Standup comedian Anita Dunn, who doubles as President Obama’s White House communications director, now claims she was only joking when she praised Mao Zedong by calling him “one of the two people that I turn to most,” Glenn Beck revealed on his TV show Monday.
Hilarious! There have to be 70 million murdered Chinese rolling in the aisles! What a knee-slapper. Beck revealed last week that Dunn idolizes Mao, the brutal Communist dictator of China responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of innocent victims.
To recap, in a video from June, Dunn told high schoolers:
A lot of you have a great deal of ability. A lot of you work hard. Put them together and that answers the “why not” question. There is usually not a good reason. And then the third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa, not often coupled together, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point, which is, you’re going to make choices. You’re going to challenge. You’re going to say why not. You’re going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before. But here’s the deal — these are your choices. They are no one else’s. In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai Shek and the nationalist Chinese held the cities that had the army. They had the airport. They had everything on their side, and people said, “How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all the odds against you?” And Mao Zedong said, “You know, you fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.” And think about that for a second. You don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths, OK? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war. You lay out your own path. You figure out what’s right for you. You don’t let external definitions define how good you are internally. You fight your war. You let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path. And Mother Teresa, who, upon receiving a letter from a fairly affluent young person who asked her whether she could come over and help with that orphanage in Calcutta, responded very simply, “Go find your own Calcutta.” OK? Go find your own Calcutta. Fight your own path. Go find the thing that is unique to you. The challenge that is actually yours, not somebody else’s challenge. One of the things that we see the Obamas, both of them, Michelle and Barack, came out of backgrounds as community organizers, working.
If Dunn’s message was about the importance of perseverance and refusing to give up, she could easily have quoted a non-controversial figure such as Winston Churchill, Dale Carnegie, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Thomas Edison, but she chose Mao, a homicidal maniac. Remember that: she chose Mao as an example of someone whose ideas she elevates and exults.
But now Dunn says, “The use of the phrase ‘favorite political philosophers’ was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat.” Having studied English, this doesn’t quite make sense to me.
The following explanation roughly captures what I learned about irony in college:
The essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. In the figure of speech, emphasis is placed on the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement; one thing is said and its opposite implied, as in the comment, “Beautiful weather, isn’t it?” made when it is raining or nasty. Ironic literature exploits, in addition to the rhetorical figure, such devices as character development, situation, and plot to stress the paradoxical nature of reality or the contrast between an ideal and actual condition, set of circumstances, etc., frequently in such a way as to stress the absurdity present in the contradiction between substance and form.
I didn’t pick up any irony in her comments, did you? And if she was being ironic as to her “favorite political philosophers,” the irony would also extend to Mother Teresa. She didn’t say anything about distancing herself from Mother Teresa, so this retroactive pronouncement of irony by Dunn is quite selective, isn’t it? A parent of a high school student present in the audience at the speech by Dunn (who has been asked by the White House to lead the Obama administration’s war against Fox News) also didn’t think the supposed joke was funny. “There was no irony, no sense of humor,” he said. “Mao would have preferred to silence the opposition by a bullet to the head.”
If Dunn is a practitioner of irony, she should have her license revoked.
(The Obama as Mao poster graphic above is by Matt Holzmann.)