The Right Side of History: The Media Continues to Whitewash the Legacy of Communism

“The Right Side of History” is a podcast dedicated to exploring current events through a historical lens and busting left-wing myths about figures and events of America’s past.

On this week’s episode, hosts Jarrett Stepman, a contributor to The Daily Signal, and Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal’s White House correspondent, discuss the history of communism in the 20th century and the media’s whitewashing of its legacy.

With the surge in Millenial support for communism and socialism, it is important to note the impact these doctrines had on the countries that implemented them. Stepman and Lucas discuss the origins of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia as well as the egregious cover up of the Soviet Union’s crimes by New York Times Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty.


The post The Right Side of History: The Media Continues to Whitewash the Legacy of Communism appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why the Pro-Life Movement Is a True Expression of America’s Founding Principles

The most successful social movements in American history have almost always channeled the philosophy of the founding generation, and in most cases, religion.

Religious conviction along with the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which defines rights as both God-given and equally applicable to everyone, drove both the anti-slavery and civil rights movements.

In many ways, the modern pro-life movement has followed in this tradition in defense of the individual right to life itself.

Public opinion on the issue of abortion has certainly shifted over the last half century, with an increasing number of Americans identifying as pro-life, and an even higher number of people calling themselves pro-choice while actually holding more pro-life views.

Undoubtedly, the work of a few dedicated organizations has contributed to this shift.

This year, the nation’s capital will host the 45th annual March for Life. The march initially began as a protest of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which defined abortion as essentially a constitutional right under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

Many Americans opposed this decision on both moral and legal grounds, and used events like the March for Life as a sounding board for their views. The rally has continued and grown over the years, attracting people from all over the nation who believe that abortion is fundamentally wrong.

>>> Why I’m Traveling 710 Miles to Attend the March for Life

While the pro-life movement has sharpened in focus and increased its scope over the last 50 years, the pro-choice movement has drifted further away from its more limited public goal, once famously articulated by President Bill Clinton: that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

At one time, this argument held more sway. Its proponents said that abortion was simply going to happen regardless of legal restrictions, and that it should therefore be in a “safe” environment rather than in a back alley.

Hillary Clinton tried to revive this rhetoric in 2008, emphasizing that abortions should indeed be “rare,” but she then dropped that language in the 2016 election. She even advocated scrapping the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal dollars from directly funding abortions.

This must be pointed out, not to demonstrate the shiftiness of the Clintons, but to show how the pro-choice movement has become more strident and insistent on abortion being more than just a necessary evil, but a positive good for individuals and society.

As scholar David Grimes said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “Abortion is good for you, your family, and society. … It’s a win-win-win.”

While pro-choice advocates would undoubtedly balk at this comparison, many have drawn similarities between the debate over abortion and the one over slavery in the 19th century.

The original terms of the debate, in both cases, mostly revolved around the utility and practicality of an institution’s existence.

Most of the Founding Fathers recognized slavery as an institution that was out of step with the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence, and sought its eventual extinction.

However, by 1860, a sizeable clique of Americans believed that slavery was actually a moral positive and needed to be preserved forever. This sharp moral division proved intractable and led to war.

In a provocative piece in the Public Discourse, Regent University professor Miles Smith IV wrote that the arguments for abortion on demand, couched in the language of individual autonomy, run parallel to the arguments of the more radical Southern slavery advocates.

Defenders of slavery saw government intrusion on their “property” as a violation of their sacred rights. As a result, they sought to make sure that slavery remained accepted and protected to a maximum extent under all conditions.

“In the same way,” wrote Smith, “modern abortion advocates have viewed any obstacle to abortion-on-demand—including waiting periods and parental consent for minors—as an entirely unwarranted invasion of women’s totalitarian authority over their unborn children.”

The terms of the abortion debate have shifted in the last 20 years from “safe, legal, and rare,” to no restrictions under any circumstances.

This shift is evident in the left’s opposition to any reasonable limits on abortion practices. For instance, the pain-capable abortion bill, which would prevent abortions after 20 weeks.

The 20-week limit was set because studies have shown this is around the time babies can feel pain. Even most European countries, which are generally more left-wing than the United States, place restrictions on abortions early in the second trimester.

Yet, many pro-choice proponents attacked this legislation as dangerous.

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood said of this measure on its website, “20-week bans are part of an agenda to ban all abortion. Anti-abortion politicians in Congress and in state legislatures are pushing their agenda, bit by bit, to ultimately outlaw abortion completely.”

There has also been hostility toward the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which would extend legal protections to babies born after a botched abortion.

It must be noted that killing a baby after birth stretches the limits of what could even be described as an abortion. Yet some, like former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., have been willing to at least theoretically cross that line.

Now, Democrats’ refusal to get behind the born-alive bill speaks even louder. The distinction between the pro-life and pro-choice camps is becoming more clear than ever.

Which raises the powerful question faced by many past generations of Americans: Do we really believe that all men are created equal? Or shall we cast that belief aside when it’s convenient?

Americans are quick to excoriate generations of the past for failing to uphold their convictions and for falling short of our founding ideals. It is worth noting that we, too, may be judged and found sorely wanting.

The post Why the Pro-Life Movement Is a True Expression of America’s Founding Principles appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why Kaepernick’s NFL Protests Fall Short of MLK’s Movement

The New Yorker caused a stir when it portrayed civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. kneeling alongside NFL protesters Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett on the cover of the most recent edition of its magazine.

The artist, Mark Ulriksen, wrote of the controversial image, “I asked myself, what would King be doing if he were around today?”

“I’m sure that if King were around today, he’d be disappointed at the slow pace of progress: two steps forward, 20 steps back,” Ulrikson continued. “Or 10 yards back, as the metaphor may be.”

It is, of course, difficult to divine what King would have thought about the NFL protests and whether he would have seen them as a valuable contribution to his aims.

King’s daughter, Bernice King, supports the protests, and said, “People didn’t approve of the way my father protested injustice either—said he was causing trouble, called him an ‘outside agitator.’”

But King’s niece, Alveda King, who had generally disapproved of the protests, said of the New Yorker cover on Fox News: “My Uncle MLK and father A.D. King were men of God who often ‘took the knee’ in prayer to God for repentance and reconciliation during their Christian ministry. Prayer is stronger even than protest.”

“We do have to have respect for our flag, for our anthem, and we really have to care about each other. Now the things that they want to protest for, I agree,” she continued.

While it may be difficult to assess what King really would have thought about this modern protest, it is worth noting that there have nevertheless been critical differences between his movement and the one Kaepernick launched.

