We’ve been acquainting ourselves with Salon’s enfant terrible Ben Norton, a cherubic-looking enemy of America, Israel, and “neoliberalism” and ardent enthusiast for Islam and socialist economics.
One of Norton’s trademark activities is unfairly besmirching those who tell the truth about the darker aspects of Islamic ideology. In March, he smeared Islam expert Frank Gaffney, calling him an “extremist” and “Islamophobe” and mocking him for his throughly legitimate pushback against efforts to impose sharia-based restrictions in the West.
Norton has also gone after Sam Harris, the neuroscientist and bestselling author who has become one of the public faces of secularism (and who is about fifty times smarter than Norton). Accusing Harris of “virulent anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Arab racism” and labeling him a “fascist,” Norton didn’t bother to serve up anything resembling an argument to support these charges; he simply quoted a series of statements that Harris has made about the disturbing demographic trends in Europe, about the disturbing tenets of Islam, and about the disturbing views about women, gays, and individual liberties held by disturbingly large percentages of Western Muslims. Every single one of the statements made by Harris that Norton quoted was 100% factual; but for Harris to have cited these facts was, in Norton’s eyes, simply unacceptable, and proof positive of prejudice.
Gaffney and Harris aren’t the only people whose writings about Islam have led to their being maligned as bigots by Norton. He actually marked the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre by assailing the magazine’s writers (presumably including the ones who had been savagely slaughtered by Muslims a year earlier) as “racist.”
In an article published shortly before Christmas of last year, Norton explained to Salon readers how “to argue with your racist, Islamophobic uncle at Christmas dinner.” The piece served up the usual dishonest CAIR-style apologetics while neatly avoiding any mention of sharia law – e.g., the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy – and it concluded with a truly nonsensical statement: “at the end of the day, Americans are much more likely to be killed by cars, suicide, bees, wasps, and even furniture than they are by Muslims.” In another piece that appeared shortly after Christmas, Norton made essentially the same point, writing that “[m]ore Americans were killed in Christmas weekend storms this year than in Islamic extremist attacks since 9/11.”
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has criticized Norton more than once for the anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic terrorism tilt of his “reporting.” In February, citing an article in which Norton offered an “apparently deliberate” misreading of an op-ed by sociologist Amitai Etzioni, CAMERA accused him of displaying “a dazzling skepticism of information from Israeli sources alongside a great acceptance of unfounded anti-Israel conspiracy theories.” (For instance, Norton expressed doubts that Hezbollah stored weapons in private homes, a practice well documented by Human Rights Watch and other groups.) CAMERA also noted that Norton’s work was riddled with errors – among them dating Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights at 1967 instead of 1981.
In March, CAMERA slammed a Norton article headlined “Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip,” complaining that Norton didn’t mention until the fifth paragraph that Israel’s strikes had come “in response to four Palestinian rocket attacks targeting Israel.” The article, CAMERA maintained, was replete with examples of “selective omission” that turned reality upside down, depicting Israel as the aggressor in the Gaza Strip and Hamas as the victims.
We’ll wind up this long march through Norton’s short career tomorrow.