The moral cowardice of the managerial elites
Why Leo Varadkar failed to make a full-throated condemnation of the monsters of Hamas.
Is it just me or does the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar seem to fear his own citizens more than he does the murderous theocrats of Hamas? Compare the comment he made when hundreds of louts rioted on O’Connell Street last week with the weird tweet he put out when Emily Hand, the nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl, was finally freed from Hamas’s racist clutches. He damned the Dublin looters as a mob ‘filled with hate’, people who ‘love violence’. And Hamas? What did he say about this medieval terror group that violently abducted an Irish girl from her loving family? Well, nothing.
He didn’t mention them in his tweet. He didn’t say what they did. He didn’t comment on their love of violence. Instead, he coyly said ‘an innocent child who was lost has now been found’. You’d think Emily had wandered off in a shopping mall. ‘Where was she “lost”, Leo? Down the back of the sofa?’, teased Graham Linehan. It is properly disturbing that the PM of the nation of which Emily is a citizen failed to mention that this poor girl was seized from a sleepover with her friend during the worst anti-Semitic pogrom of modern times and then held against her will for 50 days. Why didn’t he tell this truth?
He’s had a furious backlash. Emily wasn’t ‘lost’ and ‘found’, tweeters have reminded the Taoiseach: she was kidnapped and liberated. He even suffered the indignity of having a Community Note attached to his tweet on ‘X’ to add some flesh of truth to the bones of his cowardly comment. ‘Emily wasn’t lost. She was abducted by terrorists from Hamas’, it says. He tried to settle the storm by tweeting out his entire statement on Emily’s release. It made things worse. Yes, it says she was ‘snatched’ (finally), but it makes no mention of Hamas. Who snatched her, Leo? Maybe it was those thugs of O’Connell Street who ‘love violence’. It’s a mystery.
Varadkar apologists rushed in to say he was clearly alluding to a passage from the Bible and only idiots didn’t get it. He was referencing Luke 15:32, they insist, which says ‘this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’. Come off it. Let’s leave to one side the fact that Varadkar is hardly the kind of politician who goes about quoting the Bible. More to the point, Luke 15 tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the young fella who squanders his parents’ money on whores before slinking home for forgiveness. If Varadkar really was speaking of sweet, innocent Emily in the same breath as a man who fucked away his parents’ fortune, then his tweet was even madder than we thought.
A diplomatic storm has ensued. ‘Mr prime minister, it seems you have lost your moral compass and need a reality check!’, said Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen. Israeli president Isaac Herzog nailed it when he told the Taoiseach, ‘Emily was not out for a walk and lost her way… [she] was kidnapped and held at gunpoint by monstrous and despicable murderers’. The Israeli foreign ministry has called in Ireland’s ambassador to Israel for a dressing down. As well it might. Any nation would be rightfully ticked off if the brutal kidnap of one of their citizens by racist ideologues was downplayed by a foreign dignitary. What’s weird here is that the dignitary is the leader of the nation in which the kidnap victim enjoys dual citizenship. What was he thinking?
To my mind, Varadkar’s screw-up on the Emily Hand release tells us a larger story about the deracinated state of politics right now. It speaks to the moral cowardice of the managerial elites. To the reluctance, the flat-out unwillingness, of our technocratic establishments to issue any firm moral comment on the events of our era. Unless, of course, the event involves one’s own problematic native population, with their supposedly bovine views and violent ways. This is why Varadkar is far more comfortable with condemning the tracksuit-wearing masses of fiery Dublin than he is with making a full-throated denunciation of the racist Islamists who violated the innocence of an Irish child – because the only ‘morality’ that matters to the new elites is their right to morally distinguish themselves from their own rowdy, ignorant populaces. Outside of such narrow exercises in self-bloating moralism, morality never gets a look-in with the stiff, overeducated, bean-counting class that now wields so much power in the EU and across the post-moral West.
We should not underestimate the impact of Varadkar’s yellow comment on Emily’s release. I know from friends and family in Ireland that the Irish people have been gripped by the tragedy of Emily Hand. They were sickened by her abduction, and they yearned for her release. To many Irish, she became a symbol of the savagery of Hamas – this Irish girl who could be their own daughter seized from a sleepover for no other crime than her Jewishness. That Varadkar failed to give leadership on this obscenity committed against a Jewish Irish citizen, that he failed to give voice to his own people’s horror at the racist degradation of a young Irish girl, is a black mark against his reputation and an indictment of the entire modern political style.
Varadkar essentially erased the question of agency from the Hamas pogrom of 7 October. His passive words, ‘lost’ and ‘found’, as if Emily were a prodigal daughter who just wandered towards wickedness, had the effect of downplaying Hamas’s culpability, its actions. Whether intentional or not, to describe a kidnapped girl as ‘lost’ is to absolve her kidnappers of guilt. It reduces a conscious, violent and racist act to a kind of natural occurrence – a shame rather than a crime. Varadkar could have embodied the decent fury felt by the Irish people for the radical Islamists who dehumanised Emily and others. But instead he denuded Hamas’s crime against humanity of its horror and intention and depicted it virtually as an accident. These kids weren’t horrifically debased by evil adults – they were just ‘lost’.
Why would he do such a thing? I think it’s because the instinct of the technocrat is to drain every event of its moral seriousness and reduce it to a mere issue of management and organisation. Saying Emily was kidnapped by radical Islamists during an anti-Semitic pogrom of the like we haven’t seen since the 1940s would raise huge moral questions about good and evil, us and them, right and wrong. Saying she was ‘lost’, and is now mercifully ‘found’, parks all that stuff. It removes the question of culpability and replaces it with the emotion of relief. The lost girl is back. Don’t get angry, just celebrate. Don’t think, just emote. Varadkar was cynically seeking to place the Emily Hand horror in a realm he feels more comfortable in – the realm of management rather than moral conflict; of ‘lost property’ rather than existential threat.
Varadkar is not alone. There has been a notable drive among the West’s managerial elites to downplay the horror of Hamas’s hostage-taking, and by extension its entire October pogrom. Israel holds Palestinian women and children too, these people say, as if there is moral equivalence between Israel’s incarceration of women and minors (not children) whose crimes include serious acts of violence and Hamas’s seizure of babies and toddlers and children whose only crime is that they are Jews. Time and again, our ‘betters’ drag the public gaze from the historic enormity of Hamas’s crime against humanity in order that they might defuse the anger of ordinary people in the West towards the crimes committed by Hamas against Jews, against morality, and against civilisation itself.
So this is where we are at – our rulers fear our anger over Hamas more than they fear Hamas. They dread the emotions of their own people more than the violence of Islamic extremists. They worry more about our ‘Islamophobia’ than their Islamo-extremism. Hence, we have a Taoiseach who issues furious condemnations of rioting Dubliner ‘plebs’ and then holds back from openly condemning Islamic terrorists. The new elites are so estranged from public life that our feelings horrify them more than other people’s violence. I can think of no better reason to clear them out of office and replace them with people who take our views seriously. And, more importantly, who take seriously the experiences of a nine-year-old girl whose childhood innocence and freeborn liberties were stolen by racist filth.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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