Mainstreaming Holocaust deniers

Just a few months after the University of Toronto hosted frothing Jew-hater Ken O’Keefe, the Commons – a “movement building space” in Brooklyn – was the setting for a 9/11 conspiracy presentation by Chris Bollyn:

At a trendy community space in Brooklyn, a controversial 9/11 conspiracy theorist spoke Wednesday to a group of around two dozen listeners about the “Zionist war agenda” that he says was behind the attack 15 years ago that killed 3,000.

The crowd filed past a sleek bar serving drinks, some carrying Palestinian flags and flyers that read, “9-11: Do You Believe? Or Do You Question?” Some said they had come to the author Christopher Bollyn for answers.

“The Zionist war agenda waged by the U.S. was the primary reason for 9/11,” Bollyn told the crowd at the Brooklyn Commons, a “movement building space” in the gentrifying Boerum Hill neighborhood. Bollyn led the audience through a plodding, footnoted slide show which lasted more than two hours.


Inside, Bollyn made his way through his talk, showing what he believes are patterns showing that Israelis and Zionist Jews have been key people at every point in the 9/11 story.

“When you look at the 9/11 crime, the creation and promotion of the war on terror and the cover up — the key people are Zionist or Israelis,” he said earlier. “Why are these high-level American Zionist and Israelis covering up the crime?”

To be clear, Chris Bollyn isn’t just a conspiracy theorist or even just a Holocaust revisionist.  He’s an actual neo-Nazi:

Bollyn has also written numerous other articles on his website that accuse Jews of controlling the media and government. Bollyn has attended Holocaust denial conferences in the U.S. and one in Russia in 2002.  He is a former writer for the anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented newspaper American Free Press and its predecessor, The Spotlight, both published by anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Willis Carto.  American Free Press fired Bollyn in 2006, after accusing him of submitting false stories and of disloyalty to the paper.

Chris Bollyn was too crazy for Willis Carto, but he’s acceptable for the Brooklyn Commons.  Several progressive activists protested his appearance, but the founder doesn’t see what the big deal is all about:

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow each issued individual statements calling on the Commons to pull the speaker. But Melissa Ennen, who founded the space in 2010, stuck by the decision to host Bollyn, saying the Commons was never meant to be a “cozy space” only for progressives.

Let’s see the Young Republicans try to book space at the Commons, then.  Mind you, in 2016, Bollyn might have received a warm reception from them, too.

In 2016, there really is a wolf

In a column written before Donald Trump’s apocalyptic speech at the Republican National Convention, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham describes her new appreciation for the last GOP Presidential nominee:

I criticized you for throwing Massachusetts under the bus in the service of your presidential ambitions. I gave you a hard time for grandstanding on immigration and flip-flopping on other issues. I joined in the ridicule over your decision to strap your dog Seamus to the roof of the family car on a road trip. I have called you overly stage-managed, even boring.

And I hammered you for that 47 percent speech, in which you wrote off almost half the nation as moochers, saying it was no use going after their votes because you’d “never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

OK, that was pretty bad. Or so I thought at the time.

Now I long for those days. Because now I see how bad bad can be.

Your party has nominated an ignorant narcissist for president. His vile rhetoric has brought racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists out into the open. Our political discourse has not been this base in decades. It’s difficult to fathom, but the folks who nominated you just four short years ago are now willing to have this orange study in amorality yell “You’re fired!” at nuclear missiles.

Here’s an ironclad rule of politics: the latest conservative standard-bearer is always a scary fascist who’s going to end democracy as we know it.  Meanwhile, the last conservative standard-bearer – preferably a defeated one – earns strange new respect from the commentariat.

(This isn’t just an American phenomenon.  Mark my words: the Toronto Star columns declaring the next Conservative Party  of Canada leader “more extreme than Stephen Harper” are already written, with just the name to be filled in.)

The thing is, Donald Trump really is as awful as his opponents say.  That should have been obvious to anyone watching last night.  But when everyone right-of-center is deemed a fascist, don’t be surprised when people eventually tune out your warnings.

