Kevin Barrett: Repackaging Antisemitism

About Cloee Cooper

Kevin Barrett speaks on Press TV, Iran’s conservative state-sponsored English-language TV network, about “9/11 Truth” Screenshot from Press TV News Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xksKokTwDqU, published on Nov. 7, 2014.

Veterans Today, an online publication targeting U.S. veterans, came under fire this month when an Oxford University study revealed its ties to the Kremlin.1 The publication features overt antisemitic commentary. One of its editors, Kevin Barrett, is a former Islamic studies instructor who has built a career repackaging antisemitism for the U.S. Hard Right and Left. Unfortunately, his particular brand of antisemitism—scapegoating Israel, Zionists, and Jews for the rise of Islamophobia—is welcome in some corners of the U.S. Left.

While Barrett rarely refers to Jews as the enemy, he regularly blames Israel and Zionists for crises in ways that play into overt antisemitic tropes.  But, aside from his associates and ideas, he could blend in with much of the U.S. Left.

Having grown up in a Unitarian Universalist household, Barrett converted to Islam when he was 34 years old. While studying at San Francisco State University, he said in an interview that he was influenced by traditionalist Muslim authors like René Guénon. Guénon was a French intellectual who converted to Islamic esotericism in 1912 and believed 20th century Western democracy should be replaced by a hierarchical religious elite. Like Barrett, Guénon was embraced by segments of the French Left and Right. But, ultimately his work was reprinted in the fascist newspaper Il Regime Fascista and has since been influential to the Alt-Right including President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.2

After earning a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teaching as an instructor there for a year in 2006, his controversial views that the September 11 attacks were an “inside job” quickly led to his ouster.3  Within less than a year, the University ended his contract after rumors that Barrett encouraged students to read materials blaming neoconservative Zionists for 9/11 elicited backlash from conservative Wisconsin politicians and incited a heated debate over academic freedom.

For Barrett, 9/11 is a focal point. He correctly criticizes the widespread surveillance and wars waged against Muslim countries and attacks on Muslims in the United States in the wake of 9/11. Yet, even his most levelheaded sounding critiques always revert back to Israeli or Zionist control underpinning it all.

In a March 2017 American Free Press article, Barrett says neoconservative Zionists are responsible for 9/11.4  Four years earlier, Barrett appeared on Press TV, Iran’s conservative state-sponsored first English-language TV network, saying, “Al Qaeda is Israeli and the state of Israel is a branch of Al Qaeda.”5

Untethered from the university, Barrett continued to advance and communicate his theories. He co-founded the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, an online group that claims to offer evidence on how 9/11 was an inside job. This solidified his place within the “9/11 Truth” Movement,6 which straddles segments of the U.S. Hard Right and Left.

After Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured more than 20 in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California in 2015, Barrett called it “a Hoax created by Israel.”7 He said the attack was orchestrated by “intelligence agencies linked to the Israeli Mossad.” He continued, “all of these have been falsely blamed on radical Muslims.”

Over the years, Barrett developed a strong online presence. While the publications he contributes to are not widely known, his prolific appearances across digital, radio, and print spaces have garnered a considerable audience. According to Barrett, Veterans Today gets about one million views per month, and his articles typically get somewhere between 3,000-100,000 views. False Flag Weekly News, a video segment of No Lies Radio, which often hosts Barrett, typically gets 3,000 views per week. Press TV is accessible in Europe, Asia and the US. Barrett also contributes to the American Free Press, an overt antisemitic and White nationalist publication that grew out of Willis Carto’s infamous Spotlight newspaper. More recently he began contributing to Crescent International Newsmagazine of the Islamic Movement, a publication of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, an Islamic research and activist center that promotes an alternative to the “western civilization.”8

PRA contributor Matthew Lyons, an independent scholar and author of Ctrl-Alt-Delete: An Antifascist Report on the Alternative Right, says Barrett’s argument extends beyond conspiracy theories into a new brand of antisemitism that has become more common in the United States since World War II.

“Most of these statements by Barrett are antisemitic,” Lyons said. “It’s more common for antisemites to refer to the evil Jewish conspiracy indirectly, by talking about ‘Zionists’ or other groups or individuals that are readily identified as Jewish, such as Mossad or the Rothschild family or George Soros.”9

Lyons point is illustrated in a June 2017 episode of Barrett’s Truth Jihad radio show, where Barrett says, “The destruction of freedom in the west is basically being driven by the state of Israel.”10

His views feed into broader Hard Right conspiracy theories as well. Barrett references a map called, “The Gatekeepers: Foundations Fund Phony ‘Left’ Media,” in a Veterans Today article in May 2016. The map links Pacifica, Ms. Foundation and Political Research Associates, among many others, to the Ford Foundation—and ultimately to the CIA and Skull & Bones, a secret society at Yale University.11 Such claims, popularized by books like Gary Allen’s 1971 None Dare Call it Conspiracy, have long been a staple of Hard Right organizations like the John Birch Society.