>>> Disrespect for National Anthem Damages NFL as Unifying American Passion

Certainly, many have found the specific protest against the flag to be insulting and off-putting, a bad attempt to place a wedge between Americans over a universal value of loving one’s country despite policy or personal differences.

The Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway wrote of how the kneeling demonstration has been particularly galling to many who simply see it as an act of disrespect to the United States and how the NFL protests have failed to match the civil rights movement.

Hemingway wrote in The Federalist:

People unavoidably see [kneeling for the national anthem] as disrespectful. Drawing attention to yourself and your cause at the one time we come together to collectively express our patriotism and shared American values is going to be unavoidably be seen as unpatriotic. That actively repels people instead of appealing to commonly held political values.

King’s success came from shining the spotlight on injustice, yet also celebrating and espousing the United States’ deepest values expressed in our founding documents.

This is not to say that King didn’t have misjudgments or make mistakes, but his movement was created with clear goals, and with the inevitable end game of inclusion rather than division.

While certainly controversial in his own day, King aimed his demonstrations at bringing about the end goal of reconciling the races—a fulfillment of the original promise of our nation’s founding, which placed our republic upon the rock of natural human equality: the concept that all are created equal in the eyes of God.

As Professor Peter C. Myers wrote for The Heritage Foundation:

King extolled the promise that inhered in Lincoln’s momentous Proclamation and prior to that in “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” He confronted the nation with its failure to honor its promise of equal liberty for all, even as he implored his fellow protesters and all of his fellow citizens to understand that their destinies as Americans were indissolubly bound together.

In cases where King clashed with police, he accepted the penalty of unjust laws while decrying their aims, thereby respecting the ultimate rule of law and bringing attention to his cause at the same time.

It was an important step in changing American hearts and minds that ultimately led to the expansion of basic rights and protections to include groups that had traditionally been deprived of them.

In this, Kaepernick’s protest missed the mark.

Unfortunately, Kaepernick hasn’t just attacked American policing policies, he insulted law enforcement by wearing socks portraying police as pigs. He also wore a shirt with pictures of Malcolm X and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro at a press conference.

The Castro regime, under which racism is rampant, operates a virtual police state that violently represses its citizens. Protests are cracked down on ruthlessly and dissent isn’t tolerated.

Malcolm X was, of course, a very different civil rights leader than MLK. He criticized non-violent protests as an ineffective tool and rejected the idea that unity and racial reconciliation were possible or desirable.

Some of King’s best ideas, over time, have become mainstream. While his legacy is often fiercely debated between the political left and the right, his appeal has become nearly universal.

Many on the left complain that King’s more egalitarian economic views are rejected on the right, while it’s fair to say that the “colorblind” views of his famed “I Have a Dream” speech might be considered offensive and triggering on a modern college campus, where the idea of racial colorblindness is problematic.

Nevertheless, King’s movement created a positive, lasting legacy for the United States as a whole.

Kaepernick’s movement, by contrast, has done little more than alienate football fans in droves and add to the perception that America is more divided than ever.

The post Why Kaepernick’s NFL Protests Fall Short of MLK’s Movement appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Here’s the History of the 25th Amendment

After failing to gather any real momentum to impeach President Donald Trump, some Democrats are now floating the idea of using the 25th Amendment to oust him.

This little-known constitutional amendment serves as an escape-hatch measure for removing the president if he is incapacitated. It is quite different from impeachment.

Impeachment is the method that the Founders set up to prosecute cases of presidential criminality. It requires members of Congress to bring specific charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

But absent these charges, some of Trump’s detractors are now embracing other methods to overthrow him.

>>> The Right Side of History: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Impeachment Debate

Anti-Trump commentators and the few Democrats now suggesting use of the 25th Amendment have suggested that the president is mentally unstable.

“The judgment [about the president’s mental state] is not mine to make,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said to reporters after proposing a commission to examine Trump’s mental health, according to Politico.

“The judgment constitutionally is to be made by the vice president and the Cabinet, or the vice president and a new body. We have an institutional responsibility to set that body up.”

Pulling out the 25th Amendment is the logical next step for those who have been looking for a way to depose Trump since he entered office, though it’s a serious departure from the intent of those who passed the amendment.

Democrats have trotted out psychologists on Capitol Hill to prove that Trump is unstable and should be removed from office.

This alone seriously flirts with violating the “Goldwater Rule,” which prevents psychologists from offering a “professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

The American Psychiatric Association created this rule after Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater successfully sued a magazine that had published a survey of psychologists deeming him unfit for office.

The survey was misleading, clearly partisan, and damaged the reputation of psychologists as a profession. Moreover, the idea of removing a president based on the whims of an elite group of supposedly neutral neutral psychologists is an affront to democracy.

This is not to say the 25th Amendment doesn’t serve a valuable purpose. If a president suffers a disability that would make him unable to perform his duties, this tool is an emergency stopgap to solve the problem.

It was never conceived of as a partisan tool to depose a hated president.

‘We Stumbled Along’

Perhaps been the most obvious case where the 25th Amendment was needed occurred a generation before it was actually passed.

On Sept. 25, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a collapse and a massive stroke while campaigning in Colorado for the U.S. to enter the League of Nations.

The League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, had been Wilson’s pet project, and despite warnings from doctors he had pushed himself to the limit on its behalf.

After the stroke, Wilson went blind in one eye, was paralyzed on the left side, and lay unconscious. While he eventually awoke from the coma, he was never the same. For the most part, he was a barely-functioning invalid.

Incredibly, Wilson’s wife practically ran the White House for the two remaining years of his term, only leaving the most serious acts of policy and politics to her husband, which by that point he was barely able to perform.

“This is the worst instance of presidential disability we’ve ever had,” said historian John Milton Cooper. “We stumbled along [for eighteen months] … without a fully functioning president.”

Few around the country even knew that the West Wing was in such bad shape, as both the press corps and the White House carefully kept the truth of the president’s condition from coming out.

Wilson even considered running for what would then be an unprecedented third term, but Democratic Party leaders carefully selected a compromise candidate who would run instead.

While Wilson’s Cabinet and the Washington political establishment were wary about forcing the president out of office, many fretted about what could be done if a president couldn’t perform his duties in an emergency.

The debate went more or less dormant for half a century until the assassination of a president forced the nation to seriously reconsider legal ways of replacing—either temporarily or permanently—a president for health-related reasons.

A Re-Evaluation

While health scares for President Dwight Eisenhower led to some informal agreements about transmitting the duties of the president in a time of crisis, nothing was enacted until the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The line of succession had been laid out by the Presidential Succession Act, but some began a push to clearly define these ambiguous rules in the Constitution while also addressing what could be done if the president was alive but experiencing a sudden health crisis.

