Last September, Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly to denounce a YouTube video, calling it “crude and disgusting” and assuring Muslims everywhere that this particular YouTube video did not represent America.
The future is still up for grabs, but the man behind the YouTube video was taken in by a crowd of armed police and locked up earning him the privilege of being one of the few movie producers imprisoned for their movies; alongside Robert Goldstein of “The Spirit of ’76”.
As YouTube thumbs downs go, a year in jail is pretty harsh. The thumbs of American presidents historically lacked the thumbpotence of Roman emperors sitting in their Coliseum boxes and deciding if a gladiator should live or die. But when a YouTube video is passed off as the biggest national security threat since a Twitter hashtag about Biden’s hairplugs, why shouldn’t Obama take on imperial airs and drop the prison banhammer?
The trailer for a movie about the Muslim persecution of Christians did not actually lead to multiple coordinated attacks by Salafists against American embassies and diplomatic missions.
Unfortunately in an election where the incumbent was running on his claim that he had single-handedly killed Osama bin Laden in an arm wrestling match, it would have been embarrassing to admit that Al Qaeda had pulled off its second worst attack on America since September 11… on September 11.
It was easier to blame it on YouTube.
Last September, a YouTube video was blamed for several acts of war. This September, a war may be fought over a bunch of YouTube videos.
Obama addressed the nation to rally support for his Syrian strikes. As evidence that “chemical weapons were used in Syria” he mentioned the “videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack”.
The message was that if you want Obama’s case for war, go watch it on YouTube. And hope it isn’t as staged as Jimmy Kimmel’s Twerking fail video..
William Randolph Hearst was supposed to have told a reporter, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war”. Now YouTube and social media furnishes the videos and pictures and Barack Hussein Obama will furnish the war.
Obama didn’t even bother assembling a playlist of the top 10 WMD YouTube videos that will make a case for war; a strange omission for an administration that prides itself as the most tech-savvy organization in the room when it comes to emailing voters and reading their email.
Instead officials boasted about their high-end YouTube watching skills and their “Classified intelligence tools… used to ensure that bodies were not counted twice.” Hopefully at least one of those classified tools involved basic arithmetic.
Traditionally a case for war would be based on some kind of physical evidence, but in this new digital world where no one ever has to do anything in person, except get treated for carpal tunnel syndrome, we can blame wars on YouTube videos and fight wars over YouTube videos.
And if the whole Syrian chemical attack turns out to have been faked by Jimmy Kimmel, at least it will have been the most epic troll ever leading to a flame war with actual flames.
It’s easy to blame Obama for being too lazy to send someone out to Syria to actually check the toe tags instead of clicking through a few videos, marking the WMD box checked and then checking out the trailer for the remake of Robocop.
But it’s not like anyone else has been doing a much better job.
French intelligence released a report confirming a chemical weapons attack by Assad that killed 281 people based in part “on dozens of videos culled by French intelligence services”.
Forget James Bond. Jacques Bond dispenses with the tuxedo, martinis and the Walther PPK and equipped with a Snuggie, a swivel chair and some Hot Pockets assembles a case for war based on his unique skill of video cullings. It really is the ultimate playlist with Europe’s The Final Countdown as the soundtrack. Or maybe Iggy Pop’s Search and Destroy.
When Assad said that the accusations are based “on arbitrary videos posted on the Internet”, he kind of had a point. Or maybe he didn’t. After all they’re based on arbitrary videos posted on the internet and then culled by the crack Le Hot Pockets team at French intelligence and the best YouTube watchers our own intelligence services have to offer.
It’s easy to get confused when building a case for war based on YouTube videos.
France’s Top Secret YouTubers claimed 281 people had been killed. Our own YouTubers appear to have come up with 1,429 since that’s the number that John Kerry has been waving around on any channel willing to give him 5 minutes of airtime.
But maybe our YouTubers just watched the same video 5 times.
