Outrage over a cartoon…and yet no one died

Cross posted by Raheem Kassam, Executive Editor of The Commentator

Only on a BBC radio call-in show in Britain could you have heard listeners phoning in to express how the West would get what it has coming to it for a peasant-like film being uploaded to YouTube by some anonymous character in the United States. 

But that is precisely what I heard, when as a guest on the BBC Asian Network last year, I was asked to take part in a phone-in discussion with listeners about the “Innocence of Muslims” film. 

At the time, protests in Pakistan, Libya and other Muslim countries terrified pusillanimous Western leaders into apologising for the freedom of expression, or freedom to offend. The fallout was the death of an American ambassador and diplomatic staff, although the links to the protests in this case are spurious.

The same of course can be reflected upon of the firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo office in 2011, and of the response on the streets of Britain when a Danish newspaper published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. Hundreds died. Property was burned. Unknown numbers of people were injured.

Against this backdrop, I have been assessing the implications of the Benjamin Netanyahu cartoon over the past 48 hours. 

The Commentator, as you know, first reported the extraordinarily offensive cartoon on Sunday morning, noting the invocation of the long-standing blood libel against the Jewish people. Many have argued, that the cartoon depicting a big-nosed, blood-loving Netanyahu is nowhere near as offensive as depicting Prophet Muhammed as a terrorist, or similar.

I would argue that actually, the Netanyahu cartoon was worse. Not for ‘criticising’ the Israeli leader, but rather, for invoking the Der Stumer-esque view that the Jews have big noses and dabble in the blood of Arabs or Muslims. This is outright racism. The Mohammed cartoons, were (distasteful) parodies against a singular religious figure, not the demonisation of an entire people.

But even if you don’t buy that – and really, I understand if you don’t because it’s quite a fine line – then upon taking the two incidents as equal, and asserting that the freedom to offend should remain paramount, I would tend to agree with you

The fact is, the Sunday Times exercised its right to offend this past Sunday, on Holocaust Memorial Day, thus making its blood libel doubly, trebly, quadruply more offensive. And indeed, the appropriate levels of offence were taken.

But you didn’t see rioting in the streets, or the calls for the beheading of the perpetrators of the cartoon. You may have heard moans of the decline of Western civilisation, but you never heard encouragement towards it. In fact, the response to the Sunday Times cartoon was quite the opposite of what we’ve seen in recent years when religions take offence.

There were articles, quotes, comments, letters, political interventions and more. But never did the outcry overspill, and only ever was there a call towards more civility, not less.

Now, to be clear, we know full well that Muslim communities around the world, by and large, were not rioting and inciting violence after Mohammed was depicted in a provocative fashion – but it is these ‘moderate Muslims’ who must work to bring their house in order, casting out the crazies, expunging the extremists, declaring vehemently and repeatedly, “Not in my name.” 

It is these demons that Muslims in West still have to overcome – and until they do, they can claim no moral high ground over offences they feel are perpetrated towards them. 

The unofficial alliance of the BBC and Guardian

Cross posted by Raheem Kassam, Executive Editor of The Commentator 

Spirit. I’ll tell ye. ‘Tis not vain or fabulous

(Though so esteemed by shallow ignorance)

What the sage poets, taught by the heavenly Muse,

Storied of old in high immortal verse

Of dire Chimeras and enchanted isles,

And rifted rocks whose entrance leads to Hell

 John Milton, Comus (1634)

In his masque in honor of chastity and free thinking, John Milton introduces to his audience the virtues of recta ratio, the ability to exercise reason and restraint in the face of temptation and libidinal desire.

Of course, Britain’s media “behemoths” representing the Islington-dwelling liberal intelligentsia are already beyond reproach, having fallen between the rifted rocks of Hell long ago.

Thus Comus was created and thrives in the form of The Guardian and the BBC’s somewhat overt friendship. It appears in our media as the three-headed chimera, with the lion head of The Guardian, the bleating mouth of the BBC goat and the small yet venomous serpent tail of The Independent. Comus continues to lure anyone who will entertain him into his lair of necromancy.

