Robert Spencer and Joe Kaufman refute journalistic bias and distortions found in article depicting 'counter terrorism bloggers'
January 16, 2006
January 16, 2006
A notch above child molester
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.
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.
January 17, 2005
Recently, I called up one of your writers to complain about two of the articles she had written for your publication, dated December 31st and January 1st. Both of the pieces insinuated that my appearance on Fox News, an article I had written for Frontpage Magazine, and my group's website, AmericansAgainstHate.com had caused death threats to come to a Tampa-area Presbyterian-owned campgrounds (Cedarkirk) and a Muslim organization (Muslim American Society of Tampa) that was planning on using the campgrounds for a "retreat." This was irresponsible journalism at its worst, as the violent nature of the organization and its speakers were given a pass.
Following my complaint, the writer of the articles, Sara Rosenbaum, sent me an e-mail saying that she wanted to do a piece on me. I agreed, understanding that, given the past two, it was probably going to be biased against me, and unfortunately, I was correct. In 'Are bloggers against hate, or feeding it?' dated January 16th, once again, Rosenbaum insinuated that I had caused the threats. She went as far as to say that images placed on my group's website had been responsible for death threats "pouring [sic] in to the Tampa Muslim American Society." No mention was made of the material found on MAS-Tampa's website discussing the murder of Jews or about the waging of holy war against Christians and Jews. No mention was made of the fact that one of the speakers of the "retreat," Mazen Mokhtar, had created a website that raised funds and recruited terrorists for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or that his website was also used as a portal to the official site of Hamas. All of this information was presented to Rosenbaum, but once again, I was the bad guy, and the terrorists were given a pass.
Miss Rosenbaum devoted much of her article to quoting Ahmed Bedier, a spokesman for the organization CAIR. She quotes him as calling me a "vigilante" and a "bigot." She quotes him as saying that I am "spreading lies," when she knows that I put extensive links to source material in every article that I write and every press release that I send out. None of this was challenged by Rosenbaum. Nowhere does she say that this man is a member of a group that is the defendant in a 9/11 lawsuit, a group whose former representatives include those that have been convicted in and/or deported from the United States for terrorist activity, a group that was created by a front for Hamas. Nowhere does Rosenbaum mention that Bedier recently stated that, prior to 1995, there was "nothing immoral" about Palestinian Islamic Jihad. She gave him a pass as well.
To many readers, Rosenbaum made it seem as though I was using my feelings towards the anti-Semitism I experienced growing up as a catalyst for my present activities. Nothing could be further from the truth, as none of the incidents I cited had anything to do with the Muslim community. Rosenbaum also laced her article with inaccurate information. She stated that I was considering contacting an old Palestinian friend of mine but then I "thought better of it." I never said that I was not going to contact this individual, who happened to be my best friend in high school. That was fabricated by Rosenbaum to bolster her story and to vindicate her bias.
My work has contributed greatly to the safety and security of America. From what she has written, by making light of my work and by giving a forum to those that threaten American society, it appears Miss Rosenbaum has shown that she is oblivious to the threat of terrorism. In doing so, her distortions, which were spun as fact, have misled the readers of the St. Petersburg Times. Miss Rosenbaum owes me and all of those counter-terrorism experts, which she derisively labeled and dismissed as "bloggers," an apology. This includes Robert Spencer, an accomplished author whose present book about Islam was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 15 weeks.
In the future, the St. Petersburg Times should thoroughly scrutinize and 'fact check' its writers' work, so that your publication does not become synonymous with this type of sloppy journalism.
Are bloggers against hate -or feed it?
It's 4 a.m. Somewhere near Coral Springs, Joe Kaufman is still at his computer.
Blurry with fatigue, he types:
It has been said that 80 percent of all the mosques ... inside the United States are ... tied to a radical form of Islam. ...
One of the American locations that ... influence has been prevalent is the Tampa-St. Pete area of Southwest Florida.
Kaufman is 35, clean-shaven, a lawyer's assistant. He goes inline skating and writes love songs on guitar. But his passion is his Web site, AmericansAgainstHate.com, where he monitors the activities of Florida's Muslim community, looking for terrorist links.
Kaufman's site is only one of a constellation of blogs with names like JihadWatch.com, MilitantIslamMonitor.org, and WesternResistance.com that are dedicated to the surveillance of American Muslims. The blogs link to one another, with more-traveled sites amplifying stories from more obscure ones, like Kaufman's.
He claims he has not found a single mosque in Florida that is not linked to terrorists.
A lot of people are listening.
Last month, after Kaufman called a Tampa Muslim religious retreat a "jihad camp for children" and wrote that the speakers were "linked to al-Qaida," death threats poured in to the Presbyterian camp hosting the event.