The idea of being without a functioning president, particularly in the rapid-response world of instant communication and the Cold War, concerned Americans in a way that it hadn’t in earlier times.

“In an age of nuclear weaponry—and now, global terrorism—America can ill afford to be leaderless for long, or to have unclear rules about who is in charge,” wrote constitutional scholars Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar.

“The 25th Amendment, proposed and ratified after JFK’s assassination, fills many of the gaps left open by the Founders.

>>> Read the Heritage Guide to the Constitution’s Explanation of the 25th Amendment

The 25th Amendment, enacted in 1967, set up a clear line of succession in case the president or vice president died, and included the section that some anti-Trumpers are now looking to: the method for removing, or putting a pause on, the official powers of a debilitated president.

The crucial Section 4 states:

Whenever the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president.

Congress then has 21 days to determine if the president is able to continue performing his duties and can remove him from office with a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Since its passage, the 25th Amendment has been used several times, but never for the purpose of removing the president from office.

Some have alleged that officials wanted to remove President Ronald Reagan from office using the 25th Amendment after his attempted assassination—but those allegations have been debunked.

The amendment has only been used to temporarily transfer power from presidents to vice presidents during medical operations that would leave them incapable of responding to an urgent crisis.

Reagan himself did invoke Section 3 of the amendment on himself during a routine medical procedure in 1985, in which Vice President George H.W. Bush assumed the powers of the presidency for several hours.

And President George W. Bush also used the law to transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney during a couple of operations, again for only a few hours.

Dangerous Precedent

While some are now itching to use Section 4 of the 25th Amendment on Trump, many have urged caution or outright blasted the move as nothing but naked partisanship.

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway suggested that this overheated effort to boot the president with the 25th Amendment is akin to a “coup.”

“Talk of mental health and a 25th Amendment removal, ‘by force if necessary,’ is talk of a coup,” Hemingway wrote. “Responsible parties should consider how this is perceived by the part of the electorate they rarely speak to and cease.

Harvard Law School professor emeritus and lifelong Democrat, Alan Dershowitz, also denounced the movement as “dangerous” and a “fool’s errand.”

“Now that they couldn’t criminalize political differences, they’re trying to psychiatrize political differences,” Dershowitz said on Fox News.

Right now, this push is little more than creative fanfiction, since impeachment would require a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president, while the 25th Amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Yet this won’t stop left-wing activists from trying to wield this amendment as a weapon against the Trump presidency.

At least they’re arguing from the Constitution. If only they cared for its intent.

The post Here’s the History of the 25th Amendment appeared first on The Daily Signal.

This ‘Unprofessional’ Case Against Western Ranchers Shows Why Americans Are Right to Fear Government

Governments are prone to abuse, especially when unchecked.

Recently revealed actions by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency under the Department of Interior charged with managing federal land, are reminiscent of the IRS scandal in which that agency targeted conservative tea party groups for extra scrutiny.

A federal judge ruled Dec. 20 that she was throwing out the Bureau of Land Management’s case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy because the prosecution withheld key facts.

On Monday, the same judge ruled that the case could not be tried again due to the actions of the prosecution, which she said had been “outrageous” and “violated due process rights,” according to

The story broke before Christmas, but hasn’t received the attention it deserves. It perfectly underscores the pernicious problem of unaccountable agencies and how quickly they can become abusive to citizens.

The trial involved a dispute over grazing rights between Bundy and the federal government, a persistent problem in western states.

The government claimed Bundy owed money for public land use fees going back to the early 1990s, which the Bundy family refused to pay.

After years of trying to recoup the fees, the Bureau of Land Management, working in conjunction with the FBI, tried to impound Bundy’s cattle in 2014.

The story hit national headlines after Bundy, his family, and supporters got into an armed standoff with authorities that fortunately ended without violence. Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan eventually were arrested and charged with various offences.

However, the actions of government agents badly damaged the credibility of the case and raised questions about the power of supposedly independent agencies to deliver justice responsibly.

What is particularly worrisome is that the Bureau of Land Management appears to have acted punitively against political and religious groups they simply didn’t like.

An investigative report by one of the bureau’s own special agents revealed that the agents in the Bundy case acted with “incredible bias” and likely broke the law, as The Daily Caller News Foundation reported

The level of malfeasance of which one of its own accused the Bureau of Land Management is stunning.

Dan Love, the Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officer who led the 2014 raid on the Bundy compound in Clark County, Nevada, was fired recently amid charges of corruption. That was something prosecutors denied until pressured to release his fellow agent’s report to the defense.

Worse, an investigative report by one of the bureau’s own special agents revealed that the agents in the Bundy case acted with “incredible bias” and likely broke the law, as The Daily Caller News Foundation reported.

In the memo, lead investigator Larry Wooten explained how agents acted maliciously toward the Bundys. He said the “punitive” and “ego-driven” campaign against the ranchers was all an effort to “command the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale, and militaristic trespass cattle impound possible.”

Wooten wrote: “The ridiculousness of the conduct, unprofessional amateurish carnival atmosphere, openly made statements, and electronic communications tended to mitigate the defendant’s culpability and cast a shadow of a doubt of inexcusable bias, unprofessionalism, and embarrassment of our agency.”

The agents called Bundy and his supporters “deplorables,” “rednecks,” and “idiots” among many other worse names, Wooten said. They also insulted the Bundy family’s Mormon beliefs.

Their behavior showed clear prejudice toward “the defendants, their supporters, and Mormons,” Wooten wrote.

Wooten claimed that fellow agents put him through a “religious test” of sorts on several occasions.

“You’re not a Mormon, are you?” they asked.

Wooten’s memo suggested that the attitude and ambition of Bureau of Land Management agents led them to inappropriately militarize the operation against the Bundys, even after the FBI had conducted a threat assessment and concluded that the Bundys weren’t dangerous.

The day after U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s declaration of a mistrial, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for an investigation into the matter.

However, there is some frustration over the Navarro’s decision, especially among environmental groups that generally would like to boot ranchers from government-owned western land.

Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, an environmental conservation organization, blasted the mistrial decision in The Hill.

“These federal agencies have been patient and cautious to a fault in their prosecution of the Bundys and their accomplices,” Molvar wrote. “It’s long past time to stop playing games with the prosecution of federal crimes, and instead lay all the facts on the table and let the judicial system work.”

But one doesn’t need to think the Bundys acted appropriately in the dispute to understand why the case had to be thrown out. Nor is it out of line to think it’s worrisome for government agents to act in such an aggressive and abusive manner no matter the guilt or innocence of the citizen.

