Ambassador Power and out of context quotes

I woke this morning to Tweets like

@AmbassadorPower To what “cycle of violence” are you referring? The man had his throat cut for being a Jew.

Ambassador Power's Tweets
Ambassador Power’s Tweets

responding to US Ambassador Samantha Power’s tweet:

Daniel Pearl’s story is reminder that individual accountability & reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence.

The responses were fast and furious, including:

Daniel Pearl’s story reminds me that some evil bastards will behead an innocent person simply because he’s a Jew.

Wow, @AmbassadorPower is more awful than I knew.

Reconciliation? With people who cut his head off because he’s Jewish and American? They referred to him as “the Jew”.

Hopefully @AmbassadorPower is just stringing together liberal claptrap wordsalad, because if she means anything intentional, she’s insane…

.@AmbassadorPower‘s tweet is reminder that liberals will betray anyone for the sake of their pacifist zealotry

How, precisely, does one reconcile with medieval savages who traffic in videotaped decapitation porn?

The ambassador’s Tweet struck a nerve among those who are already predisposed, for good reasons, to judge the State Department and the UN as moral relativists who are very dangerous to Jews and other living things.

And yet anyone who wanted to understand rather than mock and condemn the ambassador needed only to click through to see her previous Tweet and understand the context. The ambassador was giving the Daniel Pearl lecture, meeting his parents, and praising them on their work for reconciliation.

As a standalone Tweet, Ambassador Powers’ words were repulsive. But this seems to reflect a failure in properly using a 140 character format. It did not prove the ambassador to be a moral relativist or an insensitive idiot.

Anybody who thinks using quotes out of context is limited to the right or new media should check sites like Honest Reporting. Or they can remember how – to cite just one vile example — the New York Times slapped a “Romney to Detroit: Drop-Dead” headline on the governor’s managed bankruptcy plan. The president’s supporters then successfully used this pseudo-quote to demonize the governor in key swing states.

When our political opponents hand us a juicy quote or Tweet that reinforces our worst fears about them, it’s hard not to amplify it. But we’ll be better people, and a better society, when our first reaction is to find the context, assume humanity, and give some benefit of the doubt, rather than to assume evil and do our best to mock it. Certainly people who believe that “individual accountability & reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence” regarding terrorism and murder should commit themselves to the same principles regarding political opponents and social media.

Also see my follow-up post, The De-Judaization of Daniel Pearl.

About the Author
Gil Reich is the author of If You Write My Story, which helps kids deal with life, love, and loss. He is also co-founder of internet marketing and development company Managing Greatness. Previously Gil was VP of Product Management at He has been a popular speaker at internet marketing conferences around the world.