October 16, 2009

Patterns of Dictatorship

I am amazed all over again every time I meet a Westerner in Lebanon who admires Hezbollah or gets defensive on its behalf. Last time I visited Beirut I ran into an American journalist who said Hezbollah "is trying to raise awareness of Global Warming. Don't you think that's interesting?"

No, I don't think it's "interesting," and my Lebanese friends found that journalist's question contemptible.

My first reaction when I meet people like this is that, as Westerners, they ought to know better. Then I read articles like Patterns of Dictatorship by Ana Maria Luca in NOW Lebanon, and I reconsider my initial reaction to thick Westerners. Luca lives in Beirut, and she grew up in Nicolae Ceauşescu's Romania. As far as she is concerned, the differences between Hezbollah and the dictatorship of her youth are just details.

Eastern Europeans, rather than Americans and Western Europeans, are really the ones who ought to know better. And they generally do. They have real world experience with totalitarian politics, and they seem a lot less likely, as a result, to think a terrorist like Hassan Nasrallah is some kind of misguided liberal.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 16, 2009 1:39 PM
Comments

Well said. Westerners do and will find it difficult to know better as we are ill-served by global media which does not know better. Best example is the BBC.

Posted by: Rob Schneider Author Profile Page at October 17, 2009 1:01 AM

You were among many web sites I read while looking for some real reportage on issues of War and the Mid East after 911. Struck me as a snot nosed liberally educated kid that wanted to be a journalist. You are now on my mainframe as a go to guy when I want to find some Truth about the situation. When your well defined boxed view of the world didn't fit, you tossed it out. This is a high calling, son. While your observations will be referred to in years to come, those drive-by adventurists will be wondering where life passed them by. I've taken a hiatus from watching events over there, if only that it makes my head hurt. But our kids are once again dying as Evil and Stupidity take center stage. I think it a wise move to ask Eastern Europeans for direction. As you say, they've done there, been that. How's the finances, by the way?

Posted by: JohnJimson Author Profile Page at October 17, 2009 5:59 AM

Michael,
Hitler is supposed to have a vegetarian. Did that mean that he was against killing human beings?

If Hitler were still around he too would probably take a principled position against global warming.

Just how stupid and ignorant can journalists be?

Posted by: Eliyahu Author Profile Page at October 17, 2009 11:12 AM

correction:

Hitler is supposed to have BEEN a vegetarian.

Posted by: Eliyahu Author Profile Page at October 17, 2009 11:13 AM

Very very well said... the stamp of extremism (and you find a wealth of examples among "liberals") is their selective hearing... That's the only way I can explain Western self-proclaimed liberals who support radical Islamic groups like Hezbollah. Can you imagine the same journalist supporting an American political group that called itself "the party of God?"
Somehow these groups who censor free speech, crush dissent with the threat of violence, execute homosexuals summarily and systematically deprive women of any educational opportunities that may result in their ability to live independently are freedom fighters in the mind of the "liberal"? I agree. It is not interesting that Hezbollah is trying to raise awareness about global warning. As an Israeli, the only really interesting thing they are doing is smuggling in rockets that can hit my house.

Posted by: tagrafiti Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 12:40 AM

Even speaking as a conservative - in contrast to Michael's self professed and demonstrated liberal bent - I personally think it's a mistake to attribute misapprehensions such as the one uttered by that moronic reporter as being due to "liberalism". Rather, it appears to be a combination of ignorance, romanticism for the ones who "rebel" against whatever power structure is being rebelled against (circular definition, true, but if you think about it, that's exactly what the mentality is), an unconscious and conceited notion of what's right for the world, and a purely fantastic and superficial, possibly even spurious connection between two issues the journalist views positively.

Note that none of that would be based in actual comprehension of what Hezbollah actually is. And that is what's sad about this cannonization of that group of gansters.