Andrew Sullivan* correctly says the right – especially an increasingly obstinate Republican Party – bears most of the blame for the rise of Trump, but the left is not blameless:

We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry – has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive. Which is why it is now on life-support.

*Sullivan lost me with his Trig Palin conspiracy-theorizing years ago.  That I’m back to voluntarily reading him again says a lot about 2016, and how Trump’s campaign is shifting my political views almost as much as 9/11 did – albeit in the other direction.

Trump is always the victim


Louise Mensch belives the Melania Trump’s plaigiarism was set up to take the focus off all the other disasters befalling the GOP convention and the Trump presidential campaign:

Look, of course Melania Trump didn’t write the speech. And of course a speechwriter plaigiarized Michelle Obama. But this wasn’t a mess-up or a foul.

Let’s assume the speechwriter has Michelle’s speech in front of him. He chuckles as he lifts a paragraph practically word for word. He knows perfectly well that this is the age of the internet and that it will instantly be found online.

He also knows that Trump has no money, and that Melania is Trump’s third wife, without accomplishments other than some risqué modeling. He further knows that SOMETHING has to be done to get the media talking about something other than the hellish Trumpster Fire of the RNC convention – Reince Priebus gerrymandering the rules, the WWE style Trump-entrance, the rows upon rows of empty seats, the embarrassing, political pastoral prayer opening – and the total lack of Republican superstars like, say, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He knows that the narrative will be all about Melania’s thick, immigrant accent, making Donald look like a hypocrite, or those poofy chef’s hats she wore on her sleeves, or reprints of Melania’s semi-nude modeling days. The Trump campaign has got to get you talking about something completely different.

Personally, I wonder if this might have been set up for another reason: to get everyone piling on Trump’s wife, giving him yet another opportunity to play the victim card.

As I’ve been saying for months, this world-famous millionaire (I don’t believe he is a billionaire) has based his entire campaign around being a victim and appealing to his followers’ sense of victimhood.  The media is unfair to him.  The Republican insiders are trying to sabotage his campaign.  The Mexicans and Muslims are taking away jobs and making the streets unsafe.  The Chinese are tricking the U.S. government into signing unfair trade deals.  Whine, whine, whine.

If part of Melania Trump’s speech hadn’t been blatantly lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech, today we’d be talking about Chachi and the guy from Duck Dynasty speaking at the convention.  Instead, it’s all about the alleged sins of the candidate’s wife – and I guarantee Trump has speech notes all set to go about how “unfair” and “mean” the media is being toward his wife and family.

Am I reading too much into what might be simple incompetence by a hopelessly compromised campaign?  Maybe.  But we’ve underestimated Trump for over a year, and look where he ended up.

A conspiracy theory: is Trump trying to get fired?

Allahpundit notes that on a day when the GOP nominee for President could have railed against Hillary Clinton and a corrupt system, Donald Trump was ranting and raving about…this:

“A striking display of self-sabotage,” the Times writes of Trump’s rally in Cincinnati last night, at which he ranted about the Star of David kerfuffle from this weekend and his views on Saddam the Terrorist-Killer. Here’s a reality check: Hardly anyone besides political junkies has spent more than 20 seconds thinking about the imagery in Trump’s tweet, assuming they’ve heard about it at all, and lots of Americans doubtless agree that the Middle East would be better off with strongmen in charge in the name of suppressing Islamists. (That’s the story of the Egyptian revolution and counterrevolution, right?) Besides, Trump seems to have already reached his likely floor in national polling of 37-40 percent of the vote, the occasional freaky outlier from Reuters aside. There’s nowhere to go but up.

