My essay “The Myth of 9/11”, published in a book I co-edited with theologian John Cobb and Jewish Studies professor Sandra Lubarsky, compared 9/11 to Hitler’s Reichstag Fire. When an AP reporter called to ask if I was comparing Bush to Hitler, I said “No, that would be an insult to Hitler, who had 20 or 30 IQ points on Bush.” The reporter audibly gasped, then asked me to repeat the line, which I did. The next day my bon mot was a national news story, eliciting roughly equal numbers of LOLs and death threats.
So maybe when novelist Steve Alten recently called my presentation at the 9/11/2009 We Demand Transparency conference “Hitler’s type of propaganda” what he really meant was that my type of propaganda was 20 or 30 points smarter than George Bush’s. But somehow I don’t think so.
Last September 16th, Alten spent an hour yelling at me on my own radio show (archived here). Now, in another recent radio interview with Cheri Roberts, Alten really went after me, jaws gnashing in primordial fury. (My response on the same show is posted here.)
It began when host Cheri Roberts brought up the question of divisions in the 9/11 truth movement, sensibly suggesting that the experts should debate the forensics, while other truth-seekers should unite under one umbrella.
Steve Alten responded:
Well, I think the basic problem with the 9/11 truth movement is it’s no longer focused on 9/11. It’s focused on all sorts of things that under any other label would be considered wacky. I mean, I flew up to New York to a 9/11 truth meeting in a church in New York on 9/11 this past year, and I gave a speech, and tried to keep everybody focused on the agenda, and then one of the next guests speakers, a gentleman — I can’t remember his name right now — the white Islam, (chuckles), the white Muslim, you know, who’s got the radio show…he went on to blame the Jews. And showed the Jewish conspiracy in the media. To which I was first of all offended as a Jew, and second of all offended as a rational human being. And I stood up and challenged him right there on the floor, and I said “this is not what 9/11 is about, all you’re doing is causing more hate. No light can come out of hatred, no light can come out of prejudice. And your arguments are absolutely ridiculous. You’re just…you’re exactly what is wrong with the 9/11 truth movement, and why we will never get any legitimate attention when you’re just breeding hatred and blaming…you know, he’s a converted Muslim. And I’m sitting next to my Egyptian friend who IS Muslim, who was born Muslim, and he’s shaking his head and saying this guy’s wacko! You know, so you can’t have that kind of radical belief in a movement and expect the movement to be accepted by the mainstream. Because…first of all, it’s not legitimate…but people follow this! And people were listening to him, and, like, nodding their heads, because he’s got a projection screen that shows that, you know, with all the major networks listed there, and anyone with a Jewish name, you know, presented in his argument. And so people were nodding their heads, and, “yeah, boy, he’s right.” And it’s the worst type of propaganda, directly out of Adolf Hitler’s type of propaganda, and people were falling for this nonsense!”
Cheri: “Yeah, I totally agree…”
Source: http://paulsdomain.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=567982 – 12:00 – 15:00
Alten’s statement transcribed in the above passage is false and defamatory as a whole, as well as in some of its parts.
Alten: “He went on to blame the Jews. And showed the Jewish conspiracy in the media.” My presentation did not “blame the Jews” (presumably Alten meant “blame the Jews for 9/11”). I challenge him to go over the recording of my presentation and find me saying that I “blame the Jews.” He won’t find it, or anything remotely like it. Nor will he find any reference to “the Jewish conspiracy in the media.” These are all Alten’s words, not mine. Inventing false and defamatory words and putting them in someone else’s mouth is called slander.
In reality I have been a leader in interfaith dialogue, co-editing an important book, co-founding the leading interfaith 9/11 truth group, and inviting many Jewish guests on my radio shows for cordial dialogues on many subjects, including positive aspects of Judaism (see my interview with Ken Biegeleisen from 11/7/2009 and next Tuesday’s interview with Douglas Rushkoff).
Alten: “And it’s the worst type of propaganda, directly out of Adolf Hitler’s type of propaganda…” There is no sense in which my lecture, which aimed to explain Muslim-majority views of 9/11 and related issues, derives from Hitler. Ironically, Alten’s baseless comparison of majority Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim views to Hitler–a staple of Zionist extremist rhetoric–could itself be legitimately called “the worst type of propaganda.”
“The white Islam, (chuckles), the white Muslim, you know, who’s got the radio show…You know, he’s a converted Muslim. And I’m sitting next to my Egyptian friend who IS Muslim, who was born Muslim, and he’s shaking his head and saying this guy’s wacko!”
Alten’s implication that I am disqualified from being a legitimate Muslim on account of my skin color is offensive. He seems to share the common racist belief that Muslims are dark-skinned foreigners with funny names–a convenient fiction for Zionists who want to convince Americans to kill Muslims for Israel. In fact, Islam is absolutely color-blind and multi-racial, uniting Europeans, Africans, Asians, islanders, and (increasingly) Native Americans/mestizos. Islam is the only religion in the U.S. that does not have a majority race or ethnicity. As a Muslim of Irish-Scottish-Welsh-German heritage, I am no more in a minority in the US Muslim community than are Muslims whose ethnic heritage derives from Egypt, Senegal, the Phillipines, Somalia, Russia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Switzerland, Albania, Oman, Bosnia, Turkmenistan, Brazil, Lebanon, Australia, or anywhere else. Alten’s attempt to equate the Islamic religion with a racial stereotype may derive from his background as a pro-Israel (i.e. pro-Zionist) American Jew, since Israel is defined as the ethnic Jewish state for all “Jews” (people born of Jewish mothers) regardless of their religious beliefs and practices, thus confusing the categories of religion and race/ethnicity.
Islam, unlike Judaism, is a non-racial religion. It does not claim that some people are better than others, “God’s chosen” or what have you, on account of their racial ancestry. In Islam, people are judged by their piety and actions; the Qur’an tells us that God created us in different sects and tribes “to compete in goodness” (5:48). In particular, Islam rejects the Jewish myth that Jews are the descendants of the superior Isaac, while Arabs/Muslims descend from that inferior “wild ass,” Ishmael. By identifying with Ishmael, and viewing him and not Isaac as the son reprieved from Abraham’s sacrifice, the Qur’an emphasizes that Islam was revealed, in part, to bust the myth of the “chosen people” and reveal the truth of human equality.
Alongside his offensive racial characterization of Muslims, Alten lies about Muslim-majority opinion by suggesting that his Egyptian friend, who supposedly thought my presentation was “wacko,” represents the Muslim mainstream. At issue were my claims that the majority of Muslims believes (1) the struggle over Palestine is the main cause of conflict in the Middle East, (2) Jewish Zionist power in the US dictates US Middle East policy, and (3) that 9/11 was probably, in whole or in part, a Zionist operation (i.e. US Middle East policy by other means).
Naturally not all Muslims agree with these views, and if they do, not all are courageous and/or impolite enough to voice them in mixed company. These positions are, however, Muslim-majority ones. If Alten has any evidence that the majority of Muslims thinks these positions are “wacko,” other than one anecdote about one Egyptian friend, I would like to see it. I have been a Muslim since 1993, speak Arabic and follow Arabic media, have a Ph.D. with an Islamic Studies focus, spent a year conferring with colleagues and ordinary folks on a Fulbright fellowship in Morocco, and have gathered impressions about Muslim-majority opinion from many sources. Based on that experience I can tell you flat out that it is Alten’s belief about Muslim-majority opinion that is “wacko,” not mine.
But even if my characterization of Muslim-majority opinion were wrong, which it isn’t, why kill the messenger? Why would Alten abuse me personally for my characterization of Muslim-majority opinion? Couldn’t he at least show some evidence against my take on Muslim-majority opinion? Or, if no such evidence can be found, why not argue that Muslim-majority opinion, if it is in fact what Barrett claims, is wrong? These would be reasonable arguments. But Alten apparently is not interested in reason.