As columnist Debra Saunders wrote, the disturbing facts that have come to light point “to the sort of federal prosecutorial abuses that give the right cause for paranoia.”

There are better ways of of dealing with Western land. Reducing the federal footprint would certainly help.

Ranchers have been using government land for grazing for many generations, as individuals generally don’t have the financial means to acquire the amount of property necessary to run their business.

But this setup is not a free ride or “welfare,” as some have suggested.

Studies show it is generally more expensive for ranchers to use public land, which, in addition to fees, they are required to maintain, than to use privately leased land. In fact this land use helps the government save a significant amount of money on management costs.

Many ranchers would much rather contract with private entities and pay for services rather than deal with the headache of negotiating with the federal government. In many cases, however, this is impossible.

>>> It’s Time to Reduce the Power of the Federal Government Over Western Land

In Nevada, the federal government owns over 80 percent of the land and creates serious problems for ranchers and others who want and need to use it.

In the past, the federal government was more likely to give ranchers freer use of this land. Government actually encouraged western migration and frontier settlement through policies such as the famed Homestead Act of 1862.

But pressure from environmentalists outside and inside the agencies during the 20th century led to more restrictive policies on how ranchers may use the land.

This resulted in confrontations between the federal government and western farmers and ranchers, most notably the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” in the 1970s and 1980s, in which a coalition of westerners demanded that the government privatize land or transfer it to local authorities.

Confrontations and tension between ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management will likely continue as long as the government pursues such tight-fisted policies and insists that it’s more important to close off land use for the needs of the desert tortoise rather than those of ranchers and farmers.

Regardless of policy, Americans have a right not to be targeted by a government created to protect them and mete out appropriate justice.

The unfortunate facts of the Bundy case show how an unaccountable agency can become abusive toward citizens, and strikes at the heart of what we believe about republican government.

The Founders created our institutions to serve us and faithfully uphold the law, not be weaponized to attack individuals and groups in the shadow of darkness.

The post This ‘Unprofessional’ Case Against Western Ranchers Shows Why Americans Are Right to Fear Government appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Once Manipulated by Obama Administration on Iran, Media Still Peddles Wrong Narrative

Dramatic images of the protests rocking Iran should be a reminder of how good we have it in the United States and how easy it is to lose perspective.

In America, a “war on women” is defined by progressives as failing to force nuns to pay for birth control. In Iran, a woman can be punished for not wearing a hijab and a man can be brutally executed for being gay.

While the left has a penchant for accusing America of oppression while excusing foreign malfeasance, its refusal to criticize Iran still stands out.

CNN oddly defined the movement as “pro-government protests,” before issuing a correction.

The New York Times Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, reported on New Year’s Day that the protests were ongoing as the Iranian people “ignored calls for calm,” as if the movement was simply driven by a few rowdy troublemakers instead of having larger political implications for a tyrannical government.

Many have compared Erdbrink’s reporting to the actions of infamous New York Times Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty, who denied the communist forced famine in Ukraine in the 1930s that killed millions of people.

In November, Erdbrink reported that Iran had “united” in opposition to Trump and Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, they weren’t.

While the nature of the decentralized group of protests remains somewhat clouded, Jim Phillips, Heritage Foundation senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs, explained in The Daily Signal how corruption, a sudden surge in food prices, and importantly, the repressive Islamist ideology of the powers that be, have contributed to the toxic stew of resentment.

“We don’t want an Islamic Republic,” “Down with Hezbollah,” and “Death to the dictator,” are reportedly common chants by protesters.

The fact is that there is deep discontent with the Islamist theocracy that has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution and many are now willing to risk their lives to end its abuses. The nation’s rulers are hardly pro-Western moderates.

Phillips wrote:

Rouhani’s faction is more pragmatic than the ultra-hardliners, but it is by no means ‘moderate.’ Rouhani is the tactful leader of the Iranian state, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, remains the implacable spearhead of Iran’s Islamist revolution. The two have worked closely for years and continue to collaborate as a ‘good cop/bad cop’ tag team.

For a media that likes to perceive itself as speaking truth to power, coverage has been strangely tepid as it continues to define the government as a moderating force compared to more dangerous hard-liners. It has also danced around the Iranian government’s role in perpetuating Islamist doctrines, both at home and abroad.

This is par for the course.

The media collectively yawned last month when a bombshell Politico report came out claimed the Obama administration put the lid on an investigation into Iran-backed Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking and terrorism activities during the nuclear deal negotiations.

So why is it that the media is ignoring this ongoing story and skating around the facts?

Conservative writer Lee Smith answered that question in Tablet Magazine, writing that the nature of their reporting derives from two main sources of information: “the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Obama White House.”

“Without government minders providing them with story-lines and experts, American reporters are simply lost—and it shows,” Smith wrote.

President Donald Trump was quick to tweet about the protests and explicitly call out the Iranian regime’s repressive and destructive policies.

This contrasted sharply with former President Barack Obama’s reaction to the wave of Iranian unrest that sprung up after a disputed election in 2009. Obama initially said he was “troubled” by the turmoil but ultimately hoped that Iran would sort things out. He refrained from explicitly condemning the regime and made no signal that he would support protesters, even rhetorically.

The legacy media still closely follows the message peddled by Obama and his former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, who was one of the chief architects of the Iran nuclear deal.

To lay the groundwork for the deal, Rhodes, whose background was in fiction writing, proudly boasted of manipulating clueless media allies in a 2016 New York Times Magazine profile of his work.

“We created an echo chamber,” Rhodes said in the profile. “They [the media] were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Changing the negative public perception of Iran was a tall order. Not too long before the George W. Bush administration had labeled the country, which has been a long-term thorn in U.S. Middle East policy, among the “axis of evil” along with North Korea and Iraq.

To get Americans and Congress on board with this shift in strategy, the Obama administration had to convince them that loosening up sanctions on Iran was a good thing because Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a “moderate.”

Normalizing the regime provided a chance to cool their nuclear aspirations, so the reasoning went.

This was a farce that the media ate up and still continues to peddle.

One doesn’t want to fall too much into the trap of thinking all populist, democratic movements, even ones under tyrannical governments, are good.

But it is important, when the time is right, for American leaders to forcefully rebuke tyranny and repression.

Right now, the media is too worried about the president blocking people from his personal Twitter account and protecting Obama’s legacy to bother uncovering the truly heinous policies and ideology of a cruel Iranian regime.