What was amazing to me about last night’s rally was how devoted to “fan service” this guy still seems to be despite the fact that we’re two months into the general election campaign and he’s trailing consistently. If ever there was a candidate who could afford to stop titillating his hardcore supporters by ranting about how unfair the media is and how cool it was that Saddam got to kill bad guys without trials and due process, it’s Trump. His cult of personality is locked in. Now’s the time to pander to swing voters by leaving his “politically incorrect” material aside and hammering Clinton steadily on her comprehensive rigging of “the system,” from free trade to her above-the-law status courtesy of her cronies in the DOJ. Instead he’s screwing around with this nonsense at his rallies, knowing full well that the media will pick it up and run with it as an excuse to change the subject from the FBI’s shady decision not to charge Clinton. It’s inexplicable that he’d forfeit an easy opportunity to keep the heat on her and win over some undecideds. Some anti-Trumpers on social media retreated into their favorite conspiracy theory, that Trump’s actively trying to lose, to explain why he’d do it but I think it’s more a product of his supreme hubristic confidence in his rhetorical abilities. He’s gotten this far ranting about whatever comes into his head at rallies. Why change now?

(Emphasis added)  I dunno.  I can’t shake the feeling that Trump never intended to make it this far, that he knows he can’t win, and he’s trying to get himself fired.

When you think about it, it would be the best thing that could possibly happen to him at this point.  He is not going to the win the election.  The polls have him consistently behind Hillary Clinton, and his increasingly erratic performance on the campaign trail isn’t endearing himself to many undecided voters.

His bankruptcies notwithstanding, Trump sees himself as a “winner,” and what would destroy that image more than losing a Presidential election to a deeply unpopular, flawed candidate like Hillary?  He’d never live it down.  Trump may not be an easily embarrassed man, but losing this very winnable election would be too much.

But what if he is forced off the Republican ticket before the election?  Then he’s not a loser but a martyr who tried to take on a rigged, corrupt political system, gave the insiders and money men a scare, but had victory cruelly stolen from him.  For the 30-35% of Americans who love him, his legacy would be secure.  He wouldn’t be President of the United States, but he’d get one heck of an ego boost.

And why else does Donald Trump do anything?

Iraq and ideological blindness

The long-awaited Chilcot report on Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War has finally been released, and the findings are damning:

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.
Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.
The UK failed to appreciate the complexity of governing Iraq, and did not devote enough forces to the task of securing the country in the wake of the invasion, he added.
“The people of Iraq have suffered greatly,” he said.
Britain’s Parliament approved the war — ostensibly to remove Saddam Hussein and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — shortly before the invasion, although United Nations approval was not gained and millions marched in the streets in protest.
Hussein was removed and later executed. But the WMD threat was found to have been overblown and the promise to turn a dictatorship into a democracy was never delivered on.
Instead, the country descended into years of vicious sectarian conflict, with large areas seized by the terror group ISIS.
More than 250,000 people have died violent deaths since the 2003 invasion, according to the Iraq Body Count project, while millions of Iraqis have been made homeless in the conflict with ISIS.
(In a bizarre coincidence, the report was released shortly after you-know-who made a speech praising how Saddam Hussein dealt with “terrorists” in his country.   That’s 2016 for you, folks.)
Tony Blair and George W. Bush made their minds up early that deposing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, and they turned a blind eye to any evidence suggesting otherwise.
The thing is, I did pretty much the same thing.  Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I supported the war, and in the lead-up to it, I was not willing to give a fair hearing to those who opposed it.  Like many bloggers, commentators and policymakers, I was living in a pro-invasion bubble.
As John Ziegler notes at Mediaite, the internet and an increasingly fractured media environment have made it easier for people to tune out opposing views:

In the cable era, television audiences fragmented into a 500-channel (or more) universe. The advent of the Internet further splintered the dissemination of information into thousands of outlets. Today, the very same media which used to unify us (at least with regard to communal experiences and a commonality of basic information), is now the force which most actively divides our country. As someone who lives in the Los Angeles market, where about half the radio and television stations do not even broadcast in English, I can personally attest to how dramatic this change has been.

Today, “Broadcasting” (other than the Super Bowl) no longer exists. It has been replaced by “Narrowcasting,” in which outlets are cynically designed to appeal to nothing but a tiny sliver of demographic for the purposes of maximizing advertising efficiency. This is destructive enough in the fantasy world of entertainment (no current TV show could even remotely claim to be well-known to a majority of Americans), but this has been absolutely catastrophic in the realm of news.

