The Empathy Epidemic

One of the most overused and abused terms is “empathy.” It has reached epidemic levels and is killing us.

As is true of many aspects of modern politics the problem started with Bill Clinton.  In his 1992 campaign statement he emoted, “I feel your pain,” and since then the expectation that leaders must show empathy has metastasized.

Hillary Clinton recently told us we must “empathize” with America’s enemies --“empathize with their perspective and point of view.”  Barack Obama told us he would choose judges based on their “empathy” -- a requirement found nowhere in our laws nor one that merits respect among legal scholars.   

We must empathize, in particular, with the poor and oppressed.

John Kerry said the “root cause of terrorism is poverty” -- as have Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Americans are to consider terrorists victims of poverty.   They have absolved Islam of playing any role in the rise of terrorism around the world.   Instead, we are told the problem is not extremist Islam but rampant Islamophobia in America.

The protests and riots that followed the Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Eric Garner controversies have been chalked up to the effects of poverty and racism that Barack Obama informs us is “deeply rooted in our society” (he would be more truthful had he said racism is deeply rooted in his society since Al Sharpton, Eric Holder and Reverend Wright are among his circle of friends).   New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stokes the rage by telling us how he has had to warn his own black son how dangerous it is to be black around policemen.  We are called upon to empathize with the rioters and understand their rage.

Empathy has thus been cheapened and its meaning transformed when used by politicians and pundits.   Empathy absolves perpetrators from blame or is used to justify their actions --  perpetrators are victims of the circumstances that have been imposed on them by others; they are the oppressed (the West; “privileged whites”; the 1 %).   What has occurred is not just moral inversion but moral perversion.

Empathy has been used to garner support for political and economic policies.  Who but unfeeling brutes can oppose “empathy,” can oppose trying to understand and feel for the less fortunate, to open their wallets and shut their mouths? In fact, as the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley has pointed out in his book “Please Stop Helping Us,” the liberal policies justified by “empathy” have ended up harming, not helping, blacks.

And so often it is wrongly applied -- the facts do not matter (but when do facts matter when it comes to moral narcissists?).

For instance, most of the terrorists who commit the most horrendous acts of violence come from well-off backgrounds.  The perpetrators of 9/11 hailed from upscale backgrounds and Osama bin Laden was from one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia (and there are many rich families in that kingdom) .  The London bus bombers came from upscale families in England.  The ISIS terrorist who gloats over the beheading of his victims is suspected to be the son of a wealthy British family.  The Boston Marathon bombers fled their own country to seek the safety and freedom of America (and the generous welfare benefits of Massachusetts), and expressed their gratitude by blowing us up.   Poverty is not motivating these people to murder.  Maybe poverty of the soul and spirit but certainly not a lack of opportunities to choose paths different from the bloody ones they chose. 

Those who empathize with terrorists serve as apologists and accomplices.  Among the most perverse manifestations of this abuse of empathy is the maudlin and lachrymose treatment routinely given to terrorists by the New York Times after they murder innocent people (see these weepy stories about the Boston Marathon murderers and the New York City killer of two policemen).  They are routinely portrayed as wayward youth victimized by circumstances, by American society.   Those who empathize with terrorists serve as apologists and accomplices.

If poverty causes terrorism why is there no terrorism from billions of poor Christians around the world-or Asians? When other religions are satirized or insulted, the followers do not respond violently, they do not kill.

It is hard to fathom why Hillary Clinton would empathize with murderers and expect us to follow her lead.  On that statement alone she cannot be considered suitable to be Commander-in-Chief.   Maybe she called for “empathy” as others do to burnish self-esteem and public image.  Moral narcissists routinely use “empathy” to display to others that they are good people -- it is a form of preening.  They are often so flagrant (in the Jewish religion the highest form of charity is that given anonymously; maybe liberals should get a clue and stop telling us how good they are relative to conservatives).

For example, there are liberals I know who often talk about “empathy” and make it known they vote Democratic because Democrats care about people and Republicans well… just want to throw old people in their wheelchairs off the cliff a la fantasy Paul Ryan or send out alligators to gobble up Hispanics

Barack Obama is the one with an empathy problem –- a character flaw (how to choose among such a target-rich environment?) I noticed back in 2010 (see Obama’s Empathy Deficit) and confirmed by his jocularity and golf-playing mere minutes announcing the beheading of James Foley by ISIS:

Obama's golf pals included NBA legend Alonzo Mourning (left)

Does that look like empathy? Just recently President Obama was telling jokes before discussing the Parisian massacre -- the jokes were deleted by his media lackeys.   Expect more from such a man? Don’t, since “he doesn’t like people” according to one of his closest aides.  Yet we are repeatedly told Barack Obama cares about people.

