Counterpunch: for the record
As regular readers know, I hate Counterpunch. Read my post about its editor, Alexander Cockburn, or the indictment made by Bill Weinberg of the radical anti-capitalist World War 4 Report, to find out why. I have the Wikipedia page on Counterpunch on my watchlist, but I don't edit there as much as I used to, and checked in today to find that the criticism section has been removed, and that a more moderate "reception" section, with positive and negative evaluations, is also missing. These sections are likely to be fought over fiercely, and come and go, so for the record I am posting extracts from the material linked to here, below the fold. I have also added some material from the liberal anti-fascist blogger Adam Holland. As a blog, Holland's site would not be a "reliable source" for Wikipedia to cite, but his posts are extremely well researched and thoroughly referenced. I have also added an extract from an article at reason.com by Michael Moynihan, which concisely summarises the case against Counterpunch's Israel Shamir.
This material is relevant to our recent debate about the racist Gilad Atzmon, who Counterpunch publish and support, to Bill Weinberg's recent expulsion from Pacifica station WBAI, and to the whole sorry WikiLeaks saga. More broadly and more importantly, it is relevant to the spread of irrational, magical, paranoid, conspirationist thought on the left, which is always reactionary. Antisemitism, as in the the case of the blood libel Counterpunch has promoted, is often a good indicator of this sort of right-wing thought and its growing influence on the left.
Franklin Foer: The Devil You Know The New Republic April 2002
Anyone who visits Cockburn's left-wing newsletter, CounterPunch, however, will learn that Cockburn isn't immune from spreading--if not quite explicitly endorsing--such vile sentiments himself. Take his March 12 piece (partially reprinted in The Seattle Times) on the newly released tapes of conversations between Richard Nixon and the Reverend Billy Graham in which the good reverend gripes about Jewish control of the media. [...] Cockburn follows with this:
Certainly, there are a number of stories sloshing around the news now that have raised discussions of Israel and of the posture of American Jews to an acrid level. The purveyor of anthrax may have been a former government scientist, Jewish, with a record of baiting a colleague of Arab origins, and with the intent to blame the anthrax on Muslim terrorists. Rocketing around the web and spilling into the press are many stories about Israeli spies in America at the time of 9/11. On various accounts, they were trailing [Mohammed] Atta and his associates, knew what was going to happen but did nothing about it, or were simply spying on US facilities. Some, posing as art students have been expelled, according to AP.To be fair, Cockburn doesn't exactly endorse these theories. Rather, by noting that all of these Jewish conspiracy stories are "sloshing around the news," Cockburn seems merely to be pointing out that, hey, anti-Semitic ideas are still out there today--so why the shock that Graham endorsed them 30 years ago? Indeed, when I reached Cockburn to ask him about these conspiracies, he insisted he was just reporting what was already in circulation. "I don't think I said they are true. I don't know there's enough exterior evidence to determine whether they are true or not."
But, of course, that last sentence is the giveaway. There most certainly is enough exterior evidence to determine whether the stories are true or not. The answer is that they are not. They are wild rumors circulating, if at all, in some of the least credible corners of the Internet. No respectable media outlet has given these stories credence. Merely by stating that these ideas are in circulation, merely by saying it's impossible to judge their veracity, Cockburn confers these ideas with legitimacy.
Consider, for example, the story about the mad Jew scientists out to ruin the Muslims. I searched for it on the Lexis-Nexis news database but came up with nothing--not one single mention of the story in a mainstream news outlet. And I only found it on the Web at an obscure, far-far left site that refers to the United States as "gringoland" and accuses Daniel Pearl of working for Mossad. (Note the similarity of the Jewish anthrax rumor to the Nation of Islam creation myth about the wicked chemist Yacub.)
Then there's Cockburn's talk about Mossad's complicity in 9/11. Of course, this version of events can also be found in the self-exculpatory pages of the Arab press. But to my knowledge, Cockburn is the only prominent Western journalist to give these slanderous stories any credence.
And what about the Associated Press (AP) story he cites? It quotes from a 61-page Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report suggesting the Israeli art students' travels through the United States "may well be an organized intelligence-gathering." But the AP also quotes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as saying "the bureau also has investigated and is satisfied that the young people were not involved in espionage or intelligence gathering." The FBI insists that the Israelis were deported merely for selling over-priced paintings door-to-door in violation of their visas. And even if you accepted the DEA's vague intimations of espionage, there's nothing to suggest the Israeli connection to 9/11 that Cockburn posits. The linkage is the product of Cockburn's imagination.
Cockburn's column goes way beyond legitimate criticism of Israel. It's akin to the rantings of pitchfork Pat Buchanan, whose anti-Semitism The Nation has condemned. So you would expect the magazine to take a tough stance on the anti-Semitism in its own backyard. But when I asked The Nation's editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, about Cockburn, she could only lamely distance herself from the piece: "This didn't appear in The Nation. I don't read CounterPunch.... It's been our experience that we've had differences with our writers. It's a strength of the magazine that it accommodates a range of perspectives." True enough. But there are some perspectives that shouldn't be accommodated.
