Say Good Night to the ‘Bad Guy’
Shortly after Sony Pictures announced last Wednesday that it would not be releasing The Interview, its controversial comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, actor Rob Lowe tweeted the following:
Saw @Sethrogen at JFK. Both of us have never seen or heard of anything like this. Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) December 17, 2014
Chamberlain, of course, was the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the late 1930s, who believed he had mollified an ascendant Adolf Hitler by ceding a portion of Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland, to the Germans. History remembers him ignominiously for having boasted of achieving “peace for our time” in 1938, a year before Hitler’s invasion of Poland ensnared Great Britain, and the rest of Europe, in the Second World War. His name has become synonymous with the word “appeasement,” and the tragic consequences that result when leaders fail to recognize true, implacable evil.
Although Raul Castro’s backwards dictatorship in Cuba, or the still-very-much-alive Kim Jong-Un’s legion of bootlickers in North Korea, will never be confused with der Fuhrer‘s Nazi war machine, there was a whole lot of appeasing going on last week. It began Wednesday afternoon, with President Obama’s announcement that the United States and the island nation 90 miles to its south would begin a process of normalizing relations. The two countries have been at odds since 1959, when Communist revolutionaries, led by Raul’s brother, Fidel, swept into power, established a brutal dictatorship and began aligning with the US’s Cold War foe, the Soviet Union. An attempted, American-backed overthrow failed at the Bay of Pigs, and was followed the tense standoff that would become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the intervening decades, a US embargo of Cuba has attempted, without success, to topple the Communist regime. While powerless to end the embargo (only Congress has that authority), Obama did announce that diplomatic ties would resume, facilitated by the establishment of an embassy in Havana, and that certain restrictions on travel and finance would be eased. Most notably, the president secured the release of American Alan Gross, a worker with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who had been imprisoned for delivering illegal internet equipment to Cuban Jews. While the Cuban government gave clemency to Gross, as well as Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban who had provided intelligence to America, the United States agreed to return three Cuban spies — Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino — who had been held since 1998. The trio, along with two previously released associates, were collectively known as “the Cuban Five.” While all of them were found guilty of passing secrets to the Castro regime, Hernandez had also been convicted of conspiring to commit murder: using information that he had provided, the Cuban government had shot down two planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, an organization devoted to helping fleeing Cubans who were stranded at sea. In his statement announcing the policy shift (a realignment which would appear to provide financial and diplomatic benefits to the Castro regime without requiring any human rights improvements in return), Obama offered the following mea culpa to the citizens of Cuba:
To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship. Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future. José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.” Today, I am being honest with you. We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination. Cubans have a saying about daily life:“No es facil” – it’s not easy. Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.
Communist dictatorships scored a second victory Wednesday evening with Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview. The comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, had incurred the wrath of a group of hackers calling themselves “the Guardians of Peace,” which the FBI has subsequently tied to North Korea. Irate at Kim Jong-Un’s portrayal in the film (which included a grisly death sequence), the cyberterrorists had made public thousands of private e-mails sent by Sony employees; most infamously, a series of exchanges between Chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, in which the two made racially-charged jokes about President Obama’s taste in movies. The situation escalated when the hackers threatened violence against moviegoers planning to attend screenings of The Interview:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.
Carmike Cinemas was the first theater chain to bow to the threat, indicating on Tuesday night it would not be showing the film. It was followed soon after by the three largest chains in the US — AMC, Regal, and Cinemark — leading to Sony’s decision to cancel The Interview’s scheduled, Christmas Day release. Despite a broad outcry imploring Sony to release the movie online, the studio subsequently announced it had no intention to offer it in any format (although it would later reverse that stance, indicating plans to release it through its streaming service, Crackle). Despite no credible indication that “the Guardians of Peace” had any ability to commit violence within the United States, by Friday, the North Korean hackers had achieved a complete and utter defeat of Hollywood; even a protest showing of 2004’s Team America: World Police (which skewered Kim Jong-Un’s father, Kim Jong-Il) in several Texas cinemas had been squashed when Paramount Pictures ordered theater owners not to screen it.
