We Are the Children: Sing in Unison to Save a Dictator
August 23, 2009 - 12:00 am
If the American society is constantly torn apart by ideological confrontations, why is it so hard for some Americans to imagine that people in other countries can be just as divided?
Any society, even the freest democracy, has likely autocrats willing to take advantage of others, latent victims willing to give up freedom in exchange for entitlements, and budding free people willing to resist tyranny and defend their liberties. The ratio of these groups in each country may be different, but no nation is ever unanimous — despite all assurances to the contrary by dictators who claim to speak for all people.
Statist regimes need unanimity to justify their existence. If a government’s survival depends on unanimity, it will inevitably end up repressing free speech. That alone makes statism an unacceptable form of government. Any government’s claim to speak for all people automatically makes it a suspect, just as unanimous voting is a symptom of tyranny.
The unanimity of the Soviet people was a myth. Measuring internal opposition in the absence of freedom may be impossible, but the trickle of dissidents and defectors should have been a good clue. Yet the Western media unquestionably repeated the regime’s official lie that all Soviet people were united behind the Communist Party and its policies.
As false data leads to false conclusions, benevolent Western intellectuals often shrugged off the Soviet tyranny as “the choice of the people,” explaining it away with outlandish nonsense like “the mysterious Russian character” or “the collectivist nature of the Slavic soul,” which was a patent absurdity, especially considering that not all people in the Eastern Bloc were Russians or even Slavs. The same thinking prompted less benign people to demonize all Russians, imagining them as lazy and bloodthirsty brutes. Ironically, the latter opinion I mostly heard from elitist champions of the collectivist utopia, who despised the USSR for giving communism a bad name by having turned such a beautiful idea into a monstrosity due to some alleged ethnic deficiency.
Apparently they believe it could have worked with a “better” ethnic group!
As a rule, these intellectuals religiously challenged every bit of their own capitalist system, but the one thing they didn’t challenge was the myth that the Soviet government spoke for its people, acted in their interests, and had their unanimous support. “I hope the Russians love their children too,” crooned Sting, as if there was any connection between what the Russians loved and what the Soviet government did. Further showing a lack of any sense, Sting claimed in the same song that he didn’t believe Reagan, that “there is no monopoly in common sense,” that “we share the same biology regardless of ideology,” and “there’s no such thing as a winnable war.” In other words, all things being relative and all people being mindless biological units anyway, the free world might as well give in to the tyrants ruling over a gigantic gulag, whose voiceless inmates, Sting hoped, loved their children.
This wouldn’t be so pathetic if many Western politicians didn’t follow similar logic and form similar opinions — exactly what the myth of the Soviet “unanimity” was meant to accomplish.
No one doubts today that there had been no unity in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion, activist Western media and radical intellectuals eagerly parroted Hussein’s claim of a 100 percent Iraqi vote in his support. Not that anyone believed such an improbable number; the argument rather was that the Iraqis would surely forget their quarrels and unite behind their leader to defend their national dignity from “illegal occupation.” Yet the Iraqis didn’t put up a serious fight. Apparently, they had little to defend since their dignity and much of everything else had already been stripped away from them by Saddam. But at the time the myth of Iraqi unity left a sizeable dent in public support of U.S. policies.
Today, a new, democratic Iraq has become a force for good in the Middle East, having changed the region’s ideological balance in favor of democracy and freedom. And yet not a single vocal opponent of the Bush doctrine, including Barack Obama himself, has retracted his prior statements intended to prevent such an outcome.
I happened to be in Denver during the 2008 Democratic Convention. And even though I didn’t attend Obama’s famous speech at the stadium with Greek columns, I spent some time at the local Civic Center Park observing extravagant political rallies and protest marches, most of them with a marked anti-war bent. The most conspicuous production there was a mosque-like pavilion made of translucent silk sheets with photographs of happy Iranian people going about their daily lives. In the words of its author, young American photographer Tom Loughlin, the exhibit was intended to “transcend the issue of Iranian-American relations” by reminding viewers of the “significant effect that American misperceptions might have on Iranians and on Persian culture,” and to give them “the sense that something beautiful is in jeopardy.”
The author stood nearby with a camcorder and recorded the viewers’ reactions. I offered mine, saying on camera that, objectively, his artistic talent and the money paid to finance it were being used to prop up the Iranian regime with a propagandistic bait-and-switch trick straight from the Soviet playbook. The handsome, eye-catching Persian faces that supposedly represented Iran were the bait. But the faces of those who would gain most from the positive PR message were not on the pictures. That’s because the true beneficiaries of this show were the ugly, America-hating mullahs who oppressed their own people, sponsored terrorism, destabilized the world, advocated the destruction of Israel, and were building a nuclear bomb. And therein was the switch.
No one doubted that Iranians could be handsome and “love their children too.” The problem was that the people in the pictures didn’t speak for their tyrannical regime and the regime didn’t speak for them, nor did it represent their interests. They themselves were hostages to insane policies of their unelected leaders. Many Iranians would surely prefer to be liberated and live in the modern world rather than be sacrificed as human shields by the mullahs pursuing a medieval theology. It was nothing short of depravity to showcase sanitized images of the victims in order to sustain a regime that brutalized them.
I don’t begrudge the photographer for not including my comment in the released video. But I was proven right when ten months later the same Iranians — looking much like the models in the exhibit — poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities in massive anti-government rallies, often risking their lives, to protest against the ugly mullahcracy.
That surely shattered any illusion of peaceful unanimity put on by the regime’s propaganda. Perhaps Mr. Loughlin may do some good by moving his Iranian pavilion to the White House lawn to give Barack Obama “the sense that something beautiful is in jeopardy,” because the U.S. president seems to have chosen to remain uninformed.
Reportedly the Iranian dissidents expected to receive support, or at least encouragement from the American president. But the “warmonger” Bush is no longer in office, and the “peace-loving” Obama isn’t interested in rocking the boat, flexing American muscles, or doing anything else that might upset the established leftist narrative and pigeonhole him together with Bush, Reagan, and other “imperialist villains” of yore. Stuck in the parochial past and learning about the outside life from myths, Obama prefers his Iranians sanitized and united behind their own America-hating government, as the old leftist legend says they should.
In contrast, the democratic government of Honduras isn’t attempting to put on a show of unity. The Honduran society is openly divided, with a small minority of leftist protesters clamoring for the return of the would-be dictator. Yet the “unanimity” trick is still being played against the Hondurans — not from within, but from outside its borders — as leftist leaders and sympathetic media are trying to present the handful of local Marxists as ones who speak for all people. A pretense that, to them at least, provides a moral justification for their demands to restore Zelaya.
But Honduras has a history of standing its own ground and defending its sovereignty. Researching this story, I interviewed J. Michael Waller, professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.:
“The Left has always had a grudge against this conservative and anti-communist nation,” explains Waller. “Leftists never had a chance in Honduras, because the locals would invariably kill any Cuban- or Soviet-trained radicals who would try to set up a revolutionary movement. The United States or CIA had nothing to do with repressing the Left there; the Hondurans proved perfectly capable of doing it on their own.”
And yet, according to the Guardian, Obama’s support of Zelaya is motivated by his perceived guilt for “the United States’ long history of supporting coups against Latin American leftists.” At the same time, renowned U.S. constitutional lawyer Miguel Estrada, who is a native of Honduras, has no such qualms. Having real — not mythological — knowledge of Honduran people, history, and law, Estrada is convinced that the Honduran military and Supreme Court acted within their rights. The only problem, he says, is that instead of deporting the pajama-clad Zelaya to Costa Rica, “they should have just put him in jail.”