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Eric Allen Bell

Eric Allen Bell

In 2009, the Daily Kos published a positive review of our website.  So imagine my surprise when The American Muslim emails me a link to a recently published article on Daily Kos which is nothing short of a hatchet job against LoonWatch.  This article was authored by Eric Allen Bell and is entitled Loonwatch.com and Radical Islam.  Bell had the temerity to accuse LoonWatch of being “a radical Islamic front, covering up for terrorism”; he writes: “Loonwatch.com is in fact a terrorist spin control network.”

We would hardly bat an eye at this loony stream-of-consciousness article–Islamophobes have been accusing us of this since our site launched–except that this screed was published on the Daily Kos.  Why would a fellow progressive website take a swipe at us out of the blue?

This mystery solves itself when you look into who wrote the article.  His name is Eric Allen Bell, and he professes a soft spot for Robert Spencer, a man who was ranked by FAIR as the #2 leading Islamophobe in the country (losing out the number 1 spot to his boss, David Horowitz).  Spencer is the leader of the SIOA group, deemed by the SPLC to be a hate group.  Spencer’s organization has links to Neo-Nazi and skinhead groups in Europe.  Among other things, Robert Spencer joined a genocidal Facebook group and posted a genocidal video on his website.  This is the man that Eric Allen Bell calls “rational, sober and scholarly.”  Bell imagines some difference between  Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller even though they are close friends and colleagues-in-crime:

Robert Spencer with loon Pamela Geller

That explains why Bell’s article looks like something out of a loony anti-Muslim blog like BareNakedIslam, AtlasShrugs, or JihadWatch.  Bell uses the exact same talking points against us.  His main gripe seems to be why our site “ignores” the violent acts of terrorism committed by Islamic terrorists.  The answer to that is painstakingly obvious: our website’s mission statement is to document and expose Islamophobia.  To ask us why we don’t document Islamic terrorism would not be very different from asking us: why doesn’t your site talk about world hunger?  Whereas this might be a worthy topic to bring attention to, it is simply not part of our mission statement.  Surely, Bell understands that websites oftentimes specialize in one particular topic and simply do not have the resources to dedicate to every noble cause.

Bell’s accusation itself is steeped in his Islamophobia.  Imagine, for instance, if some white guy accused the NAACP of being “a black supremacist group” because they only fought racism against blacks instead of documenting violence and crime committed by blacks.  What would anyone call such a person but racist?

Eric Allen Bell tries to shield himself from accusations of bigotry by pointing out that he made some documentary about a mosque in Murfreesboro.  Yet, this would be like someone being opposed to segregated schools for black people on the one hand but on the other hand becoming absolutely livid against anyone who dared to deny that blacks are more violent than white people.  Readers can go to the racist website Stromfront to find plenty of people compiling lists of black violence and criminality just like Bell reproduced his list of Muslim violence and terrorism.

Bell argues that Muslims are more violent than people of other religions, which is in fact the exact same argument raised by–you guessed it–Robert Spencer.  My response to this is two-fold:

1) The threat of Muslim terrorism has been extremely exaggerated (in order to justify our wars in the Muslim world).  According to the FBI’s own database (available from 1980-2005), of the terrorist attacks in America less than 6% were committed by Muslims.  Readers should also refer to my May 2010 article which noted that since 9/11, there have been zero U.S. civilians killed from Islamic terrorism.  The situation is the same in Europe.  For the past several years, Europol has released an annual terrorism report, which showed that Islamic terrorism accounts for less than 1% of terrorism in Europe and has resulted in zero deaths.  In the half decade documented in these reports, the only injuries sustained from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”

For the past several years, zero civilians in America and Europe have been killed by Islamic terrorism.  Yet, we are indoctrinated into thinking that Islamic terrorism represents some existential threat: you should be scared out of your wits and be losing sleep over Islamic terrorism.  This is war propaganda at its finest.  The reality is that you have a far greater chance of dying from being struck by lightning (about 67 Americans die of lightning every year) than being killed by an Islamic extremist (a whopping average of zero).