All of this was too much for uber-liberal actor, George Clooney, who circulated a petition throughout Hollywood encouraging its denizens to rally around Sony; not a single person signed it, leading the star of Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana to bemoan,
This is a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot. We have a responsibility to stand up against this. That’s not just Sony, but all of us, including my good friends in the press who have the responsibility to be asking themselves: What was important? What was the important story to be covering here? The hacking is terrible because of the damage they did to all those people. Their medical records, that is a horrible thing, their Social Security numbers. Then, to turn around and threaten to blow people up and kill people, and just by that threat alone we change what we do for a living, that’s the actual definition of terrorism.
What Clooney apparently fails to grasp is that it is the very liberal values that he, and the rest of Hollywood, consistently promote that are responsible for Sony’s capitulation. They are the same progressive attitudes that have led the President of the United States to offer concessions to a brutal dictatorship in Cuba without demanding anything substantive in return. It is a mindset that seeks to diminish America’s role in the world by consistently focusing on the nation’s supposed flaws, reducing its ability to project its influence, and artificially inflating the importance of alternative world views.
We are living in the age of multiculturalism. The Judeo-Christian virtues which emboldened Western Civilization, and which once united our populace, are under assault, as leftists of all stripes seek to expand upon a radical revolution of thought. Religious principles have been sidelined, taking with them all standards of moral decency and self-restraint. Our role as the economic engine of the world has been perverted, transforming the greatest success story in the history of mankind into a capitalistic leech that feeds off of the globe’s less fortunate and seeks to keep humanity in its thrall. The images of America the liberator, and America the champion of democracy, have been replaced by America the slaveholder, America the genocidal murderer of the Native American, and America the barbaric torturer of Muslims. Our current president has reinforced this view, notoriously engaging in what many conservatives have dubbed “an apology tour” upon taking office in 2009. Among the highlights:
“In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” — France, April 3, 2009
“The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.” — Turkey, April 6, 2009
“All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms.” — Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009
“There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law.” — Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009
At the same time, liberalism has elevated other cultures with opposing values, presenting them as equals to Western Civilization, or, in some cases, its superior. Hence, the health care system of Communist Cuba is deemed a model to which we should aspire (even becoming the inspiration for leftist filmmaker Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko), while Islam, the motivating influence behind intolerance and violence the world over, is presented as a “religion of peace,” on par with Judaism and Christianity as a positive force for the world.
While multiculturalism is commonly associated with such benign values as “tolerance,” “respect,” and “understanding,” what it truly represents is the cowardice of an increasingly juvenile populace. What it actually entails is a rapid retreat from any sort of principles, or standards, which would require defending; it is the abdication of responsibility, the unwillingness to make the types of hard choices that would result in conflict. In other words: If the bully stealing everyone’s lunch money is actually doing something wrong, someone, at some point, should stand up to him. If, however, he is simply living his life according to a different set of values which we are obligated to tolerate, respect, and understand, then that pretty much eliminates the need for any sort of confrontation. And if it doesn’t, well, then it’s far easier to blame lil’ Jimmy for upsetting
the bully his lunch money-challenged counterpart, and discuss methods for accommodating the more aggressive passionate boy’s requests in the future; we know that lil’ Jimmy follows the rules and won’t put up too much of a fight.
Thus, through the magic multiculturalism, those who once assumed the role of “the good guy” are placed on equal footing with “the bad guy,” or, in fact, ultimately become the bad guys themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters in Israel are familiar with this mindset. As Hamas fires rockets at Jewish civilians from the Gaza Strip, and terrorists emanating from the West Bank murder innocent Jews in broad daylight, it is Israel that is condemned for not being committed to achieving peace; the Obama administration is even reportedly considering sanctions against the Middle East’s lone democracy, at a time when he is easing restrictions on Iran. Likewise, after being savagely struck on 9/11, the United States is now deemed guilty of supposedly giving in to its base instincts and “torturing some folks,” while the very al Qaeda terrorists behind the plot, captured while actively pursuing additional American deaths through subsequent waves of attacks, are portrayed as sympathetic victims.
In such a world, Obama’s policy shift with regard to Cuba is entirely appropriate, or even long overdue. It’s no coincidence that the younger generations of Cubans have been more receptive to the announcement than their parents, many of whom experienced the atrocities of the Castro regime firsthand: like the rest of their demographic, Cuban teens and young adults have been trained extensively in the art of multiculturalism by the media, the entertainment world and their college professors. Far removed from the suffering from which their elders fled, they have joined the “blame America” chorus, a dissonant choir dotted with Anglo-Saxons in Che Guevara t-shirts, who fantasize about an island paradise replete with classic cars, strong cigars and choice health care.
