America’s leading mainstream media outlets are central to progressivism. Their critical job is to turn progressive lies — fabrications, projections, and deconstructions — into conventional wisdom. Over time, the progressive media has developed a series of techniques for steamrolling progressive lies into accepted truths. In an attempt to preserve what little is left of their credibility, however, progressive media outlets try to remain cautious. They move forward one step at a time — and they test each new technique in a narrow, isolated setting before rolling it out fully. Traditionally (i.e., prior to the Trump Presidency), the progressive testbed of choice has been Israel and the Jews. If you want to understand the phenomenon of fake news, there’s no better place to start than Israel.
In September 2000, when Yasir Arafat unequivocally rejected a peace offer granting him everything to which the leftist “international community” claimed he was entitled, the fake news media blamed Israel. When Arafat’s rejection included his roll-out of a long-planned terror war, fake news blamed an Israeli politician (then out of power), Ariel Sharon, for triggering the war with a “provocative” visit to Judaism’s holiest site. Public outcry against the press was muted. The technique had proven itself. Fake news reporting of the Bush Administration’s campaign to free Iraq from Saddam’s totalitarianism followed an eerily similar path.
With Israel chosen as the testbed for the transformation of American journalism from objective reporting to progressive propaganda, the role of Jewish progressives loomed large. Leading progressive Jewish organizations and journalists have risen to the occasion. They routinely feign concern with protecting the Jews from resurgent Nazism and White Supremacism. The ADL, under the leadership of the staunchly progressive former Obama staffer Jonathan Greenblatt, pilloried Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as an antisemite — before ultimately conceding that Bannon had never written, said, or done anything remotely antisemitic. Notwithstanding that embarrassment, a similar smear campaign against Dr. Sebastian Gorka emerged in early 2017, when he served as a frequent White House spokesman on foreign policy. Needing a target to deflect from their embrace of the Nation of Islam’s Keith Ellison and Hamas-supporting Linda Sarsour, the Jewish progressives attempted to strangle Gorka in a web of conjecture, innuendo, and guilt by association; he was, after all, proud of his anti-progressivism, his Catholicism, and his Hungarian ancestry. What more did you need to see that he was a closet Neo-Nazi?
Leading the charge against Gorka were several longtime progressive activists writing at the behest of editor Jane Eisner of the Forward. (Earlier in her tenure, Eisner had removed the Jewish label from a venerable leftist publication known for over a century as the Jewish Daily Forward). From her post atop the perpetually cash-strapped Forward, Eisner invested considerable funds from an undisclosed source to publish over forty anti-Gorka articles — and built a fund-raising campaign around the attack. But the Forward’s campaign against Dr. Gorka hit a snag. A group of Jewish journalists and activists rallied to Gorka’s defense, recognizing not only the quality of Gorka’s work and his integrity as an individual, but also the special responsibility that America’s Jews bear in defending those slandered by progressivism masquerading as “Jewish values.”
By the time the dust cleared after three months of attack, parry, and counterattack, Gorka received a standing ovation from a largely Jewish packed house at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York. The crowd was clearly appreciative of Gorka’s steadfast support for Jews, the Jewish State, and the fight against global antisemitism. The following day, the Forward conceded that it had never actually called Gorka a Nazi, and that it could identify nothing in his record that was remotely anti-Jewish.
Nevertheless, the Forward remained so enamored of its anti-Gorka campaign that in its August 2017 list of “19 People Jews Should Worry About More than Linda Sarsour,” Dr. Gorka, “an alleged actual Nazi” in the White House, was twoof the nineteen. Also appearing on the list — though only once each — were Mort Klein (the longtime leader of the Zionist Organization of America), President Trump, Steve Bannon, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hezbollah’s Hasan Nasrallah, the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh. It’s a curious list that clarifies that Jewish progressives see little difference between those who advocate genocide and those who oppose the progressive agenda. It also gives away the progressive game: An “actual alleged” Nazi? Absolutely. First fabricate, then report on the fabrication. Voila! Fake news at its finest.
The progressive defamation campaign is ongoing. In the wake of the October 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue — at the hands of a white supremacist whose social media feeds demonstrate contempt for Jews, immigrants, and President Trump — progressive Jewish journalists came into their own. Julia Ioffe tweeted a message to her fellow American Jews: “This president makes this possible. Here. Where you live. I hope the embassy move over there, where you don’t live was worth it.”