When confronted by this reality check, Islamophobes are quick to shift gears and insist that they are talking about Islamic terrorism in the “rest of the world.”  Yet, almost all of this Islamic terrorism takes place in countries that have been bombed, invaded, and occupied by the United States or its proxy Israel.  (India is the notable exception, although it should be noted that India has sustained a brutal occupation of Kashmir for many decades.)  Iraq currently leads the list.  If you look at Iraq before we started dropping bombs on it, Islamic terrorism was virtually non-existent in that country.  Is it Islam then that is to blame for this terrorism or our bombing, invasion, and occupation?

2) The type of terrorism that is included in such comparisons is what I call Amateur Terrorism (strapping a bomb on yourself to injure a security guard and kill yourself); it excludes the greater form of terrorism: Professional Terrorism (carpet-bombing an entire civilian population).  This is the violence committed by nation-states.  The United States and Israel are guilty of committing, in the words of the Nuremberg trial, “the supreme international crime”: waging wars of aggression.  When this form of violence is factored in, then the argument that Muslims are more violent seems untenable.  As Prof. Steven Walt noted, Americans have killed anywhere from 30 to 100 times as many Muslims as Muslims have killed Americans.  

I find it difficult to lecture Muslims about how violent they are when my own government, with the backing of the American people, has killed so many Muslims (and continues to do so on a daily basis).

In a way, our violence is worse than theirs, because ours is sanctioned by us: our duly elected members of government are the ones who launch these wars, with our blessing and support.  It is our uniformed soldiers who kill those Muslims.  Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and such groups operate without governmental authority, without any sanction or permission from the Muslim population.  In fact, the Muslim population is often the victim of such terrorist groups.

Since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years, or 91% of her existence. Meanwhile, the country in the Muslim world we vilify the most, Iran, has not initiated a war since 1795, over 200 years ago.  (It was, however, attacked by its neighbor with the aid and encouragement of the United States.) Who is the more violent one again?

Here is a map of the Greater Middle East, showing countries that the U.S. has bombed or has bases in:

Meanwhile, the modern state of Iran has never attacked any of its neighbors or any other country in the region (or world).  But, Eric Allen Bell wants us to say that Islam and Muslims are the violent ones?

These two points constitute my argument, and if Eric Allen Bell wants to produce something more than a screed that belongs on Pamela Geller’s AtlasShrugs, that’s what he needs to refute.

One should also recognize that I am making a radically different claim than the Islamophobes when I point to American aggression.  There is nothing intrinsically different between the United States and the rest of the world that makes it more violent–or, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”–other than the fact that it has the power to do so.  I truly believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely: those vested with great power almost invariably abuse it, and it is for this reason that they must be held to account the most.

Compared to the United States, the forces of Radical Islam have virtually no power.  Since 9/11–more than a decade ago–the collective strength and resources of the “worldwide jihad” have been unable to kill a single civilian on American soil.  That’s how powerful they are.  In the grand scheme of things, Islamic terrorism is a nuisance of modern day existence, a threat akin to that of gang violence or drug cartels–it is not an existential military threat as it is made out to be.

There is no doubt that Radical Islam is repugnant to the senses and must be intellectually fought.  But attacking all of Islam and Muslims in general–targeting their religion and labeling Islam as uniquely violent–is the most counter-productive way of doing so.  More than that, it’s intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt.

*  *  *  *  *

There was some silver lining to Eric Allen Bell’s article.  Glenn Greenwald emailed me with the following response to Bell’s post (reproduced with his permission):

Danios- That post is disgusting, but it’s important to distinguish between what “Daily Kos” has written (which is basically the front-page writers) and what a diarist has written (which is basically the equivalent of a blog comment, since anyone can write one, and is not at all attributable to the site itself).