Anyway, every time I'm tempted to write such ignorance off to liberal politics in this day and age, someone like Michael here comes along and reminds me that it's ignorance, not political leaning, that empowers the Hezbollah's of this world. I'd think that a true liberal, as well as conservatives such as myself, already reside on common ground on the issue of radical, extremist political groups. Bottom line: Sentiments linking Hezbollah with environmentalism is far more due to ignorance and idiocy than anything else.

Posted by: ElMondo Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 11:05 AM

Seeing kids here in San Francisco wearing Che Guevara buttons makes me wonder what a conversation with Cubans who risked their lives to come to America would do to their revolutionary spirit. Belief from a safe distance, rooted in strong emotion, can feel so comfortable and takes so much less effort than critical thought, it can be an easy sell, particularly when shared---until reality comes crashing through the door with contrary facts. "Complacency kills" shows up on walls in Iraq, not Beverly Hills.

Nourishing an appreciation for critical thinking's benefits is crucial, otherwise the uninformed (and, therefore, unprepared) are ripe for conquest. And the more power they've been given, the broader the range of consequences for others.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 3:19 PM

and a purely fantastic and superficial, possibly even spurious connection between two issues the journalist views positively.

It seems to me like this is an assumption built into the story, not to mention Mike's anecdote.

Sure, it's interesting that Hizballah is against global warming. Just like it's interesting if they developed a taste for yodeling or balloon animals. Why wouldn't it be interesting? I would find it odd if Al-Quieda developed an intense interest in recycling, for the same reason - it's not obviously related to their core mission or self-conceived purpose.

Sure, it's probably propaganda, but why not go the other way and declare global warming a voodoo hoax being forced on developing nations by evil western imperial powers to make sure that they never achieve parity? That's what I find to be the more typical anti-west organizational stance.

So, it's interesting, but it doesn't really affect the facts about Hizballah's various terrible deeds.

So, what's the problem? It's not like your journalist was quoted saying, "Hmmm, interesting that Hizballah is interested in global warming. I think that this proves they're just a bunch of idealistic do-gooders out to heal the world! Don't you?"

As far as she is concerned, the differences between Hezbollah and the dictatorship of her youth are just details.

FWIW, Romania was hell on the environment in its time in power, as I understand it. For all I know, in the daniyeh, Hizballah is running the most eco-friendly authoritarian movement on earth. That's good for the environment, and still crappy for Lebanese governance, civil and political rights, everyday human security, etc.

It should be enough to accept the facts about what our allies, enemies, rivals, and indifferents are, even if those convey contradictions. That's life! Who am I offending by making conversation about it? If Robert Mugabe has made a miraculous record of rescuing puppies in Equitorial Guinea while running a reign of terror in his home country, do I have to never speak of one or the other of these things?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 8:13 PM

So, what's the problem? It's not like your journalist was quoted saying, "Hmmm, interesting that Hizballah is interested in global warming. I think that this proves they're just a bunch of idealistic do-gooders out to heal the world! Don't you?"

I think the problem is that the journalist was looking for altruism in a terrorist group. If that wasn't enough of a problem, he also seems to want to plant that line of thought in others. It's really not much different than journalists who talk about the humanitarian programs of terror groups... and talk about them as if they are proof of a group's good intentions, rather than an example of shallow old school populism.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 9:28 PM

I'm amused by the notion that "raising awareness of global warming" counts as "altruism".

"See, Hezbollah isn't a power-mad cult trying to place itself at the head of a global religion full of credulous followers - it's more like Al Gore."

Posted by: bgates Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 9:42 PM

So Hezbollah is "interested" in global warming. Big whoop. Are we supposed to give them some kind of credibility for that? That would be like going easy on an abusive husband because he wasn't abusive on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Posted by: gus3 Author Profile Page at October 18, 2009 10:53 PM

Supposedly Napoleon converted to Islam when he went to Egypt. Regardless of his actual following of the five pillars, apparently the story got him excellent play amongst the Barbary Pirates for years.

