United and the Cult of Victimization

From Michael Fumento:

You’ve been snookered, folks. By that poor elderly doctor who was involuntarily dragged from his seat, had his face smashed in, and was beaten unconscious by the evil airport security at the behest of United Airlines.

Because there’s no evidence any of that was true. It was in fact a premeditated temper tantrum gone viral, featuring one 69-year-old Vietnamese-American David Dao, a medical doctor who’d lost his license, planning a lawsuit from the moment United first politely asked him to give up his seat. He demanded to be dragged and, when police obliged, struck his lip on an armrest. From the many videos taken by numerous passengers, from numerous angles, there’s no evidence of a beating, a “serious” concussion, or bodily damage beyond that lip.

Although some like the Huffington Post want us to ignore his sordid past as inconsequential or “blaming the victim,” it’s important that Dao in 1995 was charged with 98 felony drug counts for illegally prescribing and trafficking painkillers, sometimes in exchange for homosexual sex. (He’s married. To a woman.) That normally would get you identified as unreliable. He surrendered his medical license and even now is allowed to practice internal medicine only in an outpatient facility one day a week.

To be sure, United deserves blame and played into Dao’s hands—not entirely a metaphor since the good doctor has also made hundreds of thousands of dollars on the professional poker circuit. It appears that by law they were supposed to have upped the payment to $1,350 to make room for four United employees who needed to get to Louisville right away. Why did they stop at $800 (plus a hotel voucher)? Further, this all should have occurred before boarding, but there passengers apparently were only offered $400.

“It’s clearly the man’s fault that security had to drag him off, said one of the passengers who uploaded his video of the incident. He was resisting.” “I don’t blame the security guards at all,” he told Fox News. That was “the only way they could get him off the plane.”

But once he was asked to give up his seat, along with three other passengers who willingly obliged, Dao’s mental gears began to whirl. One video depicts him telling someone by telephone “I make lawsuit against United Airlines for discrimination.” Yet another video shows him insisting that he be dragged. All the while he held up the departure, as indeed he would again as everyone had to leave while the blood was cleaned up.

Over time his injuries have grown dramatically. He checked himself into a hospital where first he, then one of the lawyers from the two law firms he’s retained, claimed he suffered from “everything.” Curious diagnosis, that. Though none of the videos show it, he also claims to have lost two front teeth, a broken nose, and a “serious” concussion. Obviously, this all appeared off camera, after he left the plane. One of his lawyers repeated that curious diagnosis. (He’s retained not one but two Chicago-area law firms. Natch.)

Except that … he came back on the plane, melodramatically uttering over and over again, “They’ll kill me.” He clearly showed bleeding from the lip, but there was no other evident damage.

This is obvious nonsense, so how did he get so far with it?

In part, welcome to the world of the Black Mirror. That’s a highly-regarded Netflix series about a dystopian near-future in which social media dictates “the truth.” The name refers to a blank cell phone or tablet screen.

The Sturm und Drang began with a short clip uploaded first to Facebook and then other media. It began just as Dao was pulled from his seat. You didn’t see him being apologetically requested to leave first by United employees and then by security. Nor the phone call nor his daring to be dragged. With social media, he who uploads or tweets first dictates the story.

Now add the opposite of the laugh track, the scream track. Several passengers yelling “Omigawd!” and chiding the security guards. Laugh tracks tell us “This is funny; laugh!” Scream tracks tell us “This is horrible! Be outraged!”

With social media dictating what’s news, the event became clickbait (“Must See Pictures of United Passenger!”) and the mainstream-media “analysts” jumped in. It was easy to choose sides given the Sarah Bernhardt performance and the perceived American loathing of airlines. Part of this is the result of 9/11 restrictions, but part is due to consolidations that have given many airlines monopolies on routes and let them do such things as charge us for pretzels and squeeze us into tiny spaces that only a chiropractor could love. (Curiously, while only 35 percent of Americans rate U.S. airlines positively, only 32 percent rate them negatively, according to Gallup. So there seems to be a whole lot of ambivalence.)

The London Independent went so far as to say Dao’s life was “ruined,” while one of his team of attorneys asserted Dao “said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced when leaving Vietnam.” By tomorrow it will be worse than having been gassed at Auschwitz.

But part of the phenomenon long precedes YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and social media dictating the news. It’s the American cult of victimization.

Thirteen years ago I penned a column called “Victims Are Our New Heroes,” noting that at one time that meant putting yourself at risk by going beyond normal civic or military duties. Yet Magic Johnson went from “sports hero” (another misnomer) to All-American Hero by virtue of contracting AIDS. That simple.

