Friday, November 26, 2004


We shouldn't do this, and if we had even a modicum of either humility or dignity we wouldn't, but since we have neither we are inviting our readers to consider entering Viewpoint into nomination for a weblog award at 2004 Weblog Awards.

There are a number of categories into which we fit, and we would be grateful to be nominated in one or more of them, if for no other reason than that it would give us greater exposure. We'd do it ourselves, but we have to draw the line against shameless self-promotion somewhere. If you need our URL it's Thanks.

Talk Radio

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has a lot to say about talk radio that others of us have been thinking for a long time. He offers essentially four reasons why talk radio seems to be losing its luster: It's politically or ideologically monolithic; it wastes far too much time on commercials and other extraneous, mind-numbing noise which are the talk-radio version of Chinese water-torture and which occupy about half of every hour of air time; the callers are too often either sycophants or banal; and, though it may be heresy among conservatives to say it, the big-time hosts are beginning to grow threadbare.

We confess that we often listen to talk radio when we're driving alone, and frequently find it very informative. Nevertheless every one of Carter's complaints is on the mark. Take, for example, the last.

Rush has for years been a national treasure, but more recently he seems to have become too convinced of his own self-importance. In the early years this was his shtick, now it seems to be his truth. On those occasions when he's not off on a trip somewhere he too often gives the impression that his show has been reduced to a mere sideline in his life. He's still good at pointing out the contradictions of contemporary liberalism, but his program is no longer as richly entertaining as it once was. Perhaps this is because he has allowed himself to become too much a caricature of the fat-cat, cigar-chomping, country-club Republican. His fondness for name-dropping and lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous exploits have become tiresome and are of little or no interest or relevance to the majority of his audience.

Rush is in many ways an admirable person, having risen to the top through dint of hard work and having persevered through a number of very difficult crises in his personal life, but despite his disclaimers, he seems to be taking both his show and his audience for granted.

Sean Hannity seems like a good guy, but he's especially hard to take on the radio. Every conversation is an opportunity for him to talk about himself in tones that ooze a faux humility. He likes to say that it's not about him, but, in fact, it seems to be all about him. His debating style is extremely confrontational and unpleasant. His preferred tactic is to refuse to let a guest speak and to step all over whatever words the unfortunate interlocutor does manage to sputter. It's quite unedifying.

A listener might like to hear a reasoned discussion when Sean has a liberal guest on, but that's pretty much hopeless. Hannity isn't interested in discussion, he's interested mostly in just pummeling his adversary into oblivion. He regards conversation as a kind of combat waged with clubs rather than as an attempt to increase the audience's understanding of the issues he's debating and to help them move closer to the truth. When Sean features a conservative guest with whom he agrees he often spends much of the allotted time talking, usually about himself, and leaves the guest relatively little time to say much of anything before the station has to break for commercials.

None of this isn't to suggest that neither Limbaugh or Hannity aren't still tremendous national assets. They are, but one wonders if, like great athletes, they aren't moving past their peak. Conservative talk radio has been a wonderful boon to this country. It has provided millions of Americans with information that was easily accessible nowhere else and has served to galvanize conservative citizens around a set of ideas that many found difficult to articulate themselves and which many also assumed no one else held. Even so, despite all its virtues, talk-radio is in jeopardy of becoming tired and old. It would be a shame if that were to happen.

The Silence of the Lambs

Bridget Johnson in Opinion Journal notices that Hollywood has been strangely silent about the brutal murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding � la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out of a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims.

The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic. In a recent conversation with a struggling liberal screenwriter, I brought up the Clancy film as an example of Hollywood shying away from what really affects filmgoers--namely, the al Qaeda threat vs. the neo-Nazi threat. He vehemently defended the script switch. "It's an easy target," he said of Arab terrorism, repeating this like a parrot, then adding, "It's a cheap shot."

How many American moviegoers would think that scripting Arab terrorists as the enemy in a fiction film is a "cheap shot"? In fact, it's realism; it's what touches lives world-wide. It's this disconnect with filmgoers that has left the Hollywood box office bleeding by the side of the road.

Ms Johnson sees a slavish devotion to the dictates of political correctness as the culprit. Maybe she's right. Or maybe van Gogh's murder carried a message that wasn't lost on our courageous Hollywood film makers: It's a lot easier, and safer, to confine your political efforts to telling lies about George Bush than to tell the truth about Islamo-fascism.

They Can Run But They Can't Hide

Recent reports of the assassinations of Sunni clerics have been sparking speculation as to who is behind their deaths. Here's the Strategy Page's take:

In the last week, two members of the Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars have been assassinated. The Association has taken the lead in preaching resistance to the new government, elections and any Shia control of the government. This has caused much anger among the Shia majority. While many Shia have expressed this anger by joining the police or army, others have formed death squads, and gone after notorious murderers and hate mongers in the Sunni Arab community. This includes many Sunni Arab preachers. Shia Arabs and Kurds have thousands of names of Sunni Arabs who personally took part in supporting Saddam's decades of repression. Nearly all of these Sunni Arabs have fled to the traditionally Sunni areas in, around, and to the west of, Baghdad. But Shia death squads have been going in and killing the murderers and preachers of hate.