Earlier this week, The Commentator broke the story that the BBC, between April 2010 and February 2011, procured nearly 60,000 copies of The Guardian and over 10,000 less of the nearest right-leaning paper, The Daily Telegraph. Also, the BBC curiously procured inordinate numbers of The Independent (43,709).

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade argues a “so what?” case, making the point that The Guardian and the BBC effectively stand for the same thing. This is the very problem.

The Guardian has a circulation of about one-third of its right-wing competitor, The Telegraph, and yet it enjoys a significantly larger presence within the confines of Broadcasting House and the BBC beyond. The Independent, with a daily circulation of only around 90,000, was bought in almost the same quantities as The Telegraph, a paper that enjoys some six times the daily public consumption.

What this tells us of this unofficial alliance, or Comus as we have come to know it, is that there is little wonder why on key issues, the BBC and The Guardian differ very little.

Distinguishing between their lines on the National Health Service, on European integration, on climate change, Israel and the Middle East, and economics is becoming more and more difficult.

Many of their staff is indeed interchangeable, with former Guardian editor Allegra Stratton now perched at the Beeb as political editor. The Guardian’s trans-Atlantic buddy, The New York Times, today procured Mark Thompson, of BBC fame, as its new president.

The Beeb’s own Andrew Marr has noted:

“The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organization with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities, and gay people. It has a liberal bias, not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”

Swallow that alongside the stark admission from Roy Greenslade in The Guardian Tuesday, responding to The Commentator’s exclusive

“There are so many similarities between the BBC and the Guardian… Both are imbued with a public interest ethos… It is therefore fair to say that the corporation and the paper have deeply ingrained shared values.” 

But much like Comus, these two organizations, alongside The Independent, appear to lure in the public with its promises of guilt alleviation and the scapegoating of certain nations or ideologies. This basic level of seduction, in appealing to a falsified notion of conscience, asks that the reader abandon rationality and indulge in often morally depraved or unscientific reporting.

We’ve seen this over time. With The Guardian’s obsession with “the Jewish lobby,” their intractability over climate science — despite being disproved time and again — and recently with our scoop on the BBC and its implacable hostility to the State of Israel (refusing to even acknowledge that it has a capital city, no less.)

And so it is up to us to act as the Attendant Spirit of this saga, who instructs on how Comus’s captive can be freed. Sabrina, the water nymph who ends up finally liberating the captive lady, can only do so due to her steadfast virtue and rejection of Comus’s necromancy. We must urge the public to exercise such chastity.

Over time, the liberal-left media will be shown to be the aggressor with the public conscience as its captor. Those who work relentlessly against the media bias are the Spirit and Sabrina, and inevitably, will triumph.

Guardian scrubs reference to ‘Jewish political establishment’ with no explanation

This essay was written by Raheem Kassam & Harry Cole for The Commentator

[Note: CiF Watch recently published posts pertaining to Hugh Muir, the Guardian writer who’s the subject of the following Commentator essay, following Muir’s smear of Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard. (See here and here) – A.L.]

The original text in print. Something that editor’s can’t delete

It seems that ever-wrong British newspaper The Guardian has made yet another blunder in what can only be described as a serious and continued internal confusion over ‘the Jews’. The Guardianself-admittedly has form with ingrained anti-Semitism within the rank and file.

Following the Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone’s loss to Boris Johnson last night, the print edition of The Guardian asserted that it was Ken’s own baggage that brought him down. We couldn’t agree more, but on a scan through the article and as highlighted by various people on Twitter this morning, we found this:

“How much damage did he [Ken] inflict by failing to make peace with the Jewish political establishment…”

This could be interpreted quite innocuously at first, or conversely, be read into as The Guardian tarring the entire British political establishment as Jewish run. But putting the quote in context regarding Ken’s Nazi insult to Jewish reporter Oliver Finegold and the ‘embrace of Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi’ we see further into what The Guardianis getting at.

This appears to be a case of foot-in-mouth disease once again, painting an image of a London Jewry led by a cabal of high-power, high-profile men and women pulling the strings over every Jew in London, and quite possibly non-Jews like us as well. “Vote as we say!” The Guardian might imagine, “Or you’ll lose our your invite to the annual London Jewish gathering where we all talk about Iran and read passages from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion!” The Guardian has adopted a tone in its writing about British Jewry that actually, unintentionally, lampoons their own approach to this small but diverse community.

