I’m posting this video not because I think it deserves to be seen, but because it’s a reminder that naked bigotry is still alive in America. Brace yourself:
OK, did you watch it? Let’s talk about it.
First, the story so far:
A decidedly mainstream Muslim organization called the Cordoba Initiative wants to build a community center in Lower Manhattan. Some conservative political types—possibly feeling desperate after getting blamed for the housing crisis and watching their “Drill Here, Drill Now” slogan backfire in the worst possible way—have seized upon this urban “mosque” as a cheap way to stoke rage and anger among their supporters. The subtext, as I see it, is that plenty of fools are still so desperate to believe Barack Obama is a terrorist that they’re prepared to write checks to any organization that hints at similar leanings. Somehow this insanity landed in New York City this summer. Anti-Muslim activists, having rehearsed last month on Staten Island, are trying to shut down the Cordoba House project with as much noise as possible.
Now, where did this nutso video come from?
The ad above was released this month by the National Republican Trust—not part of the Republican National Committee, but actually a political action committee that came together to run smears against Obama during the 2008 campaign. It has a multi-million-dollar budget and ties to the web site Newsmax. (More here.) The ad is getting attention today because two TV networks declined to air it. Nevertheless, it’s getting a lot of exposure thanks to blogs and talk radio.
We could try to argue with the simple facts in this ad (like the fact that the planned Muslim center is actually on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, a dense and mostly commercial area that no New Yorker would consider “Ground Zero”) and its logic (that the Muslims investing in this building are terrorists who want to destroy their own neighborhood) but that would be falling into a trap. You can’t fight this one with sense. We’re talking about a TV commercial opposing a building on the basis of the religion of the people building it, punctuated with the line “We Americans will be heard.” I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think of that.
I work close enough to the World Trade Center site to see it from my office windows. Like every person who works in Lower Manhattan, I work with, shop with, and commute with Muslim people every day. The idea of a PAC in Washington producing ads attacking these neighbors of mine just makes my blood boil. It should make yours boil too.