Ed Asner, 9/11 Truther

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 07: Actor Ed Asner arrives at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ed Asner
Ed Asner

We’ve seen in the last couple of days that beloved actor Ed Asner is a hard-line socialist – if not an out-and-out Communist – and a champion of the Castro regime in Cuba.

Castro isn’t the only guy Asner has stood up for.  As Mark Tapson noted in a 2012 article, Asner is one of those celebrities who seem drawn to murderers (especially cop-killers):

Asner testified as a character witness for accused cop killer Kenneth Gay and has spoken out publicly on numerous occasions protesting the death sentence of the celebrity set’s favorite cop-killer, Mumia Abu Jamal. Asner was also a member of the International Committee to Free Geronimo Pratt of the vile Black Panther Party, arrested in 1970 for murdering a Los Angeles schoolteacher.

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Mark Tapson

Asner also embraces the crudest kind of socialist economics. In 2012, he narrated Tax the Rich, a brief propaganda video for children created by the California Federation of Teachers. “You have to see this outrageous and amateurishly animated video,” wrote Tapson,

to believe just how blatant and exaggerated is its class warfare propaganda. It’s shot through with the Occupy movement’s language about the decent 99 percent versus the insanely greedy 1 percent. It asserts that the heartless rich (all white men, of course, as opposed to the diverse commoners) became wealthy through tax loopholes, tax cuts and tax evasion; they are blamed for causing the decline of public services and crashing the economy, for buying politicians and suppressing votes, and for controlling the media which then hypnotizes the people into believing there is no alternative to capitalism.

The video, intended for the brainwashing of young minds in the classrooms of California and written by a staffer who, as of 2011, earned $139,800 a year, occasioned the following criticism by political commentator Tucker Carlson: “There’s really no overstating how dumb this is. The idea that there are any California teachers currently in classrooms in charge of children who agree with that, is horrifying.”

Amusingly, however, in 2013, when asked by an interviewer for Russia Today whether he had any concerns about the discrepancy between the salaries of “top Hollywood actors” and those of, say, nurses and schoolteachers, Asner said: “Hollywood actors are at least putting out some semblance of beauty or style or acting. I think it’s unfair to list them as part of the one percent.” The rules, in short, apply to corporate executives and the like, but not to me and my fellow TV and movie stars.

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A mock-up poster for the Truther movie that never was

As if all this weren’t enough, Asner is, in addition, an outspoken 9/11 Truther. In a video taped for a 2004 Truther conference in Toronto, he called into question the responsibility of Osama bin Laden and suggested that members of the U.S. government had been behind the atrocity. In the above-mentioned interview with Russia Today, he repeated his charge that the official story of 9/11 was a lie. In his opening remarks at a 2007 Truther “symposium,” he referred to the U.S. as a “so-called democracy” and to the atrocity itself as “so-called terrorism.” He narrated a Truther documentary, “Solving the Mystery of Building 7.” And in 2012, along with several other actors (among them Woody Harrelson and Martin Sheen), he called for a new investigation of 9/11 and announced his participation in a planned feature film entitled Confession of a 9/11 Conspirator (the title was later changed to September Morn), which, Asner promised, would show that “Al-Qaeda couldn’t have done it.” This project soon fell apart as a result of angry disputes, with participants telling different stories about what had happened.

Bottom line: terrific actor. And hopeless stooge.  

Jesse Ventura, “libertarian” – and Castro fan

Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura speaking about his book "They Killed Our President" October 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Ventura, who is considering a long-shot independent run for the White House, said he would immediately clear the intelligence leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden if elected. Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 and is an avid proponent of conspiracy theories, said it was "wonderful" for individuals within government to expose abuses. Ventura's book "They Killed Our President," alleges that the 1963 Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy in reaction to his efforts to reduce war. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Jesse Ventura has long been a familiar figure in the American media. Open and outspoken, colorful and controversial, he’s had a remarkably varied career, working in turn as a Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, film actor, and one-term Governor of Minnesota. Since leaving office in 2003, he’s spent much of his time criticizing top U.S. officials and floating conspiracy theories in countless TV and radio interviews. He’s played coy about where he stands on many of these theories, sometimes vehemently denying, for example, that he’s a 9/11 “Truther” – a believer, that is, that the Bush Administration plotted the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – and sometimes explicitly endorsing “Truther” theories. From 2009 to 2013, he hosted a TV show about conspiracy theories, and in recent years he’s co-written a couple of books on the subject, one of which argued that the JFK assassination was an inside job.

conspiracyIt’s tempting, of course, to dismiss Ventura as a marginal crank – an obvious crackpot whom nobody could possibly take seriously. But we’re talking here about a guy who’s in a position to get his books published, get his TV shows aired, and get himself booked on any number of high-profile TV and radio shows. A self-styled libertarian, he presumably has fans (at least one of his books was a New York Times bestseller) and thus at least a degree of influence, and during the last year or two has often offered himself up – and he doesn’t seem to be kidding about this in the slightest – as a candidate, if not in 2016 then in 2020, for president of the United States.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor.  The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009.  AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)   Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

Which is why, despite the man’s manifest preposterousness, it’s worth drawing attention to one aspect of his life that’s perhaps relatively obscure – namely, his outsized, highly un-libertarian enthusiasm for none other than Fidel Castro. “I can only judge Fidel by the hour I spent with him,” Ventura told an interviewer in 2012 – an extraordinarily unserious and irresponsible thing to say, of course, when you’re somebody who’s eager to be regarded as a serious thinker and responsible political player. You can only judge a head of state with a decades-long record – one that includes mass torture and innumerable executions without trial – by the hour you spent with him? Really? 

ventura-01[1]Of all things, Ventura enthused over Castro’s handshake: “I will always remember his handshake. Always. And I’ve shaken how many hands? But I will always remember his.” Although famously prepared to believe the most absurd conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, Ventura credulously parroted the transparently mendacious propaganda about Cuba’s purportedly magnificent health-care system. And although he rode to victory in Minnesota by claiming to be an ardent believer in libertarian values, he was quick to defend Communism as merely “a different form of government.”

