—“It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf,” Christopher Bollyn
The booking of Christopher Bollyn at the Brooklyn Commons seems to be only the latest bid by the antisemitic wing of the 9/11 Truth and conspiracy movement to find legitimacy in lefty circles. Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe, and others have been speaking at progressive spaces, libraries, and even religious congregations in the recent past with little opposition.
This needs to change.
Bollyn is a former staffer at a leading racist media project who claims that a “Jewish/Zionist” cabal controls the United States. While this is boilerplate Far Right nonsense, he is speaking on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at the Brooklyn Commons—a well-respected Left-wing movement space in central Brooklyn. While it takes some chutzpah to speak there, more worrisome has been the refusal of the space to cancel the event.
Bollyn worked for the Liberty Lobby from 2000 to 2006, which was run by Willis Carto, who for decades was one of the most important racists on the US Far Right. His media group included the Spotlight (now the American Free Press), a White nationalist newspaper (where Bollyn was a staffer), as well as the Barnes Review, the main periodical helping spread Holocaust Denial in the United States (where he was a contributing editor). Bollyn has also appeared on David Duke’s radio show, and has praised the racist paramilitary patrol, the Minutemen Project.
Bollyn made his name by promoting an openly antisemitic brand of 9/11 Truth conspiracies in which he makes boilerplate antisemitic claims. Many of these could be taken directly out of 1930s Nazi Party propaganda—that the US government is controlled by a cabal of Jews who force it to go to wars against its national interest. In case there is any lingering doubt, Bollyn is also happy to quote the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the forgery that is one of the main antisemitic texts that inspired the Nazis.
Thinking it was surely a mistake that such a person would be speaking at the Commons, I contacted them directly. Their booker, Melissa, said she was unaware of this person’s background and would get back to me. (As of press time — several days later — there has been no followup.) When asked to comment about Bollyn by other activists, the unidentified person running the Common’s twitter said, “I glanced at his site and nothing antisemitic jumped out at me.” But without even clicking on anything, the front page of Bollyn’s site is filled with lines like “9-11 is a massive Zionist Jewish crime,” and that NPR is run by a “cabal of Zionist Jews.” Bollyn’s website and other writings include such antisemitic gems like:
- “Great nations, like the United States, France, and Germany, once had anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic political parties that acted to challenge the pernicious influence of secret Masonic and Jewish organizations. Today we no longer have such political parties to counter these secret networks and find ourselves ruled by B’nai B’rith and Jewish Freemasons.”
- “The ‘false flag’ terrorism of 9–11 is a monstrous Jewish-Zionist crime of our time. The true culprits of this heinous crime are clearly being protected by a gang of like-minded Jewish Zionists in the highest positions of the U.S. government.”
- “It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf.”
- He openly cites the Protocols line that: “Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control.”
- “I suspect that Arlen Specter is a high-level agent of the B’nai B’rith, the secret organization of Jewish Freemasons which I consider to be the real Elders of Zion.”
(Note: I won’t link to Far Right websites, but you can easily google up all this information.)
Anger about Bollyn’s appearance is growing in the absence of any action by the Brooklyn Commons staff. Many people have contacted the Commons to ask them to cancel the booking. (When DC bookstore Busboys and Poets was contacted about Bollyn’s talk there, they cancelled it within 24 hours.)
Members of several projects based at the Commons—the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Jacobin, the Marxist Education Project, The Indypendent, FUREE, Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory, WBAI, and the Right to the City Alliance—have issued an open letter saying: “We do not have any say in event booking and management at the Commons but agree that such politics should have no place in leftist spaces.”
Bollyn’s friends are also engaged in reactionary politics. For example, Nicholas DeVincenzo, the host of the New York event on Facebook, promotes David Duke videos, even tho he says he is skeptical of white separatism. Meanwhile, DeVincenzo’s friend, Rudy Dent, is slated to introduce Bollyn at the Commons. Dent, who is black, promotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on his facebook (which DeVincenzo approves of), as well as radical right-wing Sovereign Citizen theories.
This just goes to show how antisemitism is often the glue that holds unlikely political bedfellows together, and can create a bridge linking the Far Left and Radical Right.
The battle lines are drawn over demonizing narratives that promote oppression. People of any identity can promote narratives of antisemitism and white nationalism, and/or work with those who do. On one side are those who oppose promoting or working with them, and on the other are those who engage in demonization or who promote alliances with those who do. White, black, and other folks—including Jews—can be found on both sides of this line.
Similar to Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe has also been making the rounds of progressive circles. He began his career as a legitimate Palestine Solidarity activist but now propagates antisemitic conspiracy theories, including giving a talk praising Adolf Hitler.
I’m not sure what’s in the air right now, but whatever it is has given the antisemitic conspiracy theorists a push to try and find legitimacy for their views among the Left. Perhaps it’s the shot in the arm that Trump is giving to all forms of racism and bigotry—but nonetheless, it is clear that the response from the Left is severely lacking in regard to identifying and confronting antisemitism. There needs to be more education about antisemitic narratives and tropes so that people can recognize and reject them. And there should be an understanding about how antisemitism allows for cross-recruitment from, and fusion with, racists and fascists—as we are seeing with Bollyn’s attempts to woo progressives at the Commons.