His historical revisionism and antisemitism comes into acute focus when he contemplates whether the Holocaust ever happened, something he has done on more than one occasion.

“With the Holocaust, this is an issue that I’m still on the fence on,” Barrett said in a video obtained by B’nai Brith Canada, the Canadian section of a Zionist Jewish services organization.12  “I don’t know who’s right about this. There are very serious questions about the so-called Holy Trinity of the Holocaust story.”13

Barrett doesn’t come out and say the Holocaust never happened, instead he creates parameters where questioning it becomes normal. “He’s says he’s ‘on the fence’ about the Holocaust ‘story’ — which is like being ‘on the fence’ about whether slavery happened,” says Lyons.14

Despite Barrett’s lightly cloaked antisemitism, and close ties with elements of the Hard Right, segments of the U.S. Left have associated with him.

In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka, contributed an article to a 2016 anthology edited by Barrett, Another French False Flag?: Bloody Tracks from Paris to San Bernardino.15 Baraka’s article, “The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement,” first appeared in CounterPunch, a left-wing publication.16

Baraka, a longtime activist, founding director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, and contributing editor to Black Agenda Report was criticized for collaborating with Barrett. But although Baraka attempted to distance himself, saying he didn’t know much about the other authors in the anthology, he had already appeared at least twice on Barrett’s No Lies Radio.17

In 2016, Barrett participated as a panelist at the 15th annual Left Forum, a left-wing conference for academics, activists and intellectuals in New York City. There, Barrett spoke on three panels about 9/11 Trutherism, making some of his usual arguments about Zionist neoconservatives orchestrating the 2001 attack.18

Barrett and his colleagues applied to speak at the 2017 Left Forum conference as well. But, PRA Associate Fellow Spencer Sunshine provided Left Forum organizers with background on Barrett’s antisemitic views and Holocaust Revisionism, urging them to reconsider Barrett’s participation in this year’s Forum. After internal debate, Left Forum organizers rejected all four panels Barrett and his colleagues proposed.

In response, Barrett and his co-panelists set up an unofficial panel at the conference venue called the “Left Out Forum.”19  One of the panelists, Dave Lindorff, published an article in CounterPunch and Dissident Voice, saying, “the Left Forum has caved in to pressure from a Zionist individual,” referring to Sunshine.20

The backlash escalated into personal attacks on Sunshine, linking his Jewish background to false claims that he defends Islamophobia. Barrett wrote that Sunshine, who identifies as a neo-Bundist (a secular Jewish socialist movement), was the “worst kind of Islamophobe” and “a genocide perpetrator [who] should be in prison.”21

Left Forum has yet to issue a public explanation for rejecting Barrett’s panels this year. But conference organizers posted a comment on their Facebook page in May, noting: “there is no room at Left Forum for antisemitism or hateful and unhinged discourse of any kind. Our task, to rebuild the American left, demands nothing less.”

When Barrett speaks, he sounds like an expert on the subject, citing supposed evidence to back up his arguments. But his sweeping attacks on Israel and Zionists have no foundation in fact.

“On the simplest and ugliest level, when someone like Barrett talks about ‘Zionism,’ he’s not really talking about the movement of Jewish nationalism that created and supports the state of Israel,” said Lyons. “He’s talking about Jews — the demonic scapegoat mythical version of the Jews.”22

Barrett’s work perpetuates the demonization of Jews that goes back at least 1,000 years in European history, says Lyons. It is also deeply rooted in U.S. culture. Barrett’s speaking engagement at a prominent U.S. Left conference and collaboration with progressive leaders is only one example within a long lineage of antisemitism rearing its ugly head in the US Left. Failing to address it leaves social justice movements vulnerable to alliances with the wrong bedfellows.

 

 

[1] Olivia Beavers, “Russia targeted US troops, vets on social media, study finds,” The Hill, Oct. 9, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/354596-russia-targeted-us-troops-veterans-on-social-media-platforms-study-finds.

[2] Joshua Green, “Inside the Secret, Strange Origins of Steve Bannon’s Nationalist Fantasia,” Vanity Fair, July 17, 2017, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/the-strange-origins-of-steve-bannons-nationalist-fantasia.

