Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Folly of "World Opinion"

[Of all the talk radio hosts I have heard, Denis Prager is probably the most civil and rational. Obviously, I do not always agree with him (especially concerning his views on smoking and breast implants), but on the issue below, he courageously and intelligently refutes a common and pernicious myth: that world opinion has any intrinsic moral standing.]

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Moral bankruptcy of 'world opinion'
Posted: August 1, 20061:00 a.m. Eastern
By Dennis Prager
© 2000 WorldNetDaily.com © 2006

If you are ever morally confused about a major world issue, here is a rule that is almost never violated: Whenever you hear that "world opinion" holds a view, assume it is morally wrong.

And here is a related rule if your religious or national or ethnic group ever suffers horrific persecution: "World opinion" will never do a thing for you. Never.
"World opinion" has little or nothing to say about the world's greatest evils and regularly condemns those who fight evil.

The history of "world opinion" regarding the greatest mass murders and cruelties on the planet is one of relentless apathy.

Ask the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks;
or the 6 million Ukrainians slaughtered by Stalin;
or the tens of millions of other Soviet citizens killed by Stalin's Soviet Union;
or the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their helpers throughout Europe;
or the 60 million Chinese butchered by Mao;
or the 2 million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot;
or the millions killed and enslaved in Sudan;
or the Tutsis murdered in Rwanda's genocide;
or the millions starved to death and enslaved in North Korea;
or the million Tibetans killed by the Chinese;
or the million-plus Afghans put to death by Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

Ask any of these poor souls, or the hundreds of millions of others slaughtered, tortured, raped and enslaved in the last 100 years, if "world opinion" did anything for them.

On the other hand, we learn that "world opinion" is quite exercised over Israel's unintentional killing of a few hundred Lebanese civilians behind whom hides Hezbollah – a terror group that intentionally sends missiles at Israeli cities and whose announced goals are the annihilation of Israel and the Islamicization of Lebanon. And, of course, "world opinion" was just livid at American abuses of some Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In fact, "world opinion" is constantly upset with America and Israel, two of the most decent countries on earth, yet silent about the world's cruelest countries.

Why is this?

Here are four reasons:

First, television news.

It is difficult to overstate the damage done to the world by television news. Even when not driven by political bias – an exceedingly rare occurrence globally – television news presents a thoroughly distorted picture of the world. Because it is almost entirely dependent upon pictures, TV news is only capable of showing human suffering in, or caused by, free countries. So even if the BBC or CNN were interested in showing the suffering of millions of Sudanese blacks or North Koreans –and they are not interested in so doing – they cannot do it because reporters cannot visit Sudan or North Korea and video freely. Likewise, China's decimation and annexation of Tibet, one of the world's oldest ongoing civilizations, never made it to television.

Second, "world opinion" is shaped by the same lack of courage that shapes most individual human beings' behavior. This is another aspect of the problem of the distorted way news is presented. It takes courage to report the evil of evil regimes; it takes no courage to report on the flaws of decent societies. Reporters who went into Afghanistan without the Soviet Union's permission were killed. Reporters would risk their lives to get critical stories out of Tibet, North Korea and other areas where vicious regimes rule. But to report on America's bad deeds in Iraq (not to mention at home) or Israel's is relatively effortless, and you surely won't get killed. Indeed, you may well win a Pulitzer Prize.

Third, "world opinion" bends toward power. To cite the Israel example, "world opinion" far more fears alienating the largest producers of oil and 1 billion Muslims than it fears alienating tiny Israel and the world's 13 million Jews. And not only because of oil and numbers. When you offend Muslims, you risk getting a fatwa, having your editorial offices burned down or receiving death threats. Jews don't burn down their critics' offices, issue fatwas or send death threats, let alone act on such threats.

Fourth, those who don't fight evil condemn those who do. "World opinion" doesn't confront real evils, but it has a particular animus toward those who do – most notably today America and Israel.

