The debate over Michelle Obama’s ill-advised foray into hashtag diplomacy–itself a misbegotten creature whose birth we will live to regret, if we don’t already–has turned nasty and stupid, and, of course, partisan, with the media, so incapable of objective analysis now that it hurts even to watch it pretend, rushing to defend the First Lady who walked right into this spinning blade, and should have known better.
Some observations and conclusions:
- When the First Lady, any of them, presumes to wade into policy matters with the force of her husband’s office behind her, he is presumed to approve. When the policy matter involves international diplomacy, which, we hope, is carefully planned, whatever action or statement the First lady makes is indistinguishable from a Presidential action. Would the President of the United States appear anything other than weak and ridiculous if his response to any international crisis was to hold a sign in a photograph for Twiiter and make a frownie-face? No. Therefore, it was damaging to the President, the office and the nation for Michelle to tweet the same, but with her in his place, out to the world.
- Two analogies, one real and one hypothetical, come to mind. In his short term of office, President Gerald Ford’s major domestic problem was exploding inflation, and he obviously had no idea what to do about it. His “program,” essentially, consisted of publicizing the mantra “Whip Inflation Now!,” most prominently embodied with the infamous “WIN” buttons. Ford was widely ridiculed by this exercise in futile gesture and magical thinking. He deserved it. Michelle’s stunt—it is a stunt—is redolent of Ford’s buttons.
The hypothetical: Imagine if the U.S. and the world’s (disgraceful and ) general policy of contrived ignorance of the Holocaust prior to our entering World War II was addressed by FDR having his “legs,” Eleanor, pose for a photo as she held up a sign reading “Save the Jews”…and frowning.
- Michelle Obama’s photo would not have provoked anything near the negative response it did if her husband’s response to foreign violence and crises generally, notably in Syria and the Ukraine, but also Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, had not been so consistently dithering, feckless, blustering, weak and ineffective. Coming from the home of a strong, respected and feared leader willing to project American power, the photo and sign would have been regarded as, at worse, a gaffe. In this context, it is a self-indictment, verging on the pathetic, even frightening.
- Conservative critics, notably Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, made the gaffe worse, and expanded the incident into a teeny ethics train wreck, by leading the charge to condemn it and doing so in nasty, mocking terms. This allowed media lackeys and the progressive brigade to change the subject, as they have learned to do by necessity since the Administration keeps embarrassing itself. Now the issue became conservative meanness, because these monsters don’t even care about 200 kidnapped girls, and can only ridicule someone who really cares. Since Limbaugh and Coulter are perhaps the favorite boogeypersons of the Left, and because they mainly deal in barbed rhetoric as a matter of style, they made it easy for foes to obscure the real issue: the juvenile, foundering, inept performance of the Obama administration in international diplomacy. Coulter and Limbaugh were not, of course, ridiculing the good intentions of Michelle’s act, but the futility of it, and what it says to the world about American power under this, very weak, President. They allowed their message to be distorted, however, and that was irresponsible on their part.
- Meanwhile, the progressive media, like Media Matters, furiously condemned criticism of Michelle on the ground that the photo was not all that the Administration was doing to “bring back our girls,” and quoted officials like Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the as yet unspecified number of personnel sent to Nigeria “‘are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families’.” Apparently, the media regards the U.S. public as endlessly naive and gullible. Virtually everything Kerry touches turns to U.S. defeat and humiliation. Few blessed with a frontal lobe believe that the personnel are being sent for anything other than show: the U.S. tried to find that Malaysian airline, too. If Michelle’s hashtag diplomacy overshadows what the U.S. is supposedly doing of substance, what does that say? Either it was a mistake, or the administration is bungling its international image. If the girls aren’t rescued, it will be Michelle’s photo that everyone will remember.
- The news media would perform its job and a public service if it would educate the public, who are instantly charmed, like kittens with a ball of yarn, with any words or symbolic deeds from our leaders that show their hearts are large and warm, about how international diplomacy is won or lost based on matters like respect, credibility, image, and projection of power, and how grandstanding for the Nigerian girls can make the world a more dangerous place. The news media would also be responsible journalists if it had the integrity and courage to ask questions about why 200 girls in Nigeria are the focus of so much attention while other countries are experiencing outright slaughters as the U.S. issues empty threats and toothless sanctions.