This post is by a diarist – he has no affiliation with Daily Kos, except that he’s posting there – and my guess is that it won’t be promoted to the front page through recommendations and most commenters will be critical.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge GG fan.  I wake up every day to read his column with my breakfast and check his blog for updates throughout the day.  There is no writer or political thinker I respect more than him.  So when Glenn sent me a follow-up email saying “you guys are doing great work”, you can imagine how elated I was.

Who the heck cares what some Eric Allen Bell-nobody thinks when the intellectual giant known as Glenn Greenwald has such positive words to say about us?

In any case, Glenn was absolutely right about Bell not being representative of the Daily Kos: another Daily Kos diarist, Devon Moore, posted an article against Bell and in support of LoonWatch, entitled Daily Kos Being Used to Further Classic Right-Wing Propaganda Against Loonwatch.

It’s good to see another Daily Kos diarist respond to Eric Allen Bell, but the question remains: what is such a hate-mongering bigot doing on a site like the Daily Kos?  I think it’s time to clean house, just like former AIPAC operative Josh Block was cleansed from the progressive system: if Block was given the boot for libeling others as “anti-Semites”, shouldn’t Bell be dropped for wrongfully calling others “jihadists”?  Send the Daily Kos a message to dump this anti-Muslim bigot by clicking here.

*  *  *  *  *

In other news, it seems we are closer than ever to seeing the debate between Robert Spencer and myself actually come to fruition.  I’ll keep you posted.

Update I:

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji posted a good article on the subject.  She notes that Eric Allen Bell is an atheist who dislikes all religion, not just Islam.  However, it’s important to point out that he has a special hatred for Islam and Muslims, who he believes are uniquely violent and intolerant compared to all the other peoples of the world.  This is why he would still be categorized as an Islamophobe in my book.  On the other hand, I don’t have any problem with atheists who dislike all religions; I do, however, have a problem with atheists who specifically target one religious community over others, especially if that community happens to be the most vulnerable in this country.  This of course was my problem with Christopher Hitchens.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  

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  • Géji

    @Stoned Gremlin,

    “Let me stop you right there. Have you even looked up the definition of cult? All religions BY DEFINITION are cults moron”

    lol, right on. The true definition of cult does not just apply to the masses of common people holding sacred religious beliefs. But everything that is believed sacred, hold dear and cherished, by more than one person itself, example such as the sacredly hold belief of human right to “freedom” by masses of people fits perfectly the definition of cult.

  • sir David (aged 13 3/4)

    I wonder if “your daddy ” is Eric Bell ….yet again

    Sir David

  • Garibaldi

    Eric Allen Bell is an extremist whose opinions are irrelevant.

  • Stoned Gremlin

    @Your Daddy

    “Eric Allen Bell is right. Islam is more of a cult than a religion.”

    Let me stop you right there. Have you even looked up the definition of cult? All religions BY DEFINITION are cults moron.

  • Your Daddy

    Eric Allen Bell is right. Islam is more of a cult than a religion. And knowing that Muslims want to kill me is not Islamophobia it is merely being informed about the true nature of the most violent backwards bunch of people that have ever walked that face of the earth. Loonwatch needs a mirror to see the real loon.

  • Ilisha

    @Chip S

    Okay, thanks for the clarification. Makes sense. I hope you’ll stop by often and share your comments.

  • ChipS

    I didn’t intend to add to the mountain of criticism already heaped on Muslims and thought that I went out of my way to emphasize that fundamentalist extremists are not representative of a religion as a whole.

    I understand that it’s not Loonwatch’s job to document “regressive interpretations of Islam.” And I applaud their exposure of bigots like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Eric Allen Bell. I only found it strange that the writer goes out of his/her way to make regressive Islam seem harmless when we all consume the same news media and know otherwise.

