No, John Oliver, France Is Not in a ‘Pastry Fight’ with Jihadists


It feels odd to take space in a serious political outlet to rebut the argument of a comedian, but when the comedian is John Oliver — and the modern Left is the modern Left — it is sometimes necessary. We live in the era where leading liberal publications seem obsessed with clips from political comedians, including Oliver, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and now Trevor Noah. These are the entertainers who “DESTROY” Fox News or “UNLOAD” on alleged GOP bigotry. A good comic tongue-lashing is tonic for the liberal soul.

Sadly, however, while Oliver and his comrades are blessed with excellent timing and the other gifts of good comedians, their analysis often has all the depth of a dorm-room debate. Take Oliver’s rant after the Paris attacks, hailed across the left-wing internet. Vox’s Zach Beauchamp said it was “exactly the right response.” Sarah Larson, from the illustrious and venerable New Yorker, declared “Vive John Oliver.” Outlets from Alternet to Salon to the Huffington Post and the Guardian shared it with glee.

Behold John Oliver’s brilliance, in all its uncensored glory:

For those who don’t want to take two minutes to watch, here’s the summary — first, he decides to curse at the “f**king a****les” who carried out the attacks. He does this with great gusto, not that ISIS should care.

Then he says this:

France is going to endure. And I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good f**king luck! [The crowd goes wild]. Go ahead, go ahead. Bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloises cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons, Marcel Proust, and the f**king croquembouche! The croquembouche! You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friends. You are f**ked!

On what planet is the conflict with ISIS a war of “culture and lifestyle”?

ISIS isn’t trying to be more fun than France. It hasn’t advanced across Syria and Iraq and drawn followers from Nigeria to Pakistan and beyond because it’s more fun than France. It’s an army of people who are empowered by faith, and seek to impose a new order on the world. In the fight between pastries and Allah, they’ll take Allah every time. They’re not trying to win over the French; they’re trying to cow them into submission. They’re not devotees of “rigorous self-abegnation”; they’re a gang that passes around sex slaves and justifies child rape as the spoils of war. The proper French answer to their existence isn’t a pastry tower but a bomb blast.

#share#Far from empowering the West, the smug narcissism of Oliver and his ilk lulls us to sleep, making us less willing and able to address the threat of radical Islam. It’s always dangerous to try to read definitive meanings into political cartoons, especially Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but the provocative magazine’s response to the Paris attacks (perhaps inadvertently) sent a message that many missed:

The translation is “They have weapons. F**k them. We have champagne!” But it’s not an endorsement of Oliver’s attitude: The accompanying image shows a man full of bullet holes, with champagne pouring from his wounds. Booze can’t beat bullets.

It’s certainly comforting to imagine that our lifestyles are so darn fun and compelling that jihadists can’t possibly prevail, but we maintain that level of peaceful comfort only because — to paraphrase George Orwell — rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf. I appreciate pastry chefs and love their products, but ISIS fears only the “rough men.” If John Oliver hates ISIS as much as his profanity indicates, he should look to predators, not pastries, to protect the ones he loves.

— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of the Iraq War.


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