My father’s emails usually have fairly straightforward subject lines – ones like “Wedding in VT”, “small rug”, or “First Draft”. But the email he sent me Friday afternoon was a bit different. The subject line was merely:
What on earth? I thought, clicking on it. My father isn’t the type to become obsessed with anything. But someone thought he should be – he and every other Iowan. So this someone – a shadowy someone incorporated as a non-profit called “The Clairon Fund” – sent DVD copies of a film called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” to every subscriber of the Des Moines Register last weekend.
My father scanned the DVD in its accompanying packaging, which you can download as a PDF here. (The download is more than worth the effort, but if you are on a Lebanese connection, be forewarned: its 4.5 MB.)
This is the poster of the movie (again, the scan my father made is much, much richer – it shows not only the DVD cover but also testimonials from various “experts” and other promotional materials. Horrifying, and McCarthy-esque.):
I am an Iowan and a New Yorker, and both parts of me are furious.
First, the New Yorker. This poster shows MY CITY. My New York, my Manhattan, my World Trade Center towers in their stark aftermath. This city, this image, and these buildings are not up for grabs, and they should not be taken by people bent on exploiting them for their own ends.
Second, the Iowan. My fellow Hawkeye State’rs are down-to-earth, middle-of-the-road Americans. They favor family values, a hard work ethic, and sensible, durable clothing. And for the past 12 or so years, their votes have helped determine the results of the US presidential election.
Iowa is a farm state, but its citizens are not ignorant. Our public schools are among the best in the country, and our state universities turn out some of the top medical and scientific research (well, not in ALL fields – but in several). The slick New York propagandists’ idea that they can simply slip a DVD into the local paper and frighten Iowans into voting one way or another offends me. More than offends me.
Thanks be to God for my fellow citizens. What was their response to this DVD?
Here’s the first one:
I am incredibly disappointed in the Register for serving as the delivery agent for “jihad Swift Boating” by including the DVD “Obsession” in the Sept. 14 edition. I watched it in its entirety.
This DVD connects modern Jihadi to Nazi Germany ideologues. It attempts to scare us into a paranoiac approach to our place in the world.
While I do not deny that terrorism is a real threat, and feel strongly that we must all prepare to deal with it, this is a blatant attempt to frighten us into our own brand of Western militancy. The last eight years of the Bush doctrine have taught us the consequences of stirring the hornets’ nest of militant Islam in the Middle East. Saber rattling, “shock and awe” and cowboy diplomacy have only fueled hatred of the United States in the Islamic world and threatened our long-term security here at home.
The fact that this DVD, which was produced in 2006, should be released with less than two months before our national election and that it should be targeted for newspapers in swing states is a thinly veiled ploy to frighten the electorate into voting for the perceived “party most likely to protect us.”
I shouldn’t be surprised that the Republicans are willing to stoop to frightening footage to secure votes. I had not thought the Register would serve as the delivery boy for Jihad hysteria.
– James L. Fritz, Decorah
Mr. Fritz doesn’t come from a booming metropolis – Decorah is a small town with long-standing farm roots. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has never met a Muslim – and his capitalization of “Jihad” is quaint. I’m glad that he wrote this letter, and I’m proud to share a state with him.
The DVD enclosed in Sunday’s Register contains 60 minutes of propaganda aimed at convincing the viewer that “radical Islam” threatens everyone in our country and that very nearly everyone in Muslim countries grows up learning the beliefs of “radical Islam.”
Though several people are named as responsible for making, manufacturing and mailing the DVD, in spite of a strenuous search on the Internet, I learned almost nothing about the executive producer (Peter Mier), the director (Wayne Kopping) and the Clarion Fund Inc., the nonprofit that apparently sponsored the DVD and seems to exist only as a street address in New York and as a 501c(3) with no disclosed source of funding.
What did the Register ask to know about the Clarion Fund Inc. before agreeing to insert the DVD?
-Mark Kane, Des Moines
Good question, Mr. Kane. This isn’t exactly the usual type of Sunday insert. Why didn’t the paper’s advertising staff ask about the DVD and its distributor – or watch it themselves? Why would this Clarion Fund fund its distribution? And why would a New York non-profit (located in … Koreatown, naturally) be interested in Iowans?
When I talked with my parents this afternoon, my father said: You know, we weren’t the only ones who got this DVD. The packaging included a long list of other US newspapers.
Yes, my mother added. All swing states – just like us.
So when I finished talking to them, I did a little online investigating. How might readers of the Flint Journal have felt about the DVD, or the Rio Rancho Observer?
I can tell you how readers of the Toledo Blade responded. Here is a sample of the letters that the paper published today:
DVD gives a one-sided view of Islam
Imagine my shock and dismay when I received last Sunday’s Blade with the hate-filled DVD, Obsession, to preview. The fact that many staff members of The Blade have been hosted generously by many of the northwest Ohio area Muslim community and then would place that offensive DVD for general distribution is appalling.
In an era when we are trying to teach tolerance and acceptance of others, what would possess The Blade to send out such intensely anti-Muslim propaganda?
If it was for profit, then shame on you. Education? Then shame on you, again. There are two sides to every issue. The true Islamic side was never considered.
Unfortunately, there are many people who will view this DVD and accept it as an authority on Islam, while the ‘other side’ of Islam, who make up the majority, will not have been represented. The true meaning of Islam is peace. I will find my peace in
canceling my Blade subscription.
Catherine L. Hammoud
‘Obsession’ crosses line of free speech
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with The Blade’s decision to allow the Obsession DVD to be distributed with The Blade.
