Skip to content

Boko Haram, Michelle O, and #bringbackourballs

Below is a funny but sad commentary by Mark Steyn regarding a recent Michelle Obama tweeted pic of the #bringbackourgirls Internet meme. Internet hash-tag petitions — which is what they are, really, instant mass petitions — are fine for the masses. But as a foreign policy tool it’s pure impotence.

But before you read that, it should be noted that Brandeis College shamefully cancelled their plan to bestow an honorary degree on women’s rights activist and outspoken anti-Jihadist critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the same week that Ali issued a straight-talk condemnation over the West’s impotence in dealing with groups like Boko Haram:

“How to explain this phenomenon [kidnapping 300 school girls] to baffled Westerners, who these days seem more eager to smear the critics of jihadism as “Islamophobes” than to stand up for women’s most basic rights? Where are the Muslim college-student organizations denouncing Boko Haram? Where is the outrage during Friday prayers? These girls’ lives deserve more than a Twitter hashtag protest… It is also time for Western liberals to wake up. If they choose to regard Boko Haram as an aberration, they do so at their peril. The kidnapping of these schoolgirls is not an isolated tragedy; their fate reflects a new wave of jihadism that extends far beyond Nigeria and poses a mortal threat to the rights of women and girls. If my pointing this out offends some people more than the odious acts of Boko Haram, then so be it.”

Similarly, Charles Krauthammer sees the selective outrage, adding better late than never.

Two months earlier, Boko Haram had raided a Christian school and, after segregating the boys, brutally murdered 59 of them. That elicited no hashtag campaign against Boko Haram. Nor was there any through the previous years of Boko Haram depredations — razing Christian churches, burning schools, killing infidels of all ages.

Anyway, here’s Steyn:

It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right [above] is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn’t actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn’t require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama’s hashtag is just a form of moral preening.

But then what isn’t? The blogger Daniel Payne wrote this week that “modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing“. He was musing on a press release for some or other “Day of Action” that is, as usual, a day of inaction:

Diverse grassroots groups are organizing and participating in events such as walks, rallies and concerts and calling on government to reduce climate pollution, transition off fossil fuels and commit to a clean energy future.

It’s that easy! You go to a concert and someone “calls on government” to do something, and the world gets fixed.

There’s something slightly weird about taking a hashtag – which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose – and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. Maybe the talismanic hashtag never required a computer in the first place. Maybe way back during the Don Pacifico showdown all Lord Palmerston had to do was tell the Greeks #BringBackOurJew.

As Mr Payne notes, these days progressive “action” just requires “calling on government” to act. But it’s sobering to reflect that the urge to call on someone else to do something is now so reflexive and ingrained that even “the government” – or in this case the wife of “the government” – is now calling on someone else to do something.

Boko Haram, the girls’ kidnappers, don’t strike me as social media types.