The post Once Manipulated by Obama Administration on Iran, Media Still Peddles Wrong Narrative appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The History of Fake News in the United States

Fake news isn’t suddenly ruining America, but putting government in charge of deciding what news is fake will.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, numerous media outlets ran stories claiming that many websites had published false stories that helped Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

Since then Left-leaning opinion writers have called for a solution to this alleged epidemic. The New York Times reported last January that Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Google will team up with legacy media outlets to fact-check stories and curtail the proliferation of “fake news.”

However, intentionally misleading news has been around since before the invention of the printing press. In fact, our Founding Fathers grappled with this very issue when they created our system of government. They saw that while it was tempting to censor fake stories, ultimately the truth was more likely to be abused by an all-powerful government arbiter than the filter of unimpeded popular debate. Attempts to weed out factually incorrect news reports can quickly morph into fact-checking and manipulating differences in opinion.

Fortunately, there have been few serious calls in the United States for official censoring of political news or media, in contrast to most of the world, including Europe. Freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and even the freedom to be wrong make America great and exceptional. In addition to preserving liberty, our free-wheeling tradition gives the United States an edge in adapting to the increasingly decentralized media landscape that is a natural product of the Internet Age. Most importantly, it produces a more critically informed populace in the long term.

The Founders and the Free Press

The Founding Fathers were well aware of the power of the press, for good or ill. After all, many of them, such as Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, were newspapermen and pamphleteers. The revolutionary ideas they disseminated throughout the colonies found eager readers, putting them high on King George III’s enemies list.

Three years after the Constitution was ratified, the American people amended it by adding the Bill of Rights, which included the First Amendment and its protections of the media. However, the Founders understood that a free press was not an entirely unqualified blessing; some had reservations.

Elbridge Gerry, who was present at the Constitutional Convention, lamented how con artists in his home state were manipulating the people. “The people do not [lack] virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots,” Gerry said at the convention. “In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute.”

The Founders saw that while it was tempting to censor fake stories, ultimately the truth was more likely to be abused by an all-powerful government arbiter than the filter of unimpeded popular debate.

Benjamin Franklin also warned about the power of the press, which the public must put so much trust in. In a short essay, Franklin explained how the press acted as the “court” of public opinion and wielded enormous unofficial power.

For an institution with so much influence, Franklin noted that the bar for entry into journalism is remarkably low, with no requirement regarding “Ability, Integrity, Knowledge.” He said the liberty of the press can easily turn into the “liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another.”

The Founders wrote constitutional protections for the press with open eyes, as their written remarks record. Yet, the evils that come through the occasional problems of a free press are heavily outweighed by its benefits. Lies may proliferate, but the truth has a real chance to rise to the top.

Thomas Jefferson said that the most effectual way for a people to be governed by “reason and truth” is to give freedom to the press. There was simply no other way. He wrote in a letter to Gerry:

I am […] for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.

Liars and scandal mongers may occasionally have success in a system without censorship, but truth was ultimately more likely to be found when passed through the people as a whole. Jefferson wrote:

It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate, with the discrimination between truth and falsehood. And hitherto the public judgment has performed that office with wonderful correctness.

Despite full knowledge of the media’s often unscrupulous power over public opinion, the Founders chose to grant broad protections to a decentralized press, opting to place their faith in newspapers checking one another with more efficacy and less risk of bias than heavy-handed government crackdowns.

When the Federalist Party passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts under President John Adams to clamp down on “false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government in the midst of the “Quasi War” with France, there was an immense backlash. A few journalists were arrested, but the governing party was crushed in future elections and ceased to exist shortly thereafter. In the United States, press freedom would become an almost unquestioned element of American culture and policy.

Things worked out differently across the Atlantic. In France, a popular uprising, stoked by a rabid press, led to mob violence, tyranny, and oppressive censorship. Revolutionary scribblers initially brought an end to the Old Regime and the royal restrictions on speech, but freedom of the press didn’t last. After the monarchy was crushed, the revolutionaries censored the press even more ruthlessly than had the Bourbon kings. The radicals argued that press freedom was leading people astray and impeding their revolution.

Maximilien Robespierre, leader of the Jacobin party, called journalists “the most dangerous enemies of liberty.” Robespierre and his allies in the French government created a state-sponsored newspaper to counter what they saw as the media’s lies. Then, seeing that even that was not enough to prevent alternative opinions from growing, began to arrest and execute those who opposed the policies of the government. Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror” gripped France for more than a year, during which 16,594 official death sentences were handed out.

In the mid-20th century, the American press became more centralized and the country opened its media sector to many of the same problems that had plagued European media.

Calls for liberty ended with censorship and ultimately the guillotine for unbelievers. Clearly there was a difference between the American and French regimes and cultures, both nominally standing for liberty, but arriving at radically different ends.

A Frenchman who was a keen observer of both systems explained why freedom of the press worked out so differently in these sister republics.

Tocqueville, the United States, and France

Alexis de Tocqueville caught on to why liberty of the press worked so much better in the United States than in his home country. One system was almost entirely free from suggestions of government censorship and the other perpetually in danger of falling prey to the “instincts of the pettiest despots.”

Americans understood, wrote Tocqueville in his book “Democracy in America”, that creating a government body with the power to assess the truth in media would be far more dangerous than any system of press freedom. They instinctively knew that:

Whoever should be able to create and maintain a tribunal of this kind would waste his time in prosecuting the liberty of the press; for he would be the absolute master of the whole community and would be as free to rid himself of the authors as of their writings.

In other words, the creation of such an official “court” to oversee media truth would logically end in absolute tyranny. Tocqueville concluded that “in order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.”

Fortunately, America had a diverse and highly decentralized press from the beginning. Not so in France, which had a highly centralized press both in terms of geography and number of media organizations. Therefore, Tocqueville wrote, in a centralized media environment such as France, “[t]he influence upon a skeptical nation of a public press thus constituted must be almost unbounded. It is an enemy with whom a government may sign an occasional truce, but which it is difficult to resist for any length of time.”

France never really changed. It continued a cycle of crackdowns on the free press as new regimes took power. Instead of decentralizing the press of the monarchical regime, each successive set of revolutionaries seized the central apparatus for their own purposes. In 1852, when the Second Empire under Napoleon III took power, the government said
that censorship would be implemented for public safety.

A petition message to the legislative body concluded: “As long as there exists in France parties hostile to the Empire, liberty of the press is out of the question, and the country at large has no wish for it.”

Though President Trump has caused concern by calling members of the press “enemies of the people,” his threats against the press come through mockery and rebuke rather than official sanctions. Presidential media hating has been around since George Washington was in office, but there have been few serious proposals to actually crack down on reporting.