Dao’s quick thinking and theatrics show he knows how to play the system as well as he knows how to play cards, combining social media and the cult of victimization into what presumably will be a very hefty payout for a very dishonest man

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America’s Second Civil War

From Dennis Prager:

It is time for our society to acknowledge a sad truth: America is currently fighting its second Civil War.

In fact, with the obvious and enormous exception of attitudes toward slavery, Americans are more divided morally, ideologically and politically today than they were during the Civil War. For that reason, just as the Great War came to be known as World War I once there was World War II, the Civil War will become known as the First Civil War when more Americans come to regard the current battle as the Second Civil War.

This Second Civil War, fortunately, differs in another critically important way: It has thus far been largely nonviolent. But given increasing left-wing violence, such as riots, the taking over of college presidents’ offices and the illegal occupation of state capitols, nonviolence is not guaranteed to be a permanent characteristic of the Second Civil War.

There are those on both the left and right who call for American unity. But these calls are either naive or disingenuous. Unity was possible between the right and liberals, but not between the right and the left.

Liberalism — which was anti-left, pro-American and deeply committed to the Judeo-Christian foundations of America; and which regarded the melting pot as the American ideal, fought for free speech for its opponents, regarded Western civilization as the greatest moral and artistic human achievement and viewed the celebration of racial identity as racism — is now affirmed almost exclusively on the right and among a handful of people who don’t call themselves conservative.

The left, however, is opposed to every one of those core principles of liberalism.

Like the left in every other country, the left in America essentially sees America as a racist, xenophobic, colonialist, imperialist, warmongering, money-worshipping, moronically religious nation.

Just as in Western Europe, the left in America seeks to erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. The melting pot is regarded as nothing more than an anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic meme. The left suppresses free speech wherever possible for those who oppose it, labeling all non-left speech “hate speech.” To cite only one example, if you think Shakespeare is the greatest playwright or Bach is the greatest composer, you are a proponent of dead white European males and therefore racist.

Without any important value held in common, how can there be unity between left and non-left? Obviously, there cannot.

There will be unity only when the left vanquishes the right or the right vanquishes the left. Using the First Civil War analogy, American unity was achieved only after the South was vanquished and slavery was abolished.

How are those of us who oppose left-wing nihilism — there is no other word for an ideology that holds Western civilization and America’s core values in contempt — supposed to unite with “educators” who instruct elementary school teachers to cease calling their students “boys” and “girls” because that implies gender identity? With English departments that don’t require reading Shakespeare in order to receive a degree in English? With those who regard virtually every war America has fought as imperialist and immoral? With those who regard the free market as a form of oppression? With those who want the state to control as much of American life as possible? With those who repeatedly tell America and its black minority that the greatest problems afflicting black Americans are caused by white racism, “white privilege” and “systemic racism”? With those who think that the nuclear family ideal is inherently misogynistic and homophobic? With those who hold that Israel is the villain in the Middle East? With those who claim that the term “Islamic terrorist” is an expression of religious bigotry?

The third significant difference between the First and Second Civil Wars is that in the Second Civil war, one side has been doing nearly all the fighting. That is how it has been able to take over schools — from elementary schools, to high schools, to universities — and indoctrinate America’s young people; how it has taken over nearly all the news media; and how it has taken over entertainment media.

The conservative side has lost on every one of these fronts because it has rarely fought back with anything near the ferocity with which the left fights. Name a Republican politician who has run against the left as opposed to running solely against his or her Democratic opponent. And nearly all American conservatives, people who are proud of America and affirm its basic tenets, readily send their children to schools that indoctrinate their children against everything the parents hold precious. A mere handful protest when their child’s teacher ceases calling their son a boy or their daughter a girl, or makes “slave owner” the defining characteristic of the Founding Fathers.

With the defeat of the left in the last presidential election, the defeat of the left in two-thirds of the gubernatorial elections and the defeat of the left in a majority of House and Senate elections, this is likely the last chance liberals, conservatives and the right have to defeat the American left. But it will not happen until these groups understand that we are fighting for the survival of America no less than the Union troops were in the First Civil War.

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Thank you, Dr. Sowell

Farewell.

Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.

It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country — even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program — and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website (www.tsowell.com).

Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse.

In material things, there has been almost unbelievable progress. Most Americans did not have refrigerators back in 1930, when I was born. Television was little more than an experiment, and such things as air-conditioning or air travel were only for the very rich.

My own family did not have electricity or hot running water, in my early childhood, which was not unusual for blacks in the South in those days.

It is hard to convey to today’s generation the fear that the paralyzing disease of polio inspired, until vaccines put an abrupt end to its long reign of terror in the 1950s.