His summing-up on the topic? “Castro never lied to me. My government has.

Man and wife, part deux

Every year for the past several decades, an event called the World Russia Forum has taken place in Washington D.C. This confab – which back in the days of the Cold War was a reasonably respectable affair – has in recent times degenerated into “a gathering of Kremlin apologists, conspiracy theorists, and other assorted nut jobs.”

The quote is from James Kirchick, who reported on this year’s Forum in March. Among the creeps who turned up: our old pal Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (who, as we’ve seen, arm-wrestled Putin one night at a D.C. bar and fell in love). Also present were – surprise! – that most lovable of American couples since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: left-wing Putin apologists Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel.

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Stephen F. Cohen, Katrina vanden Heuvel

At the Forum, Cohen gave a speech in which he repeated his usual plaint: that back in the good old days, both the US and USSR had their “legitimate spheres of influence,” aka “zones of national security.” But after the fall of the Iron Curtain, this “parity” disappeared and Russia was treated “as a defeated nation.”

For Cohen, these developments are profoundly lamentable. But why? In what way was Moscow’s subjugation of the Baltic and Eastern European countries ever “legitimate? What would make such subjugation “legitimate” now? Why should a dozen smaller countries suffer subordination and oppression – and perennial insecurity – in the name of Russian “security”? Why, for that matter, should anyone in the West buy into the notion that Russia needs a “security zone” in the first place? Does anyone seriously believe that the US would ever decide to invade Russia? Or that, even if it wanted to, it could get its NATO partners to play along?

After Cohen’s talk, Kirchick challenged him directly. How, he asked, could Cohen equate NATO, a voluntary defense alliance, with Russia’s so-called “zone of national security” – which, like the earlier Soviet “zone,” “consists of countries that are cajoled, blackmailed, threatened, and then – if those tactics don’t work – invaded by Russian occupation troops”? Cohen offered an incoherent, “meandering” reply, maintaining that NATO’s “original intent” was lost with the dissolution of the USSR and that the Ukraine crisis is a result of “reckless NATO expansion,” which has caused unnecessary tensions and insecurity.

Kirchick’s take on that nonsensical claim was right on the money:

On the contrary; had the Baltic states and former Warsaw Pact members not joined NATO, the security situation in Europe would be much more tenuous than it already is today. Before their membership, these nations’ status vis a vis Russia was ambiguous, constituting a security gray area. Today, they all have—at least in theory—a rock-solid security guarantee as members of the world’s strongest military alliance.

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But of course Cohen has rarely if ever expressed any concern about the security status of these little countries. For him they’re peripheral – bit players; pieces on Washington and Moscow’s chessboard. What matters for him, first and last, is Russia; he sees all these issues from the perspective of the Kremlin; his take on all of this stuff is effectively indistinguishable from that of Vladimir Putin himself.

And why is that? Because Putin challenges American power. And for the likes of Stephen Cohen, nothing could be more important than the “balance” the USSR provided to American international “hegemony.”

Never mind the Gulag, the Holodomor, Stalin’s reign of terror: for Cohen and his ilk, the Soviet Union was, take it for all in all, a good thing, if only because it represented a counterweight to Uncle Sam. Hence Putin, however much of a monster, must be defended, precisely because he’s pushing back against the US. And if this pushback means crushing freedom in a few small countries on Russia’s fringes – well, that’s a small price to pay for keeping America in check.

Such is the thinking of NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen. And of course Mrs. Cohen, Katrina vanden Heuvel, longtime editor and publisher of the perennially Kremlin-friendly Nation, feels exactly the same way. At the World Russia Forum, vanden Heuvel congratulated herself for putting out a bravely “heretical” publication that rejects received opinions on Russia only to be subject to vitriol (“as opposed,” Kirchick wryly observed, “to those who express ‘heretical’ ideas in Russia, who—if they’re not shot in the back four times like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov—are thrown in jail”).

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Martin Sieff

At the Forum, vanden Heuvel joined her hubby in condemning the “demonization” of Putin. She also chaired a panel consisting of three former US journalists – Robert Parry, Martin Sieff, and Patrick Smith – and a former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern. The whole gang, apparently, echoed Cohen’s Orwellian rhetoric – talking about Russian aggression as if it were purely defensive, while depicting US and NATO defensive moves as the real acts of aggression.

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Ray McGovern

Who are these guys? Sieff, a former national security correspondent for UPI, has been a frequent contributor to Pat Buchanan’s far-right American Conservative magazine. (In a fine example of the cozy Ribbentrop-Molotov camaraderie between today’s far right and far left, Sieff penned a glowing review, in 2007, of a book about Donald Rumsfeld by Alexander Cockburn, late editor of the loony left’s flagship rag, Counterpunch.) Smith is a frequent Nation contributor; Parry writes regularly for the left-wing site Alternet, where, in a February piece that summed up his take on US-Russia tensions, he put the words “free market” in scare quotes, defended the cruelly “demonized” Putin by demonizing billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky – whom Putin put in prison – and slung mud at the democratic leaders of Ukraine, a country that Parry has previously smeared as a nest of neo-Nazis. (Parry has also made something of a specialty of “exposing” the darker side of American history, as if Howard Zinn hadn’t made it there long before him.) And, last but not least, McGovern is a guy who, since leaving the CIA in 1990, has become a fanatical anti-Israel activist and 9/11 Truther.

In short, a gathering of eagles.