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“Counter To The Facts”: Pushing For Mosque Surveillance, Fox News Is Fighting The Last War

Reaching for one of its favorite War on Terror talking points, Fox News is leading a charge in the wake of the Orlando gun massacre to push for surveillance of mosques in America. Convinced that a pressing response to the attack on a gay nightclub is for law enforcement to keep close tabs on Muslims at prayer, Fox News continues to hype the initiative as a solution to pending terror threats in the United States — and specifically, to stem the tide of ISIS recruitment in America.

But there’s no indication domestic mosque surveillance uncovers useful terror information. Just ask the New York Police Department, whose extensive, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance program turned out to be a “failure by any reasonable standard,” according to the Cato Institute.

And now with ISIS focusing its recruitment online and hoping for self-radicalization among converts, the notion that law enforcement can round up ISIS sympathizers meeting and plotting inside American mosques runs counter to the facts.

Nonetheless, Fox News is pushing for the divisive, Bush-era tactic to be revived and embraced. “How stupid is it to pull police officers out of the mosques? Absolutely stupid,” Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News this week, while Greg Gutfeld compared Islam to biker gangs and suggested both needed to be watched closely to head off crime sprees.

Not surprisingly, Fox News is echoing allegations often made by members of the Republican Party about how mosques are a breeding ground for homegrown terrorism and need to be spied on.

“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” Republican Party presumptive nominee Donald Trump told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala. last November. That same week Trump announced he’d “strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the U.S. Trump raised the idea again earlier this week at a rally in Atlanta, saying, “We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive.”

For years, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, with the help of Fox News, led an anti-mosque crusade, complete with congressional hearings that were denounced as being McCarthy-like.

Today’s endorsement of mosque surveillance represents Fox News’ long-running attempt to collectively criminalize Islam in America and to often portray Muslims as would-be terrorists. (Recall the open hysteria Fox News helped foment in its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2011.)

But Fox News’ advocacy for mosque surveillance, and its suggestion that it would help ferret out dangerous ISIS sympathizers, runs counter to recent events and counter to research that indicates those handful of American Muslims who embrace deadly violence are mostly self-radicalized and they become that way online, not by listening to sermons from radical Imams in U.S. mosques.

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, there were no findings that the bombers and gunmen were radicalized in their local mosques or planned their attacks there; that the mosques were in any way directly connected to the acts of violence. There were no sweeping indictments made by law enforcement.

In fact in Boston, bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been threatened with expulsion from his mosque after he angrily interrupted a speaker who compared Prophet Muhammad with Dr. Martin Luther King. “The congregation shouted him out of the mosque,”said a spokesman for the mosque.

And that fits what researchers have been reporting in recent years.

Last December, George Washington University’s Program on Extremism issued a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” It showed “how social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” according to the university.

Key points from the report included:

  • “Several thousand Americans consume ISIS propaganda online creating what has been described as a ‘radicalization echo chamber.’ “
  • “Twitter is ‘by far the platform of choice’ for American activists to connect. Other routes include Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, along with messaging services like ‘Kik, Telegram, surespot, and the dark web.’”

Additionally, the report noted that jihadist radicalization in the United States is “significantly smaller” than in most European countries, in part because of fewer “radicalizing agents” in America, such as “radical mosques, extremist preachers, and recruiting networks.”

Also last year, Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, reported his research indicated, “More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.”

The Associated Press reported that Atran told a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee that “radicalization rarely occurs in mosques.”

Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the number of radicalized Muslims in the U.S. was relatively low and that Muslim-American communities effectively prevent radicalization.

Rather than being a spawning ground for extremism, there are indications mosques are actively working to thwart it. That same 2010 study found “48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend,” The New York Times reported.