[3] Meredith McGlone, Director of News & Media Relations, University of Wisconsin-Madison, email correspondence with Cloee Cooper, July 13, 2017.

[4] Kevin Barrett, “Farrakhan Draws 4,000 for 9/11 Truth,” American Free Press, last modified March 10, 2017, http://americanfreepress.net/farrakhan-draws-4000-for-911-truth/.

[5] Kevin Barrett, “Dr Kevin Barrett in the Debate Program with the Salafi Preacher Anjem Choudary (PressTV)” HandsoffSyria Youtube channel, last accessed May 7, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFmRlyxs6yE.

[6] Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, accessed July 31, 2017, http://mujca.com/.

[7] “Islamic terror threat, a hoax created by Israel: US scholar,” Press TV, last modified December 9, 2015, http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2015/12/09/441048/Barrett-Terror-Threat-US-San-Bernardino-Daesh.

[8] “About ICIT,” The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, accessed July 31, 2017, https://www.icit-digital.org/abouticit.

[9] Matthew Lyons, email correspondence with Cloee Cooper, July 14, 2017, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/.

[10] Kevin Barrett, “Debating ‘free speech persecutee’ Alfred Schaefer on Judaism vs. Zionism, white nationalism__on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio,” No Lies Radio, last modified June 7, 2017, http://noliesradio.org/archives/131461.

[11] Kevin Barrett, “BREAKTHROUGH! 9/11 truth sneaks past gatekeepers into Left Forum,” Veterans Today, last modified May 20, 2016, http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/05/20/leftforum-2/.

[12] Kevin Barrett, “Keep U.S. Holocaust Denier Kevin Barrett Out of Canada,” B’nai Brith Canada Youtube channel, last accessed June 20, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIm-s6tFljI.

[13] Kevin Barrett, “M.S. King of Tomato Bubble: Everything you know is wrong!,” Veterans Today, last modified May 21, 2017, http://www.veteranstodaylive.com/2017/05/21/msking/.

[14] Matthew Lyons, email correspondence with Cloee Cooper, July 14, 2017, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/.

[15] Brendan O’Connor, “Stein Campaign Says Running Mate Didn’t Realize He was Talking to and Being Republished by Holocaust Denier,” Gawker, last modified August 11, 2016, http://gawker.com/stein-campaign-says-running-mate-didn-t-realize-he-was-1785157203?utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_facebook&utm_source=gawker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow.

[16] Ajamu Baraka, “The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement,” Counter Punch, last modified November 20, 2015, https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/20/the-paris-attacks-and-the-white-lives-matter-movement/.

[17] Kevin Barrett, “Ajamu Baraka & Ibrahim Soudy on ISIS & 9/11 deceptions – on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio,” No Lies Radio, last modified October 17, 2014, http://noliesradio.org/archives/90073.

[18] “Calendar of Events, Left Forum 2016,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accessed July 31, 2017, http://johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu/acalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=5/7/2016&todate=5/20/2016&display=&type=public&eventidn=9074&view=EventDetails&information_id=24837.

[19] Dave Lindorff, “Cancelled Left Forum Panels to Appear Instead at ‘Left Out Forum’ Protest Event on Left Forum Conference’s Last Day,” Dissident Voice, last modified June 2, 2017, http://dissidentvoice.org/2017/06/cancelled-left-forum-panels-to-appear-instead-at-left-out-forum-protest-event-on-left-forum-conferences-last-day/.

[20] Dave Lindorff, “Left Forum Bans Four Panels Under Zionist Pressure,” Counter Punch, last modified June 2, 2017, https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/02/left-forum-bans-four-panels-under-zionist-pressure/.

[21] Kevin Barrett, “Kevin Barrett asks Spencer Sunshine why he wants to censor the Left Forum,” Kevin Barrett Youtube channel, last modified May 11, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ucqe5c63rE.

[22]Matthew Lyons, email correspondence with Cloee Cooper, July 14, 2017, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/.

 

Cloee Cooper (PRA Research Analyst) holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism, specializing in social justice and investigative reporting. Cloee tracked, monitored and organized against anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white nationalism with the Center for New Community from 2009-2012. Her work can be seen at Chicago’s local PBS affiliate – WTTW, Alternet, Social Justice News Nexus, Imagine2050, Hard Crackers and in a Chicago Tribune investigation. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of Hard Crackers, a journal documenting the everyday life of those striving to overturn the mess we are in. She loves to cook, dance, run, play werewolf, listen to music and make documentary films.