Sympathy for the Devil

Surveys show a disturbing degree of support for Hamas–and even justification of the October 7 atrocities–among younger Americans…and also, following the posting of Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ recently on TikTok, a significant number of people–again, especially younger ones reading it for the first time–reacted favorably to his message.  Anti-Israel views among the young are significant enough that even the rather lame support of Israel offered by the Biden administration has resulted in negative poll numbers.

What is going on here?…What is driving the sympathy toward enemies of Israel and America, even ones who have clearly and provably committed horrible atrocities?

Wesley Yang, at X, said:

When we made the succession from a text based culture to a streaming one, all prior knowledge instantly evanesced, reformatting all prior culture and leaving a blank slate In the resulting brave new world children can know they are the opposite sex, mass murderers of civilians are heroes of resistance — and Osama Bin Laden is a profound and wrongly maligned truth teller. 

Anything can happen now.

I do think that the characteristics of a media type as well as its content have an influence, as McLuhan argued long ago; I’ve written about that point recently.  And it’s well known that social media algorithms tend to amplify extreme and emotion-driving points of view–and furthermore, given TikTok’s corporate parentage, it’s quite possible that there has been consciously-malign algorithmic behavior directed by the CCP.  But types of medium and editorial behavior (these algorithms do significantly mimic the role of a traditional editor) by no means the whole story; the degree of acceptance of the ideas that Hamas-is-good and Bin Laden-Wasn’t-So-Bad point to some deep problems in American education and American society.

The late Dr. David Yeagley, a Comanche Indian (traditional name ‘Bad Eagle’) and college professor, described an interaction that took place in one of his classes. (excerpted)

“LOOK, DR. YEAGLEY, I don’t see anything about my culture to be proud of. It’s all nothing. My race is just nothing.”

The girl was white. She was tall and pretty, with amber hair and brown eyes. For convenience’ sake, let’s call her “Rachel.”

I had been leading a class on social psychology, in which we discussed patriotism – what it means to be a people or a nation. The discussion had been quite lively. But when Rachel spoke, everyone fell silent.

“Look at your culture,” she said to me. “Look at American Indian tradition. Now I think that’s really great. You have something to be proud of. My culture is nothing.”

Her words disturbed and offended me in a way that I could not quite enunciate.


When Rachel denounced her people, she did it with the serene self-confidence of a High Priestess reciting a liturgy. She said it without fear of criticism or censure. And she received none. The other students listened in silence, their eyes moving timidly back and forth between me and Rachel, as if unsure which of us constituted a higher authority.

Yeagley saw a resemblance between Rachel and those Frenchwomen who were quick to associate with the conquering Germans…and he wondered:

Who had conquered Rachel’s people? What had led her to disrespect them? Why did she behave like a woman of a defeated tribe?

The interaction that Dr Yeagley described took place more than 20 years ago.  The individuals marinated in the intellectual climate in which the student was steeped have, in many cases, grown up to be professors or teachers inculcating a later and probably even worse version of the attitudes that she voiced.

Yeagley also cited a Cheyenne saying:  “A people is not defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” I don’t have any quantitative data on gender mix, but it’s been observed that a high % of anti-Israel extremists–like those tearing down the ‘kidnapped’ posters and the three just charged with arson at an Israeli defense factory in the US–are female.  Would a wise Cheyenne advise us to be very worried?

(The Yeagely passage was cited and discussed in my 2020 post Bad Eagle’s Question)

The constant lectures about how bad our society is, how Americans are dangerous people who are on a hair trigger to attack Muslims or gay people or minorities…all of these things have surely had an effect on America’s civilizational self-confidence, especially among those who are too young to remember anything else.  As Chris Ferguson said at X:

The modern approach to US history is the equivalent of telling people to think of the worst thing they’ve ever done. Then think about it over and over, everyday, without any positivity or relief. Then, later, wonder why everyone is neurotic.