By contrast, the press is treated quite differently in France, where citizens are placed on a 44-hour legal media blackout on the eve of elections. As USA Today reported, in the days leading up to the French presidential election, the media were warned not to report on data leaks from candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign. The French election commission said that the leaks likely contained some fraudulent data, i.e. “fake news,” and any reporting on it or even passing it along on social media could lead to criminal charges.

Jim Swift of The Weekly Standard pointed out the obvious: “This is censorship, plain and simple. In the Internet Age, reporters and citizens around the globe can share information—be it about the Macron hack or not—on Twitter, Facebook, or on their websites. The French press and citizenry? Repressed.”

But The New York Times praised the reporting ban, and emphasized the benefits of the centralized French system over the more freewheeling ones in Britain and the United States. In a recent article, The Times noted:

The contrast may have been amplified further by the absence of a French equivalent to the thriving tabloid culture in Britain or the robust right-wing broadcast media in the United States, where the Clinton hacking attack generated enormous negative coverage.

“We don’t have a Fox News in France,” said Johan Hufnagel, managing editor of the Left-wing daily Libération, according to The New York Times. “There’s no broadcaster with a wide audience and personalities who build this up and try to use it for their own agendas.”

A similar scandal occurred in the United States when Wikileaks published thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee that cast the Clinton campaign in a negative light. Yet, there was no censorship of the information; the American people would not have stood for it.

Who has the better system? Since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, France has gone through five republics, two empires, and four monarchies. Despite the bumptious nature of American politics and media, it would be foolish to bet on France’s fifth republic outlasting America’s first.

Americans have been lucky to have a decentralized media through most of their history and a culture that strongly embraces the idea of a truly free press. Those arrangements have had a long-lasting impact on American institutions and have made the country resistant to authoritarian impulses. However, in the mid-20th century, the American press became more centralized and the country opened its media sector to many of the same problems that had plagued European media.

Some glamorize the era in which a few television companies and big newspapers became media gatekeepers, similar to the model that currently exists in France. This nostalgia for “more responsible” journalism ignores the fact that some of the most egregious fake news blunders were perpetrated by an unchecked centralized press. Perhaps the worst offense of all came from The New York Times.

The New York Times and the Fraud of the Century

Today, a 30-foot-long bronze wall stands in Northwest Washington, D.C., and on this wall is the simple image of a wheat field. It is a monument to the victims of The Holodomor, a monstrous genocide committed by one of the most ruthless and authoritarian regimes in human history.

In 1932, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, frustrated that he could not crush Ukrainian nationalism, ordered that grain quotas for Ukrainian fields be raised so high that the peasants working the fields would not be left with enough food to feed themselves. NKVD troops collected the grain and watched over the populace to prevent them from leaving to find nourishment elsewhere.

As a result of these policies, as many as 7 million Ukrainians died of starvation in 1932 and 1933.

But while Stalin was conducting an atrocity with few equals in human history, The New York Times was reporting on the regime’s triumphs of modernization.

Walter Duranty, the Times Moscow bureau chief, won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence for his 1931 series of articles on the Soviet Union. Pulitzer in hand, he proceeded to perpetrate perhaps the worst incident of fake news in American media history at a time when Americans relied on the Times and a handful of other large media outlets to bring them news from around the world.

Duranty’s motivation for covering up the crimes taking place in Ukraine has never been fully ascertained. However, it undoubtedly gave the Bolshevik sympathizer better access to Stalin’s regime, which routinely fed him propaganda.

While privately admitting that many Ukrainians had starved to death, Duranty sent numerous reports back to the United States praising the good work of the Soviet government. He reported that there had been some deaths from “diseases due to malnutrition,” but called the suggestion that a widespread famine was taking place “malignant propaganda.”

These reports were highly influential in the United States and had enormous impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. Historian Robert Conquest wrote in his book, “The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine”, that due to the perceived credibility of The New York Times, the American people accepted the fraudulent accounts as true.

Sally J. Taylor wrote in her book “Stalin’s Apologist” that Duranty’s reports helped convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to extend official diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in November of 1933. She wrote: “[A]lmost single-handedly did Duranty aid and abet one of the world’s most prolific mass murderers, knowing all the while what was going on but refraining from saying precisely what he knew to be true.”

Though Duranty’s reporting was a lie, The New York Times never questioned its authenticity and dismissed charges that their reporter was cooking up false reports. Famed British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote of this willful self-deception in his autobiography:

If the New York Times went on all those years giving great prominence to Duranty’s messages, building him and them up when they were so evidently nonsensically untrue […] this was not, we may be sure, because the Times was deceived. Rather it wanted to be so deceived, and Duranty provided the requisite deception material.

In the more centralized national media landscape of the mid-20th century, a fraudulent story like that published in the Times was both more likely to be believed and less likely to be debunked.

The Truth Cannot Be Centrally Planned

But America’s evolving media landscape is again moving toward decentralization. And, fortunately, the First Amendment is a mighty weapon against the suffocating and stultifying suppression of speech that frequently occurs in other nations.

The system the Founders created and intended for the United States was one that they hoped would lead our civilization to the truth. We have acquiesced to the fact that there will always be a great deal that the smartest and the wisest simply don’t know. No earthly, impartial arbiter has the capacity, or should have the capacity, to determine absolute fact for us—especially in the realm of politics, philosophy, and man’s relation to man.

For all the uncertainty and chaos that an unfettered media seem to engender, Americans have been best at ultimately veering closer to the truth than any other people. The First Amendment is one of the greatest of many gifts the Founding generation bequeathed us and has been a truly defining feature of American exceptionalism with few comparisons around the globe.

Through all the angst over fake news, fraudulent journalists, and media hyperbole, the American republic will survive. In the end, fake news peddlers will only damage their own reputations and bring doubt on their reporting. Fortunately, our freedom isn’t dependent on the musings of the White House press corps. It hinges on the Constitution and the liberty it was created to protect.

This article originally appeared in the fall edition of the Insider.

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Eliminating Partisan Redistricting Will Make Politics Worse, Not Better

You can’t take politics out of politics.

In different words, that’s what James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, expressed when he wrote Federalist No. 10. Instead of eliminating partisan interests, he called for a constitutional system that would pit ambition against ambition to prevent tyranny, rather than trying to extinguish parties or “factions” altogether.

But the age-old desire to create a political system free from rank partisanship threatens to make our governing system worse, not better.

There’s no better illustration of Madison’s wisdom than the current battle over how legislative districts are drawn.

A lower court threw out a 2011 Wisconsin redistricting plan on the basis that the number of Republican- and Democrat-held seats did not reflect the number of total votes for each party in the state. Instead, the seats were skewed to favor the GOP. The issue made its way up to the Supreme Court, which recently heard oral arguments in the case of Gill v. Whitford.