Caring may be an ethical value, but in the context of leadership, caring without courage, competence and action is useless. If the American people could only learn that, some good could come out the hashtag diplomacy foolishness. It is the Obamas, however, so the Orwellian lessons being pushed by most of the media is that bad is good, dumb is wise, weakness is strength, and a First Lady posing for a photo that looks like an out-take from Sesame Street is the way to stop brutal terrorists in Nigeria.
Sources: Human Events, Media Matters, Real Clear Politics
30 thoughts on “Michelle Obama’s Hashtag Mini-Train Wreck”
Jack I don’t know how you can state with certainty that Rush and Coulter “don’t even care about 200 kidnapped girls!” It is possible they do, especially Ann Coulter. She is a Christian and Christians in general do not like to see other Christians kidnapped, possibly raped, and suffering at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Michelle Obama who has much more influence on the President than Ann Coulter has, is either extremely naive or living is some kind of a narcissistic dream world.
You misread. I wrote “Now the issue became conservative meanness, because these monsters don’t even care about 200 kidnapped girls, and can only ridicule someone who really cares.” That sentence describes the stock critique of Coulter and Rush…I’m not arguing that; it’s ridiculous. I then wrote..
“Coulter and Limbaugh were not, of course, ridiculing the good intentions of Michelle’s act, but the futility of it…” I’m sure they care, but it’s irrelevant.
I hated this picture — it suggests that a hashtag is an appropriate response to something so serious (or for anyone over the age of 20, or anyone, say, who lives in the White House). Obviously this wasn’t the intent, but Mrs. Obama is not shy about going on news programs and talk shows. That would have been more meaningful. Sometimes a picture is NOT worth a thousand words.
Of course you hated it. The real question is, why wouldn’t Michelle, or the so called PR experts who advise her, realize how bad the photo is? How infantile does the White House think the public is? How infantile IS it?
The portion of the public in question is infantile enough to have moved from ridiculous colored wristbands, alerting the world of one’s deep concern, to a hand scrawled sign held up in a selfie, alerting the world of one’s deep concern. Both are pointless, and don’t do a thing, other than massage the moral superiority muscles of the idiots who indulge in either. In fairness, I would guess that those muscles are very, very tired.
I have to give one extra ‘deep concern’ point to those who wear the wristbands though, for making the effort to actually acquire and remember to wear a cheesy, brightly colored wristband.
Easy Jack, you know Mary Todd Lincoln posted on Twitter
and Dolly Todd Madison posted:
The answer to the first is “you’re the last civilised ones that aren’t already doing it” (even Brazil had it underway with policies being prepared, though its incremental approach finished later), and the answer to the second is “well, stop attacking us, then” (people do know who started all that, right?).
If a knee-jerk anti-American yells nonsense in the forest and no one is there to hear… Does anyone care?
Easiest riddle of the day…
Who’s being knee jerk here, in seeing anti-Americanism when he sees Americans criticised even though that wasn’t why they were criticised? You presented examples of hypocrisy, which no doubt by sheer coincidence you put in the mouths of Americans, and I played it straight by giving a come back to the hypocrisy. If you don’t want that come back to hit Americans in passing, use others as the hypocrites you are showing up. You don’t get a pass on the grounds that only Americans can criticise their own, or anything like that – it would be hypocrisy to try.
Not sure I utilized supposed hypocrisy anywhere. You may wanna rewind and try again.
However, you have demonstrated knee-jerk anti-Americanism before… Hence the accurate label.
That debunks the whole of your recent rebuttal.
Wasn’t your original remark mocking the hypocrisy of people who might have tweeted like that? If not, what? If you weren’t endorsing that, why complain when I don’t endorse that either? Is it just knee jerk on your part? (Genuine question – look into yourself, then tell me what yourself tells you.)
Codswallop. Either you – knee jerk fashion – have read anti-Americanism that wasn’t there into fair comment in the past, or you have misread genuine disapproval for good cause as knee jerk from not taking on board that there could be good cause.
Look, by the nature of things, much on this blog is bringing out genuine failings of general application by using American examples. I am not going to pull my punches when I disapprove of those, even if the U.S.A. is involved. And I am not going to keep Americans in the dark when they have been institutionally misinformed about things done in their name, even if they get cognitive dissonance and denial out of it.
As, when, and if this blog brings out a surplus of good U.S. behaviour, and calls for comment supporting it, I will do it. But I see no need to stick in gratuitous “I agree”s like some commenters, and I do see a need to correct misunderstanding – which will necessarily be read as snide by some, though I really don’t see why they shouldn’t look at their errors first rather than get angry at learning what they didn’t know.
