In a recent comment on a Goldstone post, Eliyahu made the following comparison:
Eugene Ionesco’s play, The Rhinoceros, has a lot of insights relevant to the “peace camp” and to people starring in the field of “international human rights advocacy” and “peace” advocacy. I think the term rhinoceros or qarnaf [קרנף] in Hebrew fits richard richard goldstone rather well. He’s a rhino in Ionesco’s sense. He is morally insensitive. He is an opportunist. He is devoid of scruples in his field of endeavor. He serves as his master’s voice. He has masters as he indicated by saying that he really didn’t want to take on the assignment. But he is part of a movement and/or a gang and cannot refuse, no more than a mafioso can refuse an assignment. He is expected to comply. His field of endeavor, his assigned task, is to pose as a highly moral man while acting immorally. He puts on the pose of a man of conscience, of a serious man. But he is shallow. He has a weak conscience.
Ionesco’s play referred to what happened in Vichy France as normal, relatively decent people became corrupted by favors, by receiving positions giving them power over other people, by the opportunity to bully others, etc. These people became like the thick-skinned, supposedly insensitive rhino in Ionesco’s metaphor. Unfortunately, the rhino metaphor can describe what is happening throughout the world, including the civilized world.
I ran this by my friend and associate (who considers himself extreme left), and his response was interesting. Many of Ionesco’s rhinos knew they were unprincipled. They openly sided with power and, as Eliyahu points out, were devoid of scruples. Goldstone, he argued, is full of fine thoughts, a beautiful soul who thinks much of himself. He struts on the stage as a moral voice. He’s a peacock.
But, I objected, beneath this veneer lies the heart (and hide) of a rhino. He is thick skinned in the sense that nothing can penetrate to even give him pause. (it is interesting that self-criticism is just not part of his repertoire. He’s admitted no mistakes, even as he expect – no, demands – that Israel bear its breast in public.)
He has his ideas, some public – the importance of the ICC and the human rights movement – and some private – Israel should be held to a higher standard – and it really doesn’t matter to him whether they contradict each other, whether the way he proceeds will work, or destroy his work. As long as that chorus keeps singing his praises, he’s not going to give an inch. The peacock feathers are the cloak of high moral-mindedness that Goldstone and so many others – including journalists – adopt, even as they pursue a rhino’s goals.
The reports coming from the “human rights community” in which at both HRW and AI, dissent is systematically throttled, suggests that this is a breeding ground of peacock rhinos.
UPDATE: William Briggs summarizes Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Intellectuals and Society, which describes the Peacock-rhino (or, as E.G. would have it, the Rhino-cock), with a quote from T.S. Eliot:
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it; or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
Read the rest: it will sound painfully familiar.