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‘Woke’ U.S. and European elites use a double standard in attacking the world’s problems

By Victor Davis Hanson

An ancient habit of Western elites is a certain selectivity in condemnation.

Sometimes Westerners apply critical standards to the West that they would never apply to other nations.

My colleague at the Hoover Institution, historian Niall Ferguson, has pointed out that Swedish green-teen celebrity Greta Thunberg might be more effective in her advocacy for reducing carbon emissions by redirecting her animus. Instead of hectoring Europeans and Americans, who have recently achieved the planet’s most dramatic drops in the use of fossil fuels, Thunberg might instead turn her attention to China and India to offer her “how dare you” complaints to get their leaders to curb carbon emissions.

Whether the world continues to spew dangerous levels of carbons will depend largely on policies in China and India. After all, these two countries account for over a third of the global population and continue to grow their coal-based industries.

Greta Thunberg

In the late 1950s, many elites in the United States bought the Soviet Union line that the march of global communism would “bury” the West. Then, as Soviet power eroded in the 1980s, Japan Inc. and its ascendant model of state-sponsored industry became the preferred alternative to Western-style democratic capitalism.

Once Japan’s economy ossified, the new utopia of the 1990s was supposedly the emerging European Union. Americans were supposed to be awed that the euro gained ground on the dollar. Europe’s borderless democratic socialism and its “soft power” were declared preferable to the reactionary U.S.

By 2015, the EU was a mess, so China was preordained as the inevitable global superpower. American intellectuals pointed to its high-speed rail transportation, solar industries and gleaming airports, in contrast to the hollowed-out and grubby American heartland.

Now the curtain has been pulled back on the interior rot of the Chinese Communist Party, its gulag-like re-education camps, its systematic mercantile cheating, its Orwellian surveillance apparatus, its serial public health crises and its primitive hinterland infrastructure.

A women’s right advocate is beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

After the calcification of the Soviet Union, Japan Inc., the EU and the Chinese superpower, no one quite knows which alternative will next supposedly bury America.

The U.S. and Europe are often quite critical of violence against women, minorities and gays. The European Union, for example, has often singled out Israel for its supposed mistreatment of Palestinians on the West Bank.

Yet if the purpose of Western human rights activism is to curb global bias and hate, then it would be far more cost-effective to concentrate on the greatest offenders.

China is currently detaining about a million Muslim Uighurs in re-education camps. Yet activist groups aren’t calling for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Beijing in the same way they target Israel.

Homosexuality is a capital crime in Iran. Scores of Iranian gays reportedly have been incarcerated and thousands executed under theocratic law since the fall of the Shah in 1979. Yet rarely do Western activist groups call for global ostracism of Iran.

Don’t look to the United Nations Human Rights Council for any meaningful condemnation of worldwide prejudice and hatred, although it is a frequent critic of both the U.S. and Israel.

Many of the 47 member nations of the Human Rights Council are habitual violators of human rights. In 2017, nine member nations persecuted citizens who were actively working to implement U.N. standards of human rights.

There are many reasons for Westerners’ selective outrage and pessimism toward their own culture. Cowardice explains some of the asymmetry. Blasting tiny democratic Israel will not result in any retaliation. Taking on a powerful China or a murderous Iran could earn retribution.

Guilt also explains some of the selectivity. European nations are still blamed for 19th-century colonialism and imperialism. They will always seek absolution, as the citizens of former colonial and Third World nations act like perpetual victims — even well into the postmodern 21st century.

Virtual-signaling is increasingly common. Western elites often harangue about misdemeanors when they cannot address felonies — a strange sort of psychological penance that excuses their impotence.

It is much easier for the city of Berkeley to ban clean-burning, U.S.-produced natural gas in newly constructed buildings than it is to outlaw far dirtier crude oil from Saudi Arabia. Currently, the sexist, homophobic, autocratic Saudis are the largest source of imported oil in California, sending the state some 100 million barrels per year, without which thousands of Berkeley motorists could not get to work. Apparently, outlawing clean, domestic natural gas allows one to justify importing unclean Saudi oil.

Western elites are perpetually aggrieved. But the next time they direct their lectures at a particular target, they should consider the source and motivation of their outrage.

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow in military history at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. 

Credit: Fox News,

17 thoughts on “‘Woke’ U.S. and European elites use a double standard in attacking the world’s problems

  1. Greta has been much more effective than the author and the Hoover Institute would prefer. Hoover has strained its relationship with Stanford to the breaking point. They continue to fight the Cold War, evil communism (which scarcely exists in practice) and the trend toward secularism in society in quixotic fashion.

      1. So true. I have seen his screeds in support of trump ripped apart by others far more intelligent than Hanson. He will fool many people, but not all people.

  2. Remember that the liberal global warming cult will tell you: cold weather means global warming, hot weather means global warming, more hurricanes means global warming, fewer hurricanes means global warming, tornadoes mean global warming, no tornadoes means global warming, floods mean global warming, droughts mean global warming, bad weather means global warming, good weather means global warming and early bird migration means global warming. Disease outbreaks, crop failures, snowstorms and don’t forget the polar bears……yep, global warming They’ll say anything to advance their cult, and even use ‘educated’ children to do so.

    Oops, ‘How dare I’? It is now ‘climate change’, not ‘global warming’.

    Why is it that so called “climate change’ never kills climate change liberals? When is the last time you saw a headline, “Hundreds of Climate Change Liberals Found Dead Hugging Polar Bears”? Me neither, but there is always hope.

    1. We liberals are proud to have the better interests of mankind future and present … // you better Google what planet you are living in // its for sure not Earth.. What the hell …so called // read some science /// get off the freaking ….Fox Noise TV ..its killing you .. No fun getting brain dead

      1. “Read some science” ……..yah, cool..
        ..that little excerpt is all we need to know about Dodd.

  3. It stands to reason that a lifelong historian is locked into his Cold War mentality. Just as we don’t allow people to vote in their first 18 years of life, perhaps we should take away the franchise from those in the last 18 years of their lives. Heck, it makes even more sense given that those under 18 will have to live with the decisions made within their lifetimes while those on their way out will not. So let’s see, average life expectancy in the US right now stands at around 73 years …….

  4. Excuse me .. when did USA ever targeted Israel for any thing // even the gross conduct // Trump just sold out to Israel .. republican senate approved 7 Billion in aid to Israel /.. WHY .. // its a nuclear power ./

  5. Hanson wrote this: “Virtual-signaling is increasingly common.”

    A very rare error for one usually so articulate. It is “virtue signaling”, not virtual signaling.

    I know this is irrelevant in the overall scheme of things, The defining fault of Hanson is that he is a trump shill, thus I take everything he writes with a grain of salt.

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