A commenter on that thread noted  that “in all the recent hoopla over identities, kids’ development of an American identity has been completely ignored.”  (emphasis added)

I also think the increasing internationalization of the campus has probably played a role: there are a lot of students from places where anti-Semitism is much more accepted than it has been in the US, and I don’t just mean Muslim countries: some European countries have accepted anti-Semitism in polite company to a considerably greater degree than is common here–see for example this rerun of a Mark Steyn post from 2009,  I doubt if the situation has improved since then.  Presence of people with these attitudes on university campuses surely tends to move the Overton Window, as does the increased number of immigrants who bring anti-Semitism with them.

But even people with anti-Semitic views, in the modern West, have generally been limited as to how far they were willing to go with these beliefs. There were a lot of Americans in 1945 who were anti-Semitic to some degree but were still horrified by the revelations about the concentration camps. Among quite a few people today, the horrors of October 7 have not led to a similar reaction.

Another factor:  Systematic ‘marketing’ of pro-radical-Palestinian beliefs to Americans, especially on campus, has been going on for a long time, and has apparently been done very consciously and systematically.    See also How the UN, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch Launder Terrorism.  All of this finds a fertile ground in ‘woke’ ideology…and we know from bitter history that when people become captives of ideology they learn to suppress their normal human reactions.  (Arthur Koestler wrote about how, when he was a Communist, he could always find a way to explain away and to justify such things as the Soviet Union’s famines)

Be sure to read Brendan O’Neill’s article The Normalization of Savagery at Spiked and Daniel Greenfield’s piece Equity, Equality, and Hamas.   See also the writing of Yasmin Mohammed, such as this post.

What are your own thoughts on underlying causes of the Hamas-sympathizing and even Bin Ladan sympathizing…and the possible cures?


13 thoughts on “Sympathy for the Devil”

  1. …and the possible cures?

    I think I’ve written often and enough that I have a quite low opinion of the Republican party but this question gives me yet another excuse to note how much I despise that puerile pretend political party apparently comprising the most blackmailed people on Earth, or the dumbest, or both. It never actually manages to get around to opposing the endless and relentless hostility the left has vomited against the American people and culture literally every day of my life, being too busy attacking its remaining supporters.

    I can recall exactly one example of a major political figure since Reagan – or minor, for that matter- defending America and American culture against these endless insults by arguing back- and that was when Donald Trump invited the “squad” to go back to their own countries, fix them, and then come back and tell us how to do it.

    Trump was of course attacked as a racist.

    I would suggest one cure- the replacement of the witless Gee Ohh Peeeeeeee with a political party that would defend the culture, history, and people of the United States. No, I won’t be holding my breath.

    Among quite a few people today, the horrors of October 7 have not led to a similar reaction.

    Why would you assume that they even know about them? It isn’t an accident that posters depicting the Israeli hostages are being torn down.

    Another factor: Systematic ‘marketing’ of pro-radical-Palestinian beliefs to Americans, especially on campus, has been going on for a long time, and has apparently been done very consciously and systematically.

    If only the Tsar- I mean, the US government knew! Surely they would put a stop to this promptly, right? Right?

    No, of course not, because the US government is controlled by people who hate America. Those people have gotten as far as they have because the putative opposition party is the Gee Ohhh Peeeee.

    Please see above for my opinion of that bunch.

  2. “I’m a student in one of Britain’s largest high schools and know no one who supports Israel over Palestine. Some readers might find that shocking. Consider, though, how my generation gets its news. TikTok is today by far the preferred source of news for teenagers; YouTube is next, Instagram third. Studies show the average teen spends two hours every day glued to their screens. Few my age buy or read a newspaper, or would ever think of doing so. Even the idea of sitting down to watch TV news seems alien to us. We view the world through smartphones; we understand current affairs through video snippets.”


    “I have come across many videos about the war on my TikTok “for you” page and I can confidently say that I’ve only seen pro-Palestinian ones. If such material were all assembled in a newspaper or a TV channel, it would look like pretty hardcore propaganda.”

