ABC News disclosed last night that arrested New York City terror suspect Jose Pimentel “spent much of his time on the Internet… and maintained a radical website called TrueIslam1.” TrueIslam1 has a number of sections, most of them handed over to Islam and jihad. There are two only sections that deal straightforwardly with politics: one labeled “Politics” and one labeled “The U.S.A.”
Both sections have different articles and both of course still contain plenty of Islamic theology – ergo the concept of political Islam – but they have one thing in common. They both have links to free downloads of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book The Israel Lobby. Other than those links there doesn’t appear to be any overlapping content between the two sections. Apparently, Pimentel thought Walt and Mearsheimer’s feverish opus was something that needed to be read and distributed.
Now here is Walt’s standard for when scholarship that resonates with terrorists calls for chagrin. It was written in the aftermath of Anders Breivik’s horrific killing spree in Norway and was directed at critics of political Islam:
Finally, to what extent can Islamophobes like Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer be held responsible for Breivik’s act? As someone who has some personal experience with “guilt by association,” I do think we should be careful about assessing blame. None of these hawkish pundits openly advocated violence, and all have (for the most part) distanced themselves from Breivik’s act. But it is also clear that their writings consistently portrayed Islam in a crude and monolithic way and tended to depict all Muslims as part of some looming threat to core Western values. And it seems clear from Breivik’s manifesto that these writers did have a considerable impact on his worldview, even if they did not advocate the horrific response that he chose.
Walt’s writings characterize supporters of the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a small cabal of Jews plus the evangelical Christians they’ve managed to corrupt into joining their cause. In that context, his complaint about Gellar and Spencer’s writings – that they’ve “consistently portrayed Islam in a crude and monolithic way and tended to depict all Muslims as part of some looming threat to core Western values” – could only be more bitingly ironic if it was immediately followed by a call for “self-reflection” and a sneer about being a “committed ideologue.” So naturally:
Yet this seems to have sparked little or no self-reflection on their part, as befitting the committed ideologue.
Walt’s paranoid worldview and its concomitant conspiratorial images are the stuff of ancient anti-Jewish bigotry. They seem to resonate deeply with online and offline jihadists, who give them priority of place next to tracts calling for genocidal warfare. And unlike Geller and Spencer, Walt has an entire media industry helping him make anti-Semitism respectable. On that last point, see Lee Smith’s Tablet Magazine expose from last year.
No one denies Walt has been and can be incisive on a range of issues. That, as much as anything else, is exactly what makes his seemingly genuine belief in the results of “piss-poor, monocausal social science” so obviously the result of some deep pathology: when smart people are outwardly persuaded by bad arguments, it’s not the arguments but something else that’s doing the work. Maybe he’ll notice the incongruity of him criticizing others for influencing Breivik, while at the same time insisting there’s no significance to be gleaned from the affection terrorists have for his work.