Last year, the Times examined ISIS’ recruiting efforts in the United States and detailed one example of a local Imam dissuading a possible convert named Amir:

Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children. Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

That kind of pushback against extremism from mosque leaders might be one reason why the NYPD’s massive surveillance program produced so little useful information. The operation, which remained secret for years, not only infiltrated mosques, but assigned detectives to map out entire Muslim communities, as well as track Muslims’ daily activities, and investigate college students.

The goal was to “sniff out would-be terrorists before they could launch attacks,” according to the Cato Institute.

Fox News likes to pretend it was an intelligence success, which is why it must be resuscitated. “We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical mosques,” Fox News’ Bo Dietl claimed last year.

In fact, the exact opposite was true.

“In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday,” the Associated Press reported.

Correct. Six years of mosque surveillance in New York City in the wake of 9/11 did not produce a single lead or trigger one terrorism investigation for the NYPD.

But now Fox News thinks in an age of online recruiting, snooping on U.S. mosques is the answer to unearthing terror threats?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Fox News, Orlando Shootings, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Can’t Do The Rubio Thing Anymore”: More Bad News For Marco Rubio: He Just Lost The Support Of Fox News

In his role as the donor class’s darling, Marco Rubio has enjoyed support from the Republicans’ media arm, Fox News. Throughout the primary, Fox provided Rubio with friendly interviews and key bookings, including the first prime-time response to Barack Obama’s Oval Office address on ISIS. Many of the network’s top pundits, including Stephen Hayes and Charles Krauthammer, have been enthusiastic boosters. Bill Sammon, Fox’s Washington managing editor, is the father of Rubio’s communications director, Brooke Sammon.

But this alliance now seems to be over. According to three Fox sources, Fox chief Roger Ailes has told people he’s lost confidence in Rubio’s ability to win. “We’re finished with Rubio,” Ailes recently told a Fox host. “We can’t do the Rubio thing anymore.”

Ailes was already concerned about Rubio’s lackluster performance in GOP primaries and caucuses, winning only one contest among the 15 that have been held. But the more proximate cause for the flip was an embarrassing New York Times article revealing that Rubio and Ailes had a secret dinner meeting in 2013 during which the Florida senator successfully lobbied the Fox News chief to throw his support behind the “Gang of 8” comprehensive immigration-reform bill. “Roger hates seeing his name in print,” a longtime Ailes associate told me. “He was appalled the dinner was reported,” the source said.

Already, there are on-air signs that Fox’s attitude toward Rubio has cooled. This morning, anchor Martha MacCallum grilled Rubio about his poor Super Tuesday performance. “Is that a viable excuse at this point?” she asked, when he tried spinning his second-place finish in Virginia.

Fox’s corporate support of Rubio has also been a growing source of tension with the network’s more conservative talent. Sean Hannity was furious that the Times article reported how he went along with Rubio’s immigration proposal. During an interview with Trump on Monday, Hannity barely defended Fox while Trump trashed Rubio backers like Hayes. “He shouldn’t be on the air,” Trump said. The best Hannity could muster was to change the subject. “Have you ever watched MSNBC?” he said. “They suck.”

Ailes is now back to searching for a candidate the channel can rally behind. “He’s thinking, What do we do about the whole damn thing?” one of the news executive’s friends said.

Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti did not return a call for comment.

 

By: Gabriel Sherman, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Fox News, GOP Campaign Donors, Marco Rubio, Roger Ailes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Donald Trump And His Subversive Sense Of Humor”: A Man Who Views Assessments Of Women On Their Appearance

I used to have this poster in my office reflecting the timeless wisdom of a relief pitcher named Larry Andersen. Today he does Phillies radio broadcasts. A friend who’s a calligrapher made it for me.

“Hey, you’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.”

The poster got lost after we moved, and my wife doesn’t miss it. Possibly because it reflects an aspect of my personality she’s sometimes uneasy with: the part that helps me do a pretty good Donald Trump impression. The part that reflects my bygone youth in New Jersey, the Insult State.