  3. Xennady…you don’t see any significant difference between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis? Between Kristi Noem and Kathy Hochul? Would any progress have been made in investigating the Biden corruption allegations if James Comer and Jim Jordan were replaced by just about any pair of Democrats?

  4. Just a side comment on this, triggered by the mention of “Rachel” — it is fairly obvious that since about the 1970s there has been a growing & accelerating role of women in politics, government, media, law, business. At the same time, there has been an undeniable reduction in the quality of life in the West and an increase in dangerous violence both at home & abroad (eg Libya, the Ukraine).

    Question — Is the growing role of women the cause of the decline in the West? Or is it a symptom of a deeper problem?

  5. David,

    In light of recent events, I think I’m going to pick up again Matthew Crawford’s “The World Beyond Your Head” because he has a take on what you describe but approaches it with not only a cognitive psychology, but also in terms of moral philosophy in what he calls an “ethics of attention” In short what is the sort of person do we need to be to in an age of distraction or to more your more point what kind of moral being do we need to have our teenagers be in an age of TikTok.

    I should add that the problem in not unique to that of Tik Tok or even of social media but to of electronic communication in general; if you ever tried to lead a meeting and get people off their phones you know what I mean.

    The problem with Gen-Z and Millennials is not only has the educational system deprived them of basic analytical tools such as reason and logic to interpret information and discern arguments, but it has actively sabotaged their ability to address them from a moral position. The philosophy of post-modernism that drives our educational system is simply an exercise in nihilism because at its core it states that nothing can be known of Being and that any attempt to do so is simply driven the structure of power within a society. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” is just propaganda; the idea of “We Hold These Truths” is simply an impossibility

    It’s not just that “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything” but that they have to believe in something. Back in the Arizona high country watching them do prescribed burns I was thinking of when fire season comes in June when the weather is hot, it hasn’t rained for 4 months, and dry lightning storms fills the sky. That’s where we are today with the younger generations; kids who have been alienated from their cultural inheritance, deprived of the tools needed to reason, and inadequately equipped to deal with the world of electronic communications. We are just waiting for the fire storm to ignite

    Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised when the atrocities of 10/7 gave them something to believe in only in this case it wasn’t those who were butchered, raped, and kidnapped but those who fit the post-modern narrative. What are we seeing for teenagers and those in their mid-20s, it that this is the Summer of Floyd, an event that not only gives their empty lives meaning but provides a focal point for their energy. Remember in 2020, the campuses and schools weren’t open and therefore it was hard for students back then to provide a physical location to generate action; not so now.

    The next step will be even worse because all of what has come before is simply to produce a large pool of alienated young people filled with rage, looking for purpose in life. That is the ideal ground for just protests and idle banter about Bin laden, but for revolutionary organizing, think AntiFa on steroids. After all if they can get this jazzed up for some genocidal maniacs on the other side of the globe, imagine what someone can do if they can direct them to toward some MAGA people here at home.

  6. Gavin,

    I have wondered about the same thing re: growing role of women.
    I would imagine the real key to that rise is not so much the 19th Amendment and the right to vote so much as the massive increase in the number of women attending college (and therefore entering the professions) combined with the new regulatory regime of “disparate impact” which forces organizations to proactively cater

    To your point regarding a deeper symptom, I think “women” and “gender” play the same role as “black” and “race” in that past discrimination is used by actors to discredit the entire system – think “white supremacist patriarchy” I’m speculating that we are seeing an interdependent relationship, the rise in power of a particular group within a society that has lost its confidence/ability to integrate it.

    If anyone has good material to read on the topic, I would be grateful.

  7. …you don’t see any significant difference between Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis? Between Kristi Noem and Kathy Hochul?

    I’m done making or accepting excuses from the GOP about their relentless failure and betrayal.

    What will the difference be for the country be ten years after either Newsom or DeSantis leave office?

