ADL report on “toxic atmosphere of rage” ignites…well, rage
11/25/2009 - 00:00
James Besser
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 Predictably, the right has gone ballistic over last week’s ADL report describing a  “toxic atmosphere of rage in America” and  tying that to the “birther” and “tea party” movements, this summer’s health  reform town meeting disruptions and some conservative talk show hosts. I googled “ADL” and “tea parties” and “rage” and came up with dozens of hits, many of them from renowned conspiracy theorists who see in the report proof that the ADL is interested only in stifling dissent, undermining Christianity and promoting a radical left agenda. I found this comment - “The ADL is allegorically pinning a yellow star on ‘conspiracy theorists,’ Oath Keepers, Tea Party protesters, and anyone else who dares express dissent in response to the financial looting of the country or Barack Obama’s big government agenda”  – repeated on at least 52 Web sites and blogs. The apparent source (it’s hard to tell after a comment like this goes viral):  Alex Jones, described in the ADL report as “the most prominent conspiracy theorist in the United States,” who “has been responsible for spreading and popularizing a wide variety of conspiracy theories, the majority espousing some form of anti-government viewpoint.” The most common complaints in response to the report: the ADL only criticizes right-wingers, while giving a free pass to critics on the left. Numerous bloggers complained about the ADL’s “liberal,” “left wing” and – dare we say it - “progressive” agenda. That  no doubt  comes as news to many on the Jewish left, who consider the ADL an active part of what they see as the right-of-center pro-Israel establishment. Numerous bloggers and commentors charged that ADL director Abe Foxman only criticizes right- wingers who use Holocaust comparisons. Even Commentary got its licks in, with editor Jonathan Tobin writing that “By choosing to frame its report denouncing this brand of extremism in such a way as to associate all those who have opposed Obama’s policies in one way or another with the far Right, the ADL has stepped over a line that a nonpartisan group should never cross.” Sorry, I don’t see it;  the ADL is an equal opportunity nag on the subject. As a reporter, I’ve been getting calls and press releases from ADL folks for 23 years, complaining about Democrats and Republicans alike who cross that particular line. The group hit MoveOn.Org for using Nazi comparisons to attack former President George W. Bush; in 2004, liberal icon Al Gore got one of the patented out-to-the-woodshed Foxman letters for using the term “digital Brown Shirts” when referring to some Bush Administration supporters.  In 2004, the online publication Salon criticized the ADL for – get this – condemning only liberals using Nazi comparisons. This week’s anti-ADL outbursts were amplified by Christian groups that insist hate crimes laws – which ADL has long and successfully advocated – are the leading edge of a conspiracy to foist homosexuality on the nation, undermine marriage and limit the free speech and religious rights of Christians. That includes the Rev. Ted Pike, who has “for years engaged in an anti-Semitic campaign that denigrates the Jewish religion, as well as what he perceives as Jewish-controlled organizations and leaders,” according to an ADL report. This week Pike attacked the report and wrote that “Persecution is the whole purpose behind ADL-orchestrated hate crimes laws worldwide.” Pike called the ADL the “most powerful, anti-Christian, pro-homosexual, pro-abortion attack group in America.” Toxic atmosphere? Who, me?

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