In Annie Hall, Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer says: "Lyndon Johnson is a politician. You know the ethics those guys have? It's like-uh, a notch underneath child molester."
As for reporters, I wouldn't say that they're that bad. Heck, I'll even grant that they're a notch above child molester. But particularly when it comes to Islam and jihad, I have found them to be agenda-driven, short-sighted, and above all, simply dishonest. Not so much in terms of outright lies, but in terms of spin: by omission and juxtaposition, by what they say and what they don't say, and by how they choose quotations as well as by how they frame them in a story, they attempt to lead the reader to the conclusion they wish him or her to draw.
The best of them are so good at this that most readers don't even notice that they are being manipulated and propagandized; it is something always to bear in mind when reading anything in, say, the New York Times and the Washington Post, or, as Hugh calls them, the New Duranty Times and the Bandar Beacon. To see how it works, click here for a dissection I conducted on a stunningly manipulative piece from The Economist. But it is not just the likes of the Times, the Post, and the Economist that have mastered this craft; wannabe Woodwards and ambitious hacks all the way to backwaters like the St. Petersburg Times are doing their bit as well, eager to prove that they have imbibed the relativist multiculturalist gas that permeates everything as deeply and fully as has anyone in New York or Washington.
And so we come to the illustrious S. I. Rosenbaum of the St. Pete rag, with whom I wasted thirty or 45 minutes of my life a few days ago, while if I had not been fool enough to think that she might be decent and fair I could have slavered a little and given her what she wanted in no more than twenty seconds. Rosenbaum called me looking for material for her story which appears today, "Are bloggers against hate, or feeding it?" (thanks to all who sent this in).
You can imagine which side she comes down on, but hold on. This story isn't actually about me at all. It is about Joe Kaufman of Americans Against Hate. Kaufman drew mainstream media attention not too long ago by sending out a press release and writing an article about a Muslim retreat in south Florida. The retreat featured one speaker, Mazen Mokhtar, who had been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security for operating a website soliciting support for the Taliban and Chechen jihadists, and another, Chantal Carnes, who had apparently made statements praising the Muslim Brotherhood, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization, and its founder, Hasan Al-Banna.
Kaufman's piece allegedly led to death threats against the Muslims in Florida, causing the retreat to be relocated. Rosenbaum wrote in an earlier article that Chantal Carnes "didn't recognize herself" in Kaufman's article, although our intrepid reporter doesn't seem to have asked Carnes whether or not she really made the statements. As for Mokhtar, Rosenbaum reported only that Kaufman "wrote that the retreat's other speaker, Mazen Mokhtar of New Jersey, was linked to al-Qaida," without bothering to tell her hapless Floridian victims that none other than the Bandar Beacon itself and the Department of Homeland Security had made the same link.
Of course, if there really were death threats, that is abhorrent. But just as newsworthy is the actual stance of the speakers, since if they believe as Kaufman says, they pose a threat also. But that is evidently not fit to print.
In any case, even though I told her at the beginning of our conversation the other day that I was not involved in any of this and had no independent information, she still wanted to talk with me. Knowing the biases she likely held, I accordingly did my best to explain to her why I was doing this work, and why anyone who believes in universal human rights and the equal dignity of all people should support it. All that, however, was relegated to the cutting room floor, and I only pop up, somewhat bizarrely in light of my non-connection to Kaufman's story, at the end of the article with this:
Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.com said his blog sometimes attracts racists. He bans them, he said.
But he won't stop blogging.
"If I give it up and go away and take up the saxophone, then what the heck is going to happen to society and to the rest of the world?" he asked.
Yes, Rosenbaum, I am a megalomaniac. It is all up to me, folks; it has fallen to me to save the world. Sheesh. In fact, I did say something like this. I immediately followed it up, however, by emphasizing that I didn't think I was making much difference, if any, but that I believed that I had to do my small bit or I wouldn't be able to live with myself. Without all that, and without any of my explanation of what exactly I am doing, I just sound as if I have delusions of grandeur, which is evidently what Rosenbaum wanted. Her piece goes out of its way to portray Kaufman and me as just a bit nutty, slightly deranged, beyond the pale of decent folks: Kaufman, you see, he stays up all night. He's a self-righteous prig, in Rosenbaum's spin, who got someone kicked out of college for smoking marijuana. And Spencer, well, he runs around all day in a Superman costume; who does he think he is?
What's more, I don't have the interview on tape (do you, Rosenbaum?) but I doubt that I said that this blog sometimes attracts racists. After all, I am well aware and have pointed out ad infinitum that Islam is not a race. The jihad ideology of supremacism and totalitarianism is not a race. The real racists, in fact, support the jihad, recognizing that it shares their utopian vision of uniformity and morality enforced at the point of a sword. This site has indeed attracted racists: writers claiming to be Muslims who have lamented that Hitler didn't finish the job against the Jews. But I am sure that that is not what Rosenbaum had in mind. I know that she meant the people who come here and leave little valentines like "nuke Mecca now" or "kill the Muzzies." As we have said many times, I abhor such posts and delete them when I see them, but comments are unmoderated and as I usually don't read them, I will probably not see them unless someone draws them to my attention. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether these posts were added simply as a provocation by people who then point to them to try to portray this as a hate site, but leave that aside. The bottom line is that I believe that the antidote for bad speech is more speech, and I will not be intimidated by groups like CAIR who try to portray me as responsible for comments they don't like and to discredit this site by means of them. This is still, for the moment, a free society, and that means free for boobs and boors and jerks and even for hacks like Rosenbaum. For her, the fact that "racists" come here on occasion should be enough to make me stop blogging, but since I am as obstinate as I am megalomaniacal, I won't. As if the only feature of this site is its "racism." Nothing about the reality of the jihad ideology. Nothing about the real threat of genuinely hateful statements made by people who really can and will follow through with action on those statements, like Abu Hamza. Nothing about the fact that we are actually against racism, and engaged in trying to defend the principles of universal human rights that are challenged by jihadists. No, as far as she is concerned there is no value in calling attention to any of that, or if there is, it is outweighed by some "racist" comments.
Meanwhile, standing against these nuts Kaufman and Spencer and defending the Good and the True in Rosenbaum's piece is none other than Ahmed Bedier of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Of course, Rosenbaum doesn't say a word about the questions swirling around CAIR and its actual stance on jihad and terrorism. Nor does Greater St. Petersburg learn a thing about Bedier's own contention that there is "nothing immoral" about the murderous terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- but of course, the source for that is Joe Kaufman himself, so Rosenbaum probably assumes that Bedier never said it, and wouldn't dream of actually asking him.
Rosenbaum's story ends with a completely irrelevant anecdote about Kaufman hesitating to contact an old friend who was a Muslim. Once again, the implication is: he's doing something wrong, and in his heart of hearts he knows it. (But Kaufman tells me: "What's funny is I was adamant about the fact that I would be contacting my old friend soon. I never said to her that I was not going to, as she stated I did." Apparently our journalistic giant is even more dishonest than I thought.)
Anyway, I am not doing anything wrong. I would happily speak with my Muslim acquaintances from college, one of whom is now a rather prominent Northern Virginia activist. If I did speak to them, I would tell them that I am combatting the jihad ideology that means to institutionalize oppression of women and religious minorities, and invite them to join me. It is a pity that somebody like Rosenbaum, with her bully pulpit, is too paralyzed by multiculturalism and political correctness to do so, or even to be able to see the larger issues involved.