July 12, 2020

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Linda Sarsour and her Media Allies (Daled Amos)


I have seen young people and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest reasons. They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p. 221

Bloom was writing in the 1980’s, basing himself on his experiences on college campuses in the 1960’s.

Today, we witness a more nuanced approach, where “activists” under the banner of “human rights” use their halo — some times as a shield, other times as a hammer — preaching about commitment to high ideals and human values, while appealing to people’s baser instincts.

Linda Sarsour is one such “activist.” The deserving cause of the Muslim rights in America apparently cannot be achieved unless Islamophobic and alt-right villians can be revealed and attacked in order to increase her audience and galvanize it into action.

Lahav Harkov and Petra Marquardt-Bigman, among others have examined Sarsours hateful statements and tweets and have written about what they reveal about her. Yet despite what Sarsour says, not matter how nasty she may get, her self-proclaimed dedication to human rights suffices for the media to raise her on a pedestal — and protect her from criticism.

Not that this is surprising.
We have seen this before.

In April, The New York Times came out with an Op-Ed entitled,Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons, by Marwan Barghouti, described as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” It was only later, in reaction to criticism, that the paper decided to describe Barghouti more fully in a correction:

This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy. [emphasis added]

Marwan Barghouti. Credit: BDalim, Wikipedia

Not content, The New York Times came out with an article about Marwan Barghouti’s wife: Fadwa Barghouti is the unflappable voice of a jailed Palestinian freedom fighter — this despite the admission in the piece that

Reflecting on that time, Fadwa repeats over and over that Marwan never killed with his own hands. He led, she says, but he never killed. [emphasis added]

The New York Times is similarly glowing about Sarsour, proclaiming: Linda Sarsour Is a Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab:

She has emerged in the last few years not only as one of the city’s, and the country’s, most vocal young Muslim-American advocates, but also as a potential — and rare Arab-American — candidate for office.

Linda Sarsour. Credit: Wikipedia

Again, The New York Times is more interested in her commitment as a “vocal young Muslim-American advocate” than it is interested in what she actually says and how she says it. The most controversial thing it quotes her saying is a gratuitous swipe at Israel:

Then, last summer, Mr. Brown was killed in Ferguson. “I was sitting here in Brooklyn,” Ms. Sarsour said, “and heard he’d gotten shot and was lying in the street for four and a half hours. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. This happened in the United States of America? You hear about that happening in Palestine.’

The New York Times does not mention her attacks on critics, such as Sarsour’s tasteless tweet threating to take away the vagina of female genital mutilation survivor Hirsi Ali.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post ran an article in February, March catapults Muslim American into national spotlight and social-media crosshairs describing her as “one of the highest-profile Muslim American activists in the country” who “despite a barrage of hateful messages and violent threats targeting her on social media” has “continued a punishing schedule of activism as she has sought to bring her heightened profile, and a new sense of what is possible, to a range of resistance movements that are developing in the first weeks of President Trump’s administration.”

As Petra Marquardt-Bigman writes, the Washington Post article:

allows Sarsour to airily dismiss a vile tweet she posted in 2011 fantasizing about Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali “asking 4 an a$$ whippin’” and expressing the “wish” to “take their vaginas away” because “they don’t deserve to be women.” All Sarsour has to do now is to shrug off her vicious outburst as “stupid” and to dismiss it as simply a reflection of her being “a brash New Yorker.” An open threat against Brigitte Gabriel also posted by Sarsour remained unmentioned

The Washington Post is nothing if not consistent.

Just as The Washington Post frames Sarsour’s critics as reacting to her rise in the public eye, when Sarsour spoke about jihad against the White House, the headline did not address the provocative term but rather the reaction to it: Muslim activist Linda Sarsour’s reference to ‘jihad’ draws conservative wrath.

Lee Smith noted that Sansour did something sensationalist, and then played the victim — aided by The Washington Post.

More importantly, Smith notes Sarsour’s message to the American Muslim community which the media ignored:

“You can count on me,” she told an audience of American Muslims, “to use my voice to stand up, not only to people outside our community who are repressing our communities, but those inside our communities who aid and abet the oppressors outside our community.”
Right, it’s a threat. If you don’t see things like she does, even if you’re Muslim, then you’re in for it— Linda Sarsour is watching. Linda Sarsour has your name.

James Kirchick writes that the whitewashing of Sarsour in the media is common. She uses the term “Islamophobia” as a catchall phrase to tar her critics, and the media plays along:

The point of the term “Islamophobia” as used by Sarsour and her sympathizers is very often a self-interested and dishonest one—namely, to delegitimize critics by lumping them in with fringe racists and bigots. “Feminist activist Linda Sarsour has become one of the far right’s favorite targets,” declares Newsweek. The Times, meanwhile, characterizes her “critics” as “a strange mix, including right-leaning Jews and Zionists, commentators like Pamela Geller, and some members of the alt-right.” All this is being done in an effort to excuse Sarsour’s own extremism.

But even when the media plays along, there appear to be limits.

This week, the Women’s March came out with a tweet celebrating the birthday of Assata Shakur, the black militant who killed a New Jersey state trooper in a 1973 shootout. She later broke out of prison and escaped to Cuba in 1984, where she remains on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorists” list. Not content with the one tweet, the group then came out with a series of tweets defending what they had done.

Jake Tapper criticized them.

In response, Sarsour lashed out:

Alexander Nazaryan of Newsweek reported

But the criticism leveled on Tuesday against Tapper by liberal activist and Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour has struck many as malicious, misguided and unjustified, though others defended her ferocity…Sarsour chose to respond by branding Tapper a member of the alt-right, a loosely defined movement that includes nativists, nationalists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes and anti-establishment meme warriors. Under no definition of the term, however, would Tapper, who is Jewish and a long-standing member of the Beltway media-political nexus, belong in that category.

In the long term this is not going to have an effect on Sarsour’s tactics, nor on the attitude of the liberal media.

But it was refreshing to see the media’s blinders momentarily removed.

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