John McCaslin: Inside the Beltway: Deadly metaphor Washington Times January 2004
Has an antiwar screed by a Beverly Hills sex therapist inflamed anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world -- even inspiring terrorism? Yes, according to the Boston Globe.
Susan Block, a California sex therapist who hosts a syndicated radio show and HBO's "Radio Sex TV," wrote an April 15 column titled "The Rape of Iraq" for the antiwar Web site Counterpunch (www.counterpunch.org).
The column used rather elaborate metaphorical language to compare the conquest of Baghdad to rape.
Televised expressions of gratitude by the Iraqi people were being used to justify "the Anglo-American rape of Iraq," Miss Block wrote: "As the rapist would say, 'I gave her what she really wanted.' She needed to be raped. She wanted to be violated." Such metaphors apparently don't translate well.
On Oct. 22, Yeni Safak, an Islamic journal in Turkey, published an article that said "thousands of Iraqi women are being raped by American soldiers. There are more than 4,000 rape events on the record."
The journal cited "Dr. Susan Block" as its source.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey responded by condemning the Turkish journal for publishing "outrageous allegations based on a U.S. 'source' best known for her pornographic Web sites and erotic television program," according to the Globe.
Whatever the source, Ilyas Kuncak of Istanbul was enraged by the reports, according to his son, Nurullah Kuncak. "Didn't you see? The American soldiers raped Iraqi women," the son told the Globe's correspondent in Istanbul. "My father talked to me about it. Thousands of rapes are in the records. Can you imagine how many are still secret?" On Nov. 19, Ilyas Kuncak drove a car bomb into the Istanbul headquarters of the British bank HSBC, his suicide attack part of four separate al Qaeda-planned car bombings that also destroyed the British Consulate and two synagogues in Istanbul, killing 27 and wounding more than 400.
For her part, Miss Block says she is horrified and tells the Globe she never meant her charge of an American "rape" of Iraq to be taken literally: "I am appalled to be misquoted and even more appalled that the story inspired someone to such violence."
Tony Greenstein (Jews Against Zionism): Open Letter to Counterpunch: Who’s Afraid of Gilad Atzmon and the Holocaust Deniers? or Why Alex Cockburn Refuses to Print a Reply to Mary Rizzo What Next 2005
In Britain, even the most right-wing of the quality capitalist press normally accept that if you malign someone, they should grant the right of reply. No doubt the situation is different in the USA, though one would expect that the radical press would not take their lead from Fox and the Washington Post.
On 17 June Counterpunch, which styles itself "America’s Best Political Newsletter", printed an article, ‘Who's Afraid of Gilad Atzmon?’ by one Mary Rizzo. It was a strange article, since it consisted primarily of an ad hominem attack by Mary Rizzo upon someone, myself, whom 99.99% of Counterpunch readers had never heard of. But Rizzo was furious that Jews Against Zionism (JAZ) was organising an extremely successful picket of a talk by Gilad Atzmon at the Bookmarks bookshop of the Socialist Workers Party that very day. [...]
The spider in the web is Israel Shamir and what is most dishonest about Rizzo's article is that not once did he make an appearance in her article. Shamir runs his own web site www.israelshamir.net. His web pages are a veritable gold mine of anti-Semitic calumnies. You would have to plumb the depths of the worst neo-Nazi publications to find a defence of the Easter Blood Libel accusation (that Jews slaughtered non-Jewish children to make the Passover bread at Easter). Shamir however disagrees: "The frequent and tendentious use of the horrifying label (together with ‘antisemitism’ and ‘protocols of the Elders of Zion’) brought a certain depreciation of its value, but it is still going strong. You can’t ever-ever consider that there might be some truth to the Blood Libel, the accusation of ritual murder of children. Or can you?"[...]
It was in the context of the outing of Shamir and co. that Ms Rizzo wrote her article for Counterpunch. On the JustPeaceUK list, Mary was the only defender of Shamir. "I know Gilad to be completely anti racist. I don't know Paul, but my opinion is that he is not racist." (Just Peace UK, 11 June 2005) Not only is Gilad Atzmon "completely anti-racist" but so is Paul Eisen. When some of us criticised Israel Shamir and asked Mary for her opinion, she shot back: "Why should I be obligated to join in on the smear campaign [against Shamir]? ... I am convinced that there are indeed attempts made at ritutal defamation both against Shamir..." (Just Peace UK, 18 April 2005) [...]