Those who use “empathy” for political purposes are all too often hypocrites in the Obama mode.

Periodically, I have checked the political donations of these strident and very vocal Democrats (one can do so quite easily via OpenSecrets.Org) and my, granted tacky, investigations have shown they keep their wallets, if not mouths, closed.  They do not put their money with their mouths are.

That should not come as a surprise since Republicans give more, per capita, than Democrats.   Even New York Times ultraliberal columnist Nicholas Kristoff recognizes the reality of “Bleeding Heart Tightwads”

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals.  A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Other research has reached similar conclusions.  The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

Even Brooks bought into the stereotype until his research proved otherwise:

When I started doing research on charity,” Mr.  Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people.  So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error.  I re-ran analyses.  I got new data.  Nothing worked.  In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

But facts don’t matter -- except occasionally.  When Hillary Clinton tried to generate some of that old-time good feeling empathy for herself, pleading poverty when she and Bill checked out the White House, she was hooted off the airwaves.

If Islamophobia were such a problem in America why would Muslims be flooding into the United States, as they have been the last few years, and why are mosques proliferating across America -- mosques that can and are being used to radicalize people, including but not limited to the Boston Marathon bombers? Islamophobia is a myth -- a tool to censor critics and put down our defenses (instead, we are told veterans with PTSD and white supremacists are the dangerous ones). 

Mosques are not to be monitored; “Islam” is deleted from federal security training manuals; terrorism is redefined as man-made disasters and workplace violence; acts of Islamic extremism are characterized as anything but that, and on and on as the demand to show empathy to Muslims because of the myth of Islamophobia becomes government policy.  Coddling of Islam fuels terrorism, as Nolan Finley writes in the Detroit News.  This is how murder happens.

 Barack Obama may sternly warn those who impugn Islam, but it is anti-Semitism that is soaring in the West -- often fueled by those very same Muslims whom Barack Obama protects.  Yet they are coddled as victims of Islamophobia.  Moral perversion at work -- but when do facts matter?

The dangerous consequence is we let our collective guard down and are lulled into a false sense of security.  The Obama administration from inauguration day onwards has assiduously downplayed the role of Islam in crime and terrorism across the world despite the security threats.

Likewise, we are called upon to show empathy for illegal aliens.  They are, after all, just “undocumented workers” who somehow failed to get that paperwork turned into the authorities.  They are oppressed by greedy employers who take advantage of their murky legal status.  Fact: they broke our immigration laws and are in many cases taking jobs away from other Americans -- including African-Americans (who should be the people most opposed to open borders).  Something must be appealing about America so how can we show empathy for people who are streaming into America to take advantage of all we have to offer?

Sandra Fluke: are Americans supposed to empathize with a Georgetown Law School student / liberal celebrity because she frets about how she can afford a few dollars’ worth of birth control without taxpayer dollars?  She too is a victim of an uncaring America.  The flip-side of the call for empathy is that victimology has gone viral: false accusations soar across America.  So many people want to be seen as victims in order to be martyrs.  Fluke may have gone to Georgetown but she is not Joan of Arc. 

But it gets worse. 

The epidemic of false rape accusations (Lena Dunham; The Duke Lacrosse lynching; the Rolling Stone Magazine  University of Virginia rape fabrication tale) have made liars into celebrities and spawned hysteria about violence on college campuses.  No wonder anti-anxiety meds are prescribed so readily.

The New York Times periodically publishes accounts of struggling college graduates -- so many of them have majored in English, psychology, acting and the like that it’s a struggle to generate empathy for them.  Anyone familiar with the whiny musical Rent knows how artists are victims (who knew the plight of “starving artists” can be used to make millions of dollars?).

Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, waxed glowingly of how ObamaCare will unleash entrepreneurs:

We see it as an entrepreneurial bill, a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care.


Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance

The empathy should flow to hardworking Americans trying to meet not just their own budgets but the budgets of artists toiling away at truly valuable work-such as, oh, poetry slams and the like.

Empathy is misplaced and misused.  Empathy should flow towards victims of violence not perpetrators; to hardworking Americans trying to meet their budgets not artists free to follow their artistic muse; and should not be used to apologize and justify acts of terror.  This epidemic of empathy has to be stopped before it kills again and again.

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