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Talk About a Cartoon Controversy

Why is no one questioning the media’s sham portrait of the Cordoba House/Park 51 mosque detractors? On Sunday, the New York Times’ Frank Rich leveled a flurry of nasty accusations at those on “the neocon and the Fox News Right” who object to the placement of the mosque near Ground Zero.  He substantiated none of them.

Every movement, Left and Right, has its embarrassing and inconsequential fringe. But what serious neoconservatives have been, as Rich claims, “calling Muslims every filthy name in the book”?  He never gets around to telling us. One assumes that if he had a name and a quote, Rich would be eager to furnish them.

His deliberate and cartoonish mischaracterization is doubly ignoble in light of his larger point. The column asserts that these phantom name-calling neoconservatives have, with their undocumented bigotry, nullified Gen. David Petraeus’s efforts at counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan. When Muslims worldwide catch wind of all the anti-Islam obscenity, Rich claims, they will refuse to cooperate with Americans. He may well be right about the second part, but the only people broadcasting this undermining fiction are liberal-media types like Rich. And it is becoming, I fear, the lie big enough to be believed.

This same crowd has served to undermine American efforts in similar ways before. The liberal assertion that the Iraq War was an oil grab was adopted whole as jihadist propaganda. So too were hysterical claims of the Bush administration’s missionary purpose in remaking the Middle East.  How many times have witty liberal columns and progressive “documentary” scripts been played back to us as crude communiqués from mountain hideouts.

Reliance on slander is the sign of a weak position. Liberals have every right to voice their support for the mosque, but their case would be stronger if it were made on its own merits. The demonization of neoconservatives as bigots and the shell game that substitutes a defense of property rights and religious freedoms for matters of voluntary decency and good citizenship constitute a farce. Rich and his compatriots have ceded the argument by ignoring it.  But slander and subterfuge serve darker purposes in parts of the world where parties don’t have access to much analysis past sensational headlines and words from on high. Frank Rich scores his points at his, and our own, peril.



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