Environmentalism in general and Global Warming in particular are increasingly a phenomenon indistinguishable from religious fanaticism. It does not surprise me that ostensibly intelligent people are willing to suspend their disbelief and higher reasoning in favor of the trappings of religious conformance. If Hezbollah denounces Global Warming (or Climate Change as the environmental mullahs declare it now), who cares that they murder innocents, subvert democracy, and brutalize women. We are talking about saving the planet and nothing can be more important than that!

Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but environmentalism is fast becoming the homeland of the fraudulent radical.

And the best part is, there's no expectation that Gaia will ever save us from her followers!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at October 19, 2009 7:02 AM

As Michael Yon expressed today in National Review: "The Coalition in Afghanistan is largely comprised of nations that have suffered greatly in recent times. They get it."

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at October 19, 2009 12:15 PM

there are two forms of Totalitarian societies.
first the Totalitarian societies with poor marketing and public relations and limited access to international media and the other kind have a lots of good public relations and a big access to media and marketing tools.

If anyone person or group or country tries to stand and face the American hegemony they are labeled as terrorists or as a "threat" to the civilized world.

yes they are a threat but not to the civilized world they are a threat to the hegemony and the totalitarian view of the one system that we must all follow or else we would be the evils,

sorry but we are not.

Posted by: akram sabra Author Profile Page at October 20, 2009 6:01 AM

"If anyone person or group or country tries to stand and face the American hegemony they are labeled as terrorists or as a "threat" to the civilized world."

It is just such a pity that the "standing up" is always violent and usually directed at kindergardens, mosques, market places and other targets like that.

Makes it difficult to remember that those "standing up" are not a threat to the civilised world.

(I hear the "Iraqi resistance" has blown up another market place in Kirkuk a few weeks ago? That'll show the Americans how civilised their enemy is!)

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at October 20, 2009 6:28 AM

Leauki, let's not forget the university cafeteria bombing in Pakistan. Sure... there's much American hegemony to be found where people dine, right?

Akram: Yes. If you apologize, legitimize, and enable the evildoers who talk of freedom but resort to killing innocents like university students in cafeterias, then yes, you are the evil.

Posted by: ElMondo Author Profile Page at October 20, 2009 12:01 PM

In our world, there is a constant struggle between lightness and darkness so to speak. Sadly, it is not always certain that lightness will prevail, even though many of us have taken it for granted that it will.

Posted by: lebanonfirst Author Profile Page at October 20, 2009 2:30 PM

"there are two forms of Totalitarian societies."

What would have happened to someone who threw a shoe at Saddam Hussein, buddarini?

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at October 20, 2009 9:49 PM

I'm more curious what will happen if somebody throws a shoe at Obama.

Posted by: Ted S., Catskills, NY Author Profile Page at October 21, 2009 6:51 AM

ElMondo,

first i am not a muslim, maybe to your disappointment, i am a christian living in lebanon.

i did not talk about people killing people in general, you took me very far away to pakistan and some other guy talked about throwing shoes.

the articel was written about lebanese people who muslim, i dont advocate terrorism, what i want to is to try to define terrorism this very big word.

It has become very easy to call someone terrorist, you called me "evil" without knowing who i am , but just becasue i am from a certain country and calling to defend or just to analyse the word terrorism.

who gave you the permission to call me evil or terrorist.

if someone comes to your house to steal and you "stand up" to face him r u a terrorist ElMondo.

I KNOW that there are Many Many bad examples from the arab countries and from muslims but you have no right whoever you are to label a whole country or its people as terrorists.

Posted by: akram sabra Author Profile Page at October 22, 2009 11:46 AM

Akram: "You have no right whoever you are to label a whole country or its people as terrorists." Point well taken. Now let's apply this standard equally to all countries. Would you agree, Akram?

Posted by: Harold Author Profile Page at October 22, 2009 12:13 PM

"if someone comes to your house to steal and you "stand up" to face him r u a terrorist ElMondo."

Oh boohoohoo. The West has treated Arabs and Muslims so badly by "stealing" their oil, which they could not even get out of the ground without Western technology, and giving them nothing except trillions of dollars.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at October 23, 2009 12:27 AM
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