Obsession: Has Your Newspaper Put a Hate DVD On Your Front Porch?
by James M. Wall
If you live in a state too red or blue to be considered a swing state, you will not have seen newspaper ads that include a free propaganda documentary DVD film entitled Obsession. On the other hand, If your state is in the “too close to call” category in the November 4 election, then hate material that should insult your intelligence may have already landed on your front porch.
Obsession was made and initially shown on the Fox television channel in 2006. The director is an Israeli-based director whose film is now being distributed in the US by a shadowy organization with ties to radical Jewish organizations.
Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, is a documentary film that takes a few specific events, tosses in a few dark and ominous clips of radical Islamists, mixes in bits of distorted history and ties it together with angry and, at times, naive interviews. The result: An absurd conclusion that Muslims of the world are plotting to destroy the United States. The film is total nonsense.
To the great shame of American journalism, over the course of two week-ends in mid September, 28 million copies of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West DVD were delivered in local newspapers to voters in swing states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia.
The film would have viewers believe that Muslims everywhere are a threat to the United States. This includes, dear friends, any friendly neighborhood Muslim family (including yours, if you happen to be Muslim), which faithfully attends Friday prayers at the local mosque. Would these newspapers have agreed to toss 28 million copies of a hate propaganda film onto America’s front porches attacking Christianity or Judaism?
Think about that for a moment, and then reflect on the low and crass level of behavior in American journalism, behavior that includes such major national newspapers as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. These publications sent DVDs to their readers only into those states that, you guessed it, are considered “too close to call”. The ad buyers dictated the DVD distribution, not the newspapers.
Obsession opens with a phony disclaimer that not all Muslims are bad, sounding very much like one of those old “sex education” films that assures viewers that the doctor explaining everything is a real doctor. Right. After that deceptive opening, the documentary moves swiftly to assure the viewer that since you cannot determine between the bad and the good, better safe than sorry. All Muslims are a threat.
Which candidate for president benefits from such distortion. Is it the candidate who has been subjected to false rumors that he is a “closet Muslim”? What do you think? Such an attack on Barack Obama, a lifelong Christian with great respect for Islam, is offensive to our political process.
It is absurd to make a film that implies that all Muslims, not just a handful of radical militants, want to destroy the United States. The film ignores the fact that the total number of radical Islamic terrorists that share the views of the September 11 attackers is so small that the survivors of that plot can still hide in a few caves along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
There are, no doubt, other radical Islamists who are at this very moment plotting terror attacks from their lairs in Hamburg or London or Los Angeles. But consider one simple fact before you are seduced into a state of fear by a free DVD delivered to your front porch:
The total number of Muslims in the world is 1.6 billion. How many radical Islamists are in that 1.6 billion population? The answer: About the same percentage of radical extremists may be found in either Judaism or Christianity worldwide, perhaps less.
Erik Ose, writing for the Huffington Post web site, traces the ugly narrative of Obsession’s circulation route. His report includes a list of newspapers which initially agreed to run the ad and a few that refused. (Read Ose in the Huffington Post to find out which newspapers sent out Obsession and which refused to do so. The refusniks are few in number):
The program was originally shown on Fox News in the days leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and far right-wing activist David Horowitz toured the country screening the film on college campuses during 2007. Mainstream religious groups have called Obsession biased and divisive. It cuts between scenes of Nazi rallies and footage of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers.
Talking heads in the film include infamous anti-Muslim, self-proclaimed “islamophobes” like Daniel Pipes and Walid Shoebat. In 2001, Pipes claimed the “presence” and “enfranchisement” of Muslims in the U.S. presented “true dangers to American Jews.” Shoebat is an evangelical Christian who falsely claims to be a former Muslim terrorist. Last year, Shoebat told the Missouri Springfield News-Leader, “Islam is not the religion of God - Islam is the devil.”
The website Jewsonfirst.org, has found that the Clarion Fund, which it identifies as a ‘little known” and “shadowy” non profit organization, is behind the distribution of the DVD. The “targeted states” marketing campaign set up by Clarion, according to JewsOnFirst, have led to news reports that the distribution is designed to build support for the Republican presidential campaign. Gregory Ross, director of communications for the Clarion Fund, denies this allegation.