Across the channel, UK’s social media spooks claimed 350 dead. Maybe they watched the full video. Doctors Without Borders, which hopefully counted actual bodies instead of URLs, pegged the death toll at 355. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights went up to 502. Even that is only 1/3 of Kerry’s 1,429.
Where does Kerry get his oddly specific 1,429 number from? No one knows. The Senate Intelligence Committee received 13 videos whose authenticity was verified by that specter known as “the intelligence community”. The intelligence community is a notoriously flexible entity. It usually knows the truth, but sometimes serves other masters.
Back when Obama was determined to blame a movie trailer for the murder of four Americans, the intelligence community, which originally pointed to a terrorist attack, was muscled by Hillary’s people into blaming the dreaded YouTube video in the Benghazi talking points.
Online videos don’t make the best case for war. It’s not just Jimmy Kimmel who can fake viral videos.
Both sides in the Syrian Civil War have filled the internet with viral videos claiming to show the other side using chemical weapons, killing babies and eating with their left hands. There’s a fake suicide bomber auction video being distributed by the regime and a fake government massacre being passed around by the rebels. And those are just some of the more notorious examples.
The pro-regime Syrian Electronic Army is hacking websites and the Syria expert whose Wall Street Journal article claiming that the Syrian rebels were moderate was cited by McCain and Kerry turned out to have faked her academic credentials while working for a Syrian rebel front group.
The best thing to believe about Syria is nothing. Both sides are engaged in epic levels of fakery. And if we are going to bomb Syria, the least we can do is sort through real life evidence.
Obama may begin wars over YouTube videos and blame wars on YouTube videos, but the people who die in those wars are all too real. In his UN General Assembly speech, he mentioned the video seven times, but never once mentioned the names of the two former Navy SEALS who rushed to the rescue.
If the future is to belong to anyone, it should belong to men like them and not to amateur YouTube reviewers who start wars.
Those who live in a virtual world, often forget that the things that matter are real. Wars aren’t really virtual; even if they’re fought with drones and reported on by Twitter accounts. The people who die in them are real and the money used to wage them has to be taken out of the monthly paychecks of families struggling to pay for winter clothing, braces and a home cooked meal.
Obama, like Hollande and Cameron, his leading Syrian War allies, slashed military spending while starting new wars. He cut military paychecks and raised the cost of military healthcare while drastically slashing the armed forces. In a debate, he sneered that objections to his policy of gutting the Navy while expecting it to fight all his wars for him were like so retro.
“We have fewer ships than we did… we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. The line quickly became a trending Twitter hashtag and inspired YouTube videos; none of which, fortunately, led to jail sentences.
But now it’s not hashtags or YouTube videos steaming toward Syria; it’s Navy ships with not enough of the cruise missiles that Obama would like to fire off. And so the bayonets may have to do.
YouTube videos are great for streaming Obama’s war speeches and finding scapegoats for the terrorist attacks he wants to deny happened, but they don’t fight wars.
Men like Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who died not because of a YouTube video, but because Obama failed to provide them with armed support while they were fighting for their lives, are the ones that fight them. And they fight with whatever is left to them by a government that tried to blow $250,000 on an Afghan YouTube channel, but didn’t have enough left over to provide security for American diplomats or health care for American soldiers.
Obama is a virtual leader for a virtual nation. He has virtual solutions for all problems, none of which actually work in the real world. He can virtually do anything, but he can’t really do anything except spend fortunes on useless boondoggles in proper Silicon Valley style. Like so many dot coms, he thinks that inspiration is a substitute for a business plan and communications and social media outreach are a substitute for a strategy. They aren’t.
Like so many Silicon Valley dot coms with a huge audience and no profits to show for it, he has gotten away with it because too many are invested in the virtual pyramids of the Arab Spring, along with his other pyramid schemes, to hold him accountable.
But his Syria speech is only another reminder that he doesn’t have a plan for the war. He has a video.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century. He blogs at Sultan Knish