Matthew Yglesias at Vox warns his fellow liberals against holding such “romantic” notions of life in Cuba:
According to Freedom House, Cuba has the most restrictive press censorship in the Western Hemisphere and is the only country rated “not free” in the Americas. All official media is owned by the state and controlled by the government. Dissident bloggers are regularly arrested. According to Amnesty International, protestors are regularly arrested and detained without trial. The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba says there were over 6,000 arbitrary detentions of human rights activists in 2013.
Once in jail, detainees face harsh conditions. “Prisoners often slept on concrete bunks without a mattress,” according to the State Department’s human rights report on Cuba, “with some reports of more than one person sharing a narrow bunk. Where available, mattresses were thin and often infested with vermin and insects.”
Human Rights Watch details further abuses:
The government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation—an independent human rights group the government views as illegal—received over 3,600 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through September 2013, compared to approximately 2,100 in 2010.
The detentions are often used preemptively to prevent individuals from participating in events viewed as critical of the government, such as peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Many dissidents are beaten and threatened when detained, even if they do not try to resist…
On August 25, 2013, more than 30 women from the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White)—a group founded by the wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners and which the government considers illegal—were detained after attending Sunday mass at a church in Santiago, beaten, forced onto a bus, and left at various isolated locations on the city’s outskirts. The same day, eight members of the group in Havana and seven more in Holguín were arbitrarily detained as they marched peacefully to attend mass.
And what of noble Che Guevara, his handsome visage forever gazing into the future, perpetually pondering a world where social justice reigns supreme?
When Batista’s regime was overthrown (largely thanks to an attack by Guevara’s forces on the city of Santa Clara) Che was rewarded with Cuban citizenship and appointed supreme prosecutor and commander of the La Cabana Fortress prison.
Here was where his idealism soured and became tainted by something much darker. Over the next five months he oversaw the trial and execution of hundreds of members of the previous regime, accusing them of war crimes. They were given little chance to defend themselves: “The facts were judged without any consideration to general juridical principles,” admitted an attorney working for Guevara.
He went on to accuse Guevara of simply executing anybody who didn’t hold the same political beliefs, including many of his comrades who wanted a more democratic government system in Cuba.
According to some estimates, around 550 people were executed following Guevara’s orders during that period. It is a truth which sits uncomfortably with the T-shirt and poster icon and for Cuba itself, where Guevara’s refusal to take payment for his government job is still spoken of with reverence.
These are, by any objective standard, the bad guys. Unfortunately, we live in a society where objectivity has been dispatched, replaced by an ever-changing set of relativistic values. An effort to overthrow a regime that has caused decades of suffering for its people has been warped and mischaracterized as a harmful American policy that has left Cubans in poverty.
The US embargo of Cuba began in 1960 under President Eisenhower, who banned all exports to the island nation. Two years later, President Kennedy expanded the restrictions to include imports into the United States. Although the embargo was initially intended to punish Cuba for its alliances with other communist powers, there is a reason why it has lasted long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War: it is an attempt to leverage the Castro regime into expanding human rights and freedoms for its people. It has endeavored to tie the economic benefits that would result from trade with the United States to improved treatment of the Cuban people. This is an effort the entire world should have rallied around, for, as detailed above, the abuses of the Castro regime are clear to all with eyes to see. And yet, the global community has taken the opposite approach. After being supported by the Soviets for years, the Communist government in Cuba found a new ally in Hugo Chavez and the windfall provided by his nationalized Venezuelan oil industry. Countries around the globe have traded freely with Cuba (including our neighbors to the north, Canada), greatly undermining the effectiveness of the embargo. Hardships that did result from economic sanctions were blamed solely on the US: since 1992, the United Nations has annually issued resolutions condemning the actions of the United States and the effects of its embargo. Rather than exert pressure on the cruel Communist tyrants who have held onto power by depriving their people of liberty, and whose economic system is the main factor behind the nation’s impoverished state (given that most goods being denied by the US are readily available from other, willing trade partners), the global community has put the onus squarely on the shoulders of the United States.