He told JewsOnFirst that as a non-profit organization, Clarion “makes a distinct point of reminding people that we are not trying to influence the elections.” Ross said the purpose of distributing Obsession is to teach that there is “no greater threat than radical Islam.”
A New York Times spokesperson, Diane McNulty, told JewsOnFirst that her newspaper included 145,000 copies of the DVD in home delivery packets on Sunday, September 7th. She said the one-time insert went into packets delivered in Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, St Louis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Madison, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and Miami, Palm Beach, Tampa and Orlando.
The Wall Street Journal, the Denver Post, the Miami Herald and the Detroit Free Press also delivered inserts of the Obsession DVD, according to the Charlotte News Observer.
Subscribers to the weekly paper edition of the respected academic weekly Chronicle of Higher Education received 70,000 DVDs, for which the Clarion Fund paid the Chronicle $28,000. JewsOnFirst asked editor Phil Semas why Clarion decided to advertise in his paper. His reply: “I assume they felt we were an influential audience.”
JewsOnFirst adds: “The Chronicle publishes reports of interest to educators and academic officials, some of whom might be affected by the campaign to show the video on campuses.”
National Public Radio reports that the Clarion Fund is a nonprofit set up by the producer of Obsession, Rabbi Raphael Shore. Little is known about the group, which should have been a warning sign to the publications. JewsOnFirst examined Clarion’s standing in the non-profit community and discovered that “Because it was established only recently, the Clarion Fund has not yet filed its first required disclosure (Form 990) with the IRS. It is not disclosing its officers.”
NPR also found that Clarion has connections to Aish HaTorah, a strongly pro-Israel Jewish educational organization which promotes Jewish identity and pride. Aish HaTorah has offices in Israel and the U.S. Clarion’s corporate filings in Deleware has the same address as Aish HaTorah New York.
In 2006 two Clarion directors were Rabbi Shore, Obsession’s director, and Jacob Fetman. In 2007, Clarion listed its directors as Shore, Rabbi Henry Harris and Rebecca Kabat. Rabbi Harris is also educational director at Aish HaTorah NY.
NPR found that Aish’s Ephraim Shore has also been president of the organization HonestReporting.com, which, according to Aish’s Web site, helped to produce and promote Raphael Shore’s film.
The New York Times requires that political or opinion advertisements must include the advertiser’s contact. To satisfy that requirement, Clarion listed 255 West 36th St., Suite 800, in Manhattan, as its address. This, JewsOnFirst discovered, “turns out to be Grace Corporate Park Executive Suites, an office-space rental operation which also rents ‘virtual office identity packages’ for as little as $75 a month.”
Erik Ose concludes his Huffington Post story with this disturbing news update:
On Sept. 26, four days after the Dayton Daily News in Ohio, distributedObsession to its subscribers, there was a cowardly attack on three hundred American Muslims at a Dayton mosque. Unknown assailants, described by a witness as two white men, sprayed a toxic substance through a window of the mosque into a room where infants and children were waiting as their parents conducted Ramadan prayers. Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has the full story, including excerpts from a graphic e-mail sent out by a family member of children who were gassed. Dayton police are refusing to treat the attack as a hate crime.
What could possibly qualify as a hate crime in the state of Ohio? Anti-semitic slogans painted on the walls of a Jewish temple ? The desecration of an altar in a Catholic or Orthodox church? Of course both would be treated as hate crimes.
What about two white men “spraying a toxic substance into a mosque where infants and children wait for their parents to complete Ramadan prayers?” Apparently that is not a hate crime in Ohio where the Dayton Daily News recently distributed DVDs to its readers distorting and attacking the Muslim faith.
Please visit James M. Wall’s site at http://wallwritings.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/has-your-newspaper-put-a-hate-dvd-on-your-front-porch/ for article with numerous links.
James M. Wall was Editor and President from 1972 to 1999 of the Christian Century Foundation that publishes the magazine, James M. Wall was named Alumnus of the Year 2000 by the University of Chicago Divinity School. Since 1990 he has also been Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture at Claremont School of Theology in California.