I am all for free speech, and have no problem with right-wing people expressing their views. A free exchange of ideas is necessary for a healthy democracy. I also realize that with declining readership, newspapers need all the advertising revenues they can get. But the Clarion Fund’s Obsession DVD crosses the line — it not only represents an utter distortion of fact but is also incredibly unproductive and outright harmful in the way it perpetuates and builds upon existing stereotypes of Muslims.
I think The Blade should apologize for its poor judgment in allowing the
DVD to be distributed with its newspaper and, in the future, refrain from distributing such material — be it right-wing or left-wing in nature.
Robinwood AvenueFear makes people easier to control
Having tried for many years to mount programs, including films, that promote interfaith understanding, I know very well how difficult it is to secure funding and marketing for such positive events.
So I am absolutely astonished at the amount of money spent distributing the DVD
Obsession to communities across the United States.
Especially in an election year, the promotion of fear is very suspect. If you can keep the people afraid, you can control them. In my personal opinion, fear-based government policies have dangerously undermined sacred American principles. As a result, we are not more safe, but less so.
I know money talks, but I am seriously disappointed in The Blade for supporting this fear-mongering campaign.
Judy Lee Trautman
I’m seriously disappointed in all these papers. Didn’t any of them have the courage to say: this is hate speech?
I’ll end with one more pasting – an editorial from the Palm Beach Post‘s Editorial Page Editor, Randy Schultz.
Last week, an ad for John McCain came with The Post. But it wasn’t labeled as an ad for John McCain.
The stealth ad is a DVD titled Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The film’s premise – and this will shock you – is that groups such as Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and their copycats are worth worrying about. Why, though, is this an ad for John McCain? To sound like one of the speakers in the film, it’s a matter of connecting the dots.
Distribution of the DVD, whose producers say it will “change the way you look at the world,” was timed with the post-Labor Day start of presidential election season. About 95 percent of the papers that contained the DVD are in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Notice a pattern? Right, those are the swing states that most analysts believe will determine the election. The issue on which polls consistently show John McCain ahead of Barack Obama is national security. One way to make voters worry less about the economy and more about national security would be to send out a DVD that opens with clips of 9/11 and includes scenes of Muslims chanting “Death to America!”
Oh, and there’s that lie recirculating on the Internet that Barack Obama is a Muslim. So, for good measure, the DVD went in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a suburban paper north of New York. All have many Jewish readers. The DVD went in the World Jewish Digest. The clear intent is to plant the idea that electing Barack Obama would be like putting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Oval Office.
If you’re a strong John McCain supporter, you might be saying, I don’t believe it. Why don’t you call the people who sent out the film and ask what they intended? Good thought. I had it myself.
The sponsoring group for Obsession is The Clarion Fund, based in New York. I left two messages for the media contact. Neither was returned. I e-mailed a request for an interview to a related Web site, radicalislam.org. I got no response.
The Clarion Fund was organized in 2006 as a 501(c)3, which grants it tax-exempt status as an educational nonprofit. But The Clarion Fund is not listed with Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits based on efficient use of donors’ money. You can find Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and United Way of Palm Beach County with the maximum four stars.
I called NSA Media in suburban Chicago. NSA placed the DVD with The Post, which – like the other publications – approved it after the usual review by the Advertising Department. NSA Media referred specific questions to The Clarion Fund. “It’s all on their Web site.” In fact, the Web site contains little information about The Clarion Fund. No names of directors. No sources of money. Just the mission statement, which includes this line: “Clarion Fund is helping Americans understand that the mainstream media is not adequately conveying the reality of radical Islam.”
Of course. Obsession contains a chapter called “Denial,” which compares the supposed failure to confront Islamic terrorists to the failure to confront Nazi Germany: Al-Qaeda in 2008 is Adolf Hitler in 1938. It’s a tempting comparison, because of the anti-Semitism then and now, but a false one.
“Radical Islam,” unlike Hitler, has taken no territory. This is not Munich in 1938. In fact, the very terror tactics shown in the DVD have turned sentiment strongly against Al-Qaeda in many Islamic countries, including Iraq. As one U.S. national security expert said a couple of years ago, two people believe that Al-Qaeda could pull off world domination: Osama bin Laden and George Bush.
The irony is that The Clarion Fund, whatever the group is and whoever runs it, is operating like the secret cells it warns about. Terrorists are cowards. In their own way, so are the people sending out this campaign ad.
If you want to contact any of the newspapers that distributed this DVD, an article in the Huffington Post lists them by state:
Colorado – Boulder Daily Camera, Centennial Citizen, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune
Iowa – Daily Nonpareil, Des Moines Register, Iowa City Press Citizen, Quad City Times, Sioux City Journal
Indiana – South Bend Tribune
Florida – Daily Commercial, Florida Times-Union, Ft. Lauderdale El Sentinel, Ft. Myers News Press, Miami Herald, Ocala Star Banner, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tampa Tribune, Tallahassee Democrat, St. Petersburg Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Michigan – Detroit Free-Press, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Lansing State Journal
Missouri – Springfield News-Leader
Nevada – Las Vegas Review-Journal/Sun, Nevada Appeal, Reno Gazette-Journal
New Hampshire – Portsmouth Herald News, Union Leader
New Mexico – Clovis News Journal, Hobbs News-Sun, Rio Rancho Observer
Ohio – Canton Repository, Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News, Middletown Journal, Morning Journal, Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator
North Carolina – Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer
Pennsylvania – Bucks Co. Courier Times, Erie Times-News, Morning Call, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Reading Eagle, The Patriot-News
Virginia – Sun-Gazette, Virginian-Pilot
Wisconsin – Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, Journal Times, La Crosse Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
And if you want to contact the Clarion Fund, the address given on the DVD packaging is:
255 W. 36th Street, Ste. 800
New York, NY 10018
Just remember: be polite, be professional, and articulate your position using evidence, not personal insults.