The part that makes her laugh until I imitate Trump attacking Hillary Clinton as a woman The Donald would not want to see naked.

The accent, gestures, and exaggerated mugging all come easy. You’ve just got to imagine a chimpanzee with a trust fund. See, if he hadn’t inherited a couple of hundred million bucks from his old man, Trump would have ended up cheating used car buyers and standing around on New York street corners patting his groin and hooting at passing women with the other primates.

“Hey baby, I got a piece of candy for you. Right here in my pants.”

Like that.

How Trump reacts to finishing second in Iowa remains to be seen. I’m guessing the minute he realizes he can’t bulldoze and bluff his way to the presidency, he’s gone. But at least he’s given us some laughs, more than you can say for most of them.

Which brings us to Trump’s big celebrity feud with Fox News head blonde Megyn Kelly. Has any victim of The Donald’s verbal assaults ever benefited more from his scorn?

Before the two tangled during the first GOP presidential debate, Kelly was best known among the cable channel’s audience of AARP All-Stars—a foot soldier in the annual “War on Christmas” who once indignantly assured viewers that Santa Claus is a white man. Also an imaginary man, but never mind.

Now thanks to Trump, she’s a name brand. It’ll be interesting to watch where the notoriety takes her. At 45, she’s probably too old to be the fourth Mrs. Trump, but wouldn’t that be an entertaining premise for a bad movie?

The feud began, as the world knows, when Kelly, an incisive interviewer, asked The Donald about his practice of calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” He tried to joke his way out of it, but Kelly doubled down, asking about the time he told a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” how cute she’d look on her knees.

A classic bully, Trump whined that Kelly was biased. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” he told CNN.

He’s all chivalry, our Mr. Trump.

Bickering continued until The Donald tried to make Fox News drop Kelly as moderator of its next GOP debate, which he vowed to boycott unless he got his way. CEO Roger Ailes called his bluff. Refusing to show up now looks like a mistake after Iowa. Trump’s going to bully foreign leaders into submission, but a TV executive defied him and he’s afraid of a girl?

Not good for the brand.

Smarting, Trump then said he wouldn’t call Kelly a “bimbo” because it would be “politically incorrect.” That’s Republican-speak for refusing to call a spade a spade. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Know what they mean?)

Next he reposted some pinup shots of Kelly on Twitter: “Criticizes Trump for objectifying women. Poses like this in GQ magazine.”

I hesitate to admit that I laughed out loud. Low-cut negligee, “Hello, Sailor” look and all, Megyn didn’t much resemble Walter Cronkite.

Not that valuing women strictly as sexual objects was what Kelly complained about. But whatever else you can say about Trump, he’s got a subversive sense of humor.

Should it matter that Mrs. Donald Trump, version 3.0, has herself posed buck nekkid for GQ? Perhaps not, but it’s funny too. Built like a Slovenian outhouse, the fair Melania.

I wonder if Mrs. Trump’s pre-nuptial agreement is fully vested. Because it’s hard to think that First Lady’s a role that would suit her. In some ways, the White House is the jewel of the federal penitentiary system.

Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Janell Ross, seemingly not from New Jersey, asked some pertinent questions:

“Doesn’t the content of that tweet… strongly support the core theories behind the question that Kelly asked Trump in the very first debate? Is a man who seems to view assessments of women based largely or perhaps only on their appearance fit for the Oval Office in 2016? And, if he is, what are the political ramifications of putting him in office and giving him the bully pulpit?”

The correct answers are: yes, no, and more of the same.

But Melania can rest easy, because it’s not going to happen.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP Primary Debates, Sexism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Holds An Unflattering Mirror To GOP, Fox News”: The Important Message Is That Trump Dominated Fox News

The GOP debate he wasn’t attending hadn’t yet begun, but Donald Trump, safely tucked into the plush leather seats of his 757, declared himself the winner.

He was right.

Political commentators would spend the next several hours parsing his feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly. They would rehash the more genteel tone of the GOP debate that went on without Trump and try to determine if he offended Iowa voters by not appearing at the debate in Des Moines, attending his own event a few miles down the road instead.

They were missing the point. The tiff had little to do with Trump fearing Kelly’s stern and persistent questions as one of the debate moderators. It had to do with Fox News boss Roger Ailes’ role as GOP kingmaker.

If you are going to run against the Republican establishment, that means running against Fox News. Trump knew it; Ailes knew it (which is why premier Fox talent scurried to placate Trump); and now everybody knows it.

Ailes built his network empire by defining it against the so-called mainstream media. At the same time, he was building it as a sort of “oppo” research and broadcast arm of the Republican Party, a talent incubator for conservative media stars and a source of comfy sinecures for past and aspiring Republican candidates. Whatever part of the Republican Party Fox News doesn’t own, it keeps in line with its ideological beat cops.

Fox News has been a great brand, but now Trump has decided he has to rough it up to build his own brand as a candidate. So far, it’s working.

Trump reiterated in interviews before the debate that he had to stand up to Fox News. This isn’t just the narcissistic bluster we’ve come to expect from Trump. It’s true. Forget about his counter-event and whether it succeeded or disappointed on its merits. The important message is that Trump dominated Fox News — and that is unprecedented.

The squabble with Fox News illustrates how Trump has become such an appealing candidate. It’s a peek into the brain under the pompadour.

A lot of what he does is shtick, as you might expect from someone with a background in pro wrestling and reality TV. Consider the interview he gave on his plane with CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar before taking the stage at his veterans event

“I was insulted by Fox,” he said, following a well-honed script. Of voters, he added: “I think they are going to say he’s the one person who stands up for himself. And we need that.”

Claim that you are being mistreated and disrespected by the political establishment — a victim, if you will. It takes a lot of chutzpah to do that when you’re Donald Trump. But that has been the script at Fox News since forever, and now Trump is making it his own.

Another Fox News trope that Trump has turned against the network is its grievance over political correctness. While for years the network (and conservatives generally) have prissily wailed against this form of supposed oppression, Trump has run his mouth and Twitter account, violating decorum and decency with reckless and unapologetic abandon. When he did so against Kelly, Fox News was put in the uncomfortable position of having to acknowledge that such standards should exist.

Fox News — and the Republican Party it has remade — likes to bully. Its audience likes to see it bully. Now comes the spectacle of Fox News and the Republicans being bullied, outright dominated by a free-lancer nobody took seriously. Democrats and Republicans alike may despise Trump, but he understands all too well the populist strategy that lifted Fox News and the Republican Party to commanding heights in American politics.

How do you take down this verbose bully? If you’re the Republicans, you probably can’t. The other GOP candidates can’t beat him at his own game. He’s too good and they’re so lame. The verbal ribs that the other candidates lobbed at Trump in his absence at the debate came off flat. Spontaneity and authenticity are not their forte. Political life has stilted them.

Trump is a different story. What you see is what you get, and it’s very entertaining.

Republicans can’t attack his simplistic prescriptions for foreign policy and the economy. (2,000-mile border wall? Deporting millions? Good luck with that.) Facts do not matter to the Republican base — and haven’t for some time. So appealing to reality is futile.

Substance is not what is drawing people to Trump. It’s the allure of strength, the thrill of watching somebody assert his will against the weak.

In the upside-down world that has become the 2016 race, it’s the leading Republican candidate that is showing us what a corrupt and sick institution his party has become.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 1, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Fox News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out Bullying The Bullies”: The Donald Trump Vs. Fox News Clusterfuck, Explained

A quick recap of the tumultuous, on-again/off-again relationship between Fox News and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump:

Trump has an ally in Fox News.

Trump doesn’t like Megyn Kelly.

Trump irons things out with Roger Ailes.

Trump is boycotting Fox News.

