Daily Kos and Glenn Greenwald on LoonWatch

Eric Allen Bell
Eric Allen Bell

In 2009, the Daily Kos published a positive review of our website.  So imagine my surprise when The American Muslim emails me a link to a recently published article on Daily Kos which is nothing short of a hatchet job against LoonWatch.  This article was authored by Eric Allen Bell and is entitled Loonwatch.com and Radical Islam.  Bell had the temerity to accuse LoonWatch of being “a radical Islamic front, covering up for terrorism”; he writes: “Loonwatch.com is in fact a terrorist spin control network.”

We would hardly bat an eye at this loony stream-of-consciousness article–Islamophobes have been accusing us of this since our site launched–except that this screed was published on the Daily Kos.  Why would a fellow progressive website take a swipe at us out of the blue?

This mystery solves itself when you look into who wrote the article.  His name is Eric Allen Bell, and he professes a soft spot for Robert Spencer, a man who was ranked by FAIR as the #2 leading Islamophobe in the country (losing out the number 1 spot to his boss, David Horowitz).  Spencer is the leader of the SIOA group, deemed by the SPLC to be a hate group.  Spencer’s organization has links to Neo-Nazi and skinhead groups in Europe.  Among other things, Robert Spencer joined a genocidal Facebook group and posted a genocidal video on his website.  This is the man that Eric Allen Bell calls “rational, sober and scholarly.”  Bell imagines some difference between  Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller even though they are close friends and colleagues-in-crime:

Robert Spencer with loon Pamela Geller

That explains why Bell’s article looks like something out of a loony anti-Muslim blog like BareNakedIslam, AtlasShrugs, or JihadWatch.  Bell uses the exact same talking points against us.  His main gripe seems to be why our site “ignores” the violent acts of terrorism committed by Islamic terrorists.  The answer to that is painstakingly obvious: our website’s mission statement is to document and expose Islamophobia.  To ask us why we don’t document Islamic terrorism would not be very different from asking us: why doesn’t your site talk about world hunger?  Whereas this might be a worthy topic to bring attention to, it is simply not part of our mission statement.  Surely, Bell understands that websites oftentimes specialize in one particular topic and simply do not have the resources to dedicate to every noble cause.

Bell’s accusation itself is steeped in his Islamophobia.  Imagine, for instance, if some white guy accused the NAACP of being “a black supremacist group” because they only fought racism against blacks instead of documenting violence and crime committed by blacks.  What would anyone call such a person but racist?

Eric Allen Bell tries to shield himself from accusations of bigotry by pointing out that he made some documentary about a mosque in Murfreesboro.  Yet, this would be like someone being opposed to segregated schools for black people on the one hand but on the other hand becoming absolutely livid against anyone who dared to deny that blacks are more violent than white people.  Readers can go to the racist website Stromfront to find plenty of people compiling lists of black violence and criminality just like Bell reproduced his list of Muslim violence and terrorism.

Bell argues that Muslims are more violent than people of other religions, which is in fact the exact same argument raised by–you guessed it–Robert Spencer.  My response to this is two-fold:

1) The threat of Muslim terrorism has been extremely exaggerated (in order to justify our wars in the Muslim world).  According to the FBI’s own database (available from 1980-2005), of the terrorist attacks in America less than 6% were committed by Muslims.  Readers should also refer to my May 2010 article which noted that since 9/11, there have been zero U.S. civilians killed from Islamic terrorism.  The situation is the same in Europe.  For the past several years, Europol has released an annual terrorism report, which showed that Islamic terrorism accounts for less than 1% of terrorism in Europe and has resulted in zero deaths.  In the half decade documented in these reports, the only injuries sustained from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”

For the past several years, zero civilians in America and Europe have been killed by Islamic terrorism.  Yet, we are indoctrinated into thinking that Islamic terrorism represents some existential threat: you should be scared out of your wits and be losing sleep over Islamic terrorism.  This is war propaganda at its finest.  The reality is that you have a far greater chance of dying from being struck by lightning (about 67 Americans die of lightning every year) than being killed by an Islamic extremist (a whopping average of zero).

When confronted by this reality check, Islamophobes are quick to shift gears and insist that they are talking about Islamic terrorism in the “rest of the world.”  Yet, almost all of this Islamic terrorism takes place in countries that have been bombed, invaded, and occupied by the United States or its proxy Israel.  (India is the notable exception, although it should be noted that India has sustained a brutal occupation of Kashmir for many decades.)  Iraq currently leads the list.  If you look at Iraq before we started dropping bombs on it, Islamic terrorism was virtually non-existent in that country.  Is it Islam then that is to blame for this terrorism or our bombing, invasion, and occupation?

