It’s a Saul Alinsky tactic from Rules for Radicals: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” In other words, zero in on an enemy, isolate him, demonize him, marginalize him, and silence him. The hard-Left mainstream media and its Islamic supremacist allies are using this tactic with increasing frequency. They’ve used this tactic with fanatical, frenzied hostility against Pamela Geller; they’ve used it on me, and now they’re going after the ace lawyer David Yerushalmi, who has represented us in our free speech SIOA lawsuits and has been instrumental in developing the anti-Sharia legislation now being considered all over the country.
For that transgression, as far as the New York Times is concerned, he must be eliminated. But now, in “NYT Searches for the Leader of the Anti-Shariah Movement, Finds Me Instead” in the American Thinker, August 11, he hits back:
I was featured, complete with pictures (and online video), in a 2,000+ word New York Times article about the anti-sharia movement in this country, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliot, which appeared in the Times’ July 31st Sunday edition, front page, above the fold. Impressive, no? Unfortunately, Ms. Elliot exposed herself as biased and in denial, and has since given an interview to NPR in which she more openly evidences journalistic condescension, in addition to the bias one normally expects from the mainstream media. The story was quite explicitly intended to link a national movement to a single individual, me, and then to suggest that this individual — again, me — was manipulative, hidden, and controversial. This is evident from the title of the article: “The Man Behind the Anti-Sharia Movement.”
The truth remains at a distance, and this analysis will suggest only a more objective telling of the facts I say “suggest” because I am the subject of the Times “profile,” and as such I cannot realistically claim objectivity. I will allow others more at a distance to weigh in. One writer, Ben Shapiro, whom I don’t know, has already done that, and I must note my appreciation (see “In Defense of David Yerushalmi“).
We begin at the beginning. Ms. Elliot and I have traded emails on sharia and related matters for about 3 or 4 years. We first “met” when she did a long profile of Dhaba (Debbie) Almontaser, the spearhead and one-time principal of New York City’s failed Arabic-centric public school called the Khalil Gibran International Academy. (While KGIA’s doors remain open, everyone both within and without the school’s community of present and past teachers, administrators, students, parents, and early supporters admit it has failed as both an educational center and as a “multi-cultural” outreach.)
Ms. Elliot contacted me several months before the “anti-sharia movement” article was to run saying she wanted only background on the movement since she knew I was involved. I conditioned my agreement to provide background on an explicit commitment from her that the article was not about me. She agreed. When we finally sat down for a three-hour lunch, it was evident at the end of the “background” discussion that Ms. Elliot was focusing too much on personalities, me especially, and not enough on the substantive arguments against sharia. Every time I pressed her, though, she assured me that the story was “not about you.”
Well, that little bit of journalistic dishonesty we all know is part of the tradecraft. Journalists will often deceive their subjects about the focus of an interview to get them to open up. My colleagues and I understood this and discussed the risks of any interview with Ms. Elliot and the New York Times. But we concluded those risks versus a major story by an acclaimed journalist, even a card-carrying member of the elite Manhattan progressive club like Ms. Elliot, were worth taking. Why? Because public policy work is as much about creating a serious discussion and framing it in some non-PC context as it is about suggesting actual legislation or new policies. […]
Moving beyond Ms. Elliot’s purposeful deception that she was not writing about me, we come to her writing style (we’ll deal with substance as a final matter). Ms. Elliot treats her targets — me and the “anti-sharia movement” — more broadly in similar fashion. She begins by describing the “movement” as a kind of simplified ignorance. She accomplishes this by implicitly ridiculing a politician in Tennessee who, rather than dealing with the serious matters of the state’s unemployment, home foreclosures, and the like, is dealing with the problem of sharia as a threat to the U.S. and to Tennessee.
Everyone will of course recall, but not because Ms. Elliot mentions it, that Carlos Bledsoe was an African-American Christian living in Tennessee, where he was converted and “radicalized” sufficiently to attack an army recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, leaving one soldier dead and one injured. And, many will recall, again not because Ms. Elliot mentions it, that it is the Obama administration’s attorney general, Eric Holder, who informs us that homegrown jihad terrorism inspired by the likes of Yemen-based Awlaki is “one of the things that keeps me up at night” because “[t]he threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born.”
While Ms. Elliot will no doubt plead that her reporting was a “fair” and “objective” narration of facts, a “fair” and “objective” assessment belies this claim. Beyond her not-so-veiled ridicule of the anti-sharia movement, she allows herself this bit of rather subjective “analysis” of the merits of the anti-sharia movement: “Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real.” Of course any assertion of fact to support a policy can be “arguably” something else. In this day and age, you can find “authoritative” voices to argue about anything (battling “experts” in courtrooms across the country demonstrate this point).
But, Ms. Elliot positioned the “arguably” irrational anti-sharia movement as fighting phantoms without bothering to actually articulate what the threat from sharia is, or “arguably” is. That is, she set up a straw man. Thus, she turns the sharia threat into a caricature of a Tennessee politician ignoring “real” problems for “imagined” ones and then attaches a “fervor” to all of us who understand sharia as the enemy’s common threat doctrine. The word “fervor” of course is to lend a sense of faith-based, that is, not real, religiosity to the “anti-sharia movement.”
There is much more. Read it all.