Trump is no longer boycotting Fox News.

Trump spends New Year’s Eve with Fox News.

Trump might not show up at Fox News’ GOP debate.

Trump is kind of a chicken for ducking Fox News’ debate.

Trump is “definitely not” going to the debate.

Why can’t these two frenemies just get along?

Like the bickering Sam and Diane duo from Cheers sitcom fame, Trump and Fox News obviously belong together (they like all the same things!), but they just can’t get past their stubborn differences.

Thursday night’s Fox-hosted primary debate on the eve of the Iowa caucus has now been completely overshadowed by the roiling feud between friends/enemies Trump and Fox, as the two institutional bullies lock horns. Is the current impasse a lasting one, or will the harsh words be papered over in the days and weeks to come the way previous Trump vs. Fox skirmishes ended in handshakes and smiles? It’s too soon to tell.

What’s so strange about the discord is that Trump is practically the living personification of the Fox News id: He’s a bigoted nativist who wallows in Islamophobia and thrives on dividing Americans and insulting President Obama as an un-American radical.

After the traditionally nice campaign of Mitt Romney in 2012, you’d think Fox News would be loving the insult-throwing Trump, a candidate who, like so many Fox anchors and hosts, isn’t afraid to make stuff up. Trump mirrors the often-tasteless brand of divisive rhetoric that Ailes helped hallmark at Fox.

But the truth is, Trump seems to hold Fox in the same general contempt that he holds the rest of the press. Meaning, from the Trump worldview, Fox doesn’t operate on a similar plane as him. Fox is subservient to Trump and — in his mind — should be in the business of touting his campaign. If and when it does not, Trump loses his cool because he doesn’t like to be second-guessed by “lightweight” journalists.

This represents a whole new world for Fox, which has controlled the conservative debate, and in turn controlled Republican politicians, for more than a decade. Fox sets the parameters. Fox picks the agenda. Fox grooms a handful of Republicans for right-wing media stardom. That’s why I can’t recall anyone ever picking such a public fight with Fox News from inside the GOP tent the way Trump has. It’s simply not done. And Fox’s frantic, off-key corporate response to Trump’s jabs has confirmed that executives there have very little practice fighting intramural skirmishes.

Forget that Fox cemented Trump’s right-wing celebrity status in 2011 when it handed over uninterrupted airtime for him to unfurl his misguided birther campaign against President Obama. Forget that Sean Hannity’s basement is probably lined with Trump for President posters.

Without Fox News’ exaggerated generosity over the years, and without Fox providing endless free airtime in the form of promotional blitzes to tout Trump as a possible presidential player, it’s unlikely Trump today would be perched atop the Republican field.

Trump this week is exercising a power play, pure and simple. (He knows he’s the reason Fox likely sold ads for the debate at a sky-high rate.) Bottom line: Roger Ailes is finally facing someone who’s willing, and eager, to out-bully him. And do it in public.

Of course what makes all this angry back-and-forth so funny is that one combatant is supposed to be a news organization. News organizations aren’t supposed to have bizarre, on-going public spats with one party’s leading candidate. Anchors on a news channel aren’t supposed to plead with candidates to show up at debates. And the head of a news channel doesn’t usually try to patch things up by directly phoning powerful politicians. But this is Fox News, so all the normal rules go out the window.

Indeed, the underlying truth here is that if Fox News conducted itself as an ethical news outlet, these kinds of messy spats and hurt feelings wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, Fox is often run as a Republican National Committee marketing arm, or a GOP clubhouse, raising expectations from Republicans in terms of how they’ll be treated. Trump clearly senses a weakness there and is now trying to exploit it.

In August, I suggested that Fox News, via the unwieldy Trump charade, had “eaten the Republican primary season” and that the “slow-motion fiasco is only going to get much, much worse for Republicans.”

Boy, has it. Democrats are likely pointing and laughing this week.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, Roger Ailes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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