Undoubtedly, as parties have done since the beginning of time, Republicans in the state legislature drew up congressional districts that were favorable to their party, leading to complaints of injustice.

Though many have cried foul over this practice and now hope the courts will somehow resolve the issue, the judicial cure could become far worse than the disease.

Heritage Foundation expert Hans von Spakovsky warned about how the case could allow courts to be weaponized and injected into partisan political squabbles.

Von Spakovsky wrote in an op-ed essay for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If the court decides a ‘proof of intent to act for political purposes’ in redistricting is unconstitutional, they will be turning the courts into just such weapons and usurping the authority of the political branches of government.”

Like Madison, von Spakovsky would rather brave the messy political arena on this issue, as Americans have done throughout our history, rather than interject the courts in a matter that ought to be resolved through democratic means.

Even the colloquial name of the practice shows that getting one-up on the opposing party through redistricting is as old as the republic.

Partisan redistricting, called “gerrymandering,” gets its name from Elbridge Gerry, a curmudgeonly Founding Father from Massachusetts, who, as governor of his state, helped draw up district lines that favored his political allies.

One absurdly shaped district looked like a salamander, which his political opponents mocked by calling it a “gerrymander.” Gerry lost his next election, but the name of his partisan districting methods stuck.

It’s been a part of the American system before and since Gerry cooked up his scheme, with the party on the short end of the stick often squawking about its unfairness.

It just so happens that Democrats have been on the short end of this process after several wave elections that did not go in their favor.

Former President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, has begun beating the drum, calling for the Supreme Court to end gerrymandering, or, if that fails, passage of  legislation to somehow make the system free from partisanship.

In a Washington Post column, Holder wrote that this was necessary for “preserving our democracy and making our government accountable to the people.”

Having nine unelected judges save democracy is perhaps itself an absurdity, but Holder’s other suggestions if the court doesn’t go his way also fall far short of improving the American system of elections.

This isn’t the first time Americans have sought to remove politics from redistricting. For instance, California passed a law in 2008 creating a California Citizens Redistricting Commission that was billed as balanced, scientific in method, and nonpartisan.

But the effort was almost immediately re-embroiled in politics as Republicans accused Democrats of stacking the commission with activists who were operating publicly as nothing more than disinterested citizens groups.

Also, in 2012, controversy raged in Colorado over partisanship in a supposedly independent commission set up by the state in the 1970s. One longtime member of the commission spoke out and said that it had always been partisan.

Robert D. Loevy, a retired professor and former Colorado redistricting commissioner, wrote in his book “Confessions of a Reapportionment Commissioner” that the independent commission guidelines for fair apportionment were essentially a “sham.”

Politicking persisted as parties tried to stack or manipulate the commissions to suit their interests, just as they had used their power to create more favorable districts through gerrymandering. The process just became less apparent on the surface and further out of the view of the public.

Other states have tried similar “fixes,” and yet, despite proliferating “nonpartisan” and “citizen” commissions and panels, redistricting generally remains as partisan as ever.

Does this mean gerrymandering isn’t a problem? Certainly not. There are undoubtedly districts across the country that are absurdly constructed and brazenly partisan, and do a poor job of reflecting the opinions and will of voters.

Instead of a Sisyphusian attempt to cut politics out of an inherently political activity, the problems engendered by partisan redistricting are best resolved through frequent elections, public awareness, and constant changes to policy, neighborhoods, and culture that often make carefully drawn legislative maps outdated.

Democracy and, yes, open partisanship, are perhaps the best and only means to counteract overzealous factions, not “legislators” in robes or ineffectual legislative schemes that can’t overcome the reality of raw political interest.

The post Eliminating Partisan Redistricting Will Make Politics Worse, Not Better appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The Difference Between How Conservatives, Liberals Define Patriotism

A new poll by the American Culture & Faith Institute uncovered some interesting—and perhaps worrisome—trends when it comes to how Americans think they can properly support their country.

The study found that Americans think patriotism is generally in decline, but we can’t even agree on how to define it, let alone settle on whether it’s generally a good or bad thing.

For instance, believing that America should always come first, conservatives rated military service and protecting the American flag highly on the patriotism scale, while liberals did not.

Liberals largely embraced the idea that using nonviolent civil disobedience to overcome social injustice was a particularly patriotic act, while conservatives tended to be more lukewarm to that.

There was even a divide over which corporations and organizations are considered patriotic. Conservatives favored retailer Hobby Lobby, the National Rifle Association, and Chick-fil-A as patriotic, while liberals clearly leaned toward Starbucks, The New York Times, and Planned Parenthood.

It was perhaps no surprise that the National Football League, which has been plagued all season by controversy over national anthem protests by players, is viewed very differently by the American left and right.

Only 10 percent of conservatives labeled the NFL “very patriotic,” while 30 percent of liberals in the survey said it is.

If anything, the survey’s findings point to some of the most intense friction points in the culture wars.

That there are sharp political divisions in this country is nothing new. From the earliest days of the United States’ existence we have been fighting over what policies are most effective, who is fit to hold power, and what cultural norms will produce the best outcomes.

But if this poll and the general feeling of America in 2017 are any indication, our divisions are a bit deeper than they had been even up until quite recently.

If we can’t agree on what patriotism is, where are we going to find common ground?

Part of this trend undoubtedly flows from the powerful push by America’s elite institutions to move away from creating unity out of an incredibly diverse nation.

Instead, they aim to divide and elevate what are often the smallest distinctions among us.

America in the past was mostly devoted to celebrating its unity and its institutions designed to buttress our national identity. We were committed to forging this identity through our country’s timeless founding ideas, as well as our unique history.

Our culture now almost reverse-engineers that effort—both in rejecting our founding ideas as untrue or outdated, and abandoning our history as in many ways sordid and indefensible.

In place of a kind of unifying and expanding civic nationalism, we are left with the all-too-familiar squabbles over race, class, and gender.

That’s why battles over identity and patriotism are now so ferocious and seem worse than in the past.

A fundamental disagreement over what defines our country’s cornerstone ideas, along with polar opposite conceptions of how best to define identity, are creating unbridgeable fissures in our society—ones that many Americans desperately want to stitch back together.

Some liberals, like professor Mark Lilla at Columbia University, have pleaded for the left to re-embrace the kind of civic unity of the New Deal-era progressivism or face catastrophe.

“We must relearn how to speak to citizens as citizens and to frame our appeals for solidarity—including ones to benefit particular groups—in terms of principles that everyone can affirm,” Lilla said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column.

