When Jon Stewart is called a “smug, self-loathing Jew” by a right-wing Jewish personality (who is often called upon by conservative pundits to wax political), it’s tempting to dismiss the comment as a disgusting tribal dig.
However, ignoring these comments wouldn’t just be dangerous, it would be to allow a growing brand of hatred coursing through America’s veins – produced on the fringes – to continue infecting our public discourse (and public opinion) on matters both foreign and domestic.
It’s a hate-filled islamophobia that masquerades as patriotic, as anti-terrorism, as proudly American and Zionist (as though the two are synonymous). It’s a brand of hatred that the current GOP seeks, a hatred it feels it needs, a hatred it foments for perceived political gain at great cost to civil society. And, as much as it pains me as a progressive Jewish American to say, it’s a hatred right-wing American Jews are often solicited to be spokespeople for on venues like Fox News, with claims of anti-Semitism at the ready should they be critiqued by people such as, well, Jon Stewart.
So, wait – what happened to Jon Stewart, exactly? – you ask. Here is the context:
Jason Jones and The Daily Show crew produced this rather brilliant segment on how Broward County Republicans orchestrated a campaign to block membership of a Muslim Republican to the Broward Republican Party’s executive committee. This was done with the help of the Muslim-hating group ironically called Americans Against Hate (headed by Joe Kaufman, who is running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Congress).
This is not the first time that The Daily Show made fun of, ridiculed, and smeared proud Americans and passionate zionists. What’s he doing? And why? Does he know how much CAIR raised for their home office, Hamas, whose stated goal is to destroy the Jewish homeland, through the Holy Land Foundation? Stewart missed his calling. He would have been first on line to turn over his fellow Jews in Poland and Germany. Smug self-loathing Jew.
Yes, Geller is a nut. And yes, this particular display has been limited – so far – to her personal site. But Geller, just one of many fringe figures who inexplicably get airtime aplenty, knows what she’s doing. She knows the game: play the anti-Semitism card.
And not just any anti-Semitism card – the self-hating-Jew card. And she plays it against one of our country’s most important media critics and defenders of reason. Why? Because he represents exactly what she and her right-wing minions loathe: someone willing to call out islamophobia for what it is, even when promoted by American Jews.
While it would be easy to dismiss all this due to the messenger, does Jon Stewart shy away from railing against hatred and bigotry when it is perpetrated by the unhinged?
On Thursday, the radical Muslim and veteran provocateur Anjem Choudary plans to hold a demonstration in front of the White House calling for an extreme form of sharia to reign in America.
Whether the protest actually goes forward — there’s a real chance it won’t, if Choudary’s past stunts are any guide — doesn’t really matter. Choudary, who is known for applauding terrorism and calling for stonings of gay people and the overthrow of democratic governments, has already logged several appearances on Fox and CNN, generated a bunch of articles in the right-wingpress, and even prompted a member of Congress to demand that he be banned from the country. All that in the last month.
Choudary is a London-based preacher who has over the past decade become the face of radical Islam in the British press — especially in the tabloids, and even more especially the right-wing papers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — despite having no religious credentials and virtually no public support. In fact, according to those who have tracked his career in Britain, Choudary is wholly a press creation.
“He’s a media whore,” says Mehdi Hasan, a senior editor at the New Statesman who has covered Choudary. “There are real Islamist groups that can get crowds together but his is not one of them. He doesn’t have the numbers to make good on his claims. What he does have is a media that’s very happy to play the game with him.”
Now, Choudary, 43, is using the same formula — making deliberately offensive statements and trumpeting plans for provocative demonstrations — in the United States, where the media has proved all too willing to accommodate him. He can be understood as the Muslim analogue of Terry Jones, the obscure Florida preacher who created an international controversy last year with plans for a “Burn the Quran Day.” He is a radical with minuscule public support, but one who can, given enough free airtime, do real-world damage.
