a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

pander n.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 7th, 2007

    1. a go-between in a sexual intrigue; esp., a procurer; pimp.
    2. a person who provides the means of helping to satisfy the ignoble ambitions or desires, vices, etc. of another


— Webster’s New World Dictionary

I return to Jackson Diehl’s Monday opinion editorial in the Washington Post, “The House’s Ottoman Agenda,” and specifically to his charge that H.R. 106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution was an example of “constituent pandering.”

“Start with the pandering,” begins Diehl, continuing that the resolution’s sponsor, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA-29), “cheerfully concedes that there are 70,000 to 80,000 ethnic Armenians in his district, for whom the slaughter of Armenians by the Young Turk regime during World War I is ‘anything but ancient history.'” ” Concedes?” What’s to concede? Mr. Schiff is a “representative,” which suggests he will “represent” the people of his district. When he proposes a legitimate goal of people in his district to the Congress of the United States, then in our “democracy” that’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

Diehl’s sloppy, deeply stupid opinion may well have meant to use the word “pander” in the same sloppy, stupid way it has come to be used generally: something done purely for local, short term political advantage that will benefit a few but cost more to others. But the word’s original meaning reveals that at its core, “pandering” doesn’t mean favoring the few over the many, it means catering to ignoble aims or vices.

It ought to be needless to say that remembering the wholesale slaughter of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915 and 1916, and holding its perpetrators to account, is neither ignoble nor a vice. Mr. Diehl’s choice of words is a libel against Representative Schiff, but it is a far worse libel against his constituents.

Imagine if the Washington Post chose to call the United States January UN resolution against Holocaust denial “pandering” to anyone at all. There’s simply no such thing when it comes to opposing lies about that monstrous crime against humanity — especially when those lies are given the official blessing of a country’s government. Or consider Congress — in the 105th Congress of 1997-1998 alone, there were three binding and two nonbinding resolutions related to the Holocaust, including ones about establishing presidential commissions to investigate the disposition of Holocaust-era assets, identifying such assets for the purpose of restitution, setting aside $25 million to assist with that, and expressing the sense of Congress that Germany should do more to simplify and expand reparations. “Pandering”? Not at all. Helping see justice done? Of course.

I’d rather not speculate why some crimes against humanity seem to merit more attention than others, or why attempts to recognize them get more respect by the media than others — or at least aren’t subjected to disdain and mockery. I’ll simply restate what I said below: Diehl’s arrogant op-ed was a disgrace, marred by words like “pander,” “frivolity,” “shrug,” and “comical” in connection with one of the worst crimes against humanity that ever happened. He and the Washington Post should be profoundly ashamed, and everyone concerned — from Diehl to the publisher to the op-ed page editor — should reflect and then apologize for their contemptuous treatment of a genocide and its victims.

ADDENDUM: While I’m on the subject, it’s extremely disappointing to note that Matthew Yglesias has also — and once again — put his name to a supercilious, apathetic statement about genocide and responses to it. I realize it’s just a bunch of people with “ian” at the end of their names, but there’s simply nothing that’s “pretty funny” about the Armenian Genocide or about Diehl’s hatchet job on HR106. Deniers of the Holocaust are rightly derided and despised these days — yet surely not because of statements like Mr. Yglesias’s, but rather despite them. (Via Robert Farley at TAPPED.)

EDIT, 3/7: Nevertheless, “statements like Mr. Yglesias’s” etc. is more supportable than “people like Mr. Yglesias” etc.
UPDATE, 3/9: My comment to Yglesias’ post has not appeared; I got a comment pending message. My comment in full: I disagree: not funny. Not funny at all.” Maybe the two links got caught on some spam filter, maybe the coComment thingie I use has bollixed things up somehow. Or maybe the comment hasn’t been and won’t be approved.
2D UPDATE, 3/9: Looks like it was the links; my somewhat longer comment without any external links has posted.
UPDATE, 3/13: WorldWideWeber (“Notes from The Basement”) points out a decent editorial, “Turkey’s Chutzpah,” in The Jewish Press, saying that Turkey shouldn’t play the uniqueness-of-the-Holocaust card with American Jews. It also simply “acknowledg[es] as genocide the systematic murder of a million and a half [Armenians].” See? That wasn’t so hard.

2 Responses to “pander n.”

  1. » Blog Archive » Despicable Washington Post editorial against Armenian Genocide Resolution Says:

    […] SELECTED PRIOR POSTS on H.Res 106 and the Armenian Genocide: 2007/03/07: pander n.: “When [Rep. Schiff] proposes a legitimate goal of people in his district to the Congress of […]

  2. » Blog Archive » It’s the Washington Post’s country, we just live in it Says:

    […] emphasis on Iraq (and a heaping side order of disdain about Katrina, by the way.) But as I observed last week in a different context, the whole “democracy” concept seems to be literally […]

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