    I expect I am supposed to assume that DeSantis will lead us to triumph or at least leave us better off, but recalling the disaster of George Bush, I am no longer willing to make that sort of assumption. What I expect of DeSantis is that he would immediately resume pushing the bitterly unpopular globalist priorities of the donor class, enraging the GOP base yet again, leading some fraction of that base to abandon the party the next election, leading to the demonrats making large gains in the next election, etc, etc. What I expect from Newsom is the rough mirror image of all that- assuming that elections even remain honest enough for that to happen, which I doubt.

    The end destination remains unchanged. That is, the United States will become a de-industrialized poverty-stricken basket case, like China at its worst. No thank you.

    Would any progress have been made in investigating the Biden corruption allegations if James Comer and Jim Jordan were replaced by just about any pair of Democrats?

    What progress? Who has gone to prison? The people who knew all about the corruption before the election still know all about it, and the people who didn’t still don’t. I recently saw a local newscast during which the viewers were told there was no evidence of any Biden corruption, for example. The last news item I saw about Hunter Biden was that the GOP didn’t want him to testify publicly, because the GOP wants testimony behind closed doors, because… reasons.

    Stupid reasons, I thought. In any case I expect the actual reason was that the Uniparty wants to keep enough legal dirt under wraps so that they can hasten Joe out the door when they solve the Kamala problem, so they don’t want to turn up the heat too soon. But it’s not unlikely that the gop is just demonstrating its usual incompetence.

    Either way, I’ve had enough of this.

  8. “Her words disturbed and offended me in a way that I could not quite enunciate.”

    Valid self-criticism is fine, if always open to argument. Applies at every level from the personal to the civilizational.

    Self-loathing is a contemptible, foolish, downright stupid state of mind, indicative of mental illness, ignorance, plain stupidity, or mere posturing. Or all of those things. That also applies at every level. Even the down and out drug addict and criminal, who may rightly criticize himself, is the more respectable if he does so and then proposes to improve, than if he merely wallows in it.

    When applied by people like Rachel, it usually comprises ignorance, as in lack of any real understanding of her own culture’s history as compared to that of any other culture, stupidity, as in willful refusal to learn anything serious, and posturing for the approval of others, which almost universally and justly elicits mere contempt from those whose approval is sought. Even from those who offer the pretense of approval.

  9. I don’t meet a lot of Aboriginal people and I have no interest in poking at issues like this, but I’m not going to be groveling like some wiener either. I can even name some of the local tribes who got parts of their land as grants from the Crown, or by moving in after someone else had genocided the original peoples [and not done by white folks either] or by in fact genociding the previous aboriginals.

    There were white people around to record what went on in the Beaver Wars. I’m not going to take any moralizing from members of any of the original Five Nations of the “Iroquois Confederacy”.

  10. R.O. “When applied by people like Rachel, it usually comprises ignorance …”

    It would have been interesting for the Professor to ask Rachel how she got to the lecture — car, bus, train, bicycle? And to ask her if she has ever been inoculated against any disease? Or to ask her if she or any of her loved ones have ever required hospitalization? Or to ask her if she uses the internet, or electric lights after the Sun goes down? Or eats food grown more than a mile or two from her home?

    Her culture which she despises has given her rather a lot of benefits denied to those who lived in Stone-Age cultures.

  11. The great strength of Western civilization was acceptance of self-criticism, of dissent. Because of this, all sorts of obsolete and destructive institutions and practices were abolished, including some that were very powerful and entrenched.

    Western civilization progressed much farther than any other, and came to dominate the world. The ideals of rule by law, binding even the most powerful, civil equality, and personal liberty, developed with that self-criticality.

    But – that self-critical ability has gone runaway, becoming a form of autoimmune syndrome. It has completely infected the “intellectual class”. I do not see any way out of this.

    And ironically, the same ruling class which endorses any and all criticism of Western civilization doesn’t even notice its own corruption.

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