There are plenty of recent murders and atrocities to motivate these killers. Sunni Arab gangs have taken to setting up roadblocks and stopping Shia Arab or Kurd drivers, and torturing or killing them. The Shia get the most attention, because Sunni Arab clerics preach that Shia are heretics and blasphemers. This is a common attitude among Sunni Arabs, but usually does not result in violence. An exception is the Wahabi form of Sunni Islam. The Wahabi strain is popular in Saudi Arabia, and among al Qaeda members, and has become common among Iraqi Sunni Arabs as well.

Belmont Club has some interesting observations on al Zarqawi's fading fortunes. Among them is this:

A report from Zarqawi ten days to capitulate or else his money will be confiscated. From the context, it appears the Jordanians are holding some of his property in connection with an earlier Zarqawi attack mounted inside Jordan. The interesting tidbit is that Zarqawi's money is within reach of the US.

"The Jordanian Security Court has given 10 days for the Jordanian fundamentalist leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi and three other men to turn themselves in for plotting attacks in Jordan. According to Jordanian papers publishing the Court's ultimatum, if Zarqawi and the three men, each of whom have a $25 million bounty on them from the United States, do not capitulate, the US administration will confiscate their property holdings."

The Fourth Rail has a report that overlaps with and draws from Belmont Club's analysis, but also features additional material:

Two separate reports, one from the Associated press, and another from ABC News (via Belmont Club), indicated that al Qaeda may be encountering difficulties due to recent operations in the Sunni Triangle. Abu Musab al-Zarqari, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is angry at Muslim leaders for not doing enough to incite the faithful to take up the cause of Jihad.

An audiotape purportedly made by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lashed out Wednesday at Muslim scholars for not speaking out against U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying they have "let us down in the darkest circumstances."

It was unclear whether the tape posted Wednesday on the Internet was intended as a direct threat against Iraq's Sunni religious establishment, who have come under attack recently with the slaying this week of two Sunni clerics by gunmen.

"You have let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy. ... You have quit supporting the mujahedeen," said the voice on the tape, purported to be al-Zarqawi's. "Hundreds of thousands of the nation's sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence."

"You made peace with the tyranny and handed over the countries and the people to the Jews and Crusaders ... when you resort to silence on their crimes ... and when you prevented youth from heading to the battlefields in order to defend the religion," he said.

"Instead of implementing God's orders, you chose your safety and preferred your money and sons. You left the mujahedeen facing the strongest power in the world," he said. "Are not your hearts shaken by the scenes of your brothers being surrounded and hurt by your enemy?"

Moral support may not be the only problems for the insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq. They are actively begging for manpower and leadership from Afghanis, Chechens, Palestinians and others sympathetic to the cause. The loss of Fallujah and the continuing operations in the Sunni Triangle may be having a devastating effect on enemy command, control and communications.

The new message opens with a plea for advice from Palestinian and Chechen militants as well as Osama bin Laden supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "We face many problems," it reads in Arabic, "and need your military guidance since you have more experience."

The problems, the message says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread "to every city and road." Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country. The arrest of some of their military experts, more "spies willing to help the enemy," and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads. But the message also lists new "advantages," claiming insurgent groups are spreading -- to Mosul, Tikrit, Baghdad, and as far south as Basra.

The United States' military appears to have the bad guys on the run. The only question is how patient the American people will be in the face of continuing casualties. The elections on January 30th will tell us a lot about both the prospects for the future of Iraq and whether the public will stick with the project of planting another democracy (along with Turkey) in the heart of the Islamic world. One thing is almost certain. If we pull out Islamo-fascism will not only prevail in Iraq it will be an irresistible tide throughout the Arab world. Muslims everywhere will see our withdrawal as a sign from Allah that the end of the infidel is near, that Islamism is vindicated, and there will be no stopping it. Our withdrawal would be a disaster for the world.

Freedom On the March

There are serious events occurring in Ukraine these days which have been precipitated by what is almost universally believed to have been a fraudulent election manipulated to keep a corrupt, pro-Russian oligarchy in power. There is widespread belief that a reform candidate named Yushchenko actually won the election but had it stolen from him by the incumbents. This has produced huge protests in Kiev and elsewhere which threaten to topple the current administration. The police have even joined with the protesters who have through peaceful means managed to shut down the government.

For updates and details from a blogger who is an eyewitness in Kiev (and seems to be an American) go here. Instapundit is also following the events in Ukraine and has a lot of links to other sites.