Perhaps we jest too much though and this was a perfectly okay thing to say. Why then, did The Guardian choose to scrub the text ‘Jewish political establishment’ from the article on its website, without a hint of an admission, and replace it with the term ‘Jewish communal leadership’? Perhaps an editor at The Guardian took one look at the sentence, spat out his bagel and demanded a retraction? But there’s no such retraction on the website itself, and trying to erase from existence what found its way into the print edition is a faux pas more befitting Johann Hari than Alan Rusbridger. Or is it?

Read rest of the essay here.

Guardian gives platform to a self confessed terrorist; Uses CiF to defend killing of U.S. troops

Cross posted by Raheem Kassam atThe Commentator

Noam Chomsky and Ross Caputi

The title of this piece is a summary of events that no doubt sensationally portrays what has happened between the Guardian, Tarek Mehanna and Ross Caputi. But this scenario is worthy of serious contemplation for the security services, justice system and for all the individuals involved.

To bring you up to speed, Tarek Mehanna was recently found guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans overseas and of giving material support for terrorism.

He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. While his lawyers tried to represent him as a modern day Martin Luther King or even more spuriously, Nelson Mandela – a jury of his peers returned the verdict of ‘guilty’, acknowledging his role in criminal conduct.

It is reported that Mehanna travelled to Yemen in December 2004 to seek training at a terrorist camp, after which he planned to go to Iraq and fight against U.S soldiers. The judge in the case stated that he was “concerned about the defendant’s apparent absence of remorse” and when Mehanna was sent down, his family and friends delivered him a standing ovation.

I have my own concern about lack of remorse based on a recent Guardian Comment is Free article written by an Iraq War veteran who, as free as he walks, insists that what he did in Fallujah was ‘terrorism’ and writes openly in the Guardian, “I, too, support the right of Muslims to defend themselves against US troops, even if that means they have to kill them.”

This shocking statement from Ross Caputi is the kind of dangerous nonsense from someone tied up with the Stop The War Coalition, who recently introduced Noam Chomsky at an event and who seems to have become a Guardian poster boy since his article entitled, ‘I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah’.

Firstly, if Caputi is indeed adamant about his role in ‘terrorism’ then one wonders why he hasn’t marched himself down to the local police station, courtroom or military tribunal demanding the ‘justice’ he so vehemently campaigns for on behalf of convicted terrorists. It seems the Iraq vet thinks he can alleviate this double standard by writing a groveling letter of apology to The Guardian, where he apologises for attacking Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda operatives who he claims were ‘defending their city’. In reality, these groups were attacking as many Iraqi civilians and security forces as they were coalition forces in the city and just to be clear, The Guardian is not, despite what its editors may think, a part of the justice system or somewhere Caputi should be able to alleviate his guilt publicly.

Next, Caputi goes on to write about the murder of his friends in a romantic fashion – glorifying their killers, “How can I begrudge the resistance in Fallujah for killing my friends?” He classes himself as an ‘invader’ and ‘aggressor’ but makes no mention of the fact that it was al-Qaeda who fought in amongst civilians, oppressing them, using home and mosques and civilian areas as munitions stores. I’m inclined to agree with one of his opening statements where he claims he had no idea what was going on in Fallujah – it appears he still does not.

By no means am I excusing the killing of civilians and the use of depleted uranium or white phosphorus as weapons, by the way. But it is important to keep a level head on these issues and perhaps through no fault of his own and some would argue understandably, Caputi cannot. When reading his work, it is evident to anyone with even a vague sense of the importance of factual evidence and strategic realities that Caputi cannot reconcile the geopolitical and moral imperatives with the memory of the war in his own mind.

He links to the ‘Iraq Body Count’ website which in fact does little to back up his claims that U.S. troops were mainly to blame for civilian deaths. They played a major role for reasons given earlier, as well heavy-fire tactics used during the invasion years – but insurgents and post-invasion criminal violence caused the lions share of civilian deaths. The website, the very same that Tony Blair cites in his recent memoir, states, “Killings by anti-occupation forces, crime and unknown agents have shown a steady rise over the entire period”. Yet these are the forces that Caputi supports when he writes, “I’m not afraid to profess my support for Tarek Mehanna, or to advocate for his ideas”.

Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. sentenced Tarek Mehanna to 17 years in prison (less than the 25 called for by the prosecution) and while Ross Caputi’s confused and dangerous rants can be dismissed as the misguided, angry and stress-related consequences of war, it is less apparent why The Guardian should see fit to print such a piece which not only advocates terrorism and supports a convict, but is also factually flawed and fuels incitement to violence against foreign troops abroad.

Even one of the more sympathetic jurors who laments Mehanna’s long prison sentence acknowledges that he was a radical obsessed with violence, jihad and on the killing of U.S. troops. Perhaps Caputi’s defense of Mehanna would be less robust if it had been he that was targeted – or perhaps in such an extreme case, it would have driven him even further.

But ‘free speech’ is always the elephant in the room in cases like this. What is to stop The Guardian, Ross Caputi or even Tarek Mehanna from speaking their minds on such issues – even if it leaves the bitterest of tastes in our mouths?

The legal implications are complex, but in Britain, Caputi’s statements of support for Mehanna, including we assume from his words, his trip to Yemen and interest in fighting in ‘the resistance’ in Iraq is not just endorsement of terrorism but also proliferation, glorification and tantamount to incitement. His piece supports the killing of American soldiers abroad and could indeed be criminal under USC 2339A – ‘providing material support to terrorists’ and in Britain ‘inciting murder for terrorist purposes overseas’.

In Mehanna’s case under U.S. law, a 1969 Supreme Court case which the ‘Brandenburg test’ is derived from sets a precedent. For criminality of speech to be inferred, you have to be able to show that it would lead to ‘imminent lawless action’. Mehanna’s defence argued that he did not do this, but rather he was prosecuted for conspiring to kill American soldiers and supporting Al-Qaeda – far more heinous crimes.

The question now arises of what happens to Caputi, since it was he himself writing in the Guardian Comment Is Free (America) who originally wrote, “I have done everything that Tarek Mehanna has done, and there are only two possibilities as to why I am not sitting in a cell with him: first, the FBI is incompetent and hasn’t been able to smoke me out; second, the US judicial system would never dream of violating my freedom of speech because I am white and I am a veteran of the occupation of Iraq.”

Here, Caputi sets himself up as a hero – his status as a veteran of the war in Iraq he argues, precluding him from the arms of the law. Neither of the stated reasons is accurate, as Caputi did not travel to Yemen looking for terrorist training, nor did he conspire to assist al-Qaeda. To the best of our knowledge, he also never conspired to kill American soldiers overseas – unless he knows something we don’t know? However he does raise a valid point. Since he is in fact, openly inciting terrorist acts abroad, what do British and American courts intend to do about it?

Typically, going after someone like Caputi would not be worth the time and money it would the government to prosecute him, even if they could be sure of a conviction.  What makes this incident even more telling for the rational amongst us is Caputi’s own admission of being somewhat of a less than perfect soldier – not the ‘hero’ the FBI would have to think he was in order to, as he asserts, violate his freedom of speech. In fact, reading his blog it is easy to see that Caputi is indeed not the prim and proper Iraq veteran he masquerades as, nor was he privy to the kind of primary source information one might think The Guardian editors would look into:

“My unit got called into Camp Fallujah a couple of weeks before the 2nd assault. I was a buck private at the time and had recently been demoted for a number of charges from underage drinking to theft to general conduct unbecoming of a Marine. I was even moved out of my old infantry platoon because I just was not listening to anyone in charge of me, and they made me the Company Commander’s radio operator instead.”

This Chomsky-fanatic, who has only just surfaced in the mainstream, poses a serious threat to rational and evidence-based discourse about the war in Iraq, its consequences and the ongoing terrorist threat. Since he’s so adamant that he was a terrorist in Fallujah – I’m tempted to suggest that Caputi should be frog-marched to the nearest courtroom and forced to stand trial under his own admission of guilt. The reality is though, as he conveniently leaves out of his Guardian articles, he was scarcely ever around to witness what happened. “Most of the time” he admits, “I was perfectly safe with the officers, and there was no fighting within my immediate vicinity”.

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator. He tweets at @RaheemJKassam