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Letter: Victims of Victimhood
December 1, 2004

Of course, I was astonished as anyone to learn of this hoax. But then, I thought, why should I be. People continue to believe the most blatant hogwash even when they have documented evidence or the testament of numerous eye-witnesses to the contrary.

We can take some recent examples from our political landscape. There's the constant exposure (and denial) of Bill Clinton's many misdeeds, John Kerry's repeated rewriting of his past, and Dan Rather's participation in documentary fraud (I could throw in Michael Moore, but clown-acts shouldn't count). I am hard pressed to find similar frauds amongst conservatives (There was Bill O'Reilly's indiscretion and Rush Limbaugh's drug addiction, but neither denied their acts once exposed). Either that is because of a real difference in values between these two camps or I am simply blind to them. Let's concede the latter just to keep this simple. Disregarding party affections and taking these three gentlemen as representatives of our culture, they define a pattern in which there is not only a willingness to deceive, but also a willingness to be deceived.

There is an old expression from the Great Depression, "You can't con an honest man." In those days, people regarded con-artists as criminals the way we now regard serial-killers. However, they also recognized that the victim of a con was also a participant to the con. Tell an honest man he can get a deal that is too good to believe, and he will realize he's being set-up and walk away. A dishonest man, expecting he is getting 'hot goods' or something at someone else's expense, will play along (e.g., those e-mails from Nigeria asking your help to get millions of oil-dollars out of a corrupt country to aid the poor, and, oh by the way, a nice cut for you just for helping).

Bill Clinton is a con-man from the ground up, and America embraced his devilishness. Kerry lacked any of Bill's charms, yet he too was given more acceptance than his background and blatant deceits warrant. Dan Rather is more complex in that he genuinely believes in a code of conduct (albeit, a distorted one). He is appalled at being accused of fraud, yet that is exactly what he has done. Rather, more than Clinton and Kerry is a barometer for how far we have slipped in our values.

Today, we consider a good con as a form of art. Many Americans do not differentiate between reality and Hollywood, because Hollywood is the con that tells us our cheapened values are perfectly okay; that our participation in the con is justified. The message from the "Music Man" is that cheating has a likeable side (even validity) to it we can accept. Thus, we all participate in the general acceptance of the cheat. "Rip-off" is a commonplace term to describe anything from insider-trading, to insufficient government giveaways, to price-hikes, to not getting enough butter on your pop corn. Thus, we are jaded by a culture awash in hoaxes and perceived hoaxes. One more is simply ho-hum. Even one so monstrous as this.

I don't believe fear-of-reprisal for confronting the hoax sufficiently answers your query. Obviously, someone has confronted the fraud, and the reprisals are mostly hollow (if vitriolic) denunciations. Yes, it did slow the response and demand it be carefully drawn. The answer to your question as to why so many would fall for Ms. Kouri's hoax is that they want to participate. Ms. Kouri crafted her hoax in such a way as to appeal to those who would benefit from its implications and would embrace the deceit for its political value. Radical feminists are at the top of the list of those most likely to be conned. The abuse of women has always been their war-cry. Where it is real, it is a worthy cause. But, where facts are distorted or objectives disproportionate, it is itself a kind of abuse. After them are the entire host of 'victim' groups: racial, gender, and anti-religious. Each would be able to identify aspects of injustice in concert with their own objectives and declare common cause. And each is in a position to act as broker for receiving the redistribution of bounty. The racial-minorities will point out it was suppression of minorities in the long ago past that lead to this injustice, Gays and lesbians will rant how universal intolerance endangers them in the same way, and the anti-religious will declare all religion dangerous to personal safety and freedom. Never mind there is little racial and no homosexual dimension to these faked events, nor that it is men who kill ... not religion. It's all grist for the propaganda mill.

But, it is also the rank and file who are complicit in such frauds. There are benefits to be derived from the 'righteous' denunciation of someone else's evil. For one, it distracts from one's own shortcomings. Thus, we are always willing to underscore how much more worthy we are than some obvious miscreant. Secondly, there is homogeneity in our values. We accede and defend principles we believe represent mainstream thought. We do not challenge them because we are content to believe they benefit us more than they do. Typical of this are those benefits we get from government: social security, public education, Medicaid, college placements, tax deductions, &c. Except they are first taken from us, then doled back. This is a smoke and mirror trick of government to make us 'stakeholders' in a socialism that only enlarges government. Ms Kouri's trick is part and parcel of the same deceits by which we were railroaded into those earlier frauds. But because we are so accustomed to them we no longer see the trick. Instead, we support them and the arguments used to promote them. 'Tolerance' is one of our bedrock values on which so much else in our society rests. It has been an engine for positive change, but also for excess. Tolerance today is used to mask intolerance to that which is deemed incorrect. Today, in the radicalized culture of the left, it is as a red-flag to a bull. On the right (or middle), it overawes our reason. It is successfully used to engorge government and political parties, welfare wastrels, opportunists of all sorts, and cons like Ms. Kouri. Not only did she not get her geography right, she wrote her story using cons only non-Arabs would easily swallow.

The culture of cons will likely applaud her audacity.

Bob Stapler
Columbia, MD

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