So maybe Counterpunch, the radical voice of the American Left, can answer a few questions? How is it that it can publish, uncritically, an article by Mary Rizzo, an ardent supporter of the anti-Semites, fascists and Holocaust Deniers around Deir Yassin Remembered and yet refuse to take a response to her article? Counterpunch’s editor, Alex Cockburn, whose father Claude must be spinning in his grave, refused even to acknowledge my correspondence. Maybe others will have greater success in eliciting a response.
Adam Holland: Blood Libel promoted by Counterpunch September 2009
The blog Counterpunch, which is edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, has published an article which alleges that the blood libel is true and is related to purported Israeli thefts of human organs from Palestinians. The blood libel, the charge that Jews ritually murdered gentiles and used their blood to cast spells, was a mainstay of medieval European anti-Semitism. In Europe, the blood libel led to pogroms, mass slayings and expulsions. The Counterpunch article may be the first instance of an American leftist media outlet promoting the blood libel.
The Counterpunch article (read here) supports and elaborates on spurious allegations concerning Israeli theft of body parts from Palestinians -- charges originally appearing in an article by Donald Bostrom which was published in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. The controversy concerning that article has received extensive coverage internationally (read here). Medical experts have unanimously stated that the theft of organs from the dead for use in transplants, as alleged in the story, is medically impossible (read here). Bostrom's article claims that Israeli soldiers hunted down a Palestinian youth, shooting him in the chest and abdomen at close range in order to steal his organs. The alleged witnesses to the events described in his article, including the families of the purported victims, have completely disavowed the story (read here). Counterpunch alleges not only that such murders and thefts of organs in fact truly occur, but that they are part of a campaign which is sanctioned by the Israeli government and other Israeli institutions and that it is connected to religious traditions allowing the ritual murder of gentiles.
Where is Counterpunch headed? It is bad enough that Counterpunch, in the name of defending human rights, would publish such patently false charges as true. It is outrageous that they would present the anti-Semitism of the middle ages as a progressive response to the Jewish people, whom they portray as intrinsically reactionary and criminal. In doing this, Counterpunch has turned the definitions of "progressive" and "reactionary" on their heads. In fact, they have completely turned logic on its head. What will they support next? The Spanish Inquisition?
Adam Holland: Truthers to mark 9/11 with NYC rallies, conspiracy theory conferences September 2010
[This post is about the 9/11 Truth cult outfit, We Are Change, and its planned commemoration of the September 2001 terror attacks in New York. A number of the speakers are Counterpunch contributors, including Gaddafi supporter Cynthia McKinney, Mike Gravel (a politician heavily endorsed by Counterpunch as well as a contributor), Britain's George Galloway, and others.]
Cynthia McKinney has in recent years gone from being a U.S. Congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, to devoting herself to campaigning against Israel and promoting absurd conspiracy theories, sometimes making common cause with the racist far-right to do so. (Read here and here and here.) She has, in recent years, argued that the United States government is completely under the control of "Zionist agents", and that it deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen. She has also endorsed the conspiracy theories of Matthias Chang who claims that a conspiracy of Zionist "shadow money-lenders" is destabilizing the world both via false flags attacks and economic crashes in order to take it over.
Wayne Madsen is an internet journalist and conspiracy fabulist who runs a website called the Wayne Madsen Report, where he promotes conspiracy theories blaming Israel, "neo-cons" and "Zionists" for 9/11. Read here for examples. He somehow connects his Mossad 9/11 conspiracy to everything from Israelis working at shopping mall kiosks (read here) to alleged Pakistani intelligence involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (read here) to the influence of "Jewish mobsters" (read here). Madsen routinely writes columns without any indication of sources, making outlandish and unsupportable claims without any provenance, such as that he made in a 2009 column alleging that Israel is secretly colonizing Iraq (read here and here). The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan reported that Madsen's anti-Israel columns were translated into Arabic and published in Iraq and other Arab countries, where they actually had their desired effect (read here.) Those who fail to take the lunatic fringe seriously should take note of this dangerous real world impact of throwing rumors into an already smoldering conflict. On a more comical note, one of Madsen's most recent conspiracy theories claims that Obama is literally a "CIA creation". Madsen writes that, not only was Obama groomed for the presidency by the CIA, but that this grooming started with his actual conception, which Madsen comically claims was a CIA covert op.
Mike Gravel, a former U.S. Senator from Alaska and a quirky pro-peace candidate in the 2008 Democratic primaries, only made my list for one reason. In 2003, he participated in a Holocaust denial conference featuring neo-Nazi participants. (Read here.) He subsequently claimed that he didn't notice the goose-stepping going on all around him. He said that he thought that it was just a quirky pro-peace group. That seems consistent with his attendance at the truthers' conference.
