No 1229 Posted by fw, January 13, 2015
“These are incredibly ideological people. They’re very loyal to the view of the U.S. government about very controversial questions. They certainly have the right to express their opinions, but the pretense to expertise is incredibly fraudulent. And that’s why they have not just Steve Emerson, the Fox News strain, but really all of them who are held up as the most prominent terrorism experts in the U.S. have a really shameful history of incredible error and all sorts of just very dubious claims, because they’re really just rank propagandists.” —Glenn Greenwald
Who are the so-called terrorism experts? In the wake of the Paris attacks, the corporate media has once again flooded its news programs with pundits claiming authority on terrorism, foreign policy and world events. Democracy Now discusses the growing and questionable field of “terrorism experts” with three guests, including Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Intercept.
To view the full interview with Greenwald and the two other guests, and to access the full transcript, click on the following linked title. Alternatively, below is a greatly abridged transcript of the selected passages, focusing primarily on Glenn Greenwald’s commentary. The abridged version features added subheadings in bold italics, inserted as hanging indents, and added text highlighting. At the very bottom of the post is an embedded 18-minute video of the interview with all three guests.
[Unless otherwise identified, all comments are by Glenn Greenwald]
Here’s a sample of so-called terrorism experts polluting the US media airwaves over the few days —
Rev. Al Sharpton — Back with me is NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.
Kohlmann – “The cleavages that exist in French society between Muslims and non-Muslims are far more severe than they exist here in the United States.”
Brooke Baldwin – “He is Samuel Laurent, live from Paris. He is the author of The Islamic State and al-Qaeda in France.”
Laurent – “The landscape of jihadism and terrorism is deeply changing, and it’s proving to be a much harder task than it used to be for the intelligence service, because it’s very, very difficult now to spot and to stop the threats.”
Sean Hannity – “Joining me now, terrorism expert Steve Emerson.”
Emerson – “Throughout Europe, Sean, you have no-go zones. When I was in Brussels a year ago, when I asked the police to take me to the Islamic zone or the Islamic community area, they refused. They say, “We don’t go there.” This goes on in Belgium. This goes on in Sweden, in the Netherlands, in France. It goes on in Italy. I mean, it goes on throughout Europe. So, there are no-go zones.”
Jeanine Pirro – “Developing tonight, new reports that terrorist sleeper cells may have been activated in France. This as we’re learning new details about hundreds of no-go zones across France and other countries that are off-limits to non-Muslims. Steve Emerson, founder of the Investigative Project, joins us.”
Emerson – “These no-go zones exist not only in France, but they exist throughout Europe. They’re sort of amorphous. They’re not contiguous, necessarily, but they’re sort of safe havens. And they’re places where the governments, like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany, they don’t exercise any sovereignty. So, you basically have zones where Sharia courts are set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country. And in Britain, it’s not just no-go zones; there are actual cities, like Birmingham, that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”
Amy Goodman — While Steve Emerson claimed the British city of Birmingham was totally Muslim, it’s in fact a predominantly Christian city. Emerson, who describes himself as, quote, “one of the leading authorities” on Islamic extremist networks, appeared on the BBC Monday and apologized.
Emerson – “I relied on incorrect research. It was totally irresponsible for me not to have fact-checked the information that I obtained. And it was not done out of any malice, but out of a total irresponsible journalistic practice, which I usually and uniformly don’t practice.”
Nick Owen (BBC) – “Are you aware that our prime minister has called you a complete idiot?”
Emerson – Yes, I’m aware.
Nick Owen – What does that make you feel?
Emerson –Not great. You know, mistakes are made. What can I tell you?
Self-proclaimed experts spouting American propaganda on ‘terrorism’, a term in search of a definition
Glenn Greenwald — The concept of terrorism is a very widely debated concept all over the world, and there are incredibly divergent opinions, even about what terrorism is, about who it is who’s perpetrating it, about how it is that you define it and understand it, and whether or not there’s even a meaningful definition of the term at all. And yet you have all of these so-called terrorism experts employed by leading American television networks—all of them, really—and on whom most establishment newspapers rely, who are called terrorism experts and yet who are incredibly homogenous in their views, because they spout the very homogenized American conception of all of those questions.
