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The political pornography of saving the children

By Murray Soupcoff
web posted November 24, 2003

One has to admire the folks at 'The UN Works' Web site. What with all the horrible miseries that afflict the populations of such Third World tyrannies as Zimbabwe and Somalia, it takes a bit of chutzpah to create a Web page dedicated to exposing the alleged evils of "Poverty In America".

Of course, it doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to guess at who are the alleged victims of the heartless American indifference to poverty within its affluent environs -- innocent, vulnerable children, of course. Twelve million of these innocent victims, according to the United Nations: "Over 12 million American kids suffer from poverty, and it infects every aspect of their lives -- from family relations, to school friendships to dreams for the future."

Forget all the misery and hunger created by the collectivist agricultural policies of that hallowed African freedom fighter and champion of progressive social policies, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe and his many Third World dictator friends happen to be the toast of the new progressive, anti-imperialist coalition that now dominates the United Nations. They, and their many UN admirers, see themselves at the heroic vanguard of a new growing progressive, anti-capitalist world movement which will create the next big utopian paradises on earth (and to get a realistic picture of what kind of paradises they will be for their unhappy victims, simply imagine the worst totalitarian political abuses of George Orwell's nightmarish novel, 1984, mixed with the miserable living conditions associated with such Third World disaster spots as famine-ravaged, twentieth-century Ethiopia).

Of course, already with silent U.N. complicity, the foundations for such glorious progressive Fourth World paradises on earth (socialist killing grounds would be the more realistic description) have been created in such diverse human hellholes as Zimbabwe, Sierra Leon, Sudan, Somalia, Angola and Guinea Bissau. And thanks to the increasingly misguided economic and social policies of the new post-Mandala government in South Africa, that nation likely won't be far behind in joining this exclusive but growing Fourth World club.

In the meantime, while the standard of living of America's poorest families often supersedes those of the middle class in many Third World nations, the United Nations -- in its usual anti-capitalist zeal (and passion for moral equivalency) -- cannot resist painting a pathetic picture of the desperate lives endured by what U.N. bureaucrats describe as the twelve-million poverty-stricken children in America (and please take notice of the intended irony of such a message, since everyone knows that America is the self-described richest nation in the world).

Here's how the folks at UN Works describe the problem:

"Article 24 of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child in the world -- regardless of race, sex or nationality -- has the right to nutritious food and healthcare. It's hard to believe that in a country as prosperous as the United States, children like Jessie go hungry every day -- and yet 9 million of them do. In fact, the United States has twice as many poor children than any other developed country. "

Of course, the United Nation's definition of poverty seems quite stretchable, depending upon which nation its many agencies are evaluating and for what purposes. But that's a complex subject that must be reserved for another occasion.

The point of this essay is to emphasize how convenient it has become for "progressives" of every stripe -- from U.N. agencies, global NGOs, left-liberal special interest groups in America of every variety, and even Democratic politicians -- to manipulatively use the supposed well-being of "the children of... (fill in the blank)" to score a variety of political points.

After all, it's not so much a concern for the supposed 12 million desperate, poverty-stricken children of America that arouses the interest of the UN propagandacrats. It's the chance to score some important political points in the escalating global propaganda wars by:

(1) embarrassing the government of the United States, the economic engine of world prosperity;

(2) exposing the supposed Achilles heel of free-market capitalism;

(3) extolling, by implication, the contrasting virtues of socialist "nanny" states which theoretically eliminate poverty; and

(4) symbolically letting the Mugabes of the world off the hook by reassuringly implying, "Look, if the richest nation in the world tolerates 12 million poor children, why should we be surprised about child poverty in Africa, which is obviously just another legacy of Western colonialism and imperialism".

And so the left-lib "save the children" agitprop goes. For example, one of the most emotionally-tinged objections to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his repressive Iraqi regime centered around all the Iraqi children who would be killed by American bombs. And of course, the staple of CNN and BBC war coverage was video footage of the few injured and crying kids in Baghdad hospitals whom Saddam's PR flacks could round up for pathos-starved Western TV reporters.

Think too about the latest alphabet-media reports in the United States on the problem of poverty in America. Don't they too always seem to center on the hapless, suffering children who are allegedly living under substandard economic conditions, or on the number of American children who are nutritionally deprived, etc., etc. -- all of whom are depicted as victims of a heartless capitalist society (or Republican administration) and not victims of parents who perhaps abdicated their responsibility to care for them.

Think about the typical social-policy mantra of liberal special-interest groups and Democratic politicians, and it's always about "doing this for our kids," or saving "the children of America from (fill in the nefarious Republican policy initiative)," and so on.

After all, image-wise, children simply make the best leftist propaganda tools. They are the prototypical left-lib victims. They appear incapable of helping themselves. And they appear to require the helping hand of a more capable, caring authority -- in this case, the "nanny" state (or perhaps, more appropriately, "Big Brother").

To not care about these vulnerable victims of supposed negative, impersonal social forces is reflexively seen as heartless and cold.

Of course, this kind of politicization of children has only one purpose: to advance whatever political agenda the political left (whether its local or global) happens to be advocating at the time. And if associating a particular political or social policy with children symbolically paints that policy with the "caring" brush of "helping" the helpless, it also tarnishes any opponents of that policy with an image of "uncaring" heartlessness -- regardless of the merits of that opposing point of view.

It's not that the narcissistic, cerebral activists of the American or European political left are so enamored with children or family life in the flesh (on the contrary, such left-lib types, in their personal lives, tend to favor self-centered, hedonistic lifestyles which put children last on their priority list). It's just that they know children make good political theatre. And cloaking even the most nefarious political schemes within the superficial dress of "saving our children" legitimizes those political initiatives and makes them all that more impervious to criticism.

Of course, in the end, it takes more than a village of "caring" liberals and leftists to take care of our children. It takes responsible adults who really care about kids (particularly their own) and are willing to the do the heavy lifting, day to day.

It takes responsible individuals of integrity who are not willing to stoop to using children as PR chaff in the battle for political and ideological supremacy.

Murray Soupcoff is the author of 'Canada 1984', and publisher of the popular Iconoclast conservative Web site.  © 2003 Murray Soupcoff

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