Stop the Presses -- Center for American Progress Likes CAIR, Hates Frank Gaffney!

Scott Keyes at Think Progress (a distribution arm of the Center for American Progress, not that there’s anything wrong with that) has written a thoughtful, well-researched and meticulously argued piece entitled Leading Neoconservative Frank Gaffney Argues Muslim Brotherhood Has ‘Infiltrated’ The Federal Government.

Nah, just kidding. It’s actually just another bungled ambush attempt by a junior ribbon-clerk whose patent inability to construct an argument is only rivaled by the leaden predictability of his prose. (Well golly, that was harsh. One might almost think that Mr. Keyes sand-bagging of a good, decent and thoughtful man had set me off.)

But don’t take my word for it, let’s read together:

Amidst the political upheaval in Egypt, conservatives are scare-mongering about the possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt. But leading neoconservative Frank Gaffney is taking Muslim Brotherhood fearmongering [sic] to new heights. This past weekend, Gaffney was a featured speaker at the Educational Policy Conference in St. Louis, an annual gathering of social conservatives. Gaffney used the opportunity to discuss how the Muslim Brotherhood is not only poised to implement a new theocracy in Egypt, but is also operating in the United States under “front groups” like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties group dedicated to “protecting the rights of all Americans, regardless of faith.”

Just to save us all some time let me see if I can respond in kind:

Amidst the political upheaval in Egypt, liberals are in deep denial about the possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt. But Progressive Media researcher and general non-entity Scott Keyes has taken this denial to new heights. Just yesterday, someone let him out of the microfiche library long enough to write a hit piece about Frank Gaffney. Keyes used the opportunity to mock Gaffney’s utterly unrefuted argument that the Muslim Brotherhood is not only poised to implement a new theocracy in Egypt, but is also operating in the United States under “front groups” like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whom Keyes characterizes as a “a civil liberties group dedicated to ‘protecting the rights of all Americans, regardless of faith'” … because they said so. Presumably Mr. Keyes plans to apply the same intellectual rigor to his next lunch hour special: “Joseph Stalin – Deeply Misunderstood Agrarian Reformer.”

You see how easy this stuff is to write when you don’t have to worry about supporting your assertions with facts or logic? In Keyes’ world (and what a “dress to the Left” world it is) it’s simple: Summarize your victim’s arguments, liberally surround certain terms with quotation marks so your slower readers will know when to roll their eyes, and inject phrases like:

Echoing the McCarthyist anti-communist rhetoric of the 1950s …

So even your catatonic readers will know when to throw rocks and garbage.

There’s no need to prove your opponent wrong, just imply that his positions are ridiculous on their face and trust your audience won’t be churlish enough to ask “um, why is that?”

The odds of avoiding such questions however are not enhanced by the inclusion of a video and transcript of Gaffney’s actual remarks. The difference between the soft-spoken and entirely reasonable sounding Gaffney and the “devil under every doily” conspiracy theorist described by Keyes is actually jarring:

TP: Do you think [Sharia law] has already infiltrated the federal government?

GAFFNEY: There are questionable people who are sympathetic to the program of the stealth jihadists who have influence with the United States government. Some I think are actually working for it, but for sure people who are persuaded that the folks that they need to work with to reach out to the Muslim-American community, for example, who incessantly turn to Muslim Brotherhood organizations for that purpose, are a very real problem.

TP: Can you name a few names, for instance in the federal government?

GAFFNEY: John Brennan. John Brennan is the Homeland Security Advisor for the President of the United States

TP: He’s complicit in this creep of Sharia law?

GAFFNEY: He’s absolutely daft on what the nature of the threat and is insistent upon using Brotherhood-front organizations as sources of information and as vehicles for reaching out to the Muslim-American community. Jim Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, has said that these sorts of groups are “sources of wisdom,” as he puts it, to the United States government. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is incessantly meeting with Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and I think has in the past, if not today, employed people who are associated with them.

Like you, I was waiting for the counter-argument that would knock the props out from underneath Gaffney and prove conclusively that CAIR and the Muslim Botherhood aren’t front organizations, or if they are that John Brennan and/or Janet Napolitano don’t consult with them. Maybe Keyes is saving it for the sequel because all we got this round was “Joseph McCarthy” and dark reminders that Gaffney has made similar statements before.

Which brings me to the next thing. While he in no way, shape or form addressed Gaffney’s arguments Keyes did provide a powerful reminder of why it is a very bad idea to invoke the specter of Joseph McCarthy when slagging off an opponent.

First, like any other metaphor that’s been used unto death, it has long since lost its impact – like those endless, moronic comparisons to Adolph Hitler that evoke spirited “ho-hums” in all but the truly demented of one’s readers. (Having quickly perused the ThinkProgress comments section I appreciate that number may not be trivial, but you get my larger point.)

Secondly, if the point of this groundbreaking analogy is “like McCarthy, he’s just making it up” you really, really need to consult another historical source apart from George Clooney. No-one seriously debates whether there were Communist spies in the federal government in the 1950’s anymore. The Venona decrypts have put the matter irrevocably to rest. The major characters like Alger Hiss that so-called liberals were wetting themselves to defend were guilty as sin. So Tail-gunner Joe – for all his faults, real or imagined – probably isn’t your best go-to guy to illustrate “non-existent” threats. (See how those quotes work?)

Thirdly, if your other point is “he’s just a bullying demagogue like the worst caricature of McCarthy we can conjure up” it’s probably best not to choose someone who looks and sounds like my family doctor. It’s doubly inadvisable to showcase a video of him making perfectly reasonable points in an indoor voice while you fill the air with virtual exclamation points all around him.

Really, Scott, the general takeaway is know of that about which you speak, play fair and be prepared to defend your assertions. Who knows, someday you may want to write something that’s isn’t a glorified leftist pamphlet.

(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog)