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Stephen M. Brown’s retraction and apology (re: Left Forum) followed by my response

Retraction and Apology
for my June 4 Post

On June 4, I sent out an email (attached) in which I ridiculed the claims, widely circulated on the internet, that 4 panels had been banned by the Left Forum because some of their panelists were allegedly “anti-Semitic” and “Holocaust deniers.”

Given what I knew about the Left Forum, and because a Forum member had specifically assured me that no “banning” had taken place, I wrote that the panelists’ claims — that they had been banned or censored — were false. I went further. I also questioned the motives of the panelists – their good faith — and accused them of making a “scurrilous fake news attack” against the Left Forum board.

But I was wrong.

Not wrong about whether some of the panelists were actually “anti-Semitic” and “Holocaust deniers” (they may or may not be). But wrong to deny that they had been banned by the Left Forum for allegedly being anti-Semitic and Holocaust deniers. It now appears that the panelist were indeed banned by the Left Forum board for allegedly being anti-Semitic and Holocaust deniers. And that their banning was the result of a letter-writing campaign (organized by someone named Spencer Sunshine, in collaboration with several Jewish groups) that intimidated the Board and prompted an important German organization (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung NYC) to withdraw its support from the Forum if the accused panelists were allowed to speak.

I now know that I was wrong because there exist at least two (and more are claimed) “smoking gun” emails written by high-ranking members of the Left Forum administration. These emails make it clear that the Forum board did knuckle under to outside pressure groups by prohibiting the panelists from speaking. Here are those emails.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ashley Abbott <>
Date: Mon, May 29, 2017 at 1:45 PM
Subject: Re: Another panel has to be canceled

And to elaborate, hundreds of people contacted us. This prompted us to do further research and upon doing so, we (the board and staff) agree that a panel featuring Anthony Hall should not occur at Left Forum.

Ashley Abbott
Left Forum 
On Mon, May 29, 2017 at 1:34 PM Left Forum <> wrote:
Dear C***** and C**,

a big german organization Left Forum has worked together with many years said they will withdraw panels etc. when Anthony Hall speaks at Left Forum, he is
 Holocaust denier.

The board and the staff of Left Forum will act now and cancel the panel
“Political Correctness: The Dangers of Thought Crime Police”

Marcus Graetsch
Left Forum  | 212-817-2003

The above emails were sent to me by organizers of the banned panels. Had I done my homework properly, and interviewed them, instead of only speaking with Forum board members, I would have seen the emails earlier — and not published what I now acknowlege to be my poorly researched (and unforgivably smug) account of the affair. Which would have spared me the embarrassment of writing this retraction, and spared the panelists the additional injury of my unjustified attack on their motives.  

To be fair about the emails, I should point out — as a Forum board member informed me – that Ashley Abbott and Marcus Graetsch, who wrote the above emails, are not themselves board members. So they did not participate in the vote to accept or reject the 4 panels, and perhaps also were not privy to other, possible reasons for which the board might have rejected the 4 panels. If such reasons exist, I hope the Forum will one day share them with the public.

In any case, here is a detailed account of the affair, with the names of the banned panels and their presenters: Although it was written by one of the banned panelists, it is more informative, and seems closer to reality, than was my own account.

Disappointingly (and suprisingly, given the widespread interest generated by this affair), there has been no public clarification from the Left Forum. As I have already suggested to a board member, it would be a good idea for the Forum to issue one — not only for the sake of its own reputation, but because its supporters deserve no less. In fact, they would probably welcome anyexplanation that allows them to continue having faith in the Forum.

After all, only the CIA can expect to get away with an official policy of “no comment” when accused of bad behavior. That’s because the CIA doesn’t care what people think of it — it knows it can always get funding and political support, no matter what it is accused of. But the Left Forum must care what people think of it, because it can’t get funding and political support if people no longer respect it.

But – what if the Forum had been right? What if the banned panelists really were anti-Semitic or Holocaust deniers? Well, what of it? Neither anti-Semitism nor Holocaust denial was part of their panels. So why ban them? Richard Wagner was a howling anti-Semite, but the Met doesn’t ban performances of “Tristan und Isolde.” The only issue should have been whether the panelists had anything new, interesting, or thought provoking to say about “9/11” or “the Deep State” or “False Flag operations” or “Censorship” – which were among the the topics they promised to address.

Even if offensive anti-Semitic sentiments might be expressed during a panel, audiences are always free to picket, to protest from the floor, or to simply walk out. The Forum could then issue a a denunciation – afterwards — which would reaffirm its principles and at the same time honor the strong American tradition against pre-censorship.

Instead, the Forum caved under pressure from groups it evidently feared to offend, and thus prohibited reputably credentialed academics and scientists from presenting unorthodox views on subjects of great interest to a significant segment of attendees. To whatever extent my June 4 post misrepresented that fact, I apologize. It was a glaring example of “confirmation bias” – what psychologists define as “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.”

Well, clearly I had a pre-existing belief (aka bias) in favor of the Left Forum. I wrote what I hoped was true, instead of searching for what was really true.

I expect to do better next time.

Hello Steve,

I was one of the banned panelists (Spencer Sunshine’s letter to the Left Forum said I was the “best known” of the evil anti-Semites). As much as I appreciate your retraction, I don’t particularly appreciate the “so maybe they are anti-Semites” part, any more than you would appreciate me sending a mass email saying, “well, maybe it’s true that Steve Brown beats his wife and rapes his dog, but that’s not the issue – he should be allowed to speak and if he starts raping his dog during the speech, animal rights groups can picket him.”

So while rectifying your injustice against us, you arguably perpetrated another injustice. Nobody on any of the banned panels is bigoted or racist. By tentatively accepting the Left Forum’s lies about that, even while exposing their lies denying that the panels were banned, you made a second mistake. Having swallowed the lie and slandered the truth-tellers once, you should have presumed in favor of the truth-tellers the second time.

I would appreciate it if you were willing to have a conversation about this. How about a one-hour pre-recorded discussion for my radio show? I would be happy to answer any and all of your questions about my take on 9/11, Israel, Zionism, the power of organized Jewish groups, and so on. This would give you (and any Left Forum people who listen) a better idea about whether the “so maybe they are anti-Semites” thing is reasonable – or whether it’s an odious smear that needs to be put to bed.  

Let me know if you could do that and if so, what times/dates would work.


Kevin Barrett
New books: 
Middle East Affairs and Islamic Studies expert guest at Press TV, Al-Alam, Al-Etejah, Russia Today, etc

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