The moment one recognizes "world opinion" for what it is – a statement of moral cowardice, one is no longer enthralled by the term. That "world opinion" at this moment allegedly loathes America and Israel is a badge of honor to be worn proudly by those countries. It is when "world opinion" and its news media start liking you that you should wonder if you've lost your way.

Dennis Prager, one of America's most respected and popular nationally syndicated radio talk-show hosts, is the author of several books and a frequent guest on TV shows such as "Larry King Live," "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes."


Weekend Fisher said...

It's like my brother once told me about pro-animal-rights terrorists: the reason fur is more offensive than leather is that little old ladies are easier to intimidate than bikers.

Craig Fletcher said...

Dennis Prager is right on the money - again!

Ed Darrell said...

Prager and I must listen to different stuff -- I don't think I've heard the phrase "world opinion" in the past dozen years, maybe longer. Googling the phrase, I find a few stories, mostly from odd, out of the way outlets, and nearly half from Dennis Prager. I don't think this is a serious problem.

Maybe, this is why: World opinion holds that religion is almost always a good thing, and that it brings out the best in people; world opinion is that we don't need to do much about global warming; world opinion holds that George Bush can do nearly anything he wants. World opinion says it's fine for Hezbollah to have rockets for defense, AND world opinion a week ago was that Israel should have a few days to humble Hezbollah. As Vladimir Putin noted, world opinion is that Iran ought to back down from building more nuclear capacity, and that North Korea should disarm and feed its people instead. World opinion is that Indonesia needs to get tsunami warning technology in place for the entire nation. World opinion is that there is no overpopulation problem, that babies should come fast and furious (the better to overcome everybody else).

Prager is very selective in what he claims for world opinion.

It's interesting that he lowballs the death toll from the Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea. 2 million? It was 4 million. World opinion was that something should have been done to stop it -- and finally the Vietnamese government sent troops in to calm things down. World opinion was the Vietnamese would never do that -- guess Prager was right on that one.

Ranting at an abstraction, "world opinion" is easy when it distracts us from the facts. As Jimmy Carter noted over the weekend, the war in Lebanon has been brewing for six years. That's how long it's been since Bush cut off the almost-completed peace talks.

World opinion is that peace is better than war -- but what does the world know? "The sad old world has troubles enough of its own." Solutions would be good; establishing blame lets world opinion have sway. Why play that game at all?

Jeremy said...

Ed, a few remarks concerning your post...

First, you say, "World opinion holds that religion is almost always a good thing, and that it brings out the best in people[.]"

What about Darfur? In Sudan the government is aiding Muslim raids against impoverished Christians. The governement is sponsoring religiously-inspired genocide. World opinion does not seem to be "look at how Islam is bringing out the best in those murderers," but rather, "We don't condone it, but we're not going to do anything about it." Where is the world's condemnation of China's imprisonment of Christians not affiliated with the 'official' church? Where is the world's condemnation of the Vietnamese government's killing of Christians? Where is the outcry against the Canadian law prohibiting religious speech where it speaks negatively of homosexuals? The overwhelming evidence points toward world opinion toward religion being "it's fine if you don't take it too seriously."

Next you claim that, "world opinion is that we don't need to do much about global warming[.]"

What is the Kyoto treaty? Now I don't really think that Kyoto is about reducing green house gasses (it seems to be more about wealth redistribution), but it is certainly being pushed as pro-green. Further, the US has caught flack as anti-envorinment for pulling out of the treaty.

Then you say, "world opinion holds that George Bush can do nearly anything he wants."

Are you serious? Do you not remember the hell raised over Iraq by the British (minus Tony Blair), Jaques Shirac, Gerhardt Schroder, etc. ad nauseum? Currently, there does not seem to be any lightening of the anti-George Bush rhetoric around the world.

As for your comments about Iran, North Korea, and Hezbollah, who cares what is said (especially by Putin, the former chief of the KGB--you don't become the chief of the KGB by being a moral person) by the world community? Without action, words are not only meaningless, but they belie your genuine position.

