A tale of two quotes
Here is a tale of two sound bites. First: “Slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
Second: “The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa. Not often coupled with each other, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point, which is: You’re going to make choices. [. . .] But here’s the deal: These are your choices; they are no one else’s. In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his own plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai-Shek and the nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army. [. . .] They had everything on their side. And people said ‘How can you win? How can you do this against all of the odds against you?’ And Mao Zedong says, ‘You fight your war and I’ll fight mine.’ You don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things. [. . .] You fight your war, you let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.”
The first quotation was attributed to Rush Limbaugh. He never said it. There is no tape of him saying it. There is no transcript of him saying it. After all, if he had done so at any point in the past 20 years, someone surely would have mentioned it at the time.
Yet CNN, MSNBC, ABC other networks and newspapers all around the country cheerfully repeated the pro-slavery quotation and attributed it, falsely, to Mr. Limbaugh. And having a flat-out lie planted in his mouth wound up getting Mr. Limbaugh bounced from a consortium hoping to buy the St. Louis Rams. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the talk-show host was a “divisive” figure, and famously non-divisive figures like the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed the hope that, with Mister Divisive out of the picture, the NFL could now “unify.”
The second quotation — hailing Mao — was uttered back in June to an audience of high school students by Anita Dunn, the White House communications director. I know she uttered it because I watched the words issuing from her mouth on “The Glenn Beck Show” on Fox News. But don’t worry. Nobody else played it.
So, if I understand correctly: Mr. Limbaugh is so “divisive” that to get him fired, lefty agitators have to invent racist sound bites to put in his mouth. But the White House communications director is so undivisive that she can be invited along to recommend Chairman Mao as a role model for America’s young.
From my unscientific survey, U.S. school students are all but entirely unaware of Mao Zedong, and the few who aren’t know him mainly as a T-shirt graphic or “agrarian reformer.” What else did he do? Here, from Jonathan Fenby’s book “Modern China,” is the great man in a nutshell:
“Mao’s responsibility for the extinction of anywhere from 40 [million] to 70 million lives brands him as a mass killer greater than Hitler or Stalin.”
Hey, that’s pretty impressive when they can’t get your big final-score death toll nailed down to within 30 million. Still, as President Obama’s communications director says, he lived his dream, and so can you, although if your dream involves killing, oh, 50 million to 80 million Chinamen, you may have your work cut out. But let’s stick with the Fenby figure: He killed 40 million to 70 million Chinamen. Whoops, can you say “Chinamen“ or is that racist? Oh, and sexist. So hard keeping up with the Sensitivity Police in this pansified political culture, isn’t it? But you can kill 40 million to 70 million Chinamen and that’s fine and dandy: You’ll be cited as an inspiration by the White House to an audience of high school students. You can be anything you want to be! Look at Mao: He wanted to be a mass murderer, and he lived his dream! You can too!
The White House now says that Ms. Dunn was “joking.” Anyone tempted to buy that spin should look at the tape: If this is her Friars Club routine, she needs to work on her delivery. But, for the sake of argument, try a thought experiment:
Midway through George W. Bush’s second term, press secretary Tony Snow goes to Chester A. Arthur High School to give a graduation speech. “I know it looks tough right now. You’re young, you’re full of zip, but the odds seem hopeless. Let me tell you about another young man facing tough choices 80 years ago. It’s last orders at the Munich beer garden — gee, your principal won’t thank me for mentioning that — and all the natural blonds are saying, ‘But Adolf, see reason. The Weimar Republic’s here to stay, and besides, the international Jewry control everything.’ And young Adolf Hitler puts down his foaming stein and stands on the table and sings a medley of ‘I Gotta Be Me,’ ‘(Learning to Love Yourself Is the Greatest Love of All’) and ‘The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow,’ and by the end of that night, there wasn’t a Jewish greengrocer’s anywhere in town with glass in its windows. Don’t play by the other side’s rules; make your own kind of music. And always remember: You’ve gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
Anyone think he’d still have a job?
Well, so what? All those dead Chinese are no-name peasants a long way away. What’s the big deal? If you say, “Chairman Mao? Wasn’t he the wacko who offed 70 million Chinks?” you’ll be hounded from public life for saying the word “Chinks.” But, if you commend the murderer of those 70 million as a role model in almost any schoolroom in the country from kindergarten to the Ivy League, it’s so entirely routine that only a crazy like Mr. Beck would be boorish enough to point it out.
That’s odd, don’t you think? Because it suggests that our present age of politically correct hypersensitivity is not just morally unserious, but profoundly decadent.
Twenty years ago this fall, the Iron Curtain was coming down in Europe. Across the Warsaw Pact, the jailers of the communist prison-states lost their nerve, and the cell walls crumbled. Matt Welch, the editor of Reason magazine, wonders why the anniversary is going all but unobserved. Why aren’t we making more of the biggest mass liberation in history?
Well, because to celebrate it would involve recognizing it as a victory over communism. And, after the left’s long march through the institutions of the West, most are not willing to do that. There’s the bad totalitarianism (Nazism) and the good totalitarianism (communism), whose apologists and, indeed, fetishists can still be found everywhere, even unto the White House.
Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks are “divisive”; Ms. Dunn’s are entirely normal. But don’t worry, the new Fairness Doctrine will take care of the problem.
Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller “America Alone” (Regnery, 2006).