2) The type of terrorism that is included in such comparisons is what I call Amateur Terrorism (strapping a bomb on yourself to injure a security guard and kill yourself); it excludes the greater form of terrorism: Professional Terrorism (carpet-bombing an entire civilian population).  This is the violence committed by nation-states.  The United States and Israel are guilty of committing, in the words of the Nuremberg trial, “the supreme international crime”: waging wars of aggression.  When this form of violence is factored in, then the argument that Muslims are more violent seems untenable.  As Prof. Steven Walt noted, Americans have killed anywhere from 30 to 100 times as many Muslims as Muslims have killed Americans.  

I find it difficult to lecture Muslims about how violent they are when my own government, with the backing of the American people, has killed so many Muslims (and continues to do so on a daily basis).

In a way, our violence is worse than theirs, because ours is sanctioned by us: our duly elected members of government are the ones who launch these wars, with our blessing and support.  It is our uniformed soldiers who kill those Muslims.  Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and such groups operate without governmental authority, without any sanction or permission from the Muslim population.  In fact, the Muslim population is often the victim of such terrorist groups.

Since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years, or 91% of her existence. Meanwhile, the country in the Muslim world we vilify the most, Iran, has not initiated a war since 1795, over 200 years ago.  (It was, however, attacked by its neighbor with the aid and encouragement of the United States.) Who is the more violent one again?

Here is a map of the Greater Middle East, showing countries that the U.S. has bombed or has bases in:

Meanwhile, the modern state of Iran has never attacked any of its neighbors or any other country in the region (or world).  But, Eric Allen Bell wants us to say that Islam and Muslims are the violent ones?

These two points constitute my argument, and if Eric Allen Bell wants to produce something more than a screed that belongs on Pamela Geller’s AtlasShrugs, that’s what he needs to refute.

One should also recognize that I am making a radically different claim than the Islamophobes when I point to American aggression.  There is nothing intrinsically different between the United States and the rest of the world that makes it more violent–or, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”–other than the fact that it has the power to do so.  I truly believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely: those vested with great power almost invariably abuse it, and it is for this reason that they must be held to account the most.

Compared to the United States, the forces of Radical Islam have virtually no power.  Since 9/11–more than a decade ago–the collective strength and resources of the “worldwide jihad” have been unable to kill a single civilian on American soil.  That’s how powerful they are.  In the grand scheme of things, Islamic terrorism is a nuisance of modern day existence, a threat akin to that of gang violence or drug cartels–it is not an existential military threat as it is made out to be.

There is no doubt that Radical Islam is repugnant to the senses and must be intellectually fought.  But attacking all of Islam and Muslims in general–targeting their religion and labeling Islam as uniquely violent–is the most counter-productive way of doing so.  More than that, it’s intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt.

*  *  *  *  *

There was some silver lining to Eric Allen Bell’s article.  Glenn Greenwald emailed me with the following response to Bell’s post (reproduced with his permission):

Danios- That post is disgusting, but it’s important to distinguish between what “Daily Kos” has written (which is basically the front-page writers) and what a diarist has written (which is basically the equivalent of a blog comment, since anyone can write one, and is not at all attributable to the site itself).

This post is by a diarist – he has no affiliation with Daily Kos, except that he’s posting there – and my guess is that it won’t be promoted to the front page through recommendations and most commenters will be critical.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge GG fan.  I wake up every day to read his column with my breakfast and check his blog for updates throughout the day.  There is no writer or political thinker I respect more than him.  So when Glenn sent me a follow-up email saying “you guys are doing great work”, you can imagine how elated I was.

Who the heck cares what some Eric Allen Bell-nobody thinks when the intellectual giant known as Glenn Greenwald has such positive words to say about us?

In any case, Glenn was absolutely right about Bell not being representative of the Daily Kos: another Daily Kos diarist, Devon Moore, posted an article against Bell and in support of LoonWatch, entitled Daily Kos Being Used to Further Classic Right-Wing Propaganda Against Loonwatch.

It’s good to see another Daily Kos diarist respond to Eric Allen Bell, but the question remains: what is such a hate-mongering bigot doing on a site like the Daily Kos?  I think it’s time to clean house, just like former AIPAC operative Josh Block was cleansed from the progressive system: if Block was given the boot for libeling others as “anti-Semites”, shouldn’t Bell be dropped for wrongfully calling others “jihadists”?  Send the Daily Kos a message to dump this anti-Muslim bigot by clicking here.

*  *  *  *  *

In other news, it seems we are closer than ever to seeing the debate between Robert Spencer and myself actually come to fruition.  I’ll keep you posted.

Update I:

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji posted a good article on the subject.  She notes that Eric Allen Bell is an atheist who dislikes all religion, not just Islam.  However, it’s important to point out that he has a special hatred for Islam and Muslims, who he believes are uniquely violent and intolerant compared to all the other peoples of the world.  This is why he would still be categorized as an Islamophobe in my book.  On the other hand, I don’t have any problem with atheists who dislike all religions; I do, however, have a problem with atheists who specifically target one religious community over others, especially if that community happens to be the most vulnerable in this country.  This of course was my problem with Christopher Hitchens.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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