Even if you had been 100% right about me (perilously close to an ad hominem), that would still not follow as it would be a “fallacy fallacy”. You can only debunk things by showing they are wrong.
1) I don’t think we agree on what “hypocrisy” means.
2a) I wasn’t referring to the specific ethical lapses by particular Americans that you comment on as anti Americanism.
2b) good luck sir Galahad.
3) yes it does debunk it. If you were wrong about the two premises you derived your conclusion from, your conclusion is wrong based on those premises.
That would be the British, by impressing Americans into their Navy, and attacking the USS Chesapeake.
The clamp down by the British on free trade (prompted primarily by British jealousy of the America’s rapidly burgeoning economy coupled with their need to crush the economy of their enemy, the French) contributed a great deal to American justification for the declaration of war.
So slavery is alive and well in both Africa and the MIddle East (not to mention the sexual slavery practiced around the world). So why are those areas not civilized? Or perhaps it’s just OK that those other countries practice and accept Slavery? Even Brazil?
Well, to make ole Michelle feel better: I’m certain that Boko Haram, hating all things Western, probably read their Twitter account on their iPhone and realized “she’s right…I mean, come on guys”…
I picture them laughing exactly like the Martians in “Mars Attacks”…
Of course… They shouldn’t really use AK-47s. Those were sorta derived from Western Culture and education.
Well, if they are devout to their cause, they are completely unaware of ole Michelle’s valiant effort to free the girls…
The only appropriate tweet from the White House would be:
@BokoHaram look up and smile! #JDAM
Then be done with it.
Nothing will solve the Boko Haram problem like a pile of dead Boko Haramistanis… Just like the bullies that is all they will respond to.
On a hopeful note, and in support of the most ancient Right – Self Defense, and the Community’s mutual use of Self-Defense…the Militia – the People of a particular Nigerian village, upon learning that Boko Haram planned to raid the village decided to band together with the Arms they Bore, and understanding the central authority would provide no timely succor, moved on the intelligence and ambushed the hell out of the Boko Haram raiding party. Only to be described as vigilantes by western media.
Gads, not even poor terrorized African villages can bear arms in defense of a good cause and avoid being trashed by the Leftist media…
That’s not actually inaccurate, from what I know of Nigeria. If they aren’t destroyed they will either have their weapons taken by gangs or become just such a gang themselves, and ordinary people will still end up suffering regardless.
Uh-huh… A village defended itself… Gads what a horrible notion.
Probably would have been better to let Boko Haram waltz in.
You do realise that that is not what I was describing, right? I was telling people what is likely to happen after that, when the village has to face doubling up or losing.
So, the village having successfully defended itself with either be destroyed or become a petty dictatorship of its own, in your analysis.
A strangely false dichotomy – reliant entirely on ignoring that the village itself voluntarily banded together in mutual defense… Not some band of future tyrants compelling vigilance.
Not quite. Vast luck aside, it won’t be a petty dictatorship staying within its own bounds, but rather it will start to oppress outsiders on an even larger scale, or it will go under and maybe pass its resources to yet other oppressors. That’s the African way, staring too long into the abyss and becoming the monsters you fight. (No, that’s not racist, it’s a cultural observation from having lived there; we could make similar remarks about our own recent past, e.g. about Rob Roy MacGregor in his time and place.) Staying a defensive local response really won’t be practical for them, and they might not even think of it.
Why the knee jerk hostility to being told something different to what you thought, rather than taking it as food for thought and building on it?
Yeah, all that’s legible from that drivel is that it would have been better for the village to sit back and let Boko haram raid them…
You can prognosticate all you want about future evils… Which can be judged then. But right now, that village was absolutely right doing what it did. If it chooses to in turn oppress… Fine they can be wrong later.
But right now? Opposing evil is was they did.
The real problem really is that, Nigeria being Nigeria, there will be little effort, if any, to coordinate local defense with national defense and development.
Really, though, the real “real” failure is that the village had to take up arms in the first place due to Nigerian government incompetence.
This makes me want to watch ” Seven Samurai” again. Maybe that would be a good movie to show in Nigeria 😉
Careful… According to old PM, the villagers would have just ended up losing in the end or be subjected to their own tyranny anyway…
Maybe they need a queen to show them the way.