Alten’s argument is discombobulated, hysterical, and barren of supporting evidence, because it emerges from strong emotion bereft of reason. And what pushed Alten’s emotional buttons hardest was my discussion of whether the Muslim majority is right about Jewish Zionist power dictating US Middle East policy. In my presentation, I cited evidence for the Muslim-majority position, beginning with the work of scholar James Petras, who exhaustively documents what he calls the Zionist Power Configuration in control of post-9/11 policy. My presentation included a chart of top mainstream media decision-makers showing a great many allegedly Jewish people, along with a column by Philip Weiss entitled “Do Jews Dominate in American Media? And So What if We Do?” In that column, Weiss explains that in his many decades of mainstream media work, the majority of the owners, bosses and co-workers he worked for and with were Jewish, suggesting that based on this experience and other evidence, the question “Do Jews dominate in American media?” could be answered “yes.”
In response to the second question of his essay title, “So What?”, Weiss explains that the result of this apparent Jewish domination in American media is that “Americans are not getting the full story re Israel/Palestine.” Why not? Weiss explains: “Even if you’re a secular Jewish professional who prides himself on his objectivity, there is a ton of cultural pressure on you to support Israel or at least not to betray Israel.” Weiss cites former CNN reporter Linda Scherzer: “We, as Jews, must understand that we come with a certain bias …We believe in the Israeli narrative of history. We support the values that we as Americans, Westerners, and Jews espouse. Thus, we see news reporting through our own prism.” In other words, media Jews conflate support for Israel with Americanism — just as Muslims, were they to dominate the US media, would conflate support for Hamas with Americanism. (Hamas is an Islamic movement, just as Zionism is a Jewish movement, and there would seem to be no inherent reason why non-Jewish, non-Muslim Americans should prefer one over the other.)
Steve Alten, who apparently sees the 9/11 truth movement through his own prism, does not dispute any of this. His implicit position is that it just should not be talked about. In Alten’s world, anyone who cites evidence that Zionist (i.e. pro-Israeli) Jews dominate in American media, and that this conditions American perceptions of the Middle East conflict, must be silenced through insults.
I have a question for Steve Alten. Imagine that tomorrow, wealthy anti-Zionist Muslims buy up the same percentage of the media that pro-Zionist Jews currently own. Imagine that these new Muslim owners, with their Muslim names, exercise their right to hire and fire personnel, and that the result is that a new majority of key US media people suddenly consists of anti-Zionist Muslims. Should this event, if and when it occurs, be off limits for discussion? Should the fact that a majority of US media decision-makers now has Muslim names be passed over in silence? Should anyone who even mentions that the new CEO of NBC is Abdul-Malik Hassan, a strong supporter of Hamas, and that the rest of the mainstream media is now dominated by people with similar names and ideologies, be attacked as a bigot and silenced? If not — if you agree that this development would be noteworthy and a legitimate topic of discussion — then why must today’s actual Jewish Zionist domination of the media be kept secret? How do you justify the double-standard?
Those who suppress critical thinking, by promoting incoherent emotion-based obfuscation, are usually trying to protect some privileged belief, which they hold to a different standard than alternative beliefs. According to some such people, it is unthinkable to “blame Jews” for 9/11, but perfectly okay to “blame Muslims”–ignoring the overwhelming evidence that 9/11 was a false-flag op by the enemies of Muslims, designed to implicate Muslims and legitimize their mass murder, meaning that Muslims are the victims and thus the last who should be blamed! (Who cares about evidence, it’s the privileged belief that must be protected at all costs.) Likewise it would be unthinkable to single out Jews for ethnic profiling or arbitrary detention, but thinkable to single out Muslims. And it’s unremarkable — in fact it MUST be unremarked-on or you’ll never work in this town again — that Zionist Jews dominate in the American media…but if Muslim supporters of Hamas dominated in the American media, that would be a different story!
The 9/11 truth movement uses critical reason to deconstruct double-standards enforced by emotional conditioning. (The 9/11 psy-op was the ultimate conditioning operation, enforcing a double-standard of “us vs. them” on Americans and including Zionists in the “us,” while condemning Zionism’s Muslim foes to “them” status.) Those of us who seek the truth must challenge this and all double-standards, and the unreasonable arguments, chiefly insults, that uphold them. Steve Alten’s irrational, evidence-free diatribe against me, like similar diatribes I have suffered from Hannity and O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and so many others, exemplifies the kind of emotional conditioning used by demagogues (like Hitler, Steve!) to prop-up double-standards, and pummel critical reason into submission.