Thursday, December 18, 2014

hell in a handbasket

I'm not normally one to side completely with my friends on the right who gloomily intone that "the country is going to hell in a handbasket." But certain recent events have me in a rather ugly mood regarding the way things are going in the United States: rape fantasies and the attendant false inflation of campus rape statistics (and more important, how all this affects the credibility of the many, many women who actually are raped), racial tensions egged on by the media, Obama's sudden turn towards a very ill-advised Sunshine-style policy vis-à-vis Cuba... and now, to top it all off and break the camel's back, the knuckling-under of Sony—and quite possibly the United States as a whole—in the face of North Korean cyber-terrorism, apparently perpetrated in response to the upcoming "The Interview," a movie lampooning North Korea and starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Lawyer, blogger, advocate, and all-around mensch Joshua Stanton is just as flabbergasted as the rest of us are by Sony's rank cowardice. He writes:

I’m not sure what leaves me more speechless—the brazenness of a direct attack on our freedom of expression in our own country; the cowardice of Hollywood, Sony, Japan, and the theater chains; or the idea that the U.S. State Department agreed to review scenes from The Interview, thus putting a stamp of government censorship (or endorsement) on the film.

The US is doing an excellent job of projecting an image of weakness. I'm not so naive as to contend that we've been a moral paragon on the world stage, but it feels as if our collective moral confusion has reached new heights. One article snidely referred to a "post-truth America" in which lying and evasion are more the norm than ever. The end result of this erosion has been the steady loss of our diplomatic capital on the global scene. While some idiots cheer the diminishment of American prominence, I have to wonder whether those dim bulbs have thought about what might replace America after she's gone.

So with reluctance, I find myself climbing slowly and hesitantly aboard the "hell in a handbasket" bandwagon. Obama has gone on and on about the mess he supposedly inherited from Bush the younger; all I know is that the next president is going to face an even steeper uphill battle once the current empty chair finally vacates the stage.

Give Joshua's post a read. Like all of his posts, this one is worth your while. He writes:

This time, will our President stand up for our freedom of expression unambiguously? That would require him to act swiftly and firmly against those found to be responsible. Unfortunately, the Times‘s reporters end an otherwise excellent report with the tired, cliche falsehood that the President has no options because “[t]he North is already under some of the heaviest economic sanctions ever applied.” Pish-posh. I don’t know how many times I have to say it–people who write about sanctions should read them first. People who’ve read the sanctions know they’re weak.

Nothing good can come of any of this, and things are looking bleak these days. A return of the arrogant, unilateral America would be a welcome change at this point. We've seen where humility on the world stage gets us: it certainly hasn't gained us any more respectability. The language of diplomacy is the language of the street: if I may channel the ghost of Heinlein, the only thing people truly, fundamentally respect is force and the threat of violence. If that makes us look like arrogant, tyrannical despots, well... good. People can call us or miscall us whatever names they like, but in the era of a tougher America, you can bet your ass that no jihadi will be cutting our citizens' heads off, and no North Korean hacker will be messing with our computer infrastructure.



John said...

A very important post that captures my sentiments exactly.

Scary times.

Surprises Aplenty said...

Regarding The Interview and Sony, what do you think the president can do? Force movie theaters to play the movie? Promise to pay the lawsuits if something does happen? The actions of Sony and the movie theaters are private actions - the USG should not get involved.

Kevin Kim said...

We have a president who seems to think he can bypass Congress and do quite a bit, actually, so it might be interesting to see him take this empowered vision of himself onto the international stage.

Of course you're right about the private-versus-government thing, but I never advocated using government to force the private sector to do anything. (That wouldn't be my style, anyway.) Joshua, at his post, has a 5-point list of things that we can do to respond to the cyber-attack.

John (I'm not a robot) said...

Except the government did get involved when it reviewed and approved aspects of the film. And the President and his cronies had no problem weighing in on the film that purportedly resulted in the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi.

But to your point, no the government can't force the showing of the film. I'd like to see the President use his bully pulpit to call out Sony for cowardice and more importantly, to let the NORKs know their action will not go unpunished.