Barack and Bibi go virtual, and viral

Barbara Amiel on Obama’s ‘people of the tweet’ routine

Just as predicted, U.S. President Barack Obama got eaten up by software. Visionary entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, one of the first six people in the World Wide Web Hall of Fame, published a 2011 essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Why Software is Eating the World.” He predicted the surrender of almost everything to software à la demise of bookstores and the rise of Amazon. Obama evidently agrees. Why go to the New York Times when you can go to BuzzFeed?

Promoting was the wafer-thin justification for Obama’s BuzzFeed video of himself making faces, taking selfies and ending with mock hoop jumps and a triumphant “YOLO man!” Number of hits so far—40 million. “You do you,” says a young (of course) visitor in the video speaking to the leaping Obama. Well, yes, indeedy. Obama gave BuzzFeed’s editor an interview plus three interviews to YouTube empty-headed celebs. As Bret Stephens wrote in the WSJ, Obama knows himself to be “totally relatable and adorably authentic.”

Obama is a bad joke. To know about his “you-do-you,” look at the sermons of Obama’s chosen pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose constant anti-American mantra describes a hateful nation of rich white bigots. A man who loves his family as Obama does would not expose his wife to 20 years of this hate, and his children to 10 years, unless he shared Wright’s outlook. And is there a country visited or a summit attended by Barack which has not received some apology for American wrongdoing? It’s hard to know whose side Obama is on. Whom does he regard as enemies and, for that matter, who are his friends?

He has glottal stop identifying Islamist terrorism. Earlier this month, Obama told a National Prayer Breakfast that nastiness in the name of religion was not confined to Muhammad’s followers. “Terrible deeds [done] in the name of Christ” have been very bloody, too. Yo, it’s back to moral equivalence. As Douglas Murray writing in The Spectator replied, “Is it not worth asking whether the history of Christianity would have been more or less bloody if, instead of telling his followers to ‘turn the other cheek,’ Jesus had called (even once) for his disciples to ‘slay’ non-believers and chop off their heads?”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has gone virtual, too: His new election commercial is, as befitting a people of the book, more literate than Obama’s “people of the tweet” routine. A frenzied Israeli couple await their babysitter. Door rings. Babysitter arrives and, YOLO, it’s Netanyahu. “You called for a Bibi-sitter,” quips the PM. Israel’s children are safe in his hands, is the message. “Shalom [peace],” he greets the returning couple with a voiceover saying, “and not unconditional.” Clever. True.


Not clever on other fronts. House Speaker John Boehner was technically okay to invite Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the President but he did no favour to Israel. America is divided in its feelings about Israel and Jews. A controversial appearance designed to influence the Congressional vote on policy toward Iran’s nuclear program only accentuates that division. Addressing Congress in a moment of shared achievement, as Churchill did after the end of the Second World War, is splendid but not a call to the lawmakers of an allied divided nation.

Netanyahu will need not only a brilliant speech but a very gracious one.

Debates on how to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon seem pointless. Iran can’t be stopped. The genie is out. And is proliferation altogether bad? When one country, good or bad, has the monopoly on a terrifying weapon, they use it. Twice in the Second World War by the Americans. Can anyone believe if only Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union had the bomb, they would not have dropped it? In spite of subsequent proliferation to Pakistan, China, Israel, Russia, the U.K., North Korea, etc., the nuclear bomb has never again been dropped. Israel cannot use it except as a last resort or every country in the world would tear it apart. Nor can Iran, for the same reason. According to the latest MEMRI report, Iran is planning on eliminating Israel by a conventional forces buildup now being put in place from Iran to the Mediterranean.

On the domestic front, Netanyahu was saved last week by Israel’s attorney general, who ruled that Netanyahu could not veto judges for the Israel Prize while in an election campaign. Bibi had lost his cool and banned three prize judges on grounds that they belonged to “a playground of extreme, anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian left . . .” Yes, I expect they do. The right’s long-standing problem is not that it lacks great intellectuals and great writers but that it has never taken culture seriously. This is true everywhere in the West, including Canada. By default, the world of cultural literacy—theatre, books, entertainment—has become the property of the left. Individual exemptions occur, even some trends, but if there is a festival, a prize, a recognition of any sort, it’s a nine-to-one chance it will be inclined, organized, recruited and judged by the left. To stoop to appointing or disappointing judges is a mistake. Rather learn the game: Do the schmoozing and groundwork that make your intellectuals part of the cultural elite who choose judges.

Let me leave with news of the gripping controversy in London over the magnificent jambon thighs of ex-Bolshoi dancer Ivan Vasiliev. Are those thighs too big in the gluteus maximus for the lyrical role of Siegfried in Swan Lake? This is compelling stuff, far less depressing than Iran and Islam and I have a view. Once those thighs are out of the bottle, you can’t stuff them back in. For this we can thank the priggish Russians who wouldn’t let him dance the role, the English National Ballet who has and, of course, Buddha, the Pope, God or Allah and their prophet Obama. Peace and grands jetés be with you all.