Almost all of our news outlets now can be easily identified as having a particular, and often very narrow, political bent and they act like nothing more than TV sit-coms desperately searching for a sellable demographic which will keep them afloat (see & Donald Trump). This means that most “news” organizations are only interested in stories and truths that their audience will want to hear. Quite simply, nothing could be more antithetical to both the pursuit of truth (which is quite often very UN-popular) as well as the maintenance of a country which has enough “knowledge” in common so as to be able to function as remotely unified society.


Most of those who get their news only from Fox News, Matt Drudge,Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity & think that Donald Trump is a savior who is certain to win and that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ. Almost everyone who only consumes the New York Times,Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, NPR & the Huffington Post are sure the opposite is true. President Obama’s approval rating is split about 50/50, but, isolated in our own information bubble, almost everyone is positive their view of him is 100% correct. Regardless of your politics, this phenomenon is a cancer on our country.

When you’re blind to anything that doesn’t fit your narrative, chances are you’re heading for trouble.  British opinion- and policy-makers who backed the “remain” side (as did I) during the recent referendum on EU membership made little effort to hide the contempt in which they held the proles who might disagree with them, and the result was a narrow majority voting to leave.   Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely pressed on with her story about a brutal alleged rape at the University of Virgina even as flaws and inconsistencies became apparent, and the story collapsed only after it was published.

Iraq is in a class of its own, though.  While it’s too late for me to take back my support for the invasion, it’s not too late for me to read and listen to more people whose views differ from my own, and to keep in mind that no matter how strongly I feel about something, I could very well be horribly wrong.

Donald Trump would have banned him from studying in America

A Muslim student at Atlanta’s Emory University, caught up in the Dhaka terrorist attack was allowed to leave but refused to abandon his friends.  It cost him his life.

One of the victims of the Dhaka cafe shooting was a Muslim student who, despite being allowed to leave by the militants responsible, refused to desert his friends and fellow hostages.

Faraz Hossain, a Bangladeshi student at Emory University in the US, was killed alongside 19 others including Abinta Kabir, who was studying at the same US university.

His nephew Hishaan said Mr Hossain had been offered the chance to leave the cafe along with women wearing hijabs.

However, according to the New York Times, when the two women accompanying him in Western clothes were refused, he chose to stay behind and was subsequently killed.

Twenty people were killed in the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in the Bangladeshi capital including seven Japanese aid workers, an Indian student and nine Italian businessmen and women.


The militants reportedly tortured and killed any hostage unable to recite a verse from the Qur’an.

The left says Islamist terrorists aren’t “really” Muslims – giving the faith a benefit of the doubt they’d never extend to any other religion, especially not Christianity – while the right says Islamist terrorists represent all Muslims, even the heroic Mr. Hossain and the overwhelming majority of ISIS’ victims.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle: ISIS and other Islamist organizations represent an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith which considers non-Muslims infidels and other Muslims apostates.  While the likes of Trump try to set Muslims and non-Muslims against each other, most of us face a common enemy.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer website

Turns out a site dedicated to encouraging people to have affairs was a total scam.  Who would have guessed?

The parent company of infidelity dating site Ashley Madison, hit by a devastating hack last year, is now the target of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation, the new executives seeking to revive its credibility told Reuters.


The two executives, hired in April, said the closely held company is spending millions to improve security and looking at payment options that offer more privacy.

But it faces a mountain of problems, including U.S. and Canadian class action lawsuits filed on behalf of customers whose personal information was posted online, and allegations that it used fake profiles to manipulate some customers. The site’s male-to-female user ratio is five to one, the executives said.

An Ernst & Young report commissioned by Avid and shared with Reuters confirmed that Avid used computer programs, dubbed fembots, that impersonated real women, striking up conversations with paying male customers.

Avid shut down the fake profiles in the United States, Canada and Australia in 2014, and by late 2015 in the rest of the world, but some U.S. users had message exchanges with foreign fembots until late in 2015, according to the report.