Barack Obama, jihad denier

Some truly appalling statements of President Obama in his softball Vox interview yesterday deserve note for what they reveal about his position on violent jihad: it either doesn’t exist or is so insignificant it can be ignored. He offered his clearest statement yet on the nature of violent jihad, though avoiding the word itself, or the religion of Islam, in which it is the central obligation and organizing principle:

It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.

It is absolutely outrageous to ignore the fact that the Hyper Kosher victims were targeted because they were Jews, patronizing the largest purveyor of kosher foods in Paris. Calling it a “deli” is only less demeaning than claiming they were random victims of a crime spree that might just as well have targeted a dry cleaner or florist. Hyper Kosher was chosen because an attack there would teach Jews that they have no safe means of practicing their religion in Paris and France. And they have gotten the message, as emigration of Jews from France is skyrocketing in the wake of the attack.

Obama is thus denying a very real and effective strategy being implemented and mischaracterizing it as random, almost petty crime, undertaken by deranged fanatics with no particular motivation. The “violent, vicious zealots” exist in a theological and political vacuum. They might as well be anarchists, communists, Nazis, monarchists, Mormons, Albigensians, Hutus, you name it.

This is no random slip of the tongue, it is part of a deliberate strategy, as demonstrated by what follows immediately:

We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor's got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive. But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we’ve got to make sure we’re right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn’t counterproductive.

So we are in danger of devoting too many resources to fighting this “random” violence! “Right-sizing” is an expression used when reducing expenditures. In Obama’s view, we are too concerned over the problem. As John Hinderaker notes, this reduces an organized, large scale (worldwide, in fact), and successful campaign of terror in the name of jihad to “an inevitable nuisance, like urban crime, to be kept within reasonable limits.”

And the blame for the “counterproductive” overspending on fighting jihad random violence lies with… you guessed it! … Rush Limbaugh and Fox News as well as the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of local TV news:

…the balkanization of the media means that we just don't have a common place where we get common facts and a common worldview the way we did 20, 30 years ago. And that just keeps on accelerating, you know. And I'm not the first to observe this, but you've got the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh folks and then you've got the MSNBC folks and the — I don't know where Vox falls into that, but you guys are, I guess, for the brainiac-nerd types. But the point is that technology which brings the world to us also allows us to narrow our point of view.

Obama is not discussing jihad random violence, but he is discussing why politics is polarized, by which he means why everyone doesn’t agree with what he says and does. And by implication why people want to counterproductively devote too many resources to fighting jihad random violence. The blame for that lies with the media and the lack of sophistication of the public:

What's the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that's what folks watch, and it's all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that's the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There's just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there's been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It's not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it's a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.

So there you have it. We need to lisrten more to the brainiacs at Vox, who just coincidentally love Obama, and imagine that there is no such thing as violent jihad, and even if there were, we don’t need to spend so much money on or devote so much attention to, and view so many bloody images of it.

It’s called denial