Adam Davidson’s twitter lament was that “the bizarre and terrifying nexus between Israel and white nationalism actually starts to make sense when you understand the ethno-nationalist literature.” In his view “extreme-right Zionists and anti-Semitic white nationalists have the same core beliefs.” The next day, claiming shock that people who don’t know him might have read his remarks as “arguing that Jews or Israel are responsible for anti-Semitism,” Davidson clarified that “[l]ike many American Jews (but not all) I have been very publicly troubled by the Israeli governments lack of concern about the rise in anti-Semitism.” Israeli officials who “respond[ed] to Pittsburgh with an extreme form of both-sidism, not recognizing that anti-Semitism is rising on one side, was maddening.”
In other words, Davidson’s complaint was that some Jews, including the Israeli government, understand that the epicenter of dangerous antisemitism is among his progressive allies. Fair enough. Facts tend to roil the comfortable cognitive dissonance in which Jewish progressives prefer to live. No wonder he was upset. But Ioffe and Davidson were hardly alone. Hoping to turn defamation into action, Franklin Foer raged: “Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.”
President Trump , in turn, responded to the tragedy with all the fortitude for which America’s Jews might have hoped: “We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate. That’s what it is. Through the centuries, the Jews have endured terrible persecution. . . . Those seeking their destruction, we will seek their destruction.” Four months later, he expanded on that theme in his State of the Union Address, speaking strongly against antisemitism and pointing with American pride to an elderly Jewish man who had survived both the Holocaust and the Pittsburgh shooting.
Jewish progressives preferred President Obama’s condolence tweet: “We grieve for the Americans murdered in Pittsburgh. All of us have to fight the rise of anti-Semitism and hateful rhetoric against those who look, love, or pray differently. And we have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.”
Those divergent reactions highlight a hard, sad truth. America’s tiny white supremacist fringe can cause significant isolated harm, but it garners no support. Progressives are taking their Jew-hatred into the mainstream. It’s part of their strategic identity politics, and the centerpiece of their war on history. To the extent that dead Jews can prove tactically useful to the progressive agenda, progressives are more than willing to shed a few crocodile tears on their behalf — a technique honed among those who decry the Nazi Holocaust while working to enable future genocidal attacks against the Jews.
Even the pro-Hamas leader of the Women’s March, Linda Sarsour, spoke out against the Pittsburgh shooting. Sarsour went so far as to champion a fundraising drive among Muslims on behalf of the Jewish victims. Which seemed quite generous of her, until it was called out as a scam. Token amounts went to Jewish victims, while the bulk of the funds were sent to an Islamist mosque in Pittsburgh — allegedly to foster interfaith dialog. When the Jerusalem Post reported on the scam in detail, the mosque quickly transferred the funds to the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Jewish progressives are out to strip all Jewish content from American Jewish identity, and to replace it with an anti-Jewish progressivism. Their attempts to devalue, deflect, and misdirect concerns about antisemitism are but part of it.
Jewish progressives availed themselves of White House support throughout the Obama years — glorious times for fake news. From top to bottom, the Obama Administration encouraged and abetted it. The Obama team helped fake news branch beyond foreign policy — where the broad public’s lack of personal exposure to the facts made it easy to sell fiction — into the domestic arena, where many in the media had long assumed that people would believe their own experiences rather than the preferred progressive narratives. They were wrong.
Fake news was instrumental in selling the Obamacare debacle to a skeptical nation; Jonathan Gruber, one of its key architects, later laughed at the gullibility of an American public willing to believe their President’s intentional lies. Fake news helped Ambassador Susan Rice convince the American public that Libyan Arabs in Benghazi were mindless savages, easily pushed into deadly rage upon learning of an obscure YouTube video — rather than strategic, methodical, violent anti-American terrorists. Fake news promulgated the mythical epidemic of racist cops oppressing Black communities throughout the country, promoting riots over Trayvon Martin, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Charlotte, and elsewhere — and generally reversing decades of advances in the fight against racism.
Obama’s signature foreign policy item, his abysmal Iran deal, would have been dead on arrival were it not for fake news. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, later boasted of his adroit exploitation of a gullible, unethical media to create a useful echo chamber. A deal whose clear objective was strengthening Iran — enriching its treasury, improving its economy, empowering its military, expanding its irregular terrorist forces, entrenching its virulently anti-American theocracy, curtailing its liberal dissidents, and legitimizing its nuclear program — was sold to the American public as a means of restraining Iran. And of course, the Obama team fully endorsed the crown jewel of America’s fake news: the bizarre notion that the eschatological tale of climate change has something to do with science, and that the opinion of “97%” of scientists somehow justified authoritarianism.