Muslims say the blogs breed hate.
"He's spreading lies, slandering individuals," said Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Tampa Bay chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "These are vigilantes."
Kaufman and other bloggers say their work is vital to the country's safety.
"I don't hate Muslims," Kaufman said. "But I'm going to fight to have the public understand that there are enemies of America ... that are living in America as we speak."
* * *
As a boy, Kaufman says he was tormented for being Jewish, which shaped his view of himself.
"These kids turned me into an animal," Kaufman said.
In college, things were better with more friends, especially his roommate, he said. Then he came back to his dorm room one day to see a swastika flag on the wall.
"It was like time stopped for me. And I thought to myself, either I'm going to go through this for the rest of my life, or I'm going to fight it."
Kaufman said he got his roommate kicked out of school for smoking marijuana.
"It made me feel ... that I finally punished the people who were punishing me all of my life."
On Sept. 11, 2001, watching the World Trade Center's twin towers fall, he said it felt again as if time had stopped.
"I decided, like I'd decided in college, to fight against hatred."
* * *
To Kaufman and other bloggers, the events of Sept. 11 were born of Islam's teachings.
"We want to wake up the people of the Western world to the dangers of Islam," said Miami's Sorge Diaz of WesternResistance.com.
The bloggers cite verses in the Koran that encourage believers to kill enemies of the faith. But Muslims say these passages are taken out of context and refer only to historical times.
"It's not an open-ended edict to go out and kill people," said Bedier, the CAIR spokesman. "There are hundreds of thousands of verses that talk about peace."
Bedier of Tampa is familiar with the blogs. His name often appears as a supporter of terrorism on Kaufman's site.
"It's a clearinghouse for defamation and attacks against Muslims," Bedier said.
"I like to go out and reach out to folks and build bridges," he added. "These types of people, they want to be able to wedge a gap between Muslims and the rest of society."
To fight back, Bedier is starting his own blog, AhmedBedier.blogspot.com. He said he wants to set the Internet record straight.
"Nowadays when you meet people, they go home and Google your name," he said. On the search engine, the top hits for Bedier's name are articles by Kaufman.
"I'm not going to let bigots like that define who I am," Bedier said.
* * *
The bloggers say they're safeguarding the country.
Kaufman said he has worked with law enforcement to uncover terrorists, leading to deportations and arrests.
Daniel Sutherland of the Department of Homeland Security said the government is more interested in forging bonds with Muslims.
"There is no clash of civilizations going on here, there is no "us' and "them,"' he said.
William Carter of the FBI said the bureau wants citizens to pass on helpful information. But, he added, "It's not like we have people who are scanning the Internet, looking at bloggers."
Daniel McBride, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, sees a different picture. His mosque has tangled with Kaufman, especially last May when a member was arrested on terrorism-related charges. (McBride himself is facing criminal insurance fraud charges, but that case is unrelated to his religion.)
Now, McBride said, he and others sometimes hear from FBI agents who are following up on something from a blog - often Kaufman's.
"They check out all that stuff," he said. "They'll tell you, "Joe said this' or "Joe said that.' They say, "We have to follow up on it, because if we don't and something did happen ..."'
* * *
Jennifer Valko opened her e-mail and saw a message of hate.
I will undress you paint your body with pig fat & light you. America is on to you! Watch your back!
It was the Thursday after Christmas. In two days, the Muslim spiritual retreat she had helped plan was scheduled to take place at Cedarkirk, a Presbyterian camp and conference center in eastern Hillsborough County.
That morning, Kaufman had appeared on Fox News to talk about the retreat.
On his Web site, he had posted articles about it. He posted computer-altered images of masked terrorists standing in front of the Lithia campsite.
He said these images were meant to be "tongue in cheek." But some readers took them seriously. Hate mail and death threats poured in to the Tampa Muslim American Society.
The conference center's director also got death threats and closed the center for the weekend, forcing the retreat elsewhere.
Kaufman called the threats "disgusting," saying he gets death threats because of his blog.
"I know what I went through growing up, and it was never my intention to cause any type of hatred against anyone."
But he added, "I can't let it stop me from what I'm doing. ... I'm assisting in the safety and security of the American people."
Other bloggers agree.
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.
* * *
Last month, while Kaufman was researching his story about the Tampa retreat, he found himself reading about a man named Mazen Mokhtar, a scheduled speaker. Then Kaufman began to recall a Mazen he once knew.
One of his closest friends in high school was a Palestinian named Mazen, he said. They had never discussed politics.
"He seemed like a very good person," Kaufman said. "I believe he was a true friend."
They lost contact, he said. Kaufman thought of looking him up. Then he thought better of it.
"I don't really know what he would think about what I do," he said.
--Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at 813 661-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org