He was mostly attacked or ignored by the intellectual left.

So the culture wars, and the wars over identity, will continue as many Americans grasp for leaders who can effectively re-create a concept of unity from the shattered and hostile factions of our republic.

This is almost impossible to do if, at the ground level, Americans have such a vastly different notion of what human nature is or define patriotism in radically different ways.

The American Culture & Faith Institute poll found that only 10 percent of conservatives consider themselves “culture warriors” as opposed to 22 percent of liberals.

If we are committed to reversing our country’s long-term problems, perhaps that needs to change.

Elections serve their purpose, but it’s clear that culture and outlook define our politics more than anything else. That battleground is more important than any temporary electoral victory or defeat.

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Free People Can Take Pride in Churchill’s ‘Darkest Hour’

Can great individuals affect the affairs of man?

If they can, then Winston Churchill is certainly one of the greatest among them.

In many ways, the new movie “Darkest Hour” is the perfect prelude to this summer’s much acclaimed “Dunkirk,” and not just in a literal sense, since “Darkest Hour” takes place just before that desperate battle and cuts off right before it.

The film is a precursor because, in many ways, it gives the audience a much better grasp of the stakes involved in the British army’s desperate fight for survival on a French beach.

Instead of merely showing events unfold at the ground level, “Darkest Hour” focuses on Churchill, the man who led Great Britain to eventual victory in World War II.

It’s about how this man of relentless resolve, almost a caricature of British stubbornness, desperately kept his country in a fight he knew it must win at any cost. This in the face of the collapse of his country’s strongest allies, utter defeat on the battlefields, and defeatism among the ruling class at home.

Actor Gary Oldman does a fantastic job portraying Churchill, and clearly put enormous effort into getting the cadence and rhythm of that great orator’s speeches as perfectly as can be expected.

The movie takes a few liberties with history, including a wholly fake yet moving scene in which Churchill takes the subway and asks the people what he should do about making war or peace with the Nazis.

Yet, overall, “Darkest Hour” does a good job of accurately portraying those heady days of 1940 and giving the audience an appreciation of exactly what the British people and their, yes, heroic leader faced.

This was apparently too much for left-wing sophisticates who must find a reason to grumble about anything resembling flag-waving or an appreciation for the accomplishments of our past.

The New York Times’ chief film reviewer, A.O. Scott, wins the prize for the most obnoxious take on the movie. His conclusion really needs to be quoted at length:

Churchill’s resolve, like the bravery of the soldiers, airmen, and ordinary Britons in ‘Dunkirk,’ is offered not as a rebuke to the current generation, but rather as a sop, an easy and complacent fantasy of Imperial gumption and national unity. Standing up to the Nazis, an undeniably brave and good thing to have done, is treated like a moral check that can be cashed in perpetuity. ‘Darkest Hour’ is proud of its hero, proud of itself and proud to have come down on the right side of history nearly 80 years after the fact. It wants you to share that pride, and to claim a share of it. But we have nothing to be proud of.

There is a lot to unpack in this inane series of utterances, which are perfect examples of the state of the modern left.

For one, the defeat of Nazi Germany and the effort required to annihilate that ghastly regime is treated by the Times’ critic as a kind of mundane inevitability.

You would think it would be good to give a little more credit to those who went far beyond waging a hashtag campaign against “fascists,” and expended real blood, tears, toil, and sweat to defeat one of the most relentless and deadly enemies to freedom in human history.

Progressives are obsessed with pointing out the flaws of Western civilization to the point that many are willing to literally erase politically incorrect figures of the past for even the smallest transgression against the ever-evolving standards of the time. But these same progressives are apparently aghast to think the modern heirs to this Western tradition would pay tribute to and celebrate the clearest example of its strengths and goodness in contrast to obvious evil.

The message is: You British and Americans who live in the freest, most prosperous nations that ever have existed shall feel only shame for your country’s existence and its past. Repent!

Of course, according to these same progressives, you must always, without exception, feel only the deepest pride in whatever sexual or social choice you make if it makes you feel good.

While the film’s director, Joe Wright, appears to be liberal, it’s difficult to turn Churchill into anything but a conservative in the rawest sense. His life is certainly an example of two problematic strains for the modern liberal mind.

First is the very notion that great individuals and leaders can direct the course of men in profound ways.

As the modern academy focuses historical interpretation on societal forces rather than leaders or ideas, it is hard to accept that Churchill may have almost single-handedly changed the direction of human civilization.

In the gloomy days of 1940, as France and the rest of Western Europe teetered on the edge of collapse, the real prospect of the continent staying in the hands of Nazi Germany seemed like an inevitability.

With the Soviet Union still working with Adolf Hitler to carve up free nations, the United States cautiously waiting on the sidelines, and the comparatively small Great Britain appearing to be the only country with the power to resist, it was certainly hard to see a path to victory.

Churchill was one of the few who maintained the belief that that future reality could be changed, and perhaps the only leader who had the skill and imagination to open up a path to victory for the free world.

The left’s second big problem with Churchill is that he was an unabashed defender of the British Empire and what he called “Christian civilization.”

He maintained his Victorian-era sensibility to defend what he saw as the superiority of his people’s way of life over savagery—most notably, in the end, the savagery of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Churchill’s belief that Hitler was nothing but a brute and a barbarian who couldn’t be reasoned with is what ultimately allowed him to see the menace of what Germany had been becoming long before anyone else. He warned his people and anyone else who would listen that they needed to prepare for war and destroy the Nazis before they became too powerful.

Appeasement of a monster invites attack, and that’s exactly what the British, French, and the rest of Europe got after a decade of trying to do anything to preserve the peace.

“You can’t reason with a tiger when your head is in his mouth,” Oldman’s Churchill belts out as his Cabinet urges him to negotiate peace with Hitler.

For statements like this, Churchill was called a warmonger. Yet it was ultimately pacifism, not bellicosity, that brought on the calamity of war. This is a lesson we must never forget.

The genius of Churchill’s statesmanship is that at the end of the day, he understood the hearts of his foes and his allies. He grasped that unreasonable people can’t be reasoned with. He also had faith and deep patience for those he knew were his nation’s real friends: France and the United States.

Churchill did everything in his power to ensure that the good would stay strong and that evil would be kept at bay; that a single day of liberty would be more worth living than a thousand years of tyranny.

Strength, forbearance, and faith—that is what pulled us through.

This defiance, and the ultimate triumph against a most heinous regime, in the deadliest war in human history, is something we all have a right to be proud of, and cherish, as long as free nations exist.

It’s certainly a good reason to go out and see “Darkest Hour.”

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