Most people living in officially defined poverty in the 21st century have things like cable television, microwave ovens and air-conditioning. Most Americans did not have such things, as late as the 1980s. People whom the intelligentsia continue to call the “have-nots” today have things that the “haves” did not have, just a generation ago.

In some other ways, however, there have been some serious retrogressions over the years. Politics, and especially citizens’ trust in their government, has gone way downhill.

Back in 1962, President John F. Kennedy, a man narrowly elected just two years earlier, came on television to tell the nation that he was taking us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, because the Soviets had secretly built bases for nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from America.

Most of us did not question what he did. He was President of the United States, and he knew things that the rest of us couldn’t know — and that was good enough for us. Fortunately, the Soviets backed down. But could any President today do anything like that and have the American people behind him?

Years of lying Presidents — Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon, especially — destroyed not only their own credibility, but the credibility which the office itself once conferred. The loss of that credibility was a loss to the country, not just to the people holding that office in later years.

With all the advances of blacks over the years, nothing so brought home to me the social degeneration in black ghettoes like a visit to a Harlem high school some years ago.

When I looked out the window at the park across the street, I mentioned that, as a child, I used to walk my dog in that park. Looks of horror came over the students’ faces, at the thought of a kid going into the hell hole which that park had become in their time.

When I have mentioned sleeping out on a fire escape in Harlem during hot summer nights, before most people could afford air-conditioning, young people have looked at me like I was a man from Mars. But blacks and whites alike had been sleeping out on fire escapes in New York since the 19th century. They did not have to contend with gunshots flying around during the night.

We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future.

Goodbye and good luck to all.

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Random Thoughts, Looking Back

From Thomas Sowell:

Any honest man, looking back on a very long life, must admit — even if only to himself — being a relic of a bygone era. Having lived long enough to have seen both “the greatest generation” that fought World War II and the gratingest generation that we see all around us today makes being a relic of the past more of a boast than an admission.

Not everything in the past was admirable. Poet W. H. Auden called the 1930s “a low dishonest decade.” So were the 1960s, which launched many of the trends we are experiencing so painfully today. Some of the fashionable notions of the 1930s reappeared in the 1960s, often using the very same discredited words and producing the same disastrous consequences.

The old are not really smarter than the young, in terms of sheer brainpower. It is just that we have already made the kinds of mistakes that the young are about to make, and we have already suffered the consequences that the young are going to suffer if they disregard the record of the past.

If you want to understand the fatal dangers facing America today, read The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. The book is not about America, the Middle East, or nuclear missiles. But it shows Europe’s attitudes and delusions — aimed at peace in the years before the Second World War — which instead ended up bringing on that most terrible war in all of human history.

Black adults, during the years when I was growing up in Harlem, had far less education than black adults today — but far more common sense. In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity, among both blacks and whites.

The first time I traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, as the plane flew into the skies over London I was struck by the thought that, in these skies, a thousand British fighter pilots fought off Hitler’s air force and saved both Britain and Western civilization. But how many students today will have any idea of such things, with history being neglected in favor of politically correct rhetoric?

You cannot live a long life without having been forced to change your mind many times about people and things — including, in some cases, your whole view of the world. Those who glorify the young today do them a great disservice, when this sends inexperienced young people out into the world cocksure about things on which they have barely scratched the surface.

In my first overseas trip, I was struck by blatantly obvious differences in behavior among different groups, such as the Malays and the Chinese in Malaysia — and wondered why scholars who were far more well-traveled than I was seemed not to have noticed such things, and to have resorted to all sorts of esoteric theories to explain why some groups earned higher incomes than others.

There are words that were once common but that are seldom heard any more. The phrase “none of your business” is one of these. Today, everything seems to be the government’s business or the media’s business. And the word “risqué” would be almost impossible to explain to young people, in a world where gross vulgarity is widespread and widely accepted.

Back when I taught at UCLA, I was constantly amazed at how little so many students knew. Finally, I could no longer restrain myself from asking a student the question that had long puzzled me: “What were you doing for the last twelve years before you got here?”

Reading about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and the widespread retrogressions of Western civilization that followed, was an experience that was sobering, if not crushing. Ancient history in general lets us know how long human beings have been the way they are, and dampens giddy zeal for the latest panaceas, despite how politically correct those panaceas may be.

When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce, and demand.

The first column I ever wrote, 39 years ago, was titled “The Profits of Doom.” This was long before Al Gore made millions of dollars promoting global-warming hysteria. Back in 1970, the prevailing hysteria was the threat of a new ice age — promoted by some of the same environmentalists who are promoting global-warming hysteria today.

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