Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar: A Hostage Situation

Rep. Ilhan Omar outside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
When the ‘victim’ is the victimizer

‘It has to stop,” says Representative Ilhan Omar.

No, it does not.

Representative Omar, the Jew-hating Minnesota Democrat, is engaged in one of her usual games of misdirection, a pattern of hers that by now is familiar enough to be predicted: She says something outrageously stupid, offensive, anti-Semitic — or all three at once — and then attempts to parry the thrust of inevitable criticism by characterizing it as an attack on Muslims, women, women of color, Muslim women of color, etc.

In this case, Representative Omar characterized the events of September 11, 2001, this way: “Some people did something.” Someone assembled a video intercutting her blasé account of mass murder with images of that day’s events, and Donald Trump, who serves simultaneously as president of the United States and the nation’s social-media intern, tweeted the video, along with some vintage all-caps emoting: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”

The New York Times stepped on Representative Omar’s cue and uttered her lines itself, insisting that the criticism of Representative Omar is necessarily part of an attack on Muslims categorically. Trump of course has on more than one occasion treated Muslims categorically, for instance in calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which, like so many of President Trump’s blustery promises, never came to pass and never even was given serious consideration. (The actual policy consists of restrictions on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, along with North Koreans and officials of the Venezuelan government.) Representative Omar is not all Muslims, and she is not Muslims categorically: She’s a loopy left-wing identity-politics entrepreneur whom the Democratic party has carried to the U.S. House of Representatives. Criticism of elected officials is not only permissible but necessary.

But Representative Omar believes she is above such criticism: “It has to stop,” she said, citing death threats she has received since the presidential tweet. That argument is pure horsepucky. It is an unfortunate fact of life in Anno Domini 2019 that practically everyone in public life receives death threats, often on social media or in online forums. Elected officials do. Journalists and commentators do. Entertainment figures do. I do, and my colleagues do. That’s our dumb world. And, currently, it’s part of the price for certain kinds of careers. There isn’t anything special about Representative Omar in this regard. She’d get death threats if she were a Fox News host, too.

But such threats are a useful pretext for politicians who want to shut down criticism for their own narrow political ends. Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist rape-fantasy entrepreneur from Brooklyn who represents Vermont in the Senate, insisted that criticism (he wrote “attacks”) simply “must end.” Senator Elizabeth Warren, the fake Indian from Oklahoma who represents Massachusetts in the Senate, accused the president of attempting to “incite violence.”

The Democrats are in a political pickle. They would very much prefer that the Jew-hating caucus shut up, and they are not crazy about the fact that the public face of the Democratic party is, at the moment, risible and demented amateurs such as Representative Omar and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, i.e., the people who are even crazier than Senator Sanders. But intersectionality is a jealous god, and they cannot simply tell Representative Omar et al. to sit down and clam up. All they can really do is to try to raise the price of criticizing the nut cutlets on the Democrats’ menu by insisting that criticism of Representative Omar is an attack on Muslims as such, that criticism of Representative Ocasio-Cortez is an attack on Latinas who don’t know how a bill becomes a law, that criticism of Robert Francis O’Rourke is an attack on . . . whatever it is that “Beto” is pretending to be this week. The New York Times et al. are reliable allies on that front.

This is, incidentally, what all those fake hate crimes are really about: Redefining criticism of Democratic politicians and constituencies as violence. When there isn’t enough violence to make that case in a sufficiently dramatic fashion, then violence can simply be invented — and, if the case of Jussie Smollett is anything to go by, the cost of doing so is pretty low. When’s the last time you heard of a prosecutor dropping a 16-felony indictment in exchange for a firm handshake?

That’s a neat trick, really: to be the hostage and the hostage-taker at the same time.

Representative Omar may not be the most intelligent person in Congress, but she is not so dumb that she does not know what she is doing when she dismisses 9/11 as an event in which “some people did something,” because below-average oysters and cuttlefish aren’t that dumb. She is following a pretty obvious career path and hopes to be to American Muslims what the Reverend Jesse Jackson has been to African Americans and what Hillary Rodham Clinton has been to embittered left-wing women who faint a lot: a sacred person, beyond the reach of the profane.

And, apparently, beyond criticism, too.

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