George Galloway, as readers here undoubtedly already know, is a former Member of Parliament who had extensive ties to Sadaam Hussein's Ba'athist regime, with whom he is said to have had a profitable business relationship, and to Hamas, to whom he has provided material support via his Viva Palestina group. He currently works for PressTV, an English-language propaganda television station owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and under the control of the mullahs. In a relatively brief period of time, Galloway seems to have gone from a 9/11 conspiracy theory doubter who warned the left not to discredit itself by associating with nuts (watch here) to a truther who is willing to throw at Israel and the U.S. any accusation his constituency will buy (listen here).
Paul Craig Roberts has had the most dramatic transformation of anyone on this list, having gone from being an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration and an editor at the Wall Street Journal to a being a far-right, conspiracy-bedeviled internet columnist with a penchant for prophecies which fail to come true. His columns are widely posted on the websites of that fringe beyond the mainstream left and right, including the white supremacist website VDARE, Willis Carto's American Free Press, Pat Buchanan's American Conservative, Antiwar.com, Lew Rockwell, Information Clearing House and Counterpunch, -- places where resume gravitas is sometimes in short supply. Roberts not only believes that 9/11 was an inside job, carried out with planted explosives, not planes (read here and here), in 2006, he also stated that George W. Bush was planning another such attack, a warning which was obviously not worth the bandwidth it was written on. (Read here.) That the extremely paleo-conservative Roberts' anti-Israel extremism is central to his world view can be gauged by his habit of referring to the U.S. government as a puppet of Israel (read here), and decrying Jewish influence on the news media (read here). Roberts blames precisely that influence for concealing what he sees as the true story of 9/11.
Max Boot: The Fringe Fires at Bush on Iraq LA Times March 2010
Equally biased are the former CIA officers who call themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity -- a name that implies the administration, which they oppose, is insane. Ray Close, David MacMichael and Ray McGovern, who make up VIPS' steering committee, have many decades of intelligence experience among them, which is why they are often cited as sources by news organizations like the New York Times when they write stories about how the Bush team has run roughshod over "objective" CIA analysts.
What is seldom mentioned is where the VIPS-ters publish most of their anti-Bush screeds: on Counterpunch.org, a conspiracy-mongering website run by Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn. VIPS even has an e-mail address at Counterpunch, which is so extreme that it has run an article suggesting that the only major difference between George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler is that "Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was." But then, that wouldn't bother someone like VIPS' McGovern, who in an interview equated the administration's selling of the Iraq war with the techniques employed by "Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels [who] said, if you repeat something often enough, the people will believe it."
Kate Harding: Accusations against Assange's accuser ABC December 2010
OK, so maybe the charges [against Julian Assange] really are for rape-rape, but still - the woman has CIA ties! I've read that on at least a dozen blogs! Keith Olbermann tweeted it and everything! That's got to be coming from a highly credible source, right?
Actually, as far as I can tell, the only source for that claim is an August Counterpunch article by Assange fanboys (seriously, they recast him as Neo of "The Matrix") Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett. Here's the most damning evidence Shamir and Bennett have compiled against Assange's accuser:
1) She's published "anti-Castro diatribes" in a Swedish-language publication that, according to an Oslo professor, Michael Seltzer (who?), is "connected with Union Liberal Cubana led by Carlos Alberto Montaner," who reportedly has CIA ties. Let me repeat that: She has been published in a journal that is connected with a group that is led by a guy with CIA ties. Says this one guy.
2) "In Cuba she interacted with the feminist anti-Castro group Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White). This group receives US government funds and the convicted anti-communist terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a friend and supporter." That link goes to an English translation of a Spanish article noting that at a march last spring, Posada "wander[ed] unleashed and un-vaccinated along Calle Ocho in Miami, marching alongside" - wait for it - "Gloria Estefan in support of the so-called Ladies in White." Apparently, it's "an established fact" that Posada and the Ladies also share a shady benefactor, which means he should clearly be called a "friend" of the organisation, and this is totally relevant to the rape charges against Julian Assange, because the accuser once interacted with them in some manner.
3) The accuser is a known feminist who once wrote a blog post about getting revenge on men, and "was involved in Gender Studies in Uppsala University, in charge of gender equality in the Students' Union, a junior inquisitor of sorts."
Are you kidding me? That's what we're basing the "CIA ties" meme on? An article that reads like a screenplay treatment by a college freshman who's terrified of women? Actual quote: "[T]he Matrix plays dirty and lets loose a sex bomb upon our intrepid Neo. When you can't contest the message, you smear the messenger. Sweden is tailor-made for sending a young man into a honey trap."
Look, for all I know, Assange's primary accuser does have CIA ties. Perhaps it was all a setup from the beginning. Perhaps she is lying through her teeth about the rape. Anything is possible. But in the absence of any real evidence one way or another, we're choosing to believe these guys?
Michael C Moynihan: Olbermann, Assange and the Holocaust denier reason.com December 2010
Further information from Modernity, Contested Terrain, HP, Judeosphere, ZWord, Adam Holland.