“It was a very dark Strangelovian speech painting the picture of a dystopian world, raising the spectre of a genocidal nation, a genocidal regime spraying nuclear weapons to annihilate the whole world and the whole region. Now, obviously many people are very concerned about Iran and there is a deep lack of trust, but surely the same was said of the Soviet Union all those years ago.”
—-CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, commenting to Wolf Blizter on Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress.
This is a propitious opportunity to clear up a question I have been asked a few times, namely, “What is the distinction between the Ethics Alarms “ethics quotes” as opposed to the unethical and ethical quotes of the week or month. Sometimes, it’s a close call, like now. An ethics quote either illustrates, in a positive or negative fashion, an ethics principle or raises an ethics issue. Unethical quotes are those that are themselves harmful, dishonest, or that promote ethics misconceptions and unethical conduct. Ethical quotes are those that display ethical values or accomplish something that is objectively good.
Amanpour’s quote is, not to be overly blunt, stupid, ignorant, and disturbingly lacking in historical perspective. It raises ethics issues, but does not rise to the level, quite, of an unethical quote. It does raise the ethics issues of incompetence in the media, political bias robbing us all of IQ points, irresponsible journalism, and what happens when one is incapable of placing oneself behind another individual’s eyeball. She is trying to be descriptive, so I would not term the quote itself unethical, just shocking. She has long been respected as a reporter on international events, but this statement is so devoid of its proper context that I think her credentials need to be reconsidered.
“Dr. Strangelove” is a paranoid satire, a very funny one. What is satirical or paranoid about describing Iran’s regime’s intent as genocidal? When Iranian officials talk in terms of wiping the only Jewish state off the map, that isn’t fiction, nor is the genocidal nature of Iran, or radical Islam, a “specter.” Can Amanpour really be claiming that Netanyahu’s concerns are overblown, and that he’s getting all upset over nothing? Is she really saying that he’s confusing the actual threat to Israel of a nuclear armed Iran with the doomsday warning of a Cold War black comedy? Is this the attitude that the Obama administration has? “You know those Jews—they always expect the worst case scenario!”
Gee, Christiane, I wonder why!
Her last sentence is really beyond belief:
“Now, obviously many people are very concerned about Iran…”
“Many people?” She isn’t ? Amanpour supposedly knows the region, knows the degree to which Iran has been fueling unrest, knows its rhetoric, knows that it is a sponsor of terrorism, and talks as if concern about Iran is just a fad?
“…and there is a deep lack of trust…”
“…but surely the same was said of the Soviet Union all those years ago.”
Be still my erupting head! And because the Soviets didn’t start World War III, as we feared, that means that Iran won’t. This is the quality of analysis we get from CNN. The reasons, we now know, that the Soviets did not start a nuclear war were 1) moral luck; 2) in the end, their leaders were more rational than we thought; 3) we had a plurality of Presidents—Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Bush— who they knew would go to the brink of war and over if necessary; and 4) their nation was run by bureaucrats and ideologues, but not religious zealots.
The true screaming, neon, flashing flaw of Amanpour’s statement, however, is that she seems completely unaware of what people Netanyahu speaks for, and their history. How can anyone have the lack of empathy, commonsense and historical perspective to say of Israel, “Why are they so distrustful of those who say they want to destroy them? It’s all bluff and bluster! Nobody ever means that! That would be crazy! Come on! Have some faith!”