Obama reinforced all of these criticisms through his announcement last Wednesday. Instead of asserting the moral authority of his nation, and demanding concrete human rights concessions from the Castro’s, the president gave credence to the notion that this decades-long standoff is merely a difference of opinion between two nations with distinct, but valid, world views. Listen to his words: “Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.” Look at his actions: a trio of spies (one of whom conspired to murder innocent Americans) is deemed equal to a man simply trying to provide greater access to information to a Cuban community (an equivocation so detestable that the Obama administration has subsequently run from it, making the absurd case that the release of Gross by the Cuban government was an unrelated act). As Obama presented it on Wednesday, these are simply two countries that will likely be “at odds” in the future, but who will now seek “engagement”, rather than two countries on opposite sides of the moral divide.
This is consistent with liberalism’s unending crusade to eradicate any notions of American exceptionalism, and erase the conception of the United States as the standard bearer for that which is objectively good. The press, Hollywood and the leftists currently installed in professorships across our nation’s campuses have inculcated our youth with a sinister portrait of their country. Instead of a nation that has spilled blood across the globe to defend liberty, the United States is the instigator of lawless wars, killing civilians and polluting the planet in an effort to satiate its lust for oil. It is not the country that enshrined freedom in its founding document, but the despot that endorsed slavery and the theft of land from the Native Americans. Far from waging a war on the global terrorism that has claimed the lives of countless innocents, the United States is the global terror which the innocents of the world should fear. America is something, to steal a phrase, that must be “fundamentally transformed.” When you have indoctrinated generation after generation to accept that image of their country, who will be willing to fight for it? And when there is no one left to fight for America, who will defend it from the world’s true evils?
In an age where missiles are unilaterally pulled from Eastern Europe and red lines are meaningless, where Iranian mullahs can simply run out the clock on the world’s lone superpower and wars are ended, rather than won, it is not at all surprising that Sony would cancel The Interview. There may have been a time when AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike would have rallied against censorship and formed a phalanx around the First Amendment, but those days are over. When you have destroyed the idea that America is great, its virtues and principles are no longer worth fighting for, especially when considered against the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit. We are a nation trudging insecurely on the path of least resistance; on the path of retreat; on the path of appeasement.
We witnessed last Monday where that cowardly path ultimately leads. For many years, the government of Pakistan has played a deadly game with the growing monster that was birthed within its borders: the Taliban. Ever fearful of being overrun by its regional foe, India, Pakistan has sought compromise with Islamic radicalism, hoping to maintain influence in a post-American Afghanistan. Working through its clandestine agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), it has provided support and safe haven to the Taliban, allowing it to metastasize into something beyond the state’s control. After finally attempting to mount an offensive against the guerrillas in its midst, the Pakistani government learned last Monday what happens when you try to compromise with an unqualified evil. 9 Taliban militants attacked an army-run school in the city of Peshawar, massacring 148 people. The majority of the victims — some 132 — were children, some of whom were beheaded, some of whom spent their final moments watching as their teachers were literally burned alive. The gruesome details continue to emerge:
[One of the survivors, Shahnawaz] Khan said the man asked for eight students who wish to be let go to raise their hands, with almost the entire class responding to the call by doing so.
“They took eight students of their choice and made them stand in front of the class near the blackboard facing the wall and told us to watch the students,” he continued, as one of gunmen, whom Khan described as burly, forced the class teacher on to a chair.
“He told our teacher: ‘Watch as your loved ones die. Ours are also being killed in the same way.'”
The gunmen then opened fire on the children who slumped to the ground, some dead and others writhing and moaning in agony.
There is meaning in last week’s events and it is this: We live in a world that is aware of the lesson of Neville Chamberlain, but seems not to have absorbed it. While the free speech issues raised in the wake of The Interview’s demise are important, the far larger issue is this: What happens when there is no longer anyone willing to stand up for that which is good? What happens when there is no one left with the courage to face down evil? The true lesson of Neville Chamberlain is that evil is real and it cannot be bargained with, for its hunger for power is unyielding. From the impoverished shores of Cuba to the impenetrable darkness of North Korea, it must be confronted. For the sake of all that is right and good, it is a lesson that must be learned by the world’s leaders, beginning with our president.