In the end you refer to Jimmy Carter. He's bud's with Hugo Chavez (who happens to be in league with Mahmud Ahmadinijad, the crazy president of Iran) and Castro, neither of them being moral giants--they're both dictators who rule in tyranny. Don't mistake my comments about Carter as ad hominem. Carter identifies with these men, and it is reasonable to assume then that he identifies with their morality as well (despite his profession of Christianity). If he identifies with the evil of these dictators, then that will necessarily skew the moral comments he offers concerning global politics. This being the case, who cares what Carter says? Even if my comments regarding his moral compass are off base, he has proven to the world his ineptitude at global politics--he is widely regarded as THE WORST president in US history.

Lastly, a general comment pointed at anyone who will listen. There is a very easy explanation as to why the world community, specifically the UN, will not confront evil. Since most of the UN delegates are from nations ruled by despots, if the UN really went about confronting injustice and evil the delegates would be out of jobs--there would be no more UN!

Ed Darrell said...

I thought you were going to get it, there, Jeremy, but then you veered off into Pragerism.

"World opinion" is an amorphous blob. It's a convenient straw man if one wants to argue that any stand is courageous "against world opinion." It's a convenient crutch if one doesn't have the case to support one's opinions: "World opinion favors it."

My impression is not that Carter is "buds" with Chavez, but rather that Carter understands the new socialist revolution in Central and South America has a lot to do with the G8 and especially the U.S. ignoring the entire land mass of the parts of two continents south of Brownsville, Texas. If one dismisses Chavez, one fails to understand what's going on in South America. Carter argues for hating the sin and loving the sinner, so I wouldn't be surprised if he talks to Chavez. Talking produces peace, which is why our six-year refusal to talk on Palestine now threatens world war.

On the one hand you act concerned about Darfur, then on the other hand you dismiss the UN, which is the only agency from the west working on the issue seriously. Institutions and organizations are imperfect, which some use as a club for abandoning them, while others see as opportunities to improve performance. Institutions and organizations are, in that regard, exactly like individual people.

Ed Darrell said...

Oh, and Chavez has been elected freely in a democratic process. Tyrant? Not yet. We could push him that way, as we pushed Castro to tyranny when he asked U.S. aid to liberate the people of Cuba from poverty.

Santayana's line about the ignorant repeating history is really scary considering the experience, or lack of it, of some current policy makers.

Jeremy said...


I was not mentioning and amorphous blob, but rather gave concrete examples of the many ways in which the UN, that body which would like to see itself as the global governing body (not is some cookey way, but realistically) and therefore forming world opinion, has either been impotent to stop injustice or has held a deaf ear to the cries of those they could help.

There is no straw man here. Prager's conclusion was simply that the opinion, philosophy, and other views coming out the "World" are often on the wrong side of morality. You then set out to argue that "World opinion" was too amorphous to get a serious grip around, arguing from world opinion to the opposite conclusions of Prager to prove your point. Again I merely offered up concrete example, conterexamples of your points no less, to show that a case can be made to show that there is definate world opinion with a moral compass that points south.

About Carter, I don't know if peace is his genuine goal. His denouncements of the US make him sound like a Soviet (even though he is well within his rights to make such comments). The problem lies in the fact that he makes such comments in Cuba standing next to Castro. I don't see how this is any kind of affective strategy for peace.

As for Chaves being freely elected, I'm not sure how elections word in his country. But, if he is voted in by the straight popular vote, who cares. You may respond, "That's what the people wanted." Well, majority is a poor test for the true or the good, and what most people want may not be what most people need. This is most evident in the way in which our founding fathers developed the electoral college--a means by which to protect the mojority from itself. This is all assuming the the free elections were actually free, and not rigged.

He's a communist. Show me a communist leader that has not been a tyrant. Even if he's not, he's no friend of the US. Fox News reported a few months ago on a deal between Chaves and Iran. Chaves was planning on selling a number of F-16's to Iran. What ally of ours, or what peace partner, would arm Iran with our fighter jets?