Idols and crowds
by Thomas Sowell
Saturday, September 20, 2008
GLOBAL COMMUNITY: One of largest crowds in Berlin history turns out to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama speak about the global environment. (Associated Press)
"A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence."
Jean-Francois Revel was not referring to the United States when he wrote those words, nor to his own France, but to human beings in general. He was certainly not referring to Sen. Barack Obama, whom he probably never heard of, since Revel died last year.
To find anything comparable to crowds' euphoric reactions to Mr. Obama, you would have to go back to old newsreels of German crowds in the 1930s, with their adulation of their Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. With hindsight, we can look back on those people with pity, knowing now how many of them would be led to their deaths by the man they idolized.
The exultation of the moment can exact a brutal price after that moment has passed. Nowhere is that truer than when it comes to picking the leader of a nation, which means entrusting that leader with the fate of millions today and of generations yet unborn.
A leader does not have to be evil to lead a country into a catastrophe. Inexperience and incompetence can create very similar results, perhaps even faster in a nuclear age, when even "a small country" - as Mr. Obama called Iran - can wreak havoc anywhere in the world, when they are led by suicidal fanatics and supply nuclear weapons to terrorists who are likewise suicidal fanatics.
Barack Obama is truly a phenomenon of our time - a presidential candidate who cannot cite a single serious accomplishment in his entire career, besides advancing his own career with rhetoric.
He has a rhetorical answer for everything. Those of us who talk about the threat of Iran are just engaging in "the politics of fear" according to Mr. Obama, something to distract us from "the real issues," such as raising taxes and handing out largesse with the proceeds.
Those who have studied the years leading up to World War II have been astonished by how many people and how many countries failed to see what Adolf Hitler was getting ready to do.
Even though Hitler telegraphed his punches, few people seemed to get the message. Books about that period have had such titles as "The Gathering Storm" and "Why England Slept."
Will future generations wonder why we slept? Why we could not see the gathering storm in Iran, where one of the world's leading oil producers is building nuclear facilities - ostensibly to generate electricity, but whose obvious purpose is to produce nuclear bombs.
This is a country whose president has already threatened to wipe a neighboring country off the map. Does anyone need to draw pictures?
When terrorists get nuclear weapons, there will be no way to deter suicide bombers. We and our children will be permanently at the mercy of the merciless.
Yet what are we talking about? Taxing and spending policies, socking it to the oil companies and rescuing people who gambled on risky mortgages and lost.
Are we serious? Are we incapable of adult foresight and adult responsibility?
Barack Obama of course has his usual answer: talk. Rhetoric seems to be his answer to everything. Mr. Obama calls for "aggressive" diplomacy and "tough" negotiations with Iran.
These colorful adjectives may impress gullible voters but they are unlikely to impress fanatics who are willing to destroy themselves if they can destroy us in the process.
Just what is Mr. Obama going to say to Iran that has not been said already? That we don't want them to develop nuclear weapons? That has already been said, every way that it can possibly be said. If talk was going to do the job, it would already have done it by now.
Go to the United Nations? What will they do, except issue warnings - and when these are ignored, issue more warnings?
But what does Mr. Obama have besides talk - and adoring crowds?
Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.
COMMENTS (selected. lw)
RE: Mr. Sowell may have single handedly saved this paper, and increased its circulation.
Mr Sowell is acting like his extremist right cronies where their philosophy is a breeding ground for infamous people like Hitler - the fact of the matter is Barack is centered far from that mud pit of despots and dictators.
The WT should disavow his remarks for what they are: Baseless accusations, fear mongering, fascism.
September 20, 2008 at 6:32 p.m.
"Mr Sowell is acting like his extremist right cronies where their philosophy is a breeding ground for infamous people like Hitler - the fact of the matter is Barack is centered far from that mud pit of despots and dictators."
Again, this shows the inability of the left to do their research and their lack of connection with reality. Hitler was actually a socialist, not a conservative. The left is much more in line with his doctrines than the right. I have found that my liberal friends tend to ignore the valid arguments that I present to them and get wrapped around their misconceived interpretations of what they want to hear me saying, rather than what I am actually saying. Point: Mr. Sowell is simply saying that it is dangerous to put an inexperienced leader in charge of a nation based solely on their charisma,. However,the left are totally distracted with the mention of Hitler in his article. Great article.
"The WT should disavow his remarks for what they are: Baseless accusations, fear mongering, fascism."
To be baseless, something needs to be devoid of fact. Mr. Sowell's article is full of facts: Obama has no experience, has not accomplished anything noteworthy, politically, in his career, and has infatuated much of the American public with his charisma. To be considered 'fear-mongering', something, such as this article, would need to be being used simply to try to cause fear. Mr. Sowell is simply stating the facts. There ARE Muslim extremists who want to destroy America - they even say as much (and more) themselves. There are millions of these extremists. These extremists attacked us on 9/11/2001. To say that is fear-mongering is to say ignore the facts (again denial to try to justify the left's stance on issues). The left dishonor the memories of those who were killed on 9/11 by treating it as if it were a bad dream (scary for a little while but now needs to be forgotten). Just because something is fearful (if it is real) does not mean that talking about it is fear mongering. Fascism? This is just a cop-out word used by the left. If you actually research the definition and the history of fascism, you will find the left to be much more in line with it than the right. Enough said.
September 21, 2008 at 9:40 a.m.
To read all COMMENTS, see http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/sep/20/idols-and-crowds/?page=2
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