    As an atheist, it seems to me that “regressive” interpretations of the Abrahamic faiths are a threat to us all whether they’re behind blowing up abortion clinics, smothering kids in an attempt to exorcise them, denying women access to basic reproductive health services, teaching creationism instead of science, agitating for death to gays, or killing people for witchcraft. No mainstream religious faith deserves to be tarred by the acts of its extremists, but no extremist murderers of innocents deserve a pass either.

    As for the “extremists” launching illegal and unjust wars, i only intended to comment on the religious ones.

  • Ilisha

    @Chip S

    “…it seems disingenuous to downplay the villainy of Islamic extremists/bigots.

    Our mission is to fight anti-Muslim bigotry, not to add to the mountain of criticism already being heaped on Muslims–some of it valid, and much more that is vicious propaganda.

    Even so, we do sometimes criticize regressive interpretations of Islam and their consequences:

    Message to Iran: Free Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
    http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/03/message-to-iran-free-pastor-youcef-nadarkhani/

    Goat Milk: Death by tweet? How Hamza Kashgari’s fate will shape the face of Islam today
    http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/03/goat-milk-death-by-tweet-how-hamza-kashgaris-fate-will-shape-the-face-of-islam-today/

    We have also tried to address Eric Allen Bell’s accusations by distinguishing what constitutes legitimate criticism:

    A Lavish Feast: Hatemongers, Hypocrites, and the Hate Du Jour
    http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/01/a-lavish-feast-hatemongers-hypocrites-and-the-hate-du-jour/

    “There are plenty of extremist Loons to watch out for and they’re not just of the Judeo-Christian variety.”

    Really? Then who are the “extremists” launching all these unjust an illegal wars? Based on your comment, I think you seem like a thoughtful person. I hope you’ll give some consideration to what appear to be some of your own moral blind spots.

  • ChipS

    I’m an atheist who believes people should be free to worship as they please or not worship at all.

    I don’t mind Bell condemning terrorist religious extremists, but I’m baffled by his condemnation of an entire religion for the misdeeds of a tiny fraction of a percentage of its adherents. I’m also mystified at how the supposedly atheist Bell can join forces with fundamentalist Judeo-Christians who worship the same god and whose ancient tribal scriptures are as blood-drenched as he claims the Koran is. Ancient tribal life in the Middle East was full of genocide and slavery and mass-rape and all other perversities now considered crimes against humanity. All the Abrahamic religions have evolved into belief systems that are basically compatible with modern civilization. Only the extremists who insist on taking those ancient texts literally are a danger to society, and there are extremists in all the Abrahamic faiths. Mainstream believers are a threat to no one.

    I’d also point out that these faiths have for the most part co-existed peacefully for centuries in spite of their bloodier scriptures, and that historically it has been the Christians who were the most intolerant and violent towards other faiths, with crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and forced conversions.

    Beyond that, why not acknowledge America’s role in the rise of radical Islam? America supports the Wahabbi regime in Saudi Arabia and the spread of its fundamentalist ideology throughout the Middle East through it’s financing of madrasas. (And just last week didn’t the Saudis behead a man for “practicing sorcery and witchcraft”) By training and financing the jihadists in their fight to throw the Soviets out of Afghanistan, America gave structure and organization to the fundamentalist fanatics. Would these extremists be a threat to anybody if we weren’t still propping up the bloody monarchy/theocracy in Saudi Arabia? We enable them because they ensure our oil supply.

    Finally, as much as I admire Loonwatch for calling out anti-Muslim bigotry, it seems disingenuous to downplay the villainy of Islamic extremists/bigots. Maybe it’s true that we’re less likely to be killed by an Islamic terrorist than to be struck by lightning. But that’s not for lack of trying. What about the shoe bomber? The underwear bomber? The Times Square bomber? The Mumbai suicide team. The Fort Hood massacre? And there have been multiple terrorist incidents and attempts in Europe as well.

    There are plenty of extremist Loons to watch out for and they’re not just of the Judeo-Christian variety.

