s country—when it deserves to be loved. But to someone living in a nation with a long heritage of authoritarian rule, the proper attitude toward his country is hatred—a hatred of being enslaved, a hatred of being prevented from living his life and achieving his goals. If he tries to change the nature of his country by fighting for freedom, he is being motivated by a love for that which his country is not. He has evaluated it as something bad and he wants to transform it into something good.

According to the code of altruism, however, this evaluation holds true for America.

Altruism demands self-sacrifice. It demands that you surrender your money, your values, your rights for the sake of others. It declares that you have a moral duty to subordinate your interests to the needs of others, and that the state must enforce that duty by taking from the “haves” and giving to the “have-nots.” It demands that the individual be sacrificed to the collective.

And since it does not stand for collectivism, America—according to this philosophy—is an object of opprobrium. After all, the rest of the industrialized world has nationalized health care, yet we still have a private, selfish system. We have severe inequality in incomes—we have an economy that is not fully regulated—we permit greedy corporations to “underpay” their workers—we allow the rich to keep too much of their money—we have an inadequate welfare state—we fail to provide free college education, free child care, free birth control. There is too much self-interest in pursuit of private profit, and not enough self-sacrifice in pursuit of the “public interest click this site.” Under the altruist-collectivist ethics, America should not be loved; it should, instead, be reshaped into something very different.

America was founded on the idea of individual rights—the idea that you have a right to your life, your liberty and the pursuit of your happiness. It was the first nation in history to be established on the principle of freedom, the freedom to live for your own sake without coercion by the state. This principle is what distinguished this country from others. It is what defined American exceptionalism. It is what made America a magnet that drew immigrants, from all over the world, who wanted to live in the land of opportunity—the opportunity to make what they could of their lives by their own efforts, not the opportunity to have the state provide for their needs.

This is what America was and, in its core spirit, still is—and it is what the collectivists seek to quash. “You didn’t build that,” President Obama says scornfully. This country, he believes, must forsake its foundation of independence and its heritage of individual liberty.  Consequently, he embraces a foreign policy under which the citizen is ordered to sacrifice for an international collective, and a domestic policy under which he is ordered to sacrifice for a national collective. He embraces an ethics incompatible with that of a free society.

President Obama may declare that he loves America—but it is an America that, by having abandoned its original principles, has been transformed into its antithesis.♦♦ 

Slanted Journalism

President Obama insistently believes that the danger posed by jihadism is actually the product of some isolated, misguided “extremists,” who simply use Islam to rationalize their actions. He is unwilling to identify their savage crimes as acts of Islamic terrorism.

The major news media also regularly downplay the threat, by slanting the presentation of facts. The latest example is in yesterday’s (Jan. 15, 2015) New York Times. A front-page story discusses the role played by Al Qaeda in last week’s Paris massacres, perpetrated by two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi. Here are the facts about that role, as revealed in this article:

1) Investigators have established that in 2011 one of the brothers went to Yemen, “where he received training and $20,000 from Al Qaeda’s affiliate there.”

2) “In a video and written statement, the Qaeda branch in Yemen on Wednesday formally claimed responsibility for the deadly assault.” The statement was quoted as saying that “the one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization.”

3) “Cherif Kouachi told a French television station [that his trip to Yemen] . . .  was financed by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who oversaw attacks against the West by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP.”

4) “In repeated statements before they were killed by the police, the Kouachi brothers said they had carried out the attack on behalf of the Qaeda branch in Yemen.”

5)   A counter-terrorism researcher in Washington is quoted as saying: “I suspect that Cherif Kouachi did engage AQAP members in Yemen, but that he was not fully brought into the organization. . . . AQAP may have offered minimal training, directed the [Kouachi] group toward publicly announced target lists and sent him on his way.

6) “The attacks appear to illustrate what analysts have described as an evolution in Qaeda tactics and logistics. Because of heightened surveillance, operatives are trained and assigned general targets, but details on how to carry out the operation are no longer micromanaged by the organization.”

What would you conclude from this? Plainly, we have evidence, from the Kouachi bothers and from Al Qaeda, that the killers were trained and financed by Al Qaeda. It would seem self-evident that this is the significant aspect of the story. But no. Sprinkled throughout the piece are the following skeptical interjections (all italics are added by me): 

1) The Qaeda statement “said the target had been chosen by the Qaeda leadership but did not specify which leaders.”

2) “But it is still unclear what specific guidance the Qaeda branch gave to the Kouachis about carrying out an attack.

3)  The counter-terrorism researcher, after suggesting that “AQAP may have offered minimal training . . . and sent him on his way,” said that if so, “AQAP did not exactly direct the attack."

4) And then we have the story’s final paragraph, a quote from a Brookings Institution scholar:  “But the big question that investigators need to look at is: How much of a role did AQAP play in the actual planning in the final stages of this process? . . .  They could have given these guys money and training three or four years ago, but when they executed it, it could have been done with money [from other sources].”

This is the technique of distortion by non-essentialization. It is perfectly appropriate for a journalist to present facts that raise doubts about some assertion. It is not appropriate to raise doubts by means of irrelevant facts.

In a story about the Paris bloodbath, when the world faces the growing danger of Islamic jihadism, the fact that the brothers received training and direction from Al Qaeda is important; the fact that they were “not fully brought into the organization” is not. Evidence that Al Qaeda was behind the event is important; the absence of evidence about a (potentially infinite) number of details, is not. The lack of knowledge about the exact instructions given to the Kouachis is insignificant—and stressing it serves only to make the point misleading. This disingenuous technique can be easily discerned if we look at these two imaginary sentences:

A. “We know that Al Qaeda trained and financed the killers, even though we don’t know their precise instructions.”

B. “We remain ignorant about the nature of Al Qaeda’s role in the carnage, even though there are some things about it we do know.”

Out of context, both sentences appear to be true. Within the relevant context, however, the second sentence is patently deceptive.

Now, the story is bad enough, but the headline—which is contradicted by the contents of the story itself—is even worse: “Disputed Claims Over Qaeda Role” (and the subhead goes even further by adding: “Unclear if Group Planned or Aided Paris Attack”). This conveys the message that we don’t really know whether Al Qaeda was involved. It conveys the message that regardless of the facts that a careful reading of the story would identify, no conclusions should be reached about an organized network of Islamists actively working to threaten our freedom.

And the “cash value” of repeated doses of this type of non-objectivity? The typical, casual reader will become more amenable to the Administration’s view of the problem. He will have a vague sense of uncertainty about the subject, leaving him unresistant to the notion that the threat we face comes from any form of “extremism”–whether practiced by terrorists or by the Tea Party Web Site.♦♦