Media outlets are disseminating pro-US government propaganda as expertise
It’s an incredibly propagandized term. It’s an incredibly propagandistic set of theories that they have. And that’s really what these media outlets are doing, is they’re masquerading pro-U.S. propaganda, pro-U.S. government propaganda, as expertise, when it’s really anything but. These are incredibly ideological people. They’re very loyal to the view of the U.S. government about very controversial questions. They certainly have the right to express their opinions, but the pretense to expertise is incredibly fraudulent. And that’s why they have not just Steve Emerson, the Fox News strain, but really all of them who are held up as the most prominent terrorism experts in the U.S. have a really shameful history of incredible error and all sorts of just very dubious claims, because they’re really just rank propagandists.
The US government and Washington think tanks, get this “expert industry” to preach the anti-Muslim gospel
Well, there are several aspects to it. I mean, one is the United States government obviously has an interest in making people believe that its very particular and self-serving views of terrorism are not subjective or debatable, but are in fact just objective expertise, and so they do all sorts of things to prop these people up. They give them contracts. They pay them lots of money to teach people inside the government about terrorism. Really most disturbingly of all, they continuously call them as, quote-unquote, “experts” at terrorism trials. And all of these experts then dutifully march forth and say whatever the government wants about the Muslim defendants who are on trial, and help the government obtain conviction after conviction, and get a lot of money in the process.
Part of it is just the role that think tanks play in Washington, which is to lend this kind of intellectual artifice to whatever the government’s policy is or whatever the government wants. And so you have a lot of them who work at think tanks, like Brookings Institute, which employs Will McCants, who misled American media outlets into believing for a full day and then telling the world that the Anders Breivik attack in Norway was actually the work of a jihadist group. Even the more respectable ones are people who generally spout the conventional orthodoxies of the American government about terrorism, and therefore it’s very much in the interest of the U.S. government and these media outlets to continue to depict them not as polemicists and highly opinionated, you know, just participants in debates, but as actual academic experts. And that’s where the fraudulent aspect comes in.
[So-called experts are] called by the U.S. government in these prosecutions, these really dubious prosecutions, of American Muslims for really remote charges of material support for terrorism. And [the expert’s] expertise is basically just that he gets called an expert by the U.S. government. And the more he gets called to testify, the more that expertise builds. That’s really the only foundation for it, is that some people call him an expert because it’s in their interest to do so. Matthew Levitt, who was profiled in Harper’s, has a long history of unbelievably erroneous claims that he makes in service of this agenda. They get paid a lot of money, too. I mean, he goes on—they go on NBC News. They get held up as a terrorism analyst. They get paid for that. They get called as an expert in court. And yet…there’s really no foundation for the expertise. There’s no Ph.D.s that they have in terrorism studies.
The US government is a state sponsor of terrorism, but would these faux experts dare say that if asked?
There’s not even agreement about what the word “terrorism” means, which is why the old cliché that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist is, though clichéd, is so resoundingly true. You can have debates about what terrorism is, about who perpetrates it, and yet all of these so-called experts simply assume the answers to those questions, because if they were, for example, to say that the U.S. government is a state sponsor of terrorism by virtue of its support for death squads in El Salvador or the Contras in Nicaragua or any of the other groups across the United States—across the world that the United States continues to support that engages in violence against civilians for political ends, you would immediately have them eliminated. No major network like CNN or MSNBC or NBC would ever call somebody like that a terrorism expert, even though that’s a very plausible claim to make. It’s an extremely ideological and politicized view that gets called expertise. And they don’t even have the basic attributes of what we generally consider that makes somebody an expert.
The Israelis were among the early adopters of the term ‘terrorism’ to pejoratively brand Palestinians
There is some amazingly great scholarly research by Rémi Brulin, who was at the Sorbonne and then NYU, where he traces, essentially, the history of this term in political discourse. And what he has described, in a very scholarly way, is that the term “terrorism” really entered and became prevalent in the discourse of international affairs in the late ’60s and the early ’70s, when the Israelis sought to use the term to universalize their disputes with their neighbors, so they could say, “We’re not fighting the Palestinians and we’re not bombing Lebanon over just some land disputes. We’re fighting this concept that is of great—a grave menace to the world, called ‘terrorism.’ And it’s not only our fight, it’s your fight in the United States, and it’s your fight in Europe, and it’s your fight around the world.”
