(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) In some perverse way, the lines above, from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters,” capture the past two weeks of the news cycle, ever since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel rattled the world and led us sleepwalking blindly into a perilous alternate reality from which we now must awaken before it’s too late.
For those who did not have my freshman English class, or who may have studied and long forgotten the poem, it references a famous scene from Homer’s The Odyssey. On their epic voyage back to Ithaca, the Greek sailors land on an island with plants whose opiate-like qualities make them want to disengage from reality and withdraw from the world altogether.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
That is not to say that it was easy or pleasurable to watch the heart-rending scenes coming from Israel, of course. It was, indeed, deeply haunting and emotionally devastating.
And yet, for a fleeting moment, it seductively dangled a sense of unambiguous moral clarity—like digging through a musty, old trunk and finding a childhood security blanket (or perhaps a Snuggie) from the George W. Bush era.
To muse and brood and live again in memory,
With those old faces of our infancy
Heap’d over with a mound of grass,
Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!
Just three days after a bombshell Newsweek report revealed that Merrick Garland’s FBI had taken the unprecedented step of designating Trump supporters as a special category of terrorist unto themselves, conservative supporters of Israel suddenly found themselves back on the “right side” of history and foisted into the good graces of the globalist masters.
Suddenly, the villains were the Hamas-supporting Squad members, Black Lives Matter and woke university students. Seeing them get a dose of their own ESG medicine (and squirm as their more mainstream liberal enablers jumped ship) felt damn good.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.
It was good for business, as well. The sensationalist storylines helped to boost traffic considerably, and using the #Hamas hashtag on Twitter garnered my posts–which normally catch the eyes of followers somewhere in the single digits—an audience that reached well into the triple digits.
If it felt a little bit exploitative, there also was an equal sense that the grim images depicting human suffering and degradation, often in their final mortal moments, were of the utmost importance so that the story not be suppressed or distorted. And having spent many years teaching Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust account, Night, I stand by my belief that mankind must not shy away from confronting such atrocities.
"Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns." – Elie Wiesel, "Night" #HamasMassacre #Israel #Holocaust #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/Y8UG0xoSjF
— Ben Sellers (@realbensellers) October 10, 2023
Yet, therein lies the particular challenge of balancing one’s empathy with reason in order to avoid being manipulated by the fervor of the moment.
BLOWING UP THE NARRATIVE
It was an internal discussion in our Headline USA newsroom about the apparent hoax surrounding an alleged missile strike on a Gaza hospital Tuesday that helped to bring me out of my poppy-like stupor.
Unlike many of the mainstream media sites, we did not, of course, get taken in by the first round of propaganda, in which the Hamas-run hospital claimed that Israeli forces had killed some 500 individuals.
Our focus came in covering the second iteration, following the Israeli military reports that it was the terrorists themselves who had fired the missile, killing a couple hundred people.
Only then did evidence online begin to suggest, however, that the errant missile—if there even was one—may, in fact, have hit a parking lot, and that the hospital in question was still standing.
Moving forward, we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself in principle, as we have Ukraine’s.
However, as we also have done in applying skepticism with our coverage of the Ukraine conflict, we must now begin to raise serious questions that extend beyond Israel’s entirely valid reason for wanting to obliterate Hamas.
President Joe Biden’s Thursday night address—in which he conflated Israeli aid and U.S. border security with the Ukrainian boondoggle, where there is good reason to suspect money laundering and other corruption are involved—underscored the importance of not letting one’s guard down at such a critical time.
In fact, the cynic in me is tempted to ask—as former Obama mentor Larry Tribe did of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the morning of Oct. 7—if this entire operation might not be Biden’s “wag the dog” attempt at distracting from the catastrophic fiasco of a legacy his term in office has been.
Might the $6 billion in bribe money he offered Iran, in return for an otherwise equal hostage swap, have amounted to a sort of quid pro quo with the understanding that the ayatollah would create for Biden a giant foreign-policy diversion, in order to push his impeachment, special counsel investigation and other scandals/gaffes out of the headlines?
A BRICS S**T-STORM
In addition to Iran, neighboring Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also due in January to join the two rival superpowers as part of the BRICS alliance, which will give it considerable influence over the world’s energy reserves, not to mention a strong anti-Western tilt in the Middle East.
Even if Israel and the U.S had the purest and best of intentions, that would spell out terrible foresight on their part by uniting a formidable force against them that is eager to wipe Israel off the map and then turn its attention to “decolonizing” what remains of America’s global influence.
But let’s face it, there is no reason to trust either Mossad or the Biden CIA—both of which have proven track records of bald-faced lies and extralegal conduct that may well make Hamas’s sex-starved necrophiliac horndogs and baby beheaders look like choirboys.
The biggest difference may be that Hamas terrorists don’t wage sophisticated psy-op campaigns on the people they are supposed to be looking out for.
There is confusion worse than death,
Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
Long labour unto aged breath,
Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.
A BEACON OF HOPE?
Thus, once more, we find ourselves adrift with little guidling light in a world full of shadows and nothing to lead us but our own moral compasses.
Yet, as often has been the case, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson has proven to be one of the few truth-speakers, and joining him in that effort is presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who has used a two-part interview with Carlson to flex his foreign policy muscle.
Ep. 31 How to avoid World War III pic.twitter.com/kdzoMxOt3B
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) October 19, 2023
The two drew criticism—most notably from staunch Israel supporter Ben Shapiro—after the first interview appeared to diminish the Hamas massacre by painting a false equivalence between that and the fentanyl epidemic in America.
I will grant the Daily Wire chief that point: The barbaric war crimes and human-rights abuses of Oct. 7 simply cannot be aggregated into some sort of statistical data set for a risk–benefit analysis. There is a moral imperative to condemn Hamas in the strongest of terms and to support Israel unequivocally in its mission, without getting in the way or allowing others to do so.
Carlson and Ramaswamy were able to refine their argument in the second installment and more artfully articulate their point that extending support to Israel is not the same thing as empowering the U.S. deep state to run wild and use a war between two foreign entities to further violate American civil liberties or jeopardize its interests.
Let’s just hope the treacherous journey that lies ahead for America is nothing like that of Odysseus and his crew.
If so, the lotos-eaters were just the beginning of a 10-year ordeal before he would find his way home with what few men remained—and spend the rest of his days in peace and tranquility, lamenting how bored he was, according to Tennyson.
Ben Sellers is the editor of Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/realbensellers.