Last month on Fox Sean Hannity had a sparring match with the preacher that ended with Hannity calling him “one sick, miserable, evil SOB.” (It’s worth noting that Fox has the same parent company, News Corp., as some of the U.K. tabloids that obsessively cover Choudary.) Here’s a taste of the exchange:
Two weeks later, Choudary was back on the network, where an angry Gretchen Carlson told him that “I can tell you one thing, Americans don’t want sharia law.” Adam Serwer has argued that Choudary is, for Fox, a “cartoonish buffoon who can be counted on to confirm every stereotype about Islam and Muslims.”
But it’s not just Fox. Late last year Eliot Spitzer had Choudary on CNN and heroically derided him as a “violent and heinous terrorist.” In February, Spitzer hosted him again to argue that the revolution in Egypt was an “Islamist uprising.” Choudary has also been on programs with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
So where did Choudary come from? Born and raised in Britain, his rise to prominence came as the right-hand man of Omar Bakri, a founder of the extremist group Al Muhajiroun. Like Choudary today, Bakri was a press-hungry provocateur, but he also played a role “in the radicalization of some young men,” according to the BBC. Bakri left the U.K. for Lebanon after the 7/7 bombings in 2005. The British government has since barred him from re-entering the country, and Bakri has been charged in Lebanon with forming a militant group to undermine the government there.
In Bakri’s absence, Choudary became the leader of Al Muhajiroun’s successor group, Islam4UK. Both were proscribed in 2010 under a British law that allows for groups to be banned if they “unlawfully glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism.”
(Choudary has not always been so devout. The Daily Mail published an exposélast year revealing that, while he was student at Southampton University, he had been a hard-partier who gambled, drank, used drugs, looked at porn and had sex with Christian women. The paper had pictures to prove most of the charges.)
When I spoke to Choudary Tuesday, he refused to discuss how many followers he had, beyond claiming that he can attract 150 people to his lectures. “I’m not going to give you details of our administration,” he said. But according to Inayat Bunglawala, a Muslim commentator who is involved in combatting extremism in Britain, Choudary’s record for getting large numbers of people to turn out to events is thin. Bunglawala points to a 2009 demonstration at a parade in the town of Luton in which Choudary and his cohort held signs assailing British troops returning from Iraq as “butchers” and “terrorists.”
Choudary and some of his followers had advertised the event by leafletting for a week among the 20,000-strong Muslim population in the town, says Bunglawala, who has closely tracked Choudary’s career. But the turnout was vanishingly small. “Literally only 20 people showed up and yet they got the front pages of just about every right-wing tabloid the next day. Even the BBC gave them a lot of coverage on that.” Bunglawala observes: “It’s almost a symbiotic relationship between Choudary and the right-wing papers.”
Choudary also has a long history of publicizing demonstrations that never actually happen. In 2009, for example, he planned a “March for Sharia” in central London that drew widespread press attention. The promotional effort included Photoshopped images of what Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square would look like under Choudary’s vision of the caliphate, with minarets and the like. But at the last minute, he canceled the event, claiming threats from right-wing groups.
None of this has stopped the tabloids from regularly calling Choudary to weigh in on pretty much anything in the news. There is, for example, this typical lead from a recent Daily Star piece: “Hate preacher Anjem Choudary last night urged a Muslim uprising against the royal wedding … He said it would be against Islam for Muslims to celebrate the nuptials.”
Choudary does his part by making himself extremely easy to reach; his mobile phone number is posted all over his website and he responded to my e-mail seeking an interview in just a few hours. He even once agreed to have a bull session over milkshakes with Vice Magazine, which noted his favorite flavor is chocolate.
Now, in advance of the planned “Shariah4America” demonstration in Washington, Choudary is following a familiar script. His group has postedimages online of the White House with minarets and the Statue of Liberty wearing a veil. It’s not hyperbole to say that everything he does is for media consumption. When I asked him about a 2003 episode in which Al Muhajiroun unveiled posters hailing the Sept. 11 hijackers as the “Magnificent 19,” Choudary was candid: “It was a media ploy in order to attract the attention of the media and the general public about why such things take place.”
Whether or not the demonstration actually happens Thursday, the Choudary phenomenon is at least as much about the laziness — and, arguably, irresponsbility — of the media as it is about Islam. Says terrorism analyst Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: “One lesson from our experience with would-be Quran burner Terry Jones is that when fringe or relatively fringe figures … are given a great amount of media exposure, it generally increases their power rather than diminishing it. Unfortunately, the media either has not absorbed that lesson, or else does not want to.”