By the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, America’s fake news media had refined their methods. Rolling them out fully was easy, less expensive than actual reporting, and good for ratings — at least until Trump began to call them out for what they are: Enemies of truth and enemies of the American people. Hit for the first time with a leader eager to tell the American people to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, the country’s finest purveyors of fake news immediately wrapped themselves in the First Amendment. They insisted loudly that the suggestion that a responsible press would maintain at least a pretense of journalistic ethics was an infringement upon press freedom.
Still, it’s important to remember where it all began — if for no other reason than that Pastor Martin Niemöller’s haunting Holocaust poem “First they Came for the Jews” remains a poignant reminder that creeping totalitarianism often begins with the Jews. The fake news campaign against Jews and Israel is always the experimental cutting edge; progressive Jewish media play a special role. Sources like the progressive Forward, or the leftist Israeli Haaretz, tailor their lies to terrify the Jews. Conspiratorial antisemites revel in citing these sources to confirm their darkest theories about the Jews. When identifiably Jewish sources slander Israel, Orthodoxy, and non-progressive Jews, who needs Neo-Nazis?
The leading role, however, belongs to a prominent publication that American Jews founded to prove that they’d left their Jewishness behind: the New York Times. In the 1930s and 40s, the NYT proved its post-Jewishness by downplaying the Nazi threat — and then the Holocaust. For the past fifty years or so, the NYT has focused on a haughty, contemptuous, disdain for the Jewish State.
(America’s “paper of record,” it’s worth noting, is not beyond pursuing cruder anti-Jewish themes. In a marvelous demonstration of the progressive pecking order among ethnic groups, the NYT heaped effusive praise on Toronto for providing gender-segregated swimming pools to accommodate its Muslim community, while condemning Brooklyn for providing gender-segregated swimming pools to accommodate its Jewish community. In a more recent demonstration, it declared War on Chanukah in 2018 with a piece that simply fabricated a historic context for the Maccabees.)
For decades, the NYT has set the standard in anti-Israel bias. It consistently blames Israel for getting attacked and equates Israeli defense with anti-Jewish terror. It refuses to use the historic names for Judea and Samaria, and characterizes the Jewish villagers of the historic Jewish heartland as international criminals. To the NYT, violent knife-wielding Arab killers are moderate, while the Jewish families they target are extremist. The NYT consistently partitions anti-Jewish terrorism from all other terror attacks, implying (as did Secretary Kerry) that the anti-Jewish variant is uniquely understandable.
The NYT is hardly alone. CNN, MSNBC, AP, Reuters, and others trip over themselves competing to outdo the Times’ anti-Israel bias and bombarding Americans with fake news about the Middle East. In April 2003, shortly after American troops deposed Saddam, Eason Jordan, then CNN’s Chief News Executive, confessed that his network had been lying to make Saddam look good for over a decade; telling the truth would have endangered his reporters. CNN’s stunning confession provides yet another explanation for the bias against Israel: Defaming Jews is safe. Telling the truth about Jew haters might get you killed. The lingering mystery is why anyone still believes that CNN is a credible new organization.
To make matters worse, progressives favor censoring voices they cannot control — including those offering actual news. Academia, and increasingly social media, have chosen to slander all anti-progressive ideas as hateful, then moved to eliminate hate speech. In a maneuver hardly uncommon among monopolists, the progressives controlling America’s mainstream media seek to eliminate all messages that compete with their own propaganda. In the finest American tradition, President Trump has called the progressive propagandists out for what they are while making no attempt to censor them. If that approach fails, it is unclear what might succeed.
It’s hard to underestimate the damage that progressive propaganda, or fake news, is causing. America desperately needs a free press — and it has one. But even more than a free press, America needs a responsible press — something that is painfully far from existing. That shortfall catches restorationists in a bind. No one who embraces America’s foundational values favors government censorship of the press. As devastating as the progressive propaganda machine is to the country, a restriction of the media to government-approved sources would be worse. Granted, there is some flexibility within the law to tighten press liability for spreading lies, but such changes would affect only the margins. They wouldn’t address the key challenge of a free nation whose mainstream press has become a font of ideological propaganda.
* This is a contributed article by American Restoration Institute