Caleb Maupin, lackey for Putin and the mullahs

Working for the mullahs

We’ve spent the last couple of days exploring the career of Caleb Maupin, a small-town Ohio boy who became a Communist in fifth grade and went on to help organize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in New York. The OWS movement, however, fizzled just as quickly as it had flared up. 

Maupin giving a talk

But if OWS was effectively dead, Maupin remained active. At some point he quit the Workers World Party, with which he had long been associated. In recent years, instead, he has appeared to be strongly aligned with the governments of Iran and Russia. In 2013 he appeared very briefly on CNN, speaking against U.S. participation in the war in Syria. The next year, he spoke at a conference in Iran. In 2015, he was on board an Iranian ship, the Shahed, claiming to be on a “humanitarian mission” to Yemen, although various countries charged that the ship was smuggling arms to the Houthi terrorist group. In addition, he has served as UN correspondent for Iran’s government-owned Press TV.

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

He has also been a reporter for RT (Russia Today), the English-language news, TV, and radio service of the Putin regime. In a December 2015 article for RT, he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was still alive and well: “Due to the policies of the Bolivarian government, it now costs less than $1 to fill a gas tank. Children in schools receive free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Rural Venezuelans receive interest-free loans in order to buy their own land. Public transportation is extremely cheap – and free for senior citizens….In the Bolivarian neighborhoods of Caracas, one can have the kind of conversations about literature, world history, politics, religion and philosophy only found on college campuses in the United States.”

Ayatollah Ali Khameini

In another piece, he charged that “US society is based on money and capitalism with so much violence everywhere and so much state repression” and that it was thus “highly conducive to insanity; this is not a healthy society.” In yet another RT contribution, he spoke up for the Islamic Republic of Iran while smearing pro-democracy Iranian dissidents as liars and impostors.

Mao Zedong

In one September 2015 interview with Beijing-based Maoist Jeff J. Brown, Maupin praised Mao Zedong, celebrated the “great strides” China has taken in the last few decades as a (supposed) consequence of the revolution begun by Mao, and bonded with Brown over their shared contempt for America’s capitalism and “fascism.”

The fact that much of Maupin’s recent work has been published by the relatively obscure group Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), which will sponsor a debate on July 8 between Maupin and a member of the “alt right,” may indicate that his career is on the decline. But this seems improbable. Maupin is, after all, an ambitious and still very young man, and his association with SYNA more likely reflects his interest in mentoring a new generation of young American Communists to carry on the work of the revolution that has preoccupied him since his childhood.

CNN: “respect” for terrorists

We’ve been pondering CNN’s curious relationship to autocrats around the world. As we’ve seen, the network routinely soft-pedals the perfidies of various countries’ governments in order to keep its reporters from being expelled. In some cases, to be sure, the tendency to whitewash tyranny isn’t just strategic but ideological – for many CNN people, as it happens, actively sympathize with leftist despots.

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Fadlallah

Then again, sometimes a CNN hireling will go too far in expressing that sympathy. In 2010, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died. Known as the spiritual mentor of Hezbollah and designated a terrorist by President Clinton, Fadlallah advocated the destruction of Israel, cheered on suicide bombers, engaged in Holocaust denial, called for the murder of Jews, applauded the 2008 Mercaz HaRav massacre (in which eight students were killed), celebrated the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (in which 299 died), approved of the hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and personally had the blood of no fewer than 260 Americans on his hands.

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Octavia Nasr

Among those who mourned Fadlallah’s death was Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, who remembered him as having been “loyal to the path of the Islamic Revolution” and as having “proved this through words and actions throughout the Islamic Republic’s thirty years.” Fadlallah was likewise eulogized by none other than Octavia Nasr, CNN’s senior Middle East editor. On learning of his demise, Nasr tweeted as follows from her official CNN Twitter account: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

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Shmuley Boteach

Nasr received widespread criticism. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach marveled that for people like Nasr, “an imam like Fadlallah who wants to kill Americans and Israelis but who is unexpectedly nice to women has taken a giant leap forward from the Dark Ages, deserving respect and praise.” Nasr soon removed her tweet and, on a CNN blog, expressed regret for it, saying that the harsh public reaction had taught her “a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”

This was, note well, not exactly an apology. Nasr went on to describe the tweet as “simplistic” and explained that her “respect” for Fadlallah was based on his “contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights.” Of course, all things are relative; when Nasr spoke of support for women’s rights, she meant that Fadlallah was not a fan of honor killings. In any event, Nasr soon discovered that even by the lax standards of CNN, she had gone too far: her publicly declared “respect” for a mass murderer resulted in her dismissal from the network. It may well be that CNN’s readiness to fire her had less to do with any discomfort over her praise for Fadlallah than with its concern about losing access in Israel.