You’re a complete moron if you watch this show, or if anyone you know watches it:
This guy (and his wife) are so unbelievably stupid that it hurts. Does he (and she) not realize that the Muslim Americans who are upset over this issue are not one and the same as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban? So this “mommy, they started it” routine doesn’t work. It only works for those who view the world in a binary way, Team Christian vs Team Muslim.
And does something become legitimate to do because Al-Qaeda or the Taliban do it? Way to take the moral high ground, douchebag.
Thomas McInerney, a retired US Lieutenant was on Fox News advocating that Muslim men between the ages of 18-28 be strip searched. The Fox host Julia Banderas surprisingly takes him on, which leads the the lieutenant to contradict himself in the worst way.
He goes from saying that “we should use profiling, and I mean we have to be very serious and harsh about the profiling, if you are an 18-28 year old Muslim man then you should be strip searched” to saying “I don’t want to racial profile, I want to profile on that group that we have enough evidence, from 9/11 and other cases, Moussoui, etc. that we know what we’re looking at.” He doesn’t make any sense, but that isn’t anything new for Fox pundits.
Retired Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney wants to get young Muslim men naked in the worst way.
Awkward as that sentence sounds, it is an accurate description of the former US Air Force general’s comments during a recent Fox News broadcast.
“We’ve got to go to more than just the normal process that they’re talking about now,” he opined on Saturday. “We have got to go to very, very strict screening and we’ve got to use profiling. And I mean, be very, very serious about the profiling. If you are an 18-28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip searched. If we don’t do that, there’s a very high probability that we’re gonna lose an airliner.”
McInerney said that “in the next 30-100 days,” there is “very high probability a US airliner will come down.”
When the Fox host blandly objected that racial profiling would not go over in the United States, he replied, “I agree, that’s the problem.”
The general’s comment comes one day before that the Transportation Security Administration announced new, “enhanced screening” tactics at U.S. airports, with a renewed focus on foreign travelers.
All passengers flying into the United States from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called “threat-based” screens, the TSA said Sunday.
It further mandated that “every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening” that includes a thorough inspection of luggage and pat-down searches.
“If you lose 300 Americans, and then people are gonna say ‘Why didn’t we do this?’” the general insisted.
McInerney, who has been a Fox News military analyst for years, was Director of the Defense Performance Review during the Clinton administration and reported directly to the Secretary of Defense. He is currently chairman of the Iran Policy Committee’s advisory council and co-author ofthe book “Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror”.
In his book, the general advocates a scenario of nearly endless war, urging the conditional invasions of Syria, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. He also argues that deceased Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hid his weapons of mass destruction in Syria; a primary reason he calls for their destruction.
“The authors’ ambitious schedule of ultimatums and conquests leads them to focus almost exclusively on the U.S. military, for which they recommend the Rumsfeld doctrine of light, mobile forces, supplemented by additional weapons spending,” reads a Publishers Weekly review of “Endgame”. “Homeland security gets scant attention beyond vague proposals for a Terrorist Security Department and Special Terrorist Courts involving substantial infringements on due process.”
“Broad-based ethnic profiling creates in turn panic and the false sense of security that airlines are actually preventing terrorist attacks,” wrote Earl Ofari Hutchinson in a commentary for New Media America. “It also causes law enforcement resources to be squandered chasing the wrong targets. Worse, it’s a witch hunt against a group based solely on their religion and ethnicity. This fuels even greater racial division, fear and hysteria.”
To her credit, Fox News host Julie Banderas pushed back against the former general, insisting that racial and religious profiling at airports is “not going to go over — not in this country, anyway.”
“The sound of the latex glove snapping shut against a hairy wrist — that’s the sound of Freedom itself, ringing out in tile-walled rooms with the abrupt harshness of a fluorescent light and the unforgiving tightness of arm restraints,” mocked the Inside-Out the Beltway blog. “God Bless America.”
This video was broadcast by Fox News on Jan. 2, 2009, as snipped by Mediaite.