‘Terrorism’ is an incredibly malleable term often used to define “any violence we don’t like”
And there are all these conferences in the late ’60s and early ’70s and into the 1980s even, where Israelis and Americans and neocons are attempting to come up with a definition of the term “terrorism” that includes the violence that they want to delegitimize, meaning the violence by their adversaries, while legitimizing—excluding the violence they want to legitimize, namely our violence, the violence of Israel, the violence of our allies. And it was virtually impossible to come up with a definition, and that’s why there really is no agreed-upon definition. The term is incredibly malleable, because it’s typically just meant as a term that says any violence we don’t like is something we’re going to call terrorism. And at this point it really just means violence engaged in by Muslims against the West. That’s really the definition of the term “terrorism,” the functional definition. It has no fixed definition.
Every time there’s an attack where the assailant or the perpetrator is unknown, the media will say it’s unknown whether or not terrorism is involved”
But, you know, if you watch how these attacks are discussed, every time there’s an attack where the assailant or the perpetrator is unknown, the media will say it’s unknown whether or not terrorism is involved. And what they really mean by that is: It’s unknown whether or not the perpetrator is Muslim. And as soon as they discover that the perpetrator is a Christian or is American, a white American, they’ll say, “We now have confirmation that this is not a terrorist attack.” It’s something else—someone who’s mentally unstable, some extremist, something like that. It really is a term that functionally now means nothing other than Muslims who engage in violence against the West.
I remember there was an individual named Joseph Stack who flew an airplane into a government building in Texas, into the side of the IRS, actually. And for the first several hours of the reporting, it was said that the suspicion is that this is a terrorist attack, because it was on a government facility. And then when it was discovered that he was actually a right-wing, anti-tax, anti-government American, they said, actually, this isn’t a terrorist attack, this is just kind of this crazy person who did this for political ends.
A recent attack on a Canadian soldier was instantly branded as a terrorist attack
You know, I was in Canada about two months ago when those two attacks happened, first one in Quebec and then the other one at the Parliament in Ottawa. And the first one, in the outskirts of Quebec, was somebody—two people who had waited two hours in a car to see a soldier, a Canadian soldier, and then targeted him and ran him over. And that was instantly branded a terrorist attack, even though they purposefully avoided targeting civilians and targeted a soldier of a country that is at war. It really is a term that is so muddled and confused in terms of how it’s used, and it is used for very specific agendas and very ideological purposes.
Another news clip by Fox News’ inflammatory Jeanine Pirro, whom Greenwald refers to as “psychotic” —
Pirro — We need to kill them. We need to kill them, the radical Muslim terrorists hell-bent on killing us. You’re in danger. I’m in danger. We’re at war, and this is not going to stop. After this week’s brutal terror attacks in France, hopefully everybody now gets it. And there’s only one group that can stop this war: the Muslims themselves. Our job is to arm those Muslims to the teeth, give them everything they need to take out these Islamic fanatics. Let them do the job. Let them have at it. And as they do, we need to simply look the other way.
Greenwald — I mean, you know, if you listen to her, Jeanine Pirro, that clip you just played, I mean, she’s obviously psychotic. I mean, that’s just like bloodthirsty fascism in its purest, you know, expression. But I don’t really think that the substance of what she’s saying, to the extent one can attribute substance to those comments, is really all that rare or even controversial in the U.S. I mean, we have been a country that has declared ourselves at war with some formulation of Islam, radical Muslims, whatever you want to call it, something that John Kerry actually just affirmed a few days ago, that the French president and others have embraced, as well, over the last week.
“These terrorism experts have it in their interest to constantly hype and exaggerate the threat and fearmonger over it, because that’s how they become relevant”
And I think this is one of the most pernicious aspects of these so-called terrorism experts and terrorism expertise, which is, if you are an American citizen or if you’re a French citizen or if you’re a British citizen, you have a greater chance of being killed by slipping in the bathtub tonight and hitting your head on the ceramic tile, or being struck by lightning—literally—than you do dying in a terrorist attack. And yet these terrorism experts have it in their interest to constantly hype and exaggerate the threat and fearmonger over it, because that’s how they become relevant. They become relevant in terms of their work. They become relevant in terms of their government contracts and in terms of the money that they make. And it really has infected large parts of Western thinking to view terrorism as a much, much greater threat than just rationally and statistically it really is. And I think that’s—a big part of that is at the feet of these so-called terrorism experts.
Video of the interview —
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