Washington is not an easy-going town. You come here to argue policy with the big boys — you should expect some rough-and-tumble. But you also should expect clean fights — no biting, no spitting, no hitting below the belt. Whatever else divides us, we all value free speech and edifying debate, right?
Not exactly. Left-wing “activists” — often posing as journalists — have a habit of targeting and trolling those who deviate from the “politically correct” line.
About five years ago, it became clear that a concerted effort was underway to defame me and the national security policy institute I founded just after the Sept. 11 attacks, along with other individuals and groups focusing on the toxic ideologies that had been gaining ground in what we now call the Muslim world. The activists’ goal was to brand us as “Islamophobes” — haters, racists and bigots who should be shunned, drummed out of the public square, made to shut the hell up.
What I didn’t know then was that this smear campaign was being financed by world-famous billionaire and leftist philanthropist George Soros. Recently, a website called DCLeaks purloined and published online more than 2,500 files from Mr. Soros‘ Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Combing through those files, The Daily Caller found and reported on one referring to an OSF document discussing how to discredit critics of radical Islam, as well as scholars and journalists conducting research on Islamism’s historical roots and contemporary expressions, e.g., al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Those who run OSF for Mr. Soros were distressed that groups on the left lacked “high quality opposition research” to combat “anti-Muslim xenophobia.” So OSF decided to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch, under the auspices of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank founded by John Podesta (a longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton adviser and currently chairman of her presidential campaign), an “Examining Anti-Muslim Bigotry Project.” Its mission would be to “track” the activities of yours truly, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, former State Department official Liz Cheney and others.
According to the leaked memo, a “first step” would be to “engage journalists, researchers, academics and leaders in the anti-hate movement who are researching and writing on Islamophobia” and to develop “a clearer understanding of what by all indications is a well orchestrated and well financed system by which right-wing think tanks, pundits, and politicians are able to introduce false narratives and flawed research into the media cycle and use their misinformation to manipulate public opinion and thwart progressive counterterrorism policies.”
The memo added: “Just as critically, CAP will approach its work with an appreciation of the connections between the Islamophobia movement and related forms of xenophobia.”
“Progressive counterterrorism policies.” “The anti-hate movement.” “An appreciation.” Don’t you just love it? Investor’s Business Daily observed that Mr. Soros‘ practice is to spend “money to delegitimize governments and others with whom he disagrees. It’s not about debate, and certainly not ‘open,’ as his groups’ names all suggest. It’s political subterfuge in service of a far-left agenda.”
Shockingly but not surprisingly, editors and producers at liberal-progressive media outlets have seen nothing worth reporting in these revelations about how a man of enormous wealth and power uses such methods to shape public opinion and government policy.
Bill O’Reilly did. He invited me on his popular television show last week to discuss Mr. Soros‘ calumny campaign as well as the billionaire’s broader agenda, which includes pushing Europe and America to open their borders to many more Middle Eastern migrants without taking serious steps to weed out jihadists, promoting President Obama’s nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and investing millions in groups dedicated to attacking Israel, the Middle East’s only “open society” — one surrounded by a sea of blood, the handiwork of both Sunni and Shia Islamists.
Mr. O’Reilly emphasized the fact that Mr. Soros is a major donor to Democrats, one of them the presidential candidate leading in the polls. Do left-of-center journalists really not grasp the newsworthiness of all this? If it were revealed that the conservative Koch brothers had been writing big checks to slander think tanks on the left as pro-terrorist, surely the mainstream media would see that as a big story. Why the double standard?
This addendum: As far as I’m aware, CAP is no longer involved in the defamation business and the individuals who spearheaded the effort five years ago no longer work there. These days, CAP’s experts participate in lively but collegial debates with scholars at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. I would argue that’s how it’s supposed to be, even here in Washington.
Mr. Soros clearly disagrees. His idea of an open society is one in which the people have the right to know only what he wants them to know. If he’d like to publicly debate that or any other topic, my calendar is flexible.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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