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  • http://www.bandofstrangers.org Jack Cope

    “But when it starts happening every day and you have groups whose reason of being is to highlight these acts then we end up with the current situation.”

    Yes very true; as I point out many times 45 odd Americans are murdered by other Americans daily (to give one example) yet we don’t hear about it. On the same note we will just have to wait and see who the next group to be picked on will be…

    Jack

  • RegAffair

    Part of Bell’s argument is that these acts of violence are being committed in the “name of islam” rightly or wrongly. The motivations of the man committing the act at least partly included a religiously inspired belief that this was a moral act and correct to undertake given the circumstances. That being said, the loons who keep parroting this same message keep trying to tie these examples of extemism to Islam by showing the religious inspiration (whatever their personal motives may be, and the $ industry that this has become).

    No group would like to dwell on the more unsavoury acts committed and associated with their name. So long as they don’t happen to often you can reliably count on people forgetting about them. But when it starts happening every day and you have groups whose reason of being is to highlight these acts then we end up with the current situation.

  • http://www.bandofstrangers.org Jack Cope

    “And to Omar regarding the out of context verses – there is an interesting statistical analysis of the coverage of verses in the Koran, Sira and Hadith that would argue the verses are quite the opposite.”

    Do share, my Saturday has become rather boring… nothing would make it better than refuting the same old arguments time and time again. I think that there is little substance in the refutation of his article purely becuase there is little substance in his article. It does get dull reading the same things over and over again.

    Jack

  • Believing Atheist

    @Mark Koch,

    I refuted Eric. Eric tied suicide bombings by radical-Muslims tothat Islam to show that Islam was barbaric (paraphrase). However, sucide itself is a grave sin in Islam, so how can Eric tie suicide bombings to Islam. Here is the evidence from the religious texts of Islam:

    Do not kill yourselves, for Allah is compassionate towards you. Whoever does so, in transgression and wrongfully, We shall roast in a fire, and that is an easy matter for Allah.” (an-Nisaa 4:29-30)

    “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: ‘My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.’ ” (Sahih Bukhari 2.445)

  • Mark Koch

    So far I have learned from the comments that Eric … has long hair, is a moron, has a personality disorder, is an attention whore and a ex-con who lies about his age. I came here looking for a serious rebuttal to Eric’s Daily Kos piece which included some apparently very factual, verifiable assertions about acts of terrorism, clerics calling for violence against jews and woman, promoting sharia, and disturbing verses in the Koran.

    Instead all that I see is yet another empty ad hominem attack – PS. you forgot to call him a “poopie head”. Oh and also a call for censorship for the Daily Kos to stifle Eric’s First Amendment rights. I suppose this is all very reassuring to your fan club, but barring any specific rebuttals I would have to conclude that Eric remarks have hit home.

    And to Omar regarding the out of context verses – there is an interesting statistical analysis of the coverage of verses in the Koran, Sira and Hadith that would argue the verses are quite the opposite.

  • Seashell

    Isa, you bring up a good point regarding a possible personality disorder. Mr. Bell’s given name was Eric Edborg, and the date of birth he gives out on IMDb shaves about 5 years off his life. It is public knowledge via his previous work that he has been incarcerated as a youth for mental reasons and he has his own valid criticisms of this youth penal system in California.

    Far from being an actual atheist,Eric considers himself a sort of messianic spiritual guru a la Global One TV dot com, his “spiritual TV station”. Mr. “Bell” offers a deep well of spiritual love, mostly to the ladies, and makes sure he has a constant supply of rapt attention from spiritually hungry females. Generally he likes a lot of attention in all forms and that is probably as deep as it gets as far as why he did such an about face and published this anti-Muslim screed seemingly in opposition to his earlier documentary defending Muslims, which failed to achieve wide distribution despite its merits.

    Eric can be an interesting writer. As a thinker unfortunately, he cannot escape his mentally uneven foundations. Pretty much anything he writes needs to be understood in the context of: FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY – MOSTLY MR. BELL’S.

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