Hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. Time now to wrap up a few remaining odds and ends (along with some advice) that hadn't yet been covered by the previous few posts. I had planned to complete this much earlier, but my internet connection has been very sporadic over the last week.
Key Reading For Leftists
First, I'd like to spotlight a recent Victor Davis Hanson essay on America's future in Iraq. The piece concerns persevering in the face of criticism, and is well worth reading simply for that. But although not its primary focus, the article also contains an essential deeper message. In stating his case, Dr. Hanson includes a particular pair of paragraphs that reveal perhaps the fundamental problem with today's political far-left and mainsteam media elites. In Dr. Hanson's words:
The truth is that wealthy Western elites in the media have evolved beyond worry over the basics of their civilization. They are so insulated, even after September 11, that they don’t believe there is much connection between liberty, freedom, consensual government, freedom of expression, and the everyday mundane things they depend on — whether excellent medical care, clean water, nice cars, neat electronic gadgets, eating out, or safety in their streets. A nuclear Iran, a missile-laden North Korea, a theocracy in oil-rich Iraq, an unleashed terrorist-sponsoring Syria, and an emboldened Hezbollah — all these still could still never quite take away their good life, so strong is the assurance of their never-ending comfort zone that they could not conceive of ever losing it.
And thus the most vehement and angry critics find it possible, even desirable, to nibble away at their own civilization’s efforts, on the understanding that a loss in Iraq would be only an apparent loss. That defeat would not entail any material detriment to themselves, but surely would enhance their own sense of contrarian self-righteousness and self-worth, as they boldly caricature the very culture that so empowered them.
This point could not be more on-the-mark. The left has another key, related problem as well, but Dr. Hanson's insight is just as revealing. It's so easy to take modern civilization for granted, but no matter our technological progress, human nature has always remained the same, and we must never forget the possibilities (both good and bad) contained in this.
Mainstream Media: Hysteria Sells News
In addition, I strongly believe we should beware of overly pessimistic predictions from the mainstream media. Not that the world is always cheery, but hysteria sells news, and many predictions simply don't hold to scrutiny.
One key recent example is the notion that Muslims (and particularly fundamentalist Muslims) will overwhelm the Western world demographically. Mark Steyn and ilk have grabbed many headlines by declaring this a virtual certainty, but the truth is - their predictions rely on numerous faulty and unknown assumptions, and their conclusions are far from definite (or even likely). Such fearmongering may sell articles, but by no means does it assure statistical accuracy.
Similarly, global warming is not the media's first environmental scare issue. Back in the 1970s, the name of the game was......global cooling. That's right, only thirty years ago many pundits believed another ice age was on the horizon. Didn't quite happen that way, did it?
So how do we discern the genuinely worrisome from the faux doom-and-gloom? Look for counterpoint arguments and see if they make more sense. In the demographics case, Steyn's conclusions simply sounded wrong compared to an opposite persuasion analysis of the same numbers. I then confirmed this by checking both sides' statistical sources, and went even further by discussing the issue with many others, including those agreeing with Steyn (I debated for days in particular with a reader from Alaska), to try and discern additional insights.
Of course, sometimes hysteria can be mixed in with plenty of truth; for example WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah runs a subscription-only intelligence service called the G2 Bulletin. Many of its reports are highly sensationalist, but some are actually very good, particularly Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein's Israel-focused Galil Report articles. Just the same, Mark Steyn has written numerous excellent essays on many other topics. Differentiating the wheat from the chaff is often just a matter of reasoning, knowledge, and experience.
Odds and Ends
Here are a few excellent links from the past couple weeks:
Writer Yashiko Sagamori, meanwhile, responds to a Malaysian Muslim about the true meaning of jihad. One of the best pieces out there on Islam and its role in the world.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, has written a short but highly direct rebuttal of Jimmy Carter's disgustingly titled (and disgustingly contented) recent book.
Blog of the Day: The 910 Group Blog
Think